Thursday Morning News Roundup
Hundreds Gather To Honor Slain North Richmond Teen, Demand End To Violence
Hundreds of students, coaches and other community members gathered outside of City Hall in Richmond Wednesday night for a rally to honor 16-year-old Richmond High School basketball player Rodney Frazier, who was shot and killed in front of his North Richmond home last Friday.
A sea of candles illuminated the faces of students, some who held banners with Rodney’s photo or slogans demanding “Peace for Richmond” and “Justice for Rodney” as they called for an end to the violence plaguing the community.
The 16-year-old was riding his motorbike in front of the home he shared with his grandfather in the 300 block of Market Avenue around 9:20 p.m. Friday when suspects fired over 20 rounds, including a fatal hit to the chest, according to Contra Costa County sheriff’s officials.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee said the boy was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” when he was killed and had no gang ties or known enemies.
No arrests have been made in connection with the killing and no suspect information is available, Lee said.
Rodney’s death is North Richmond’s fourth homicide this year and came days after four other teens were wounded in shootings in Richmond, where 13 people have been murdered this year. A 29-year-old El Cerrito man was killed in Richmond less than an hour after the teen’s murder, according to police.
Attendees at the rally were reminded that Rodney was much more than another sad statistic.
The teen helped lead the Richmond High Oilers basketball team as a point guard and was “the heart and soul” of the team, Richmond High basketball Coach Robert Collins said. In addition to basketball, he loved motorbikes and was an aspiring mechanic.
He also volunteered for Urban Tilth, a Richmond-based sustainable agriculture organization that works with schools and residents to plant community gardens.
He was a big brother figure to many of the younger boys in his North Richmond neighborhood, including several elementary school students who witnessed him die, according to Collins.
Judge Plans To Convene Trial For Yee And Jackson Early Next Year
A federal judge announced in San Francisco Wednesday that he plans to convene a trial early next year on corruption charges against suspended state Sen. Leland Yee and political consultant Keith Jackson.
Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president, are accused of conspiring to solicit campaign contributions for Yee in exchange for political favors by the senator.
They are among 28 people charged in a complex 228-count indictment that also accuses Chinatown association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and others of conducting an organized-crime enterprise.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the corruption charges against Yee and Jackson would be tried first in a separate trial and the other charges will be tried later.
“In order to get this case moving, I want to set some dates. I’m not going to let it play out in some multi-year decade-long tableau,” Breyer told the 28 defendants and their attorneys at a crowded hearing in his Federal Building courtroom.
“It makes some sense to try the campaign contribution case first” because it has fewer defendants and the evidence is less voluminous, the judge said.
Still to be determined is whether the trial will also include counts in which Yee and Jackson are accused of conspiring with the late Daly City dentist Wilson Lim in a never-completed deal to import guns illegally from the Philippines, and in which Jackson, his son Brandon Jackson and sports agent Marlon Sullivan are accused of selling guns to an undercover FBI agent.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Frentzen told Breyer he will submit a filing by Nov. 19 outlining which additional charges and defendants, if any, prosecutors want to include in the first trial.
Breyer scheduled a Dec. 18 hearing to consider any objections defense lawyers may pose to the prosecution plan. He did not set a date for the trial.
CHP Finds Car Driven By Suspect Who Struck, Killed 14-Year-Old Boy
The California Highway Patrol has found a car allegedly driven by a suspect who struck and killed a 14-year-old boy while fleeing from Alameda County sheriff’s deputies near San Leandro on Tuesday evening, CHP officials said.
The driver fled when the deputies tried to pull over the maroon 2001 Saturn for reckless driving. The car struck Ivan Cruz as he was crossing the street in a crosswalk at East 14th Street and Ashland Avenue at 6:19 p.m., CHP and sheriff’s officials said.
Ivan, a San Leandro resident, suffered major injuries and was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he died, according to the CHP.
The driver continued fleeing and remained at large Wednesday. CHP officers located the Saturn and took it into custody as evidence, CHP officials said Wednesday.
Divers Find Body Of Missing Off-Duty National Guard Airman Who Fell Into Ocean Tuesday
Underwater divers for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday located the body of a California Air National Guard airman missing since being swept into the Pacific Ocean while fishing early Tuesday, deputies said.
At about 11:24 a.m., the sheriff’s Public Safety Dive Team located the remains of San Jose resident Khiem Nguyen, who was pushed off the rocks by a wave at Garrapatta State Beach outside Carmel at around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to deputies.
Nguyen, a drill status guardsman for the 129th Rescue Wing based at Moffett Air Field in Mountain View, was fishing while off duty with three friends when he fell into the water Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Lifeguards from the California Department of Parks and Recreation and personnel from Cal Fire, the U.S. Coast Guard and the sheriff’s office conducted a search Tuesday that was halted at 5 p.m., the sheriff’s office reported.
At 9 a.m., the sheriff’s five team, supported by Cal Fire and state parks, went free diving without breathing equipment to search the area where Nguyen was last seen, deputies said.
At about 11 a.m., the divers transitioned to scuba operations with underwater breathing gear and spotted Nguyen’s body at 11:24 a.m., according to deputies.
The divers brought him to the surface and he was transferred to a Coast Guard ship, which took him to the Monterey Municipal Marina where the coroner’s office took charge of the body until Nguyen’s family members could be contacted, the office reported.
Col. Gregory Jones, commander of the 129th Rescue Wing, said in a prepared statement that the squad was “deeply saddened by the loss of one of our wing members Tuesday morning.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and we are doing all we can to support them during this very difficult time.,” Jones stated. “We ask that everyone respect the privacy of the family.”
“We want to take this opportunity to thank the USCG, Cal Fire and the several partner agencies that responded to the search,” he stated. “We appreciate their efforts to help bring our airman home.”
Nurses Continue Second Day Of Strike To Protest Ebola Preparedness
Nurses working at Kaiser Permanente medical centers in the Bay Area continued to strike Wednesday after walking off the job Tuesday to protest what they said are inadequate staffing levels and a lack of preparation and training to treat patients with Ebola.
The strike and rally Wednesday in front of Kaiser’s regional headquarters in Oakland joined other rallies by nurses at facilities across the state and country, according to the California Nurses Association.
The nurses plan to return to work Thursday morning and Kaiser medical centers remain open during the strike.
The protesters marched Wednesday morning from the Ordway Building at 1 Kaiser Plaza to the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building at 1301 Clay St.
A statement from the California Nurses Association listed similar strikes at 33 facilities in California from San Diego to Sacramento.
Nurses at the rally in Oakland said already low staffing levels are preventing them from adequately caring for their patients and a potential outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. highlights the challenges and risks they face in properly treating patients.
Deborah Raymond, a registered nurse and senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser Permanente, said Tuesday that management responded to the nurses’ proposals and is waiting for the union to respond.
“We’re a little perplexed” as to why the nurses are striking, Raymond said.
She said talks centered on “operational issues” and not pay or benefits. Representatives from Kaiser Permanente’s management team did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.
Avalos Works With ACLU To Create Surveillance Technology Oversight Ordinance
San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos is leading an effort to make one of the first ordinances in the country requiring public debate, oversight and accountability before law enforcement acquires surveillance technologies.
Avalos stood on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Wednesday afternoon and announced that he is working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the City Attorney’s Office to draft a proposed ordinance to require public process prior to authorizing police or other city departments’ use of new surveillance technologies.
He said this proposed ordinance comes amid “an exponential increase in law enforcement use of surveillance technologies such as automated license plate readers, shot-spotters, drones, and body mounted cameras.”
Chris Conley, a technology and civil liberty policy attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, stood beside Avalos in support of the proposed ordinance.
Conley said that the San Jose Police Department obtained a drone in August, but is only now beginning to meet with the public to discuss policies and procedures about how it will be used.
He also noted that at least 11 northern California counties are already using a controversial cellphone surveillance technology known as a stingray.
Stingrays enable an individual or an agency to track a suspect’s cellphone location, but can also allow access to information on bystanders’ cellphones, according to the ACLU website.
Conley said that in addition to privacy issues, the ordinance addresses an increase in spending on surveillance technologies without public input.
The ACLU reports that more than $65 million has been spent on surveillance technology in California already, with the vast majority used by law enforcement agencies without public consideration of costs and benefits, or adequate policies to safeguard against misuse.
The proposed ordinance is designed to create a transparent and systematic approach to determine how and when surveillance technologies should be used in San Francisco, according to the ACLU.
20-Year-Old Man Convicted Of First-Degree Murder For 2010 Shooting
A man who has been in jail since he was 15 years old was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday for shooting and killing a man he was trying to rob near a San Lorenzo Park in 2010, prosecutors said.
Gustavo Moran, 20, was tried as an adult for the murder charge as well as special circumstance allegations for the use of a firearm, shooting at an occupied vehicle and assault with a firearm for the murder of 18-year-old Jesus Diaz on Feb. 13, 2010.
A jury returned a guilty verdict for all three counts Wednesday afternoon in the Oakland courtroom of Judge Stuart Hing, according to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
Deputy District Attorney Adam Maldonado argued during the trial that Moran was with a group of three other teens who attempted to rob Diaz of $250 that day, prosecutors said.
The teens followed Diaz to his Ford Explorer parked near the San Lorenzo Community Center Park 1970 Via Buena Vista just before 9 p.m.
When Diaz refused to give up the cash, Moran hit him in the face multiple times with a 9mm pistol and when Diaz tried to drive off, Moran unloaded the clip at him, prosecutors said.
Diaz passed out behind the wheel as he bled out and crashed the car into a nearby house.
He and a passenger were taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley where he was pronounced dead and the passenger was treated for injuries not considered life-threatening, according to prosecutors.
Moran and his three alleged co-conspirators were arrested two days
later in San Leandro.
One of the other suspects, 22-year-old Sergio Oseguera, who was 17 at the time, was also charged as an adult in the case and is still awaiting trial, prosecutors said. The other two suspects were never identified because they were not charged as adults.
Mayor Concedes To School Board Member In Tight Re-Election Race
Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore Wednesday morning conceded her re-election race against school board member Trish Spencer after a week of vote counting left her trailing by only 129 votes.
According to unofficial results released Tuesday, Spencer led Gilmore 10,443 to 10,314.
Spencer spent only $9,000 on her campaign but edged out a victory with a groundswell of support because of Alameda voters’ frustrations with City Hall and the direction of development in the island city, she said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
“It really seems like there’s no effective communication between City Hall and the community,” Spencer said.
She said that voters found City Hall was more concerned with the interests of developers than in how citizens wanted the city developed, such as in building housing along Alameda’s public golf course, which voters petitioned to block.
Spencer said she advocates for more considered development and will seek to preserve more open space and wetlands as the city moves forward in developing its former Navy base.
In conceding, Gilmore, the city’s first African American mayor, defended her record but said that despite her slim margin of defeat, she would not seek a recount.
“This was a historically close race — about a 100 vote difference. That is proof that every vote counts and that we should all vote,” Gilmore said.
She said that since she took office in 2010, the city has made huge progress in solving budgetary problems, including brokering deals with major city employee unions, and that the city has adopted new transparency ordinances.
“I have truly appreciated my opportunity to serve the community that I love,” Gilmore said.
Ballot counting in the race has not concluded and Spencer said she was in Oakland this afternoon watching returns come in. She said she expected unofficial final results to be released at about 5 p.m.
Man Shot, Killed By Police Suspected In String Of Burglaries
A Riverside County man shot and killed by police as he allegedly fled a burglary in Menlo Park on Tuesday afternoon is suspected in other recent burglaries in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, Menlo Park police said Wednesday.
A description of Jerry Matheny, 52, of Nuevo, had been distributed to office workers on Willow Place as a warning prior to Tuesday’s shooting and one office employee notified police after spotting Matheny in the area, police said.
Officers responded at 12:33 p.m. and allegedly found Matheny in the process of committing a burglary.
Police said Matheny tried to run and one officer used a Taser stun gun to try and stop him. He then allegedly pulled out a gun, prompting police to shoot him.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators did not say whether Matheny aimed the gun at the officer. One police officer injured his knee during the pursuit and was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.
Office buildings along Willow Place, a cul-de-sac off of Willow Road between Middlefield Road and Waverly Street, house venture capital and startup firms.
Matheny’s description had been distributed to employees there because of recent burglaries where the thief would go into the offices and take personal items from employees, according to police.
In addition to the gun he allegedly brandished at the officers, police said Matheny was found with a stolen wallet.
He is believed to have also been connected to other recent burglaries in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, police said.
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the officer-involved shooting, police said.
Retail Workers Rally In Support Of Predictable Schedules, Job Security
San Francisco retail workers and their supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall Wednesday morning to show their support for an ordinance that could provide part-time hourly employees at chain stores in the city with more predictable schedules and incomes.
Among the retail workers who came out to champion the Predictable Scheduling and Fair Treatment for Formula Retail Employees Ordinance was 26-year-old Mark Ortiz, who has been employed at the Macy’s department store at Union Square for the past three years.
Ortiz said he believes he is in a better position than many others in the retail and service sectors because he has a full-time union position, which makes it possible for him to attend classes regularly at both Laney College and the College of Alameda as he works towards a degree in biology.
But for many workers in San Francisco without full-time unionized positions, and without the benefits given to Macy’s employees, Ortiz said he knows “It feels like a life of servitude.”
The ordinance, introduced by Supervisor David Chiu on Sept. 30, is part of a larger legislative package known as the Retail Workers Bill of Rights. Supervisor Eric Mar introduced the first half of the bill of rights over the summer.
The ordinance, co-sponsored by Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos, if enacted would be the first in the country to require predictable schedules and provide compensation to part-time workers for last-minute schedule changes made by employers.
A Board of Supervisors committee considered the legislation at a hearing following Wednesday morning’s rally.
Mar said the ordinance would require San Francisco’s 1,250 chain stores, including companies such as Target, 7-Eleven, Trader Joe’s, Olive Garden and Gap, to “provide real economic security” to its workers and cut down on the growing number of people who involuntarily work part-time.
The ordinance is an effort to help families who are living in limbo to have a better chance to know when they will work and how much money they will make, Chiu said.
Connie Ford, a member of the non-profit organization Jobs With Justice said she is very excited about the proposed ordinance in a city that she referred to as at “the apex of economic disparity.”
Tim Paulson, the executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, said he is confident that the ordinance will be a model for cities around the state and country.
Vacaville Company Fined By Epa For Lead-Based Paint Handling Violations
A Vacaville-based company that renovates foreclosed homes has been fined $51,000 regarding lead-based paint handling requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.
Blue Mountain Air failed to comply with the federal Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting rule that requires obtaining an EPA certification, using certified renovators and complying with other work practice requirements for handling lead-based paint safely, the EPA said.
Blue Mountain Air and Blue Mountain Realty are subsidiaries of Blue Mountain Inc. that is owned and operated by Greg S. Owen, the EPA said.
Owen did not return a call for comment on the fine this afternoon.
Blue Mountain Air renovated four foreclosed homes in Napa, Santa Rosa and El Sobrante in 2011 and 2012, the EPA said.
The company did not obtain the required EPA firm certification before the renovations, failed to ensure that a certified renovator was assigned to the renovations and that all workers were certified and trained by a certified renovator and failed to maintain records to ensure warning signs were posted, work areas were contained and a certified renovator performed post-renovation cleaning verifications, according to the EPA.
Renovations include sanding, cutting and demolition that can create hazardous lead dust and chips that can contaminate home surfaces and accumulate to unsafe levels, the EPA said.
Eating and playing can move the lead dust from surfaces, including floors and windowsills, into the person’s body and expose children, families and workers to lead poisoning, the EPA said.
“Lead-based paint is the main source of lead poisoning for children, which can cause learning disabilities and behavior problems,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.
State Auto Insurance Fraud Investigation Nets 54 Bay Area Arrests
A statewide investigation into auto insurance fraud resulted in the arrest of 54 people throughout the Bay Area, the state Department of Insurance announced Wednesday.
The investigation into the allegedly fraudulent claims could have resulted in more than $250,000 in losses in the Bay Area, state insurance officials said.
Department detectives partnered with district attorney’s offices in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Solano counties and local law enforcement agencies.
Most of the cases involved uninsured or underinsured drivers who had allegedly bought or added coverage following a collision or for damage sustained, according to state insurance officials.
The alleged fraud was discovered either before the insurer paid the claim or after the fact, state insurance officials said.
The suspects allegedly filed the false claim to an insurer for an uninsured car, officials said.
Of the 50 defendants in 44 cases filed throughout the Bay Area, 22 were in Alameda County, 14 were in Santa Clara County, seven were in Contra Costa County, two were in San Francisco and one was in Solano County.
Across the state, 195 people were arrested in 22 counties that resulted in more than $75,000 in actual losses and more than $1 million is estimated in potential losses, according to officials.
A few of the cases uncovered in the investigation involved two licensed insurance professionals, a fatal collision with a pedestrian, a car used to allegedly transport drugs from Mexico and a staged collision.
“Unfortunately this type of insurance crime is surprisingly common,” state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.
“Insurance fraud is an expensive drain on the state’s economy that totals into the billions of dollars annually in California. This is not a victimless crime. The cost of these scams is passed along to consumers through higher rates and premiums – everyone pays for insurance fraud,” Jones said.
In a statement Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said, “It is important that the public be aware that this conduct is illegal and results in felony criminal charges.”
The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nonprofit based in Des Plaines, Illinois, also assisted in the investigation.
Jury Convicts Man Who Fled To Mexico After 1997 Murder Of Roommate
A man arrested last year after fleeing to Mexico following the murder of his Greenfield roommate in 1997 was convicted Wednesday of first degree murder and will face 35 years to life in prison, according to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.
A jury in Superior Court in Salinas convicted 40-year-old Fidel Rios-Soto of murder with a sentence enhancement for using a firearm to kill his former roommate, Hilario Avila, Deputy District Attorney Sam Nong said.
Rios-Soto will be sentenced at a hearing on January 22, when he will face 35 years to life, including a 10-year enhancement term for using a firearm in the commission of a murder that was proscribed by law in 1997 when the homicide occurred, Nong said.
On Aug. 30, 1997, Rios-Soto and Avila were drinking in the living room of the Greenfield apartment they shared with Rios-Soto’s live-in girl friend and two other men the 400 block of 10th Street, prosecutors said.
Rios-Soto, his girlfriend and Avila got into an argument, after which the girlfriend left and Rios-Soto went into his room, picked up a .44 caliber rifle and returned to shoot Avila three times in the chest as the victim sat in a chair, Nong said.
Avila was pronounced dead after Greenfield police officers answered a 911 call to the apartment at about 8 p.m. that night.
Rios-Soto and Avila had argued because “his girlfriend may have slept with the victim,” Nong said.
The suspect fled immediately to Mexico, where he remained for at least 10 years, later claiming that he had returned to the United States three years ago to live in Seattle working as a landscaper and restaurant employee, Nong said.
Last year, 16 years after the Avila’s murder, the California Highway Patrol pulled Rios-Soto over for a traffic offense in Glenn County in the north Central Valley about 50 miles west of Chico and found he had an outstanding arrest warrant for the murder, prosecutors said.
Officers searched his vehicle and recovered $23,000 in cash and a cache of illegal drugs and prosecutors suspect he was working for an illegal drug sales organization based in Mexico, according to Nong.
The prosecution located one of the two male roommates who witnessed the shooting and testified at the trial, Nong said.
Rios-Soto’s one-time girlfriend, who was undocumented, returned to Mexico in 2005 and could not be found, according to prosecutors.
The other male roommate, who was an older man, provided a statement to Greenfield police identifying Rios-Soto as the killer but he also disappeared. Because he was not available to testify, the district attorney’s office could not use it in court, prosecutors said.
The 10-year sentencing enhancement the jury added to Rios-Soto’s prison term for using a firearm, and the amount assigned by law in 1997, has been increased since then to 25 years, he said.
Man Shot, Killed In Front Of Rodeo Home Identified
A 53-year-old man killed in a shooting in Rodeo early Wednesday morning has been identified as Angelo Esqueda, a Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy said.
Deputies responded to a report of a shooting in the 200 block of Vallejo Avenue around 12:40 a.m., Contra Costa County sheriff’s spokesman Jimmy Lee said.
Arriving deputies found Esqueda, a Rodeo resident, with multiple gunshot wounds in front of a home, according to Lee.
He was transported to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where he was pronounced dead hours later, Lee said.