Protestors Take Streets In San Francisco, Oakland For Second Night

Protest marches in San Francisco and Oakland blocked traffic and disrupted transit Thursday night but remained largely peaceful.

Protestors marched in both Oakland and San Francisco for a second night in a row Thursday in response to a Wednesday grand jury decision not to indict a New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being placed in a chokehold.

The protest in San Francisco wrapped up after a group staged a “die-in” on Market and Powell Streets, briefly halting bus and vehicle traffic, and then marched to Union Square and along Market Street. A similar protest on Wednesday night blocked Market Street for more than an hour.

In Oakland on Thursday, a group of 200 to 300 people marched peacefully from 14th Street and Broadway down to Jack London Square and then to East Oakland.

Oakland police attempted to break up the protest, stopping the marchers at 22nd Avenue and International Boulevard and declaring an unlawful assembly before allowing people to leave individually.

However, a smaller group of around 50 continued marching to the Fruitvale BART station, where they were met by a heavy police presence and a closed station.

Outside, protestors held a moment of silence for Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man shot to death there by a BART police officer in 2009, and listened to speakers.

Earlier in the evening, BART officials also partially closed the 12th Street station entrance in Oakland for more than an hour due to the protest, and AC Transit rerouted buses around the downtown area.

This week’s protests have remained peaceful, with few arrests, in contrast to protests last week in response to a similar Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.

Oakland police reported a total of 169 arrests last week as freeways were blocked, fires were set, windows were broken and businesses were looted.

San Francisco also had several protests last week including one on Black Friday in which store windows at Union Square were smashed and several police officers injured. Police reported arresting at least 79 people during the Black Friday protest.

Another protest is planned for tonight at 7 p.m. at 27th Avenue and Telegraph Street.

City Closes, Begins Cleanup Of The ‘Jungle’

San Jose city and Santa Clara Valley Water District officials on Thursday closed a large homeless encampment and began cleaning the site.

Known as the “Jungle,” the camp has been located off of Story Road between Interstate Highway 280 and Kelley Park, south of downtown San Jose. About 200 people were camping there.

“We have a lot of work to do here today,” city homelessness response manager Ray Bramson said.

Bramson said cleaning up the camp will take about two weeks and cost the city and the water district about $500,000.

Bramson called the conditions at the camp “unsafe, unsanitary and unstable.”

Anecdotal information and statements by police indicated illegal activity was taking place at the camp, such as violence, drug dealing and prostitution.

A recent regulatory notice from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board was a cue to the city to close the camp. The board was seeking to stop human waste and other pollutants from entering Coyote Creek, which borders part of the camp.

Bramson said 144 people who were living in The Jungle now have housing and 55 others have housing subsidies and are looking for homes.

Shelters are one option for the 55, according to Claire Wagner, a spokeswoman for HomeFirst, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness in San Jose with money from the city.

Wagner said HomeFirst has shelter beds set aside for people displaced from the Jungle. Bramson said more than 70 shelter beds are open to help people without a place to go.

Some beds are available for one night while others are available for longer periods of time, Bramson said.

An advocate for the people at the camp, Robert Aguirre, said crews had removed everyone’s belongings before noon today.

Aguirre was upset about the city’s decision and called the situation a “trail of tears.”

Aguirre cited the lack of affordable housing as the reason people have been living at the camp. Some people had jobs, he said, but the jobs pay minimum wage.

Bart Board Makes Agreement With Chinese-Led Group To Develop West Oakland Station

The BART Board of Directors on Thursday morning granted a development group led by a Chinese firm an exclusive negotiating agreement to develop a plan to build retail and office space in the parking lots around the West Oakland BART station.

In doing so, the board turned down a competing group of local entrepreneurs, a decision that the local group’s supporters criticized as choosing the group with greater financial resources over the group with stronger local connections.

The group led by the China Harbor Engineering Company will now have up to two years to develop a plan to develop the 5.6 acres of land on either side of the station and BART tracks for retail and office space, though the board will have to vote again to extend the negotiating agreement for a second year.

The China Harbor group proposes building office space primarily for maritime and logistics industries that would benefit by proximity to the Port of Oakland.

It would remove much of the existing parking in favor of walkable streets accessible by public transit. BART officials hope that one impact of the development would be to encourage a “reverse commute,” bringing commuters to both sides of the Bay for work rather than mainly from the East Bay to San Francisco.

The China Harbor group includes locally-owned firms and has pledged to reach out to local and minority-owned businesses to create a development that “celebrates the history and culture of West Oakland.” China Harbor has previously worked on developments at the Pleasant Hill, Powell Street, Embarcadero and Montgomery BART stations, BART officials said.

But the second group, West Oakland Partners, led by the San Francisco-based firm Presidio Development Partners, came up closely behind China Harbor in the selection process, leading many members and supporters to urge the BART board to further vet the competitors or come up with a compromise that involved both groups.

Some expressed concerns that by not working with the locally-led group, BART was repeating a history of disruption in the neighborhood, evoking memories of BART’s initial construction through West Oakland which displaced numerous residents and business by eminent domain.

The board voted unanimously to move forward with the negotiating agreement, but with the caveat that it has the ability to revoke the agreement after one year if it doesn’t see significant progress and engagement with the surrounding community, a move that Fang said was unprecedented.

Central County Fire Chief Pleads Not Guilty To Grand Theft, Fraud

The suspended chief of the Central County Fire Department in San Mateo Count pleaded not guilty this afternoon to charges that he and his wife committed a complicated fraud scheme that allegedly netted him nearly $35,000, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

Fire Chief Mark Ladas pleaded not guilty to six counts of grand theft, two counts of filing false tax returns and two counts of tax evasion, Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said today.

He was arrested Wednesday and spent the night in jail. His sister assisted him in posting $80,000 in bail this afternoon and he was released after he surrendered his passport and was ordered not to leave California.

The fire department on Wednesday placed Ladas on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, appointing Deputy Chief John Kammeyer as acting chief, fire officials said.

Prosecutors allege Ladas’ wife, Peta Ladas, devised a complicated scheme where she would take out credit cards using false names, set up fictitious businesses and charge the credit cards to those businesses, moving the money to bank accounts with fake names.

Peta Ladas was previously arrested in connection with the alleged scheme on Dec. 18, 2012, but posted $10,000 bail and fled the country. She remains a fugitive, Guidotti said.

But before fleeing the country, she stayed in a Burlingame hotel and left a wallet behind containing her husband’s ID and fake credit cards. A maid found the wallet and turned it over to Burlingame police, leading the district attorney’s office to begin investigating Mark Ladas.

Investigators found nearly $35,000 from the fraud scheme was deposited in Mark Ladas’ bank account. He and his wife filed tax returns in 2011 and 2012 without claiming that income, according to prosecutors.

If located, Peta Ladas will face similar and additional charges, Guidotti said.

Mark Ladas is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 22 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Alameda County Officials Celebrate Opening Of New Coroner’s Bureau, Crime And Health Lab

Nearly a half-century since its last upgrade, the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau will have new facilities, co-located with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Crime Lab and the Public Health Department Laboratory.

County officials celebrated the opening of the refurbished building with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning at 2901 Peralta Oaks Court in Oakland.

Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi said it was an opportunity to upgrade aging facilities and to redevelop the county’s properties in Jack London Square.

“It will provide a modern, fully-equipped home for county services that have struggled for many years with aging and outdated facilities,” Muranishi said. “The project also enables the county to achieve a longer-term vision of contributing to the revitalization of the downtown by brining exciting new uses to underutilized parcels in Jack London Square.”

The $31.2 million retrofit was made possible after the county’s Department of Child Support Services vacated the building in 2007 due to “seismic safety concerns,” Muranishi said.

The new building will allow the Coroner’s Bureau to offer families a “final viewing” of loved ones and enable families to identify them at the bureau, which they weren’t able to do to at the old building, said Deputy Sheriff Charles Frazier.

Frazier said the old building, located at 480 Fourth Street in Oakland’s Jack London Square, lacked any kind of ventilation system.

Stainless steel doors separate the autopsy room from a viewing corridor, where investigators can look into the room and speak with pathologists via an intercom, without actually having to step inside.

There’s a separate room for decomposed bodies, which tend to have a much stronger odor, and a separate entrance and processing center for bodies as they come into the pathology center, Frazier said.

The new facility also comes with its own parking, which Frazier said makes him especially happy.

Muranishi said the county is planning to vacate their buildings in Jack London Square, which take up two city blocks. Currently, the Probation Department’s transitional services offices remain in part of one building, Muranishi said.

Nakao said the county is looking at a public-private partnership to redevelop the two sites.

Employees from the Public Health Department will move in beginning Jan. 1, followed by crime lab employees and then the Coroner’s Bureau, Nakao said.

Former Orchestra Executive Director Found Guilty Of Tax Fraud

The former executive director of a Los Altos orchestra has been found guilty of tax fraud in a case in which he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said Thursday.

Stephen Jay Carlton, the former head of the Peninsula Symphony Association, was found guilty Wednesday by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Allison Danner following a one-day non-jury trial on Nov. 24, Deputy District Attorney Judy Lee said.

Carlton, 46, of Novato, had previously pleaded guilty two months earlier to the embezzlement of $272,000 from the orchestra of volunteer musicians, prosecutors said.

The embezzlement was uncovered in September 2013 when a bank alerted a board member of the symphony association that its funds showed an unusually low balance. Carlton resigned shortly after the issue was brought to local police, prosecutors said.

An investigation by Los Altos police and the state Franchise Tax Board further showed that Carlton had written numerous checks to himself from the symphony and used some of the money to pay off debts, including back taxes, according to the district attorney’s office.

Carlton underreported wages from the symphony on state income tax returns between 2010 and 2012 and failed to report the embezzled money as income, prosecutors said.

Carlton was found guilty by the judge Wednesday of a misdemeanor and two felony counts for filing false tax returns. He remains in custody and faces up to 16 years in prison when he is sentenced.

A sentencing date will likely be set at Carlton’s next court date on Jan. 8, Lee said.

16-Year-Old Oakland Girl Arrested In Alleged Attempted Murder Of Officers

San Leandro police have arrested a 16-year-old Oakland girl they say attempted to run down two police officers in a stolen car Thursday morning while they struggled with a second suspect.

The girl is the second person arrested in connection with the incident, which occurred near the 600 block of Broadmoor Boulevard about 7:30 a.m., according to Lt. Robert McManus.

Officers responded to the area after they received a report from a resident of an unfamiliar vehicle in the residential neighborhood, McManus said.

When an officer arrived on scene, two occupants were inside the car, a 19-year-old East Oakland man and an unidentified woman, McManus said.

The 19-year-old got out of the car and tried to run away from the officer. There was a brief struggle, and McManus said the officer had the man pinned up against a parked car near the suspect vehicle.

A second officer arrived at the scene and was walking up to help the first officer when the driver of the suspect vehicle allegedly accelerated, narrowly missing the 19-year-old man and striking the second officer, McManus said.

To protect themselves, one or both officers fired at the driver of the vehicle and police did not know as of Thursday afternoon whether the driver was injured by the gunfire.

The injured officer, an 18-year veteran of the San Leandro force, was in surgery Thursday afternoon at a local hospital, McManus said. He suffered serious injuries to his legs but is expected to survive.

The vehicle involved in the incident, a 1995 Nissan Maxima, had been reported stolen in Oakland on Nov. 29.

It was located in East Oakland with evidence including bullet holes.

After determining the identity of the second suspect, police contacted her family and negotiated for her to surrender herself to San Leandro police this afternoon.

Both the girl and the 19-year-old suspect have been arrested on suspicion of two counts of attempted murder against a police officer and auto theft. Their identities have not yet been released, police said.

Bay Point Father Finds Hayward Man In 12-Year-Old Daughter’s Bedroom

A Bay Point father found a 29-year-old registered sex offender in his 12-year-old daughter’s bedroom late last month, according to the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office.

The parent found the man in his home in the 1000 block of Clearland Drive and detained him until deputies arrived, sheriff’s officials said.

The sheriff’s office identified the man as Jose Simentel of Hayward. He was arrested and booked into the Martinez Detention Facility.

Investigators learned that Simentel is a registered sex offender. He had allegedly made friends with the 12-year-old girl and kept in contact with her via the Kik Messenger.

He has since been charged with five counts of child molestation and one count of burglary, according to the sheriff’s office. He remains in custody on $3.5 million bail.

Man Suspected Of Gun, Drug Crimes Found In Criminal Justice Class

A man suspected of drug and gun offenses was found and arrested while taking a criminal justice class at Cabrillo College on Wednesday, Santa Cruz County sheriff’s officials said.

Guillermo Campos, 19, was arrested after sheriff’s detectives served a search warrant at his home in the 700 block of Green Valley Road north of Watsonville in connection with allegations that he waved a handgun at a neighbor on Nov. 24, according to the sheriff’s office.

Detectives found and seized more than a half-pound of methamphetamine in the home, along with a loaded .357-calibe revolver, a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun and $4,500 in cash, sheriff’s officials said.

Campos was not home at the time and investigators later found him in the class and arrested him on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine with a loaded firearm, possession of a loaded firearm, assault with a firearm and possession of a controlled substance for sale.

Sheriff’s officials noted that the criminal justice class might not have much use for Campos if he is convicted in the case — state law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from becoming a peace officer.

School District Apologizes For Handling Of Student Residency Case

The Orinda Union School District has issued an apology regarding what district officials called an “upsetting” investigation into the residency of one of its students and pledged to improve communication in future residency cases.

The apology was prompted by public backlash after recent media reports that the district had hired a private investigator to determine whether a second-grade student and her caregiver met the requirement of living within the school district.

In November the girl and her family were notified that she did not meet the district’s residency requirements and would not be allowed to continue attending school within the district, according to a letter signed by district officials on Wednesday.

But since then, the district has received additional documentation from the family and officials have determined that the residency requirements have been met, allowing the girl to remain enrolled at the school, according to the statement.

The district’s letter, signed by district Superintendent Dr. Joe Jaconette and school board President Christopher Severson, said that their policy for residency mirrors that of school districts statewide and “requires that we investigate questions of residency when they are brought to our attention.”

However, Jaconette and Severson acknowledged in the letter that the district’s communication regarding the case “was upsetting to the family involved and to others in the community” and promised to “examine our practices in hopes of improving how we communicate with those involved in these matters.”

Suspect Recovering After Being Shot By Off-Duty Officer In Lower Nob Hill

An attempted robbery suspect was recovering Thursday after an off-duty San Francisco police officer shot him in the city’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood early Wednesday morning, a police sergeant said.

The suspect, whose name is not yet being released, is expected to survive his injuries, according to San Francisco police Sgt. Monica MacDonald.

He is recovering in the hospital and has been arrested but not yet booked in connection with the incident that began shortly before 6 a.m. Wednesday near Leavenworth and Pine streets, police said.

MacDonald said police received initial reports of gunshots heard in the area. Officers responded but were unable to find anyone with a gun or any evidence of a shooting.

The sergeant said a preliminary investigation revealed someone was trying to break into a car by smashing a window with a wooden stick, possibly a chair leg.

A passerby saw the male suspect and confronted him. The suspect then struck the passerby with the wooden object and robbed him, MacDonald said.

After not initially reporting the incident and going home to clean himself up, the same passerby was then walking to work when he saw an altercation inside Another Café, a coffee shop at Leavenworth and Pine streets.

The same suspect allegedly threw coffee on someone inside the coffee shop and then exited, MacDonald said.

The suspect then went into a nearby apartment building on Leavenworth Street, where the off-duty police officer was exiting an apartment and encountered him, MacDonald said.

The suspect then tried to rob the officer, who identified himself and drew his weapon, the sergeant said.

The suspect refused to comply and told the officer that he would have to kill him, MacDonald said.

The officer holstered his handgun and the two became engaged in a physical struggle. The officer called for backup during the fight, during which the suspect struck the officer and bit him, MacDonald said.

The suspect then allegedly reached for the officer’s gun and a struggle over the gun ensued. The firearm discharged once, striking the suspect in his upper torso, according to police.

MacDonald said on-duty police officers arrived and found blood all over the hallway inside the apartment building. After he was taken into custody, the suspect was transported to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for his injuries.

MacDonald said the off-duty officer, whose name is also not immediately being released, teaches defensive tactics at the department.

The officer has been placed on administrative leave, as is protocol in the wake of an officer-involved shooting, according to San Francisco police Officer Grace Gatpandan.

Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area

Showers are likely in the Bay Area this morning. There is also a slight chance of thunderstorms. Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s with southerly winds up to 20 mph.

Showers are likely in the Bay Area this evening. Lows are expected to be in the mid-50s, with southerly winds up to 20 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies are likely Saturday morning, with a chance of showers. Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s, with southwesterly winds of up to 10 mph.