Friday Morning News Roundup
Large Flames Visible At Chevron Refinery
Flaring at Chevron’s Richmond refinery produced dramatic flames and smoke Thursday evening that were visible for miles.
Flames and water vapor became visible when a process unit at the refinery needed to be depressurized and shut down, according to Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall.
The depressurization process, which produces a flare and water vapor that looks like smoke, makes it possible to shut down the unit safely, Reddall said.
Reddall said fence line air quality monitors showed no impact to the community.
Reddall said he could not discuss why the unit needed to be depressurized due to the “commercial sensitivity” of refinery operations.
Contra Costa County health officials said in a statement on Twitter that a hazardous materials team was on scene monitoring but that residents were not being advised to shelter in place.
Richmond police and fire officials put out statements Thursday evening calling the flaring normal and saying it did not pose a danger to the public.
Protesters Deliver Petition To Sj Police Chief Demanding Officer Be Fired Over Twitter Messages
About 80 people demonstrated outside the San Jose Police Department Thursday evening to call for the firing of a police officer who wrote contentious comments on Twitter about ongoing national protests over alleged police misconduct.
The peaceful demonstrators delivered to San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel shortly after 5 p.m. a copy of an online petition signed by more than 13,000 people calling for the termination of Police Officer Phillip White, police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol said.
The online petition submitted by the protesters, organized by several San Jose groups including Silicon Valley De-Bug and the Silicon Valley NAACP, asked the department to immediately fire White, according to De-Bug spokesman Raj Jayadev.
The demonstrators, some holding signs and chanting the popular refrain, “No Justice, No Peace,” marched from the County Government Center on Hedding Street to the police department about two blocks away on Mission Street, where Esquivel was waiting outside.
White, a 20-year veteran of the department who is white, is being investigated by police internal affairs for online messages on Twitter he wrote in reaction to protests in the Bay Area and across the country against alleged wrongdoing by white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.
The demonstrations occurred after the deaths two black men, 18-year-old Michael Brown, of Ferguson, Mo., and 43-year-old Eric Garner, of New York, who were killed this year during encounters with white officers.
Grand juries in both cases declined to charge the officers.
White wrote in one Twitter tweet, “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God-given and law appointed right and duty to kill you.”
In another, he stated, “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun,” an apparent reference to Garner, who repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” while a New York officer held him in chokehold that authorities said contributed to Garner’s death.
Esquivel, who said Monday in a statement that the department did not condone White’s views, responded by placing the officer on paid administrative leave while the department investigates the matter.
Randol said the internal probe of White will first determine if there was anything he did that might be criminal, then focus on what the department might do administratively and when finally completed the case would be referred to the City Attorney’s office.
Pastor To Face One Count Of Child Molestation At Trial
A Daly City pastor at a church in San Francisco will face trial for one count of child molestation, a San Mateo superior court judge ruled Thursday.
Venije Singkoh, 70, pleaded not guilty to three counts of child molestation, said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. San Mateo Superior Court Judge Donald Ayoob ruled that Singkoh would face only one count at trial.
Wagstaffe said the judge determined that two less serious allegations involving the pastor kissing young girls at the church on the cheek and one kiss on the lips didn’t fall under “lewd intent.”
Prosecutors said Singkoh is a pastor at the Indonesian Pentecostal Foursquare Church in San Francisco. On Feb. 7, a 9-year-old girl told her parents he molested her on multiple occasions over the past year by placing her on his lap and kissing her inappropriately.
Wagstaffe said the girl alleged he used his tongue while kissing her.
The girl told her mother and father, who called a church meeting with the pastor, prosecutors said. Several other church members attended the meeting and confronted him as well.
The pastor reportedly told them it was an accident and denied the claims, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors said Child Protective Services were notified and they in turn notified Daly City police.
Singkoh is scheduled to be back in court on Jan. 9 at 8:30 a.m. when the judge is expected to set a trial date. He is currently out of custody on a $100,000 bail bond.
U.S. Judge Sets June Date For Corruption Trial Of Yee And Jackson
Suspended state Sen. Leland Yee and political consultant Keith Jackson were given a June 1 date in federal court in San Francisco Thursday for the start of their corruption trial.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said jury selection in his Federal Building courtroom will begin on June 1 and opening statements and testimony will start on June 22.
Yee, 66, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and Jackson, 49, a former San Francisco school board president, are accused of conspiring to solicit contributions for Yee’s mayoral and secretary of state campaigns in exchange for political favors by the senator.
The trial will also include weapons charges against Yee, Jackson and two other men: Jackson’s son, Brandon Jackson, 28, of San Francisco, and sports agent Marlon Sullivan, 29, of Oakland.
The four men will be the first to go to trial among 28 people named in a wide-ranging 228-count indictment that also includes racketeering and organized-crime charges against San Francisco Chinatown association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and others.
Breyer has not set a date for the trial or trials of the remaining defendants. The two Jacksons and Sullivan would be included in one of the future trials as well because they are also accused of a racketeering conspiracy to commit crimes such as drug dealing and money laundering.
In the weapons charges to be tried in June, 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.
Other firearms charges to be presented to the jury in June accuse the two Jacksons and Sullivan – but not Yee — of selling guns without a license last year to an undercover agent who was posing as a Mafia member.
Angel Island Closed This Weekend Due To Waste Water Overflow
Visitors wishing to enjoy the natural beauty of San Francisco’s Angel Island State Park this weekend will have to postpone their plans as the island will be closed to the public due to a waste water system overflow in the park, a California State Parks spokeswoman announced Thursday.
The overflow of treated water may have been a result of heavy rains in the Bay Area over the last few days, according to California State Parks’ deputy director of public affairs, Vicky Waters.
No ferry service will be provided to the island on Saturday or Sunday and the island will be closed to visitors until the system is running normally.
Angel Island State Park staffers discovered the overflow Thursday morning and determined that the park needed to close in order to recover from the recent storms, according to Waters.
Crews have rerouted the overflow and report that there is no danger of it flowing into the surrounding bay waters.
The park is expected to remain closed through the weekend or until crews determine the water system is functioning normally again, Waters said.
Woman Sentenced To 9 Years In Prison For Leaving Newborn To Die In Bathtub, Hiding Its Body
A woman convicted of leaving her newborn baby to drown in a bathtub and hiding its body beneath her Seaside home for two years was sentenced to nine years in prison Thursday in Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas, a prosecutor said.
Judge Carrie Panetta handed down the prison term to Jennifer Cecilia Warren, 41, for involuntary manslaughter and the felony crime of willfully allowing her baby to drown with an enhancement for committing great bodily injury, Deputy District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni said.
On Feb. 22, 2013, Warren contacted the Seaside Police Department complaining about being harassed by her neighbors but then told officers that she had given birth at home in a half-full bathtub in 2011, prosecutors said.
The defendant explained that she did not want to keep the baby so left it in the water until it stopped moving, according to Pacioni.
Warren admitted to wrapping the dead infant in a sweatshirt, placing it in a plastic dog food container and hiding it in a crawl space under her home where it remained for two years, she said.
Police recovered the liquefied remains of the newborn and a pathologist determined it had been near or full term at the time of its death, she said.
Pedestrian Killed By Freight Train Identified
A pedestrian struck and killed by a Union Pacific freight train early Tuesday in South San Jose has been identified as 29-year-old Taura Pruitt, according to the Santa Clara County medical examiner’s office.
Pruitt, whose residence has not been determined, died as a result of an accident when the train crashed into her and there was no evidence of suicide, an employee of the office said.
The collision happened at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday just south of Branham Lane alongside Monterey Highway, according to Union Pacific officials.
Members of the crew on the northbound train reported seeing the victim on the tracks moments before the crash but were not able to stop the train in time, according to the company.
Police Arrest 2nd Suspect In Triple Shooting, Homicide
Police arrested a 19-year-old Pittsburg resident on suspicion of murder Thursday following a triple shooting and homicide in the city on Sunday, police said.
Officers arrested Justin Singh after a brief foot chase in the 2100 block of Railroad Avenue around 1 p.m., police said.
Singh was identified early in the investigation into the Sunday triple shooting and police said he was known to them as a gang member who is on active probation for theft-related charges.
Police also arrested a 17-year-old Pittsburg High School student while he was sitting in class on Monday. Police said the juvenile is currently in custody in juvenile hall on suspicion of murder.
Pittsburg police Capt. Ron Raman said that based on the information so far, police believe the juvenile and Singh acted together.
Police responded shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday in the 200 block of Auburn Drive, where officers found three victims suffering from gunshot wounds, Raman said.
The three victims were transported to the hospital, where one was pronounced dead. The two other victims were in stable condition as of Thursday afternoon and Raman said they were both recovering from their injuries.
Police said the victims were at a home for a social gathering and were outside in the street when a suspect confronted them and opened fire.
Raman said the victims, all Pittsburg residents, appeared to be the intended targets of the shooting.
The Contra Costa County coroner’s office identified the victim who died as 19-year-old Anthony Alexiz Valdez.
Police Release Photos Of Downtown Bank Robber In Santa Suit
San Francisco police have released photographs from video surveillance footage of a man in a Santa suit robbing a bank in downtown San Francisco on Saturday during the citywide holiday pub crawl Santacon, in which hundreds of people dress up like Santa Claus.
In the photographs, the Santa imposter can be seen wearing a red and white Santa suit with a Santa hat, a black and gold belt and a disheveled fake white beard.
Police said that the suspect remains at large after entering a bank in the 400 block of Sutter Street, shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday.
The bank is located about one block north of Union Square where Santacon participants congregate prior to the annual bar crawl.
The man in the Santa suit handed the teller a demand note and claimed to have a gun, although no gun was seen, according to police.
The teller complied with his demands and handed him cash, police said.
After receiving the money, the suspect left the bank and fled on foot, according to police.
The suspect is described as a white man between 40 and 50 years of age, standing about 6 feet tall.
Autopsy Friday On Man Found Dead On Downtown Street Tuesday
An autopsy is scheduled Friday on a Petaluma man who was found dead on a busy downtown Petaluma street Tuesday evening.
The 60-year-old white male had a laceration on his head, but it’s not known if it had anything to do with his death, Petaluma police Sgt. Ed Crosby said.
“We can’t rule out homicide or foul play as possible explanations, or if he was hit or fell,” Crosby said.
Petaluma police said the man is a known transient and the Sonoma County coroner’s office knows his identity, but his name is not being released until his next of kin are notified.
“We’ve had numerous contacts with him,” Crosby said.
The man was found lying face down on the sidewalk near the intersection of B Street and Petaluma Boulevard South by a citizen around 7:30 p.m. Crosby said. He was pronounced death at Petaluma Valley Hospital.
Police did not receive any calls about an altercation or disturbance before the man’s body was found in front of a 24-Hour Fitness gym at 6 Petaluma Boulevard North, Crosby said.
Police said video from a camera in the area shows the man walking down the street alone. There is then a five-minute gap before the video shows the man lying on the ground around 7:19 p.m., Crosby said.
“Whatever happened was in that short 5-minute period of time,” Crosby said.
The last time the man checked into a homeless shelter was two years ago, Crosby said.
The autopsy will determine if the man had drugs or alcohol in his system, and it might also help determine if the cut on the man’s head wound was from a fall or a blow to the head, Crosby said
Public Defenders Hold Demonstration To Call For Racial Equality In Judicial System
Standing on the steps outside the San Francisco Hall of Justice Thursday afternoon, dozens of attorneys, many from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, gathered together to call for racial justice in the judicial system.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Thursday that he wants to see the Constitution’s Bill of Rights enforced in communities of color.
Adachi’s office organized the protest to stand in solidarity with communities in Staten Island, New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and Cleveland, Ohio, where grand juries chose not to indict police officers who had killed unarmed black men.
Dozens of attorneys showed up for the demonstration wearing black and white T-shirts with “Black Lives Matter” or “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” printed on the front and “SF Public Defender” printed on the back. Many held signs with slogans such as “Clients’ Lives Matter” and “If The System Won’t Indict Cops Then We Indict the System.”
Adachi urged Bay Area judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to uphold the law and not allow racial discrimination in the courtrooms.
He applauded public defenders in Alameda, Solano, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Marin counties who have also spoken out or held rallies today to highlight the high rate of arrests and convictions for persons of color.
San Francisco deputy public defender Chris Hite also spoke at the demonstration, saying that his clients of color consistently tell stories of unwarranted stops and searches.
Hite also co-chairs the San Francisco Public Defender’s Racial Justice Committee, which has partnered with the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice to study and identify racial disparities in San Francisco’s criminal justice system.
Hite said Thursday that the committee plans to release a list of steps, possibly in the coming weeks, that can be taken to further improve the city’s justice system.
Man Found With 145 Lbs Of Dynamite Sentenced To 2 Years County Prison
A man found with explosives powerful enough to “destroy the neighborhood” was sentenced Thursday to a two-year prison sentence, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
William Harrell, 48, pleaded no contest to felony possession of marijuana for sale, felony possession of an automatic weapon and illegal possession of an explosive, according to the San Mateo District Attorney’s office.
Harrell will serve the sentence the San Mateo County jail, Wagstaffe said.
Police officers responded to the Brisbane residence that Harrell shared with his girlfriend and her two children, aged 11 and 20, on Oct. 1, 2012 following a report of a domestic argument, prosecutors said.
Harrell agreed to take a taxi to his parent’s home in Montara and then prosecutors said Harrell’s girlfriend directed police to a closet inside the home where she said he kept 145 pounds of dynamite sticks, $37,000 in cash and had a gallon-sized bag of marijuana.
Prosecutors said explosive experts estimated that 145 pounds of dynamite was “enough to destroy the entire neighborhood.”
Harrell agreed to a plea deal on Aug. 20, 2013. Prosecutors said Harrell had been defending himself until a judge appointed an attorney following a contentious hearing in July 2013.
Parolee Arrested In Sexual Assaults Of Two Women In Willow Glen Area
A 26-year-old male parolee was arrested Wednesday after two women were sexually assaulted in the Willow Glen area of San Jose, according to a San Jose police spokesman.
San Jose police responded to a report of a sexual assault in progress Wednesday in the 1600 block of Stokes Street between Leigh and Meridian avenues, police Officer Albert Morales said.
Officers who arrived on the scene arrested Kenneth Bridges, of Morgan Hill, on suspicion of sexually assaulting the two women and booked him into the Santa Clara County Main Jail, according to Morales.
The alleged victims, aged 63 and 54, are both San Jose residents, he said.
Bridges was on active parole for a robbery conviction at the time of his arrest, police said.
He is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose on Friday.
Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area
Rain is expected today in the Bay Area. Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s, and southwest winds could reach 10 to 20 mph.
Mostly cloudy skies are expected tonight. There is a chance of showers in the evening. Lows will be in the lower 50s with south winds of up to 5 mph.
Mostly cloudy skies are expected Saturday morning. Highs will be in the lower 60s with southeast winds of 5 to 10 mph expected.