Thursday Midday News Roundup
Redwood City Firefighters Gain Upper Hand On 6-Alarm Apartment Building Fire
Crews have controlled a six-alarm fire at a Redwood City apartment building that injured four people and displaced dozens this morning, a fire marshal said.
The fire was reported shortly after 5:15 a.m. at the Terrace Apartments, a four-story, 75-unit apartment building at 926 Woodside Road.
Redwood City Fire Marshal Jim Palisi said the fire was controlled shortly before 9 a.m. but that crews remained at the scene late this morning putting out hotspots.
Four adults were hurt in the fire and were taken to hospitals, Palisi said.
Two suffered moderate injuries and two suffered minor injuries.
He said the rescue effort was hectic but ultimately successful, with some people escaping the building on their own and others helped out by fire crews.
He said some residents climbed over balconies to get out.
The most significant damage was to the fourth floor, where the blaze appears to have started, Palisi said.
Late this morning, Woodside Road remained closed between Massachusetts Avenue and Gordon Street.
The American Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at the Red Morton Community Center at 1120 Roosevelt Ave. to assist those displaced, spokeswoman Cynthia Shaw said.
Shaw said breakfast was served to dozens of evacuated residents.
Other resources will be provided at the center throughout the day.
She said residents with pets should stop by the center to be connected with partner agencies that are helping pet owners.
The building is managed by Terrace Associates, Inc., which has properties throughout the Peninsula and South Bay region.
This morning’s fire came several months after a fatal six-alarm fire burned at an apartment building just down the road.
That fire started at about 1:45 a.m. on July 7 at the Hallmark House Apartments, a 72-unit building at 531 Woodside Road, about half a mile from the Terrace Apartments.
One person was killed in that blaze and about 17 others were injured.
Marathon BART Negotiating Session Continuing Today
A marathon bargaining session between BART management and its two biggest labor unions that began Wednesday morning lasted all night and is continuing today, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 are still threatening to go on strike if an agreement isn’t reached on a new contract, but they have agreed to keep working and keep BART trains running while negotiations continue.
Asked how long the negotiating session will last, Trost said, “There’s no schedule.”
Management representatives, including BART General Manager Grace Crunican, and union leaders are still at the bargaining table, along with three federal mediators.
Trost said the mediators have imposed a gag order barring the parties from telling the news media and the public how the negotiations are going.
Negotiators also participated in lengthy bargaining sessions earlier this week.
Talks that began on Monday didn’t end until 5:30 a.m. the following day, and talks that began on Tuesday afternoon last until about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The key issues in the contract talks are wages and employees’ contributions for their health care and retirement plans.
BART workers previously went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July, after their previous contract expired, but they have been at work since then as negotiations have continued.
Visitors Invited To Return To National Parks After Shutdown Lifted
For the first time in more than two weeks, Bay Area residents and tourists are able to return to Alcatraz, Muir Woods and parts of the Golden Gate Park Recreation area that were closed because of the federal government shutdown.
These and other popular Bay Area destinations are among more than 400 national parks and monuments that have been off-limits to the public since the shutdown began on Oct. 1.
Park workers are returning to work today after Congress on Wednesday evening approved a deal to end the shutdown and prevent the federal government from defaulting on its financial obligations.
“After a 17-day shutdown, Congress has reached a short-term budget resolution that reopens the federal government, including our 401 national parks and monuments,” National Parks Conservation Association Acting President Theresa Pierno said in a statement Wednesday night.
“We are grateful that the dedicated men and women of the National Park Service can return to their jobs serving the American public as stewards of some of America’s most spectacular lands and significant historic sites,” she said.
National parks have officially reopened and Alcatraz Cruises, the official government concessioner for tours of the historic island, announced it would resume normal trips to Alcatraz Island beginning 8:45 a.m. today.
Bay Area residents planning to visit Yosemite National Park this week will be able to check into accommodations or campsites at the park starting at noon today, park officials said.
Parents Whose Kids Sent Home For Wearing American Flag Shirts Headed To Appeals Court
A controversial incident in which several students at a Morgan Hill high school were sent home for wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo in 2010 is going before a federal appeals court in San Francisco today.
The parents of three of the Live Oak High School students claim their children’s constitutional rights of free speech were violated.
They are appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for reinstatement of their lawsuit, which was dismissed by now-retired U.S. District Judge James Ware of San Jose in 2011.
Ware said school officials were justified in taking their actions because they were responsible for students’ safety and believed the flag-wearing students in danger of being harmed.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court was slated to hear 30 minutes of arguments on the parents’ appeal at its San Francisco courthouse this morning and will issue a written ruling at a later date.
The case stems from an incident in which five Live Oak students wore American flag-themed shirts to the high school’s Cinco de Mayo celebration on May 5, 2010.
The Mexican holiday commemorates a Mexican army victory over French forces in 1862.
School officials have said that because the same event resulted in verbal altercations and threats between Mexican-American and other students the previous year, they feared the American flag shirts could pose a risk of danger to the students wearing them.
Three of the flag-wearing students were given a choice of turning the shirts inside out or going home with excused absences, and opted to leave school.
Two others whose shirts had less prominent designs were eventually allowed to stay, but one was taken home by his mother.
The incident received local and nationwide media attention and former Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Wesley Smith received 5,000 e-mails in an eight-hour period.
The lawsuit alleging violation of the students’ rights was filed against the district, former Principal Nick Boden and former Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez in June 2010 by the parents of two students who were sent home and the student who was taken home by his mother.
If the appeals court revives the case, the parents would then be able to return to U.S. District Court in San Jose to seek a declaration that their children’s rights were violated and an injunction requiring the district not to bar students from wearing patriotic messages in the future.
Fifth-Graders At Sunset Elementary Participate In ‘Great California Shakeout’
Students at a San Francisco elementary school were among millions of people statewide who took the time this morning to “drop, cover and hold on” as part of a statewide earthquake drill on the 24th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The 6.9-magnitude temblor struck the region on Oct. 17, 1989.
Sixty-three people were killed, and more than 3,700 injuries were reported in the aftermath of the quake.
Today, schools, businesses, community groups and other organizations participated in the Great California ShakeOut to mark the anniversary and prepare for the next big quake.
As many as 9.5 million Californians registered for the drill this year, with more than 352,000 San Francisco residents taking part, according to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.
The drill is known as one of the biggest in the world, with participants dropping to the ground, taking cover under a sturdy object and holding on.
A class of fifth-graders at San Francisco’s Sunset Elementary School on 41st Avenue crouched under their desks when an announcement went out over the loud speakers at their school at 10:17 a.m.
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, Deputy Police Chief Lyn Tomioka and Supervisor Katy Tang also dropped to the ground and took cover.
After the drill, students filed out of the classroom and into the schoolyard, where they were commended for their efficiency.
Tang told the youngsters she was proud of them for practicing “so you can be more prepared.”
She urged students to talk to their parents about having emergency supplies, such as an earthquake kit, ready at home.
Hayes-White told the students that the Department of Emergency Management is the “glue that holds everyone together if there’s an emergency disaster.”
“We’re here today to tell you we’re here for you,” the chief said.
Ten-year-old Raymond, part of teacher Dylan Riley’s fifth-grade class, said after the drill that he feels prepared for an earthquake.
He said his parents have told him stories about where they were on that shaky day in 1989.
He said he has water and food set aside at his house in case disaster strikes.
In San Jose, hundreds of students participated in the drill at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, which has an exhibit about earthquakes.
The children were visited by a pack of “zombies” from Great America’s Halloween Haunt.
A ShakeOut drill was planned at Hayward City Hall, and numerous other events were scheduled throughout the Bay Area.
Man Convicted Of First-Degree Murder For 2012 Fatal Stabbing In SOMA
A man was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder for a fatal stabbing in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood last year, prosecutors said today.
A San Francisco Superior Court jury found Charles Robertson, 44, guilty of fatally stabbing 30-year-old Joseph Minozzi near Sixth and Stevenson streets shortly after 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 12, 2012, according to the district attorney’s office.
Minozzi, a former Hayward resident who had recently moved to San Francisco, was with his girlfriend and had just purchased cigarettes at a store on Sixth Street when he encountered Robertson, who approached him aggressively, police and prosecutors said.
Robertson followed the victim onto Stevenson Street, where he stabbed him with a knife, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Robertson then met with a female acquaintance on Ninth Street and asked her to help him dispose of the knife and hide his jacket, and they both fled to Atlanta the next day using false identification.
The acquaintance was eventually located and she cooperated with investigators, helping them to find Robertson’s jacket, prosecutors said.
Police arrested Robertson in Sacramento in February 2012.
Investigators also uncovered surveillance video taken in the area of the killing that helped lead to the conviction, prosecutors said.
The jury deliberated for one day before convicting Robertson, who faces 26 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 17, prosecutors said.
Minozzi, the victim, appeared in an episode of the ninth season of A&E’s reality television show “Intervention.”
The episode, which first aired in December 2010, focused on Minozzi’s former girlfriend.
Man Accused Of Mission District Fatal Shooting Has Prior Murder Conviction
A man accused of fatally shooting another man in San Francisco’s Mission District earlier this week has a prior murder conviction on his record, a district attorney’s spokesman said today.
Vincent Jacobo, 56, is set to be arraigned this afternoon on charges of murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, district attorney’s office spokesman Alex Bastian said.
Jacobo allegedly fatally shot 28-year-old Maurice White at about 4:30 a.m. Monday on Bartlett Street between 21st and 22nd streets, police said.
He was arrested later that day in the 1100 block of Valencia Street.
According to court documents, Jacobo has a prior conviction in 1976 for another murder in San Francisco.
Bastian said additional information about the case was not immediately available but could be released at Jacobo’s arraignment, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today at the Hall of Justice.
Good Samaritans Pull Man Who Fell Onto Train Tracks At Civic Center Bart Station
A young man who fell onto the tracks at a San Francisco BART station late Wednesday night was quickly pulled to safety by a good Samaritan.
At about 11:40 p.m. on Wednesday, as about two-dozen commuters waited for their trains on the platform of the Civic Center BART station, a young man with a skateboard appeared to fall suddenly onto the tracks.
Walnut Creek resident Amin Khan, 23, sprang up from a bench where he had been waiting for his train and jumped down onto the tracks after the man.
Khan and a handful of other good Samaritans scrambled to pull him back onto the platform, where another bystander called 911.
BART police officers arrived about a minute later and helped the man up.
The extent of his injuries was not immediately known.
Khan, who said he rarely rides BART, said he reacted instinctively after seeing the man fall.
“Anyone would’ve done the same thing,” he said.
SFMTA Board Approves New Limited-Stop Bus Service On 5-Fulton Line
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency‘s board of directors has approved a new pilot project to provide additional limited-stop bus service on a crowded bus line that runs from the city’s Richmond District to downtown.
The board on Tuesday approved the new 5L-Fulton line, which is expected to provide between 20 and 30 percent more capacity during peak periods, SFMTA officials said.
The new line, which will require the reconfiguration of lanes and bus stops along certain stretches of the route, is expected to begin operating sometime this fall, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.
On weekdays until 7 p.m., buses on the 5L-Fulton line will make all stops between La Playa and Cabrillo streets and Fulton and Sixth Avenue, then limited stops between there and Market and McAllister streets, SFMTA officials said.
“With this pilot, we’re making a smart investment in the 5-Fulton that will make it easier for riders to get from one end of the city to the other on one of the city’s most utilized routes,” SFMTA board chairman Tom Nolan said in a statement.
Alameda Crews Conducting Live Fire Training At Alameda Point
The Alameda Fire Department is conducting live fire training at Alameda Point today, and is warning residents that smoke will be visible in the area.
The training is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. near the Oakland Estuary on Panoramic Drive.
Monterery County Man Tells Father About Killing Girlfriend, Then Kills Himself
A Salinas man on Wednesday night called his father to report that he had killed his girlfriend before shooting himself to death, according to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.
At 8:53 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about shots fired at 309 Kelton Drive, just outside Salinas city limits, sheriff’s officials said.
Responding deputies found Daniel Lucas Dacpano, 29, dead from a single gunshot wound outside his home at that address, according to the sheriff’s office.
They also found the body of Guadalupe Alfaro, 26, of Salinas, inside her car, which was parked in the driveway outside the residence, deputies said.
Investigators learned that Dacpano had telephoned his father to tell him he had just killed Alfaro, according to the sheriff’s office.
Dacpano then apparently shot and killed himself, sheriff’s officials said.
The sheriff’s office recovered a shotgun and a knife from the scene.
Detectives are continuing to investigate the deaths.
Los Gatos Police Ask Residents To Register Their Surveillance Systems To Help Solve Crimes
Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police are asking residents and business owners to register their surveillance cameras with the Police Department so that investigators can review their video footage in the event of a nearby crime.
The Police Department started a program called Los Gatos On Watch as a crime reduction tool to aid in investigations and deter criminals, according to police.
Surveillance cameras have helped police all over the country crack crimes ranging from burglaries to homicides, and Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police hope to use the community’s cameras to solve local crimes, police said.
A resident’s surveillance system assisted police in finding a vehicle associated with a home burglary that occurred on Feb. 8 on Vista Del Monte in Los Gatos, police said.
The most helpful surveillance camera systems have a minimum resolution of 720p and enough memory to hold several days’ worth of images, but a lower-resolution camera would still be of assistance, according to police.
Residents and business owners who register their surveillance systems with the Police Department are being asked to position their cameras to record activity on the street and around front doors, police said.
Residents of Los Gatos and Monte Sereno may register their camera system with police online at www.joinonwatch.com or by contacting the department at (408) 354-6853.
Two Nabbed After Armed Robbery Of Audio Store In San Mateo
A witness description and a police officer’s quick response resulted in the arrest of two armed robbery suspects who used a fake gun to hold up a San Mateo audio store on Tuesday evening, a police sergeant said.
San Mateo police Sgt. Dave Norris said Tyler Ehrman, 21, and Cameron Nickravesh, 22, both San Mateo residents, allegedly used a “realistic-looking replica handgun” to rob Tri Audio Sound at 700 N. San Mateo Drive, around 5 p.m. that day.
Responding police officers were told that the two suspects had fled in a gold or beige four-door Toyota Camry. Officer Joe Bonachita immediately hit the freeway and spotted the car on southbound U.S. Highway 101, according to Norris.
Bonachita followed the car off the highway and into Belmont, where the two suspects were apprehended with the help of Belmont police.
The replica handgun that was allegedly used in the crime was also located, according to Norris.
Ehrman and Nickravesh were arrested on suspicion of robbery and booked into San Mateo County Jail.
The storeowner, a 64-year-old Redwood City man, was not injured in the robbery.
Trio Arrested For ‘Sophisticated’ ID Theft, Fraud Operation In Benicia
Benicia police have arrested three people they believe were operating an extensive identity theft and fraud operation at two hotels in the city, a police lieutenant said today.
The suspects were allegedly operating out of rooms at the Best Western Plus Heritage Inn at 1955 East Second St. and the Holiday Inn Express at 1375 East Fifth St., Lt. Frank Hartig said.
All three suspects, Melinda Collins, Martisha Munoz and Keshan Branch, were arrested Saturday.
Collins, 30, of Fairfield, was arrested at the Holiday Inn on suspicion of 30 felony counts of forgery, possessing forged checks, manufacturing forged checks, identity theft and three drug possession charges, Hartig said.
Munoz, 26, of Vallejo, was taken into custody at the Heritage Inn on outstanding Solano County warrants for felony theft, and robbery and probation violations, Hartig said.
The third suspect, 41-year-old Branch, who has no permanent address, was arrested on a felony parole hold and on misdemeanor charges of interfering with police, giving false information to police and battery on a police officer, Hartig said.
The investigation began on Oct. 5 when housekeepers found items that are used to make counterfeit checks, ID cards and credit cards in a room at the Best Western, Hartig said.
Police responded and confiscated items included laptop computers, credit card skimmers, California drivers’ licenses belonging to various people and a high-quality printer, Hartig said.
Munoz tried to pick up the confiscated items on Oct. 6 from the Best Western room she had rented.
She was denied because she did not have identification, and fled the hotel, Hartig said.
When she returned this Saturday to try again to pick up the items, police arrested her.
Munoz was with a male who gave police a name they couldn’t immediately verify.
He told officers that his identification was at the Holiday Inn Express several blocks away, where he was staying, Hartig said.
At the Holiday Inn, police searched two rooms and found other people’s banking information and California drivers’ licenses, as well as evidence of check forgery, gift cards, marijuana, Vicodin and narcotics paraphernalia, Hartig said.
It was Collins who had rented the rooms, and she was arrested, police said. Police are looking for other suspects in the operation.
Highway 101 Lanes Reopen After Asphalt Spill
An asphalt spill blocked two lanes of southbound U.S. Highway 101 in the Rohnert Park area this morning, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Caltrans crews were cleaning up the spill, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.
The spill happened around 9 a.m. at Wilfred Avenue, and closed the two right lanes, Sloat said.
A Sig-alert was issued at 9:29 a.m.
The vehicle that spilled the hot asphalt is a double-belly dump truck, Sloat said.
Seat Belt Violation Leads To Driver’s Arrest On Warrants In Sonoma County
A Cloverdale man got more than a ticket when he neglected to click it on Tuesday afternoon.
California Highway Patrol Officer Kimberly Lemons noticed that John Francis Avilla, 30, was not wearing his seat belt as he drove in front of her on northbound U.S. Highway 101 near Arata Lane in Windsor around 3:30 p.m., CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.
When she pulled him over, Avilla verbally identified himself as his brother, then as one of his friends, before his true identity was determined, Sloat said.
Lemons learned that Avilla had three felony warrants for his arrest on drug charges, and that his license had been suspended in 2003 for DUI, according to Sloat.
He was booked into Sonoma County Jail for the warrants, driving on a suspended license and impersonating another to avoid prosecution, Sloat said.
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