Thursday Morning News Roundup
News from SF and around the Bay Area for Thursday November 19th
Suspect in Vandalism at French American International School Arrested
Police arrested a homeless man Wednesday suspected of spray painting a wall at the French American International School in San Francisco. Edward Vanwright, 44, was booked into jail on suspicion of trespassing, vandalism and being a sex registrant on school grounds, police said.
Despite investigators considering the vandalism a possible hate crime, police said Wednesday there was no evidence Vanwright was connected to terrorism or intended to threaten the school. The vandalism was discovered on an outdoor wall at the school, located at 150 Oak St., on Tuesday morning.
It depicted an eight-point star surrounding a crescent moon and the number 7, a symbol affiliated with the “Five-Percent Nation,” an offshoot of the Nation of Islam founded in New York and frequently referenced in hip-hop lyrics. Police obtained surveillance footage of the area and saw a man enter the school grounds overnight and paint the symbol. Wednesday officers stopped Vanwright in the area of Masonic Avenue and Fulton Street because he fit the description of the suspect caught on video, police said.
The bilingual school has 1,080 students from pre-kindergarten through high school at three campuses in San Francisco, including at the main building on Oak Street. Twenty-three percent of the students are French nationals. The Oak Street building is shared with the Chinese American International School. Anyone with information about the vandalism has been asked to contact the San Francisco police tip line at (415) 575-4444.
Court Ruling Denies Woman Right to Embryos Following Divorce
A San Francisco woman Wednesday was denied custody of embryos she created with her estranged husband in a court ruling that upheld the validity of a consent form she signed specifying they would be destroyed in the event of a divorce.
Mimi Lee and her former husband Stephen Findley created the five embryos at a University of California at San Francisco fertility clinic in 2010 after Lee, then 41, learned she had breast cancer and would need to undergo treatment, according to the ruling Wednesday issued by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massulo.
At the time, they both signed a consent form that included a provision calling for the embryos to be destroyed in the event of a divorce. The couple, who married in 2010 shortly after Lee learned of her
cancer diagnosis, discussed using a surrogate to have a child but never took action. By August of 2013 they had separated, and Findley filed for divorce later that year.
The status of the embryos remained a sticking point, however, and eventually came to trial in July of this year. Lee, an anesthesiologist, said that she wanted to try to have a child with the embryos, and argued that she had signed the consent form under the impression that it was, like a medical directive, not enforceable. Findley, however refused his permission for her to use the embryos, citing his fear that she would use them for financial advantage against him. He asked the court to direct UCSF to destroy the embryos, as specified in the consent agreement. Massulo found that the consent form was valid, and that Lee’s right to procreate did not trump Findley’s right to avoid being compelled to procreate against his wishes. She noted that if the situation were reversed, no court would require Lee to carry a child from the embryos or allow them to be implanted in a surrogate.
“What is at issue is not whether Lee has the right to procreate in general, but whether she has the right to procreate with Findley,” Massulo wrote. Massulo noted that cancer treatment did not render Lee infertile and would not have prevented a pregnancy, according to testimony heard at trial. The primary cause of her infertility is age, Massulo said. Massulo’s order will be stayed long enough to allow both parties time to appeal.
Transgender Woman Suffers Suspected Hate Crime Attack for the Second Time This Year
For the second time this year, the same transgender woman has apparently been the target of a hate crime on the streets of San Francisco. Samantha Hulsey, and her girlfriend Daira Hopwood were the victims of “a transphobic attack,” said Hulsey’s friend Rae Raucci via Facebook.
Raucci, a transgender woman, law student and activist, was with Hulsey on January 3, when Hulsey was stabbed multiple times by a man as they exited a San Francisco Municipal Railway bus in the city’s Civic Center neighborhood.
The most recent attack against Hulsey occurred on Sunday evening, as Hopwood and Hulsey were near the intersection of Eighth and Mission streets in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, Raucci said. A man and a woman apparently accosted Hulsey and Hopwood, shouting obscenities at them, Raucci said. The woman threw a cup of hot coffee on them, and the man punched Hulsey in the face, at least twice, according to Raucci.
A passing San Francisco police officer was hailed down and arrested the suspects, Raucci said. The two victims were taken to the hospital for treatment and Raucci said Hulsey suffered cuts to her face.
San Francisco police said the suspects, Dewayne Edward Kemp, 36, and Rebecca Louise Westover, 42, share a residence in San Francisco. San Francisco sheriff’s department spokeswoman Kenya Briggs said both suspects remain in custody at the San Francisco County Jail. Police said the incident occurred in the unit block of Eighth Street and that video surveillance has been collected and is being analyzed.
Officers said at least three witnesses corroborated that the suspects made homophobic comments at the victims. Kemp was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault likely to cause great bodily injury, conspiracy, criminal threats, with hate crime enhancements, as well as a parole violation, police said. Westover was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, battery and conspiracy with hate crime enhancements, as well as for being a person convicted of a felony in possession of pepperspray.
Police said it appears this attack was bias motivated against persons from a protected class.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee expressed his frustration with the attack and condemned the hatred and intolerance that is believed to have been behind it.
“There is never an excuse for violence in our communities, and while much progress has been made in the last decade to advance transgender rights, anti-transgender violence sadly still exists,” Lee said Wednesday. Lee applauded the San Francisco Police Department’s quick apprehension and arrest of the two suspects in the attack.
“This incident is a stark reminder that greater awareness is needed to end bullying, discrimination and violence against our transgender community,” Lee said. The attack occurred during the annual Transgender Awareness Week and just days before Transgender Day of Remembrance, for which Lee has ordered City Hall be lit in blue, pink and white in the colors of the Transgender Flag.
The January attack led to the arrest of San Francisco resident Brodes Wayne Joynes. Police said that stabbing occurred at Van Ness Avenue between Golden Gate Avenue and Turk Street. The victims were sitting toward the back of a bus when a man approached them, police said. Raucci said the man harassed them repeatedly and called the pair derogatory names. “We were both on the bus together when a man across the way accused us both of defrauding him by pretending to be female,” Raucci wrote in January. The pair then decided to get off the bus to get away from him, but the man also got off the bus brandishing a knife, Raucci wrote. Raucci said that the man then stabbed Hulsey twice in the upper chest.
Hulsey was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with stab wounds, where she received 10 stitches, according to Raucci. Joynes was arrested at the scene following the attack and was
booked into jail on an outstanding warrant, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of criminal threats with a hate crime enhancement, according to MacDonald.
San Francisco District Attorney’s Office spokesman Max Szabo said back in January that Joynes is facing charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious bodily injury, two counts of criminal threats and false imprisonment, with hate crime enhancement
allegations on all charges.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon released a statement
condemning that first attack, saying, “A hate crime is not just an attack on the victim, it’s also an attack on our community and the values we embrace as San Franciscans.” Gascon vowed to prosecute Joynes aggressively. If convicted of all the charges filed against him, Joynes could be
sentenced to life in prison.
Senator Questinos Utilities’ Efforts to Prevent Wildfires
At the tail end of a deadly, destructive fire season that saw at least one major fire possibly started by power lines, state officials Wednesday grilled utility executives in San Francisco about their efforts to
improve fire safety.
State Sen. Jerry Hill called utility officials to testify before the Senate subcommittee on Gas, Electric and Transportation Safety Wednesday in part because September’s Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties, which burned more than 70,00 acres, destroyed more than 800 structures and
killed two people, may have been started by a PG&E power line that made contact with a tree.
“Power equipment causes hundreds of wildfires a year in the state of California,” Hill said Wednesday. “At these times a spark can grow to a deadly inferno that can destroy tens of thousands of acres of forest.” Hill said he was concerned by a history of wildfires caused by power lines and electrical equipment, including 2007’s massive Witch Fire in San Diego County, and the 1994 Trauner Fire, in which PG&E was eventually convicted of 739 counts of criminal negligence for its failure to trim trees
near power lines.
“I’m trying to figure out how I can trust PG&E again,” Hill said. David Shew, staff chief for Cal Fire, said the 2015 fire season, while not the most destructive on record, saw a sharp increase in both the number of wildfires and the number of acres affected. An extended, record-setting drought and an influx of bark beetles that has killed millions of trees in the state led to severely dry conditions
and a fire season that Shew called “unprecedented.”
Cal Fire recorded 6,145 fires totaling 307,551 acres between Jan. 1, 2015 and Nov. 14, Shew said. Those fires included the Valley Fire in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, which at 76,067 acres, more than 1900 structures destroyed and four deaths is considered the state’s 16th deadliest fire and
third most damaging. Last year, by comparison, saw 4,179 fires in the same period affecting 191,244 acres. The five-year average for the same time period is 4,368 fires and 108,783 acres, according to Cal Fire figures. “The problem is going to get much worse before it gets much better,” Shew said. “Even with significant rain this year the forests will take several years to recover.”
Increased development and growing populations in wildland areas have also increased the potential for power lines to come into contact with vegetation, fire officials said. PG&E alone has more than 18,000 miles of transmission lines with around 50 million trees nearby. Pat Hogan, a vice president with PG&E, assured Hill that the company was committed to safety, and testified that after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency next year the company had initiated an increased response plan to reduce the risk of wildfires. The plan included additional patrols in areas prone to fires, the use of technology to detect dead, diseased and dying trees, a total of $7.5 million in funding to local Fire Safe Councils over the past two years for vegetation clearance efforts, remote cameras in lookout towers and daily aerial patrols to spot fires that might otherwise go unreported.