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Woman travels to epicenter of Ebola breakout to bring home adopted son

A Bay Area woman has been monitoring the Ebola outbreak closely as she is adopting a 14-year-old boy from Sierra Leone in West Africa.

Natalie Wisniewski of San Francisco is preparing for a trip that may be a threat to her health, but one that she says is worth the risk.

"Hand sanitizer...a total must," said the new mom as she packed her bags.

She says she's excited yet apprehensive.

"I'm pretty frightened because I'm going there tomorrow," said the 43-year-old.

Frightened that Ebola may cause delays in her trip.

Wisniewski is flying to Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone Tuesday afternoon to be reunited with the teenage boy she adopted a few months ago.

The biotech engineer tells KTVU during her first trip to Sierra Leone in January, she met Kai Smart, an orphan who impressed her with his intelligence and thirst for knowledge.

"Seeing the kind of person he was and the opportunity that I could provide for him," said Wisniewski.

To authenticate the adoption, U.S. embassy officials in Sierra Leone will likely need to travel to Kenema, the boy's hometown.

Wisniewski pointed to a map of the region, telling KTVU the boy's birth certificate and other documentation would come from there.

Kenema happens to also be the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak.

"I fear that they would just delay it until the whole Ebola outbreak has kind of subsided," said Wisniewski.

The new mom has an appointment with embassy officials Thursday in Sierra Leone.

She hopes to convince them to expedite the process, concerned about her son's potential exposure to the deadly virus and eager to be a family here in the Bay Area.

"Anxious to get him here to start high school so he can start the process of adjusting to life here," said Wisniewski.

She says she received help from the staff of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and U.S Senator Dianne Feinstein in getting a meeting with embassy officials quickly.

Wisniewski told KTVU she bought a one way ticket because she doesn't know how long the whole process will take, given the Ebola outbreak.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:58:15 -0700

Mom accused of leaving 4 kids in hot SUV

A woman is facing four counts of reckless conduct after allegedly leaving her four kids inside a hot SUV, Atlanta police said.

According to WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, officers said Charnae Mosley, 27, left her children – ages 6, 4, 2, and 1 – inside her SUV. She was gone for at least 16 minutes while she shopped at a southwest Atlanta grocery store, police said.

Video from the scene showed Mosley in the back of a police car, wiping sweat from her forehead.

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Police said someone noticed the children in the vehicle with the doors locked and the windows rolled up about 3 p.m. Monday. 

Mosley came out of the store to find officers waiting for her. 

The children, who were given water on the scene, were all removed from the vehicle safely, police said.

>> RELATED: Police: Dad caught having sex while twin babies were alone in car

"They were checked out by EMS and are OK, thankfully," said Sgt. Gregory Lyons.

Mosley was charged with four counts of reckless conduct and booked into the Fulton County Jail. Officials with the Division of Family and Children Services were called to the scene, and the children were released to their grandmother.

Mosley's family did not want to comment, but her neighbors reacted.

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"People are more concerned about other stuff, getting out of the car, doing whatever they want to do instead of taking care of the kids," said neighbor Michael Smith. 

"I think there's no excuse," said Lawanda Johns. "I do think there's different degrees and different situations, but when it's hot outside, I don't think it's appropriate."

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:56:24 -0700

Car fire, police pursuit blocks connector ramps from westbound I-80

Two connector ramps from westbound Interstate Highway 80 near the Bay Bridge in Oakland were closed Monday night due to a car fire and police pursuit, the California Highway Patrol said.

The CHP responded to a report of the fire on a connector ramp from westbound I-80 to Interstate Highway 580 and issued a Sig-alert at 8:37 p.m., the CHP said.

The car fire also blocked the connector ramp from westbound I-80 to southbound Interstate Highway 880, according to the CHP.

The vehicle had led authorities on a pursuit that started in Berkeley and ended in Oakland on the ramp from westbound I-80 to southbound I-880, the CHP said.

A male suspect was arrested after he attempted to flee on foot, according to the CHP.

There were no other suspects and no injuries were reported.

There is no estimated time of when the ramps will reopen, the CHP said.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:24:08 -0700

Family files suit in fatal public housing fire

Attorneys representing the family of a mother and toddler killed in a San Francisco public housing fire have taken the first step towards filing a lawsuit against the city.

Esther Ioane and her 3-year-old son Santana Williams were killed in the fast moving blaze April 16th. It happened at the Sunnydale Public Housing Development.

In claims obtained by 2 Investigates, attorneys for the family demand the city conduct a full investigation into what happened.

The claim also alleges the city was negligent.

The claim was filed on behalf of Ioane's mother and William's father. It alleges the fire was caused by unsafe conditions at the property including a lack of working smoke detectors. Ioane put in work orders for a non-working smoke detector and an electrical issue two weeks before the fire. The claim also blames the Department of Public Works saying the fire could not be controlled because there were no nearby working fire hydrants.

“I think for the family what this means is that at some point we're starting to move forward in terms of vindicating their rights and conducting really a formal investigation into what happened,” said Joshua Watson, an Attorney for the family.

The fire department has not released its final report yet. The report is expected to have crucial information about whether or not there were working smoke detectors in the unit.

KTVU reached out to the attorney for the city this afternoon, but we have not heard back yet. The city has 45 days to approve or deny the claim. After that, attorneys for the family have six months to formally file a lawsuit.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:15:57 -0700

Vandals flood baseball field, causing cancellation of kids' games

Vandals climbed over a fence and deliberately flooded an Alameda baseball field over the weekend, forcing a camp’s cancellation and wasting thousands of gallons of water during a drought.

On Monday, young boys and girls were unable to use the field for their summer baseball camp.

The field sits on the College of Alameda campus but the Alameda Babe Ruth League maintains it.

Groundskeepers were busy replacing sprinkler heads Monday.

Officials said sometime Saturday night; someone deliberately turned on the sprinkler system and broke off the sprinkler heads, sending thousands of gallons of water gushing onto the field for hours.

"This whole area was a pool of water," said Alameda Babe Ruth League director Erik Schuler pointing to the infield.

The vandalism meant crucial games had to be cancelled.

"Hurts the kids. I can tell you 70 kids were affected," said Schuler.

The league sign was also sliced up. 

Damage is estimated at least $10,000 and thousands of gallons of precious water was wasted.

"It looks like it was targeted to hurt Babe Ruth. It doesn't look like a random incident,” said Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri.  

Whatever the reasons, these young ballplayers are paying the price.

"Whoever did that, it wasn't cool. You gotta think of the other kids that are playing," said 10-year-old Rafael Arredondo attending the summer baseball camp.

The league expects to install security cameras.

It’s also offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:04:49 -0700

Deadly San Bruno pipeline blast keeps reverberating

On the front doorsteps of the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco Monday morning, the City of San Bruno released a barrage of criticisms and demands for firings, fines, and punishments aimed at the CPUC as well as PG&E for what it calls blatantly illegal conduct: secret meetings and communications out of the public view. If the city is right, then CPUC, as currently constituted, may not survive the San Bruno blast.

The City of San Bruno revealed the contents of thousands internal documents it sued for, by and between the CPUC and PG&E; documents sent since the 2010 pipeline blast that killed eight.

"PG&E has made illegal efforts to influence the CPUC decisions makers to protect the utility's financial interests. Sadly and shockingly, the CPUC has participated in the illegal conduct," says San Burn Mayor Jim Ruane.

The city of San Bruno has filed various legal motions demanding the removal of CPUC President Michael Peevey from his position. Those demand the firing of any CPUC or PG&E Executive implicated in illegal contacts or influence. It also demands the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the PG&E and CPUC relationship going forward. Finally, it wants law enforcement investigations to prosecute and punish PG&E and CPUC employees for illegal conduct.

"The PUC leadership, during the past three-and-a-half years, has made no effort to respect the arm's length relationship they're supposed to have with PG&E," says State Senator Jerry Hill who represents San Bruno.

One such e-mail, from no less than PG&E's head of regulatory relations to a CPUC administrative law judge, ends with "love you." 

"A relationship much deeper and more shocking than even we originally figured," says Mayor Ruane.

PG&E was quick to respond.

"After we do this thorough review of all the communications that are being discussed here, we're gonna be able to make a determination of what kind of action is required. So, let's be clear: we will take action if somebody's fallen short," says PG&E Spokesman Greg Snapper.

A CPUC statement reads, “The CPUC takes seriously all allegations of bias and rule violations and will evaluate the Motions when filed by the City of San Bruno, including providing an opportunity for parties to comment.”

But, since a state agency, the California Public Utilities Commission, seems to be up to its neck in all this, should California's general fund reap all that fine money for a disaster it helped create? No says State Senator Jerry Hill who also says it should be returned to PG&E's rate payers, who paid for all of the CPUC's and PG&E's misdeeds. Alas, says Hill, that's too much money for others to pass up.

"$2.5 billion, those other 199 legislators and the Governor have a lot of calls on that money," says Hill.

 

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:51:55 -0700

Bay Area lifeguards on alert following tragic Southern Calif. lightning storm

A rare lightning storm in Southern California that injured 13 people and killed a man in the water at Venice Beach over the weekend is getting the attention of lifeguards in the Bay Area.

"Yesterday it came out of nowhere," said Sean Scallan, a lifeguard at San Francisco's Ocean Beach. "It caught everybody by surprise. They didn't expect it."

Scallan cruised the beach in his lifeguard pickup truck, warning beach visitors about the usual rip currents, and watching the sky for the weather.

"We're trained to alert the public to stay off the beach area and to find cover," Scallan explained. "That's what we're going to do here today; advise the public if we see that kind of weather approaching us."

Scallan has more than casual experience with lightning. He said he had a close call while surfing in Hawaii.

"That lightning bolt struck 20-feet in front of us. It was like, wow! Ok. Boom! Go in," Scallan said recalling the jolt. "If that lightning bolt strikes close enough, you can really feel it, almost taste it. It's like a battery taste."

The unusual monsoonal weather pattern isn't just bringing lightning to the beach, it's beaching  jellyfish. Velella Velella Jellyfish live on the surface of the water. They have a kind of "sail" that catches the prevailing northwest winds to keep them floating out at sea, but recent winds out of the southwest are washing them ashore.

"It's been about six or eight years since we've seen them in these numbers," said Scallan.

The jellyfish are purple with a clear "sail" on top. Lifeguards say people should avoid walking on them barefoot.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:05:15 -0700

Little information released after Antioch police shoot man

A rifle found in the middle of a suburban street led Antioch police to a home on Folsom drive, where an officer opened fire and struck a man in the garage of his home.

Police won’t release any information on the identity of the man, or his condition after the shooting.

The incident happened at 8:34 Monday morning.

Neighbors on Folsom drive and Kern streets in Antioch woke up to the sound of sirens and gunshots.

“I heard the shooting, like ‘pow, pow, pow!’ so I ran outside and they were yelling at him to ‘get on the ground, get on the ground, get on the ground!’" said Yelena Mitchell, a Kern Street resident.

Mitchell saw a man in handcuffs, with blood on his shirt and Antioch police in front of the home.

“I’m a little scared! This is a real nice, quiet neighborhood,” she said.

Also watching the spectacle was another neighbor, who told people it was his discovery that led police to the home.

“He said when he was coming home, he saw the guy throw the gun out the window and he picked it up and called police,” Mitchell said.

Antioch police confirm a call about a rifle, dumped in the middle of the street, is the reason they came to this address. When officers arrived, they saw a man running into the garage of the home.

“They were telling him, let me see your hands, they called out like four or five times, and he didn't do it,” said Tammy McPherson, a neighbor who witnessed the incident.

Police opened fire, striking the man.

“Took him on the gurney, he was sitting up and talking, awake or alert,” McPherson said.

Police wouldn't explain the connection between the rifle in the street, and the man they shot, “At this point, because we're still trying to sort things out, we can't release that information,” said Antioch Police Lt. Tony Morefield.

 When asked if the man shot had a criminal history, police wouldn’t answer, saying only they were not able to release any information about the man because of the status of the investigation.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:47:34 -0700

Soccer coach claims inappropriate touching was unintentional

Court documents released Monday in the case of a Livermore soccer coach; accused of molesting a girl at soccer camp, show the coach told police the incidents were unintentional.

Jesse Schlicker, 26, of Livermore is a speed and strength soccer coach with Cabernet Indoor Sports. He was arrested on July 22 on one charge of committing a lewd act on a child under age 14 during the lunch hour of the soccer camps at the facility.

According to a probable cause report, a father went to the Livermore Police Department to report the incidents last week.  The man said his daughter disclosed that her soccer coach had inappropriately touched her “by reaching under her shorts and underwear.” The girl also said Schlicker “patted her on the buttocks several times while they were playing soccer.”

The girl was interviewed at CALICO, a child advocacy center in San Leandro, by a Child Interview Specialist where the girl told investigators what happened. She later identified Schlicker out of a photo lineup.

Court documents state a pre-text phone call was completed the girl’s mother and in the conversation “Schlicker made several statements that he may have touched Doe inappropriately, but stated that the touching was unintentional.”

The report said during Schlicker’s arrest, he denied intentionally touching the girl, but stated he did touch her several times while playing soccer. The report went on to state that, “he pushed Doe several times during a soccer game and it is possible he may have touched he inappropriately.”

KTVU went to Schlicker’s house to ask him about the allegations. A woman who answered the door said he had no comment and referred us to their attorney. Calls to attorney Patrick Clancy were not immediately returned on Monday.

Schlicker was formerly affiliated with World Cup Soccer Camps based in Los Gatos. Management said Schlicker was a part-time worker for about three years. A spokesperson called him a good coach who never had any issues or complaints.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:22:24 -0700

Teen injured in Fremont crash

A 15-year-old boy suffered major injuries when a car hit him on Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont on Monday evening, a police sergeant said.

The boy was on his skateboard crossing Paseo Padre Parkway at Baylis Street near Lake Elizabeth around 4:50 p.m. when he was struck by a Toyota sedan traveling north, Fremont police Sgt. Paul McCormick said.

The woman driving the car stayed at the scene and was cooperative, he said.

The boy was transported to a trauma center for treatment of injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening, according to McCormick.

Paseo Padre Parkway was blocked in both directions between Grimmer Boulevard and Mission View Drive until about 9:30 p.m., McCormick said.

The cause of the collision remains under investigation.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:06:33 -0700

Cage-fighting gas station clerk stuns would-be robbers

Surveillance video shows a gas station clerk with mixed martial arts training overcoming three would-be robbers who tried to swipe a bank bag from his co-worker outside the shop.

Mayura Dissanayake was behind the counter, inside the shop, when he saw two men jump out of an SUV and attack his co-worker, who had just gotten out of his car with a  bank bag. Dissanayake said instinct kicked in and he ran out of the shop to help. (Click2Houston.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnShVAF4uU8

The video shows Dissanayake running outside and kicking one of the suspects in the face. The other suspects started to engage but decided to take off instead.
"The first guy I saw, I just kicked him in the face," he said. "Then I punched the other guy."

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The guy he punched dropped to the ground and got left behind as the other two suspects took off in their getaway car. The man he knocked down was charged with robbery with bodily injury.

Dissanayake said he has been training in mixed martial arts for more than a decade and was a champion cage fighter in his native Sri Lanka.

The incident happened July 10, 2014. Click2Houston.com said the report was posted on July 25 and was viewed by more than 4.5 million people over the first weekend. Dissanayake said he woke up to around 500 Facebook friend requests  the morning after the story was posted.

Watch the original video report here.  

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:58:37 -0700

2 Investigates: Sensitive documents, personal information uncovered at Bay Area salvage yards

Auto salvage yards can be a great resource for the do-it-yourselfer in search of spare parts.

2 Investigates found the same yards can also be a gold mine for identity thieves.

At three Pick n Pull locations in the Bay Area, KTVU found sensitive documents containing people's personal information inside vehicles, from bank account numbers to social security numbers.

The Cars

Salvage yards, also known as dismantlers, such as Pick n Pull buy vehicles directly from individuals, tow companies, auctions, charities and insurance companies.  Some of the cars were totaled in accidents, seized by police or handed over by their former owners.  For a $2 admission fee, Pick n Pull customers can search the vehicles and remove parts.

Pick n Pull told KTVU it is company policy to clean out the cars, including the removal of potentially sensitive documents, before putting the vehicles out on the lot.

Despite that policy, 2 Investigates found utility bills and traffic court documents inside a Chevy van at Pick n Pull in Oakland.

A Jeep Cherokee on the same lot had a Medi-Cal Choice form, bank statements and ID cards.

Lesson Learned

2 Investigates continued to find people's personal information inside salvaged vehicles at two Pick n Pull lots in San Jose.

A stack of documents inside a 1995 Honda Accord included an unemployment benefits statement for Jairo Duran of San Jose.  Each page of the statement from the California Employment Development Department contained Duran's full social security number.

KTVU contacted Duran and returned the documents to him.

"Someone else could've taken it and they wouldn't do this," said Duran.  "They would've just run away... and try to (open) an account with this."

Duran says driving on a suspended license cost him a couple of days in jail and his car which, he says, was impounded.

"They wanted to charge me almost $1500," said Duran.  "That's almost the car's worth, so I wasn't going to pay again."

Duran says he never had a chance to get his personal documents out of the car.

Protecting Yourself

Identity theft experts say individuals and salvage yard operators bear some responsibility for not securing the personal information discovered by 2 Investigates.

"The idea that thieves are trolling and searching the most unusual places doesn't surprise me.  What kind of does surprise me is that people are leaving so much of that information in their car in the first place," said Neal O'Farrell, Executive Director of the Identity Theft Council based in Walnut Creek.

O'Farrell says his group is currently working with an identity theft victim who was involved in an accident when he had a heart attack behind the wheel.  The car was eventually sold at auction.

"He was like a typical victim," said O'Farrell.  "[he said] 'I had a lot of information in that car, but I can't remember how much.'"

O'Farrell says the simplest solution is to remove any personal information from your car that doesn't need to be there.

"You don't need to have your birth certificate in the car, you don't need to have your driver’s license in the car.  That's what your wallet or purse is for.  You don't need to have your bank statements or credit card statements for the last year in your trunk," said O'Farrell.

No New Tricks

Experts say KTVU's investigation likely isn't giving identity thieves any new ideas.  The Identity Theft Council estimates there are about 10,000 identity theft rings operating in the United States.

"A lot of them have nothing to do all day but think up new schemes and new places they can find information, so you're not giving anything away to the thieves by focusing on this issue," said O'Farrell.  "Hopefully, you're giving an awful lot of information to consumers so that they'll wake up and maybe, if one in ten, one in twenty go out to their cars and empty it of all the junk that's not supposed to be there, that's the best revenge against identity thieves."

Pick-n-Pull Response

When contacted by KTVU, Pick-n-Pull provided the following response:

"We are an industry leading self-service auto parts store that recycles original manufacturer parts and provides access to customers seeking those parts.  End of life vehicles come to our facility in a number of ways including our community donation program.  Vehicles are expected to be emptied of any personal items when they come into our facilities.  As safety is our first priority we do remove, recycle, and dispose of items to the best of our team's ability prior to the staging process.  We take pride in our customer service and the proper recycling of these vehicles at all our Pick-n-Pull facilities."

A manager with Pick-n-Pull reiterated that employees are instructed to take personal items out of vehicles before they're put out on the lot.  When asked about the material 2 Investigates found, the manager told KTVU some employees, "do their job well, some don't."

The Department of Motor Vehicles reports there were 1,150 licensed salvage yard operators, also known as dismantlers, in California as of January 1, 2014.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:47:46 -0700

Officials look to make Sunset Blvd. in San Francisco safer for pedestrians

San Francisco police and transit officials say drivers have for too long treated Sunset Boulevard as a freeway, endangering pedestrians trying to make it across the six lane road.

On February 4th, a 78-year-old man was killed in a yellow beacon crosswalk at Yorba Street- one of nine pedestrians killed so far this year. On February 19th, a 15-year-old boy was struck in the same intersection and suffered head trauma injuries. A 21-year-old woman was injured in that same location in May.

"It's one of the six percent of city streets that are responsible for 60 percent of the serious and fatal collisions," said Ed Reiskin, Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. "People shouldn't die just trying to get to school, get to work, just trying to cross a street."

Pedestrians blamed the push-button activated yellow beacon system that was supposed to warn drivers to stop for pedestrians.

"I think it's dangerous, people just don't stop at all," said Deren Hung. "I've stood here for 10 minutes trying to cross and I just gave up."

On Monday, Mayor Ed Lee turned on a new stoplight traffic signal at the intersection and signed off on a new half billion dollar transportation bond that will be on the November ballot. $300 million is allocated for street safety, including infrastructure upgrades.

With 34 pedestrian deaths last year in the city, Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider hopes hope voters will view the bond proposal as a bargain.

"It's over half a billion dollars that we spend every year treating pedestrian injuries or the economic costs associated with just pedestrian injuries alone," said Schneider. "

The stoplight at Sunset and Yorba cost about $266,000 and was completed in five months instead of the typical three years. The speed limit was also reduced from 35 to 30 miles per hour.

"It is not a freeway. It is a major pedestrian and traffic thoroughfare that must be respected for all the modes of transportation," said Mayor Lee.

While pedestrians applauded the changes, some drivers said they were struggling to adjust.

"I've been here a long time and I've been coming this way forever," one driver told KTVU. "I don't think it makes it easier to merge. It was fine before."

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:29:26 -0700

3 shot in 2 separate Oakland shootings

Three people were shot in two incidents in Oakland Monday, according to police.

A male and female victim were both shot near the corner of 67th and Bancroft avenues just before 3 p.m., police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said.

Watson did not disclose their condition or any information about possible suspects.

It was the day's second shooting incident.

Earlier Saturday a victim was shot in a West Oakland neighborhood, according to police.

The shooting was reported in the 3100 block of Union Street at about 11:20 a.m., police said.

The victim self-transported to a hospital with a gunshot wound while the suspect fled and remains at large, police said.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:19:14 -0700

Family friend identifies victim in San Jose's 21st homicide

San Jose Police are searching for whoever shot and killed a young San Jose man in the middle of the street Monday afternoon.

It happened around 3:30 p.m. on Gramercy Place, near Interstate 680 and Alum Rock Avenue.

A purse, a hat and what appeared to be a handgun were among the items littered in the East San Jose Street where police found a young man shot.

"He appeared to be walking on the street," said San Jose Police Lt. Paul Spagnoli.  "And we're still trying to determine if the suspect or suspects arrived either in a vehicle or were walking also."

A family friend identified the victim as David Escalera and says he's around 20-years-old and graduated from the San Jose Conservation Corps.

"I just can't take this anymore. This is awful," said family friend Kathy Franco.  "This has to stop."

Franco says Escalera was walking to her house for a BBQ with his girlfriend.

When Franco heard he had been shot, she and her granddaughter came to the area and found Escalera in the street.

"I was just telling him, 'David, just keep up.  Open your eyes, just stay alive.  Just stay awake,' "said Franco.

Franco says the victim's 9-year-old nephew watched him lying bloodied in the street.

"To see someone like that, it's sad.  It really is," said Franco's granddaughter Jalyssa Patlan.  "Because knowing he has a mom, he has sisters."

One neighbor, who is pregnant with her first child, said she heard three or four shots fired and then heard a car drive off.

She says the biggest concern is that the street during the day is packed with dozens of children.

"That's what scares us the most.  I have my niece," Maria Santoyo.  "I usually walk to the park...I usually walk down the street, just trying to get my exercise.  Hearing something like that makes me want to stay home."

Police say the motive is not clear or if the violence was gang-related.

Neighbors say the area is plagued by violence.

"There's always some type of violence going on that street," said neighbor Dean Williams.  "Nobody wants to walk down that street."

Police say no arrests have been made and they have yet to release any description of the suspects.

This marks San Jose's 21st homicide this year.

 

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:06:52 -0700

Oakland, EBMUD reach deal with feds over bay pollution

The city of Oakland, the East Bay Municipal Utility District and six other East Bay cities have reached an agreement with federal environmental regulators to prevent sewage overflows and spills into the San Francisco Bay, officials said Monday.

The clean water agreement, which calls for updating aging sewer infrastructure, is in the form of a 22-year-long federal consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lodged in U.S. District Court.

It resolves a lawsuit the EPA and the California State Water Resources Control Board filed against eight East Bay agencies in 2009 to prevent spills into the Bay and local overflows throughout the East Bay.

Oakland officials said they and the other parties involved in the matter worked cooperatively to reach an agreement that will protect creeks, parks, shorelines and public health in the East Bay.

In addition to Oakland and EBMUD, the parties involved in the agreement are the cities of Albany, Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville and Piedmont, as well as the Stege Sanitary District, which covers Kensington and parts of El Cerrito.

The parties involved in the suit said that during periods of heavy rainfall, flows have often exceeded the capacity of EBMUD's sewage treatment plant, discharging partially treated sewage into the Bay.

They said that even during normal operations, thousands of miles of aging sewage pipes in Oakland and other cities clog due to grease, roots, and other obstructions, resulting in local overflows of raw sewage. Some of these pipes are more than a century old.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement, "Although the vehicle for these negotiations was a lawsuit, all parties worked cooperatively to reach our common goal of providing greater protections of the health and welfare of our environment and the citizens of the East Bay."

Parker said, "This agreement does not simply increase repairs to our sewer infrastructure. It also creates jobs, makes Oakland a greener community and helps to secure environmental justice for East Bay residents."

Oakland officials said that before the suit was filed in 2009, they had complied with all EPA regulatory enforcement actions and had begun the work to complete hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements the EPA and state water board ordered in the 1980s.

Since the suit was filed, Oakland officials said they, EBMUD, and the neighboring cities have worked together to fix leaky sewer pipes and build wet weather facilities to prevent heavy storms from causing raw sewage overflows into the Bay.

Oakland alone has spent about $300 million to improve its collections system and reduce flows, city officials said.

They said the joint efforts were successful in reducing discharges of sewage to the Bay, but EBMUD's three wet weather facilities were unable to meet current tougher standards for wastewater secondary treatment.

Under terms of the agreement, Oakland is expected to spend up to an additional $13 million each year on sewer infrastructure above the $52 million it is currently spending annually to repair and upgrade the city's sewer system.

Oakland officials said the agreement also includes payment of a one-time civil penalty of $850,000 to the EPA. All of the other defendants also are paying civil penalties, according to Oakland officials.

The work in Oakland will be funded by sewer service fee increases the City Council adopted in 2010, so the agreement's additional spending requirements will not cause budget deficits or service cuts in other areas, city officials said.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Oakland will be responsible for upgrading 13 miles of sewers per year and substantially increasing regular sewer inspection and maintenance.

The agreement also includes an investigation program to identify and disconnect potential direct storm water connections or other sources of major inflow during storms.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:31:01 -0700

Brown takes dig at Texas guard plan

Gov. Jerry Brown took a not-so-subtle dig at Texas' decision to deploy National Guard troops to the border, saying Monday he expects it to be a short-lived measure and that "wiser minds will prevail."

Brown is in Mexico for three days of meetings, focusing on migration, trade, investment and environmental cooperation.

At a news conference with Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Jose Antonio Meade, Brown said the immigration overload of thousands of Central American youths at the border should be seen as a humanitarian issue. The U.S. is coping with a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the border, coming mainly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Meade said he and Brown agree that the use of law-enforcement or military agencies "is never justified in cases where children are concerned" unless they are providing medical or logistical aid.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced a decision last week to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border over the next month to combat what he said were criminals exploiting a surge of children pouring into the U.S. illegally.

Asked about that, Brown said: "I hesitate to comment on the thinking that goes into the sending of the Texas National Guard to the border. I would suspect that it would be of relatively short duration and that wiser minds will prevail in the next several months."

Brown acknowledged the immigration surge has become politicized, and said "my goal is to try as much as I can to frame the issue of the children as a humanitarian challenge. That should appeal to people of all political persuasions." California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday she is helping secure lawyers to represent minors during immigration hearings.

Meade, meanwhile, said few of the Central American migrants apply for asylum in Mexico because they are trying to join relatives in the United States.

While many migrants, especially those from Honduras and El Salvador, say they are fleeing gang-related violence in their home countries, less than one in 60 of those caught in Mexico in 2013 asked for asylum in Mexico. The numbers for the first six months of 2014 show only a slight uptick, with about one of 50 requesting asylum. Of those applications, about 20 percent to 25 percent have been approved in recent years.

"The fundamental goal, in many cases, is (family) reunification. That means the migrant's desire is really not to stay in Mexico," Meade said. "That explains why there are so few (asylum) requests in Mexico."

Brown later met privately with President Enrique Pena Nieto to discuss immigration and other topics. In a statement, Pena Nieto's office noted that "California is home to the largest Mexican community abroad, and for that reason both sides agreed to increase cooperation to ensure the welfare of that population."

Brown's trade mission is aimed at increasing direct investments in California, promoting university exchanges and forming environmental partnerships to combat climate change.

The trip, organized by the California Chamber of Commerce, includes a delegation of more than 100 people representing sectors of state government, business, economic development, investment and policy. Delegates paid $5,000 each for the four-day trip, which is subsidizing the cost of Brown's travel.

"We want to increase trade. We want to deal with some issues on the refugees that are coming across the border. And I also want to collaborate with Mexico in pushing an intelligent climate change agenda," Brown said ahead of the journey.

On Tuesday, Brown is to sign an education agreement, then meet with officials including Mexico's energy secretary and the president of the senate. On Wednesday, the governor plans to wrap up his trip by signing a trade agreement with Mexico, which is California's largest export market.

Business participants include Sempra Energy, BP America and other representatives of the energy, tourism and agriculture industries. Representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund also are attending.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:02:15 -0700

Car crash suspect runs home to watch cartoons

Police say a toddler crashed a Jeep into an Oregon home, then ran back to his home to watch cartoons.

Authorities say the 3-year-old boy who was wearing only a diaper climbed into the Jeep and knocked it out of gear. Witnesses say it rolled down the street, through an intersection and into the house, causing minor damage.

KPTV reports  an officer found the boy on a couch watching TV as if nothing had happened.

He said his parents weren't home and another relative was sleeping. Police cited 22-year-old Brennan Pennington for failing to supervise a child.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:43:35 -0700

FAA proposes to fine Southwest Airlines $12 million

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it is proposing a $12 million civil fine against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply with safety regulations related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners.

It is the second-largest fine the agency has proposed against an airline. The largest proposed fine was against American Airlines for $24.2 million in August 2010. That one was ultimately settled for $24.9 million as part of American's bankruptcy proceedings, although the final settlement included other safety violations not part of the original proposal.

The FAA said that beginning in 2006 Southwest made "extreme makeover" alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. An FAA investigation determined that Southwest's contractor, Aviation Technical Services Inc. of Everett, Washington, failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage as well as other work on the planes, the agency said. All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest, which was responsible for seeing that it was done properly, the FAA said.

Southwest, which is based in Dallas, then returned the planes to service in 2009 and began flying them even after the FAA "put the airline on notice that these aircraft were not in compliance" with safety regulations, the agency said.

During its investigation, the FAA also found that Aviation Technical Services' workers applied sealant beneath the new skin panels but did not install fasteners in all of the rivet holes fast enough for the sealant to be effective.

"This could have resulted in gaps between the skin and the surface to which it was being mounted. Such gaps could allow moisture to penetrate the skin and lead to corrosion," FAA said.

The contractor also failed to follow requirements to properly place the planes on jacks and shore them up while the work was being performed, the FAA said. If a plane is shored improperly during skin replacement, the airframe could shift and lead to subsequent problems with the new skin.

The FAA also said that Southwest failed to properly install a ground wire on water drain masts on two of its Boeing 737s in response to a safety order aimed at preventing lightning strikes. The planes were each operated on more than 20 passenger flights after Southwest Airlines became aware of the discrepancies but before the airline corrected the problem, the agency said.

"The FAA views maintenance very seriously, and it will not hesitate to take action against companies that fail to follow regulations," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

Southwest Airlines has 30 days to respond to the proposed fine. Usually FAA officials negotiate extensively with an airline in cases of large fines before settling upon an amount. However, regulators and airline officials sometimes are unable to reach an agreement and the airline contests the fine.

Brandi King, a spokeswoman for Southwest, said the airline will "respond to the FAA allegations" in accordance with the agency's procedures.

"Having fully resolved the repair issues some time ago, none of the items raised in the FAA letter affect aircraft currently being operated by Southwest Airlines," she said. "As always, Southwest is committed to continuously making enhancements to our internal procedures, as well as improvements related to oversight of our repair vendors."

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:13:49 -0700

Two drown during deadly weekend on Russian River

A boy drowned in the Russian River in Sonoma County on Sunday evening, the second drowning reported in the river over the weekend.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office was notified around 6 p.m. Sunday about a missing boy, Monte Rio Fire Protection District Chief Steve Baxman said.

The boy had not been seen for a few hours and was presumed to have wandered off, Baxman said.

The Russian River Fire Protection District began a boat search of the river around 6:30 p.m. and the Monte Rio Fire Protection District launched a boat with an underwater camera around 7:30 p.m., Baxman said.

The boy's body was found about a half-mile from Johnson's Beach in about 10 feet of water around 8:20 p.m., according to Baxman.

The teen was seen earlier swimming from the north side of the river to the south side, Baxman said.

"He was supposed to have been a good swimmer," Baxman said.

The Sonoma County coroner's office was not immediately identifying the teen, but Baxman said he was not from the Sonoma County area.

The death came a day after a kayaker drowned in the Russian River. The coroner's office identified the kayaker as 23-year-old Edgar Mejia of Santa Rosa.

Witnesses called 911 around 4 p.m. Saturday after the kayak capsized west of the Casini Ranch Family Campground at 22855 Moscow Road in Duncans Mills. The caller said one of the two kayakers was in distress and having difficulty staying afloat, Sonoma County sheriff's Lt. Al Vernon said.

The kayaker disappeared underwater for approximately 7 to 10 minutes before he was located and rescued, Vernon said.

Resuscitation efforts failed and Mejia was pronounced dead at the scene at 4:34 p.m. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

Baxman said Mejia was camping with his family, but couldn't swim and was not wearing a life jacket.

Published: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:41:20 -0700