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Source: MedleyStory

Baby left in hot car had temperature of 101.6 degrees

The Orange County Sheriff's Office has filed a child neglect charge with the State Attorney's office against a Florida mother accused of leaving her 2-month-old daughter inside a hot minivan.

According to WFTV in Orlando, the baby was taken to Nemours Hospital in stable condition after authorities said the child was left in a minivan for about an hour outside a pediatrics clinic in Avalon Park.

"We need an ambulance right away," a caller can be heard telling 911 dispatchers. "We have an infant that was left in a car for over an hour."

>> RELATED: Baby hospitalized after being left in hot car in Fla.

Deputies said the incident happened around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Timber Creek Pediatrics.

Deputies said the mother told them her daughter was sleeping so she left her in the van, thinking she was only going to be in the clinic with her 9-year-old for a few minutes. Once inside, however, the woman forgot her daughter was in the car and rushed outside to get her.

>> RELATED: Colorado couple attacked after trying to help child locked in a hot car

"She made the choice to leave the child in the car, and therefore, our investigators feel that is neglect," said Jane Watrel of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

The woman took the infant into the clinic, where doctors were able to stabilize the girl, deputies said.

WFTV learned the child had a temperature of 101.6 degrees. Workers described her looking like a "bright red tomato," but they were able to ice the baby down until paramedics could arrive.

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"When she was brought in, she was screaming," Watrel said. "She was obviously in distress, so these medical experts, thank goodness, knew what to do."

The baby's name has not been released. She was released from the hospital Tuesday night and is expected to be OK.

The Sheriff's Office Child Abuse Unit is investigating.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:59:24 -0700

Assyrian community to hold SF rally to stop “genocide” in Iraq

Assyrians from the Bay Area and Central Valley plan to hold a rally in San Francisco on Saturday to protest the purge of Assyrian Christians in Iraq by Islamic militants.

The 10 a.m. rally at Justin Herman Plaza is expected to draw more than 1,000 people and coincides with similar protests in the United States and overseas.

A militant group called ISIS, or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, took control of Mosul - the second largest city in Iraq.

Soon after, the native Assyrian Christian population was targeted.

“They were told you either leave, convert to Islam, or we’re going to kill you,” said Assyrian National Broadcasting (ANB) anchor Romena Jones.

ANB broadcast a two-hour special report Wednesday night via global satellite on the crisis from its studio in San Jose.

“You see Gaza, you see Ukraine, they talk about the airplane crashes but you do not hear anything about the Assyrians,” she said.

Assyrians are an indigenous Christian minority in Iraq that has faced persecution in the region for millennia.

By some estimates, 20,000 Assyrians lived in Mosul before ISIS took control of the city.  They had a deadline of Saturday to leave or convert.

Now, some fear ISIS will spread its reach further north in Iraq into areas even move heavily populated by Assyrians.

The hope is that the global protests Saturday will finally bring attention to their plight.

“We need help from the Christian community.  We need help from the world,” Jonas said.


Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:04:34 -0700

Man says he threw chair at woman's windshield because she was speeding

A chair came crashing through a woman’s windshield while she was driving in Pennsylvania.

A New Castle man said he threw the chair because she was speeding, but he denies any damage done to the car, WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh reported.

“There was no need for that tantrum,” said the woman whose car was hit by the chair.  The woman wished not to be identified.

She said she was driving earlier this month when she came across Anthony Ramsey.

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The woman said she though Ramsey was taking a chair off the road.

“I stopped, waiting for him to get the chair out of the street.  He slammed it and said, ‘What are you going to do now?’" she said.

The woman said the impact of the chair shattered her windshield and sent bits of glass flying into her and her passenger’s face.

“She came flying through, so I picked up the chair and threw it,” Ramsey told WPXI's Pamela Osborne on Wednesday.

While he said no damage was done to the car, police paperwork said otherwise and noted that a toddler in the car suffered a bloody lip during the incident. 

Ramsey is charged with reckless endangerment, propelling a missile into an occupied vehicle, and assault.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:00:21 -0700

Overhaul approved for troubled California refinery

Leaders of a San Francisco Bay Area city approved a $1 billion upgrade of Chevron's troubled 1960s-era oil refinery, the largest in Northern California, after the company agreed to safety and piping upgrades and greater community investment, a newspaper reported.

The Richmond City Council's 5-0 vote for the overhaul came Tuesday night after it listened to more than 70 people who had signed up to speak about the project, the Contra Costa Times reported (

The late changes hammered out by Chevron and city staff included $90 million in community investments — up from the company's earlier commitment of $60 million — and safety improvements such as piping upgrades and more sensors and air monitors.

"It became clear we would need to do this," refinery General Manager Kory Judd said of the concessions. "We knew the city and the community would hold us to a higher standard, (but) this puts a significant constraint on our operations."

The refinery complex in this industrial, working-class city has weathered a series of toxic releases and other accidents over the years, environmental officials say, including a pollutant-laced 2012 fire that forced 15,000 Bay Area residents to seek treatment for breathing problems.

Chevron sought approval for technological upgrades that would allow the refinery to process higher-sulfur crude oil, among other changes. Oil company officials earlier this month agreed to a plan backed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris that would cap the plant's greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce levels of sulfur processing as part of the overhaul.

But opponents say the project does too little to limit pollution and improve safety. Environmental groups and some residents say Richmond bears the brunt of toxic releases by the refinery complex. Richmond has poverty levels nearly twice those of the U.S. and California as a whole, and Chevron's taxes make up about a third of the city's budget.

Two council members, including Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, abstained from the final vote, according to the Contra Costa Times.

McLaughlin called on Chevron's Judd to do more to reduce emissions. Judd said the company already was going well beyond legal requirements.

The Chevron refinery was built before the pollution-curbing requirements of the federal government's 1970s Clean Air Act.

Chevron still must get a county court to lift a judgment halting a previous version of the project before construction can begin, the Times reported.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:56:20 -0700

Teen tied up, held at gunpoint in San Jose home invasion

A 17-year-old who was home alone was tied up at gunpoint Wednesday afternoon. Masked robbers took valuables from his home in broad daylight.

It happened on the 1700 block of Anjou Creek Court in San Jose.

Jonathan Wong said he was sleeping when he heard glass breaking. The next thing he knew someone put a towel over his head.

"He broke in, ordered me to the ground and put a towel over my head," said victim Jonathan Wong. "I couldn't see him and all I heard was footsteps before he left."

Wong said the intruder was wearing sunglasses, a bandanna and a baseball cap. 

Just before 1 p.m. Wong woke up after hearing someone break in through the back window.

The intruder entered the living room with a gun and demanded he get to the ground.

"I just went to the ground and put my hand behind my back," said Wong. "The rest I couldn't see."

The robber then tied him up with duct tape and demanded answers.

"I just told him where everything was," said Wong. "He demanded to know where everything was. He asked for example do you have a safe? I told him yes and he went and got it."

The safe was upstairs and contained jewelry, passports and other valuables.

Wong's only thought was to stay calm. He said the whole ordeal lasted  five to 10 minutes.

"I was waiting for him to leave," said Wong. "That's my only goal."

It wasn't until after Wong no longer heard footsteps, he freed himself and called 911.

"I don't know how to describe it," said Jennifer Wong who is the victim's mother. "I feel worried about my son, my dog and I was worried if they are OK."

While Wong only saw one masked man, home surveillance cameras captured at least one other man.

"A year ago we had a series of break-ins," said Neighbor Tony Frediani. "That's when all the neighbors got cameras. He's got one of the more elaborate systems in the neighborhood so I'm really shocked they targeted that house."

The Wong family thinks the robbers chose their house at random. They now hope police catch those responsible so they don't traumatize any other family.

"I cannot believe," said Jennifer Wong. "This is a very safe neighborhood. It's very good here."

The robber knocked on the front door first. The family is hoping their surveillance video will lead up the people responsible.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:45:27 -0700

9-year-old girl shot by stray bullet fights to regain strength

A 9-year-old Oakland girl was paralyzed from the neck down after she was shot while playing in her front yard more than two months ago.

Jackie Funes is currently in the rehabilitation ward at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland where she is struggling to cope with her life changing injury.

Despite a grim prognosis, the young girl is making progress that her mother hopes is a sign that she may defy the odds and make a full recovery.

Jackie's mother Sylvie Funes allowed KTVU crews to see her daughter working with a speech pathologist, occupational and physical therapy.

Her voice and breathing had been weakened by the severe damage a bullet did to her spinal cord.

Jackie has slowly begun to gain her strength back and the almost daily therapy she receives has helped her make continued progress.

Jackie told KTVU she gets rewarded when she does well in therapy.

"I'm going to get a prize," said Jackie.

When asked her what does she want her prize to be, she replied,"I don't know? Get outside."

It was over two months ago, on May 16th, when Jackie’s life changed forever. The young girl was playing with her little brother in the front yard of her East Oakland home when she was hit in the neck with a stray bullet.

Jackie’s doctor, Mai Ngo, estimates that it will be two to three months before Jackie will be ready to leave the hospital and adds the odds are against Jackie ever walking again.

"She has a very strong personality. She tells us what she wants and how she wants it. We notice that the ones who have the fighting spirit tend to do the best," said Dr. Ngo.

Dr. Ngo told KTVU Jackie did regain sensation in her left head and may eventually be able to feed herself.

In Spanish, Jackie's mom Silvia Funes tells KTVU thru a translator, she has hope her daughter will walk again.

"I feel at peace. I feel happy, very happy. Clearly at the beginning, they told me she was not going to be able to move,” Funes said.

But now Jackie is able to move a little and also sing.

She sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” during therapy for KTVU.

Jackie says she is excited to start the fourth grade soon. But how soon that will happen, depends on the progress she makes in the coming months.

Dr. Ngo says Jackie is already doing much better than anticipated.


  • An account has been set up to help young Jackie. Donations can be deposited to any Chase Bank, the account number is #601008688.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:28:09 -0700

1 injured in Ocean View shooting

One person was injured in a shooting in San Francisco's Ocean View neighborhood Wednesday evening, according to police.

Police were called to Portola Drive and Santa Paula Avenue at 8:16 p.m. on a report of a shooting victim, according to Officer Albie Esparza.

A 20-year-old male victim was found there next to a white vehicle with gunshot wounds to his torso.

A citizen assisted with first aid and the victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Esparza said.

Investigators determined the shooting had occurred at Manor Drive and Ocean Avenue.

The suspect was described as a black male in his 30s wearing dark hooded sweatshirt. He fled the scene in a white vehicle, Esparza said.

While police were at the crime scene, a citizen driver collided with a police patrol vehicle with an officer inside it, Esparza said.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact police at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 with SFPD at the start of the message.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:09:10 -0700

Vallejo mother killed identified

A Vallejo woman killed early Saturday morning in an attack that also left her 5-year-old son injured has been identified as 40-year-old Erica Bryan, according to police.

Bryan and her son were found in a home on the 2000 block of Marin Street, west of Sonoma Boulevard, after a 1:52 a.m. call Saturday reporting an assault, a police official said. 

They were injured from an apparent violent attack, police said.

The boy was taken to the trauma center of a Bay Area hospital where he was stabilized and is expected to survive his injuries, police said.

Bryan was transported from the scene for emergency treatment but she died on the way to a hospital, he said.

Detectives arrested a suspect in the attack, Vallejo resident Daryl Wakefield, 43, later that morning in East Vallejo. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and murder, police said.

Police said that Wakefield knew the female victim.

Wakefield is on parole for a burglary conviction and has a violent criminal history, according to police

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:57:46 -0700

Oakland waste/recycling collection battle is on

The battle for who will collect Oakland's waste and recycle played out before city council on Wednesday.  The council had three options to choose from, stay with the current company Waste Management (WM), pick a new one in California Waste Solutions (CWS) or split the services between both where WM would be responsible for waste and recycling.

"The fact is we haven't raised the base rate for garbage in over 15 years. So there was going to be some sort of sticker shock no matter what we did,” says Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. 

For almost 100 years WM has served the people of Oakland collecting their waste and more than 10 years ago CWS started collecting half of the city's recycling.  Now the two companies are competing to be Oakland's sole waste and recycling collection service.  Currently the people of Oakland pay $29.80 a month for waste and recycling removal of a 32 gallon bin.  One option would allow WM two do both services for $38.71 a month.  A second option would allow CWS to do all of the collecting for $36.82 a month. And a third option would split the services between both companies.

WM would be in charge of trash and compost removal and CWS recycling costing residents $43.70 a month. 

Although the second option which gives the sole service to CWS is the cheapest. City staff members prefer either of the other two options.

"I would love to see maybe a pro-rated price where you can get different size trash and recycling cans. Because for our household we don't use the whole bin," says Martina Patella of Oakland. 

City leaders say the increase will pay numerous things including, the creation of a curbside bulk pick up, starting Sunday collections and a new type of vehicle that would run off of methane gas captured at the landfill then converted to natural gas.  Once the council decides on which is the best option it will go into effect starting in July of 2015.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:11:03 -0700

Dry pool, fills up from donation

St. Helena High School has received a donated 575,000 gallons of water to be used for new pool

The donated water is running through a white, two inch pipe, measuring about 1,800 feet. The pipe is running through a pool, construction site, backyard, vineyard and finally a well located on a construction yard. The donated water will fill the new pool at St. Helena High.

"When the pool started," said Greg Medici of the St. Helena School District, "No one had any idea how bad the drought was going to be."

Medici says the construction crews recently completed a new multi-million dollar pool complex at the high school. City officials though, he says, halted a plan to use city treated water to fill the pool because of the drought. With no water for the pool Medici says a man, upon hearing the news, contacted district officials and said he would donate the 575,000 gallons of water needed to fill the pool.

"We're standing here because of him and his family and its really exciting," Medici said while standing on campus watching the water pour into the pool.

Medici said the donor wanted to remain anonymous, but after consulting with the generous individual, he said it was fine to say the man owns Harold Smith Contractors in St. Helena. The water being donated comes from a well located on the property of the business.

The pool will be open for students and the community to be used. A opening ceremony is expected to be held sometime in September.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:17:22 -0700

San Jose Fire Dept. put to the test fighting raging house fires

San Jose Firefighters were put to the test Wednesday battling a five alarm fire. And while they were able to contain the fire to just two homes, they say they couldn't have done it without help.

Two houses were engulfed on Hampshire Place with more threatened on all sides.

San Jose had nearly 90 people on scene. Santa Clara County and Cal Fire sent crews too.

"Right now we're calling for help. We're calling for help and just doing what we can," says Captain Cleo Doss with the San Jose Fire Department.

Department officials say they're struggling, not with the fire but with their budget.

There were cuts back in 2009 that have left them short-staffed. They’re now down about 79 firefighters from their peak staffing. Five or six engine companies remain closed.

"Right now it's tough. So if we had another incident right now, we'd have to call a lot of other folks from outside the area to assist," says Doss.

And since half of the firefighters on duty were at the scene, Santa Clara City and County firefighters picked up the slack. They manned four San Jose fire stations, while this fire burned.

"With the cutbacks and everything and how they said we wouldn't get this kind of response, it's really good to see they're here to stop it," says neighbor Monica Cayton.

They were able to contain the fire, but it was too late for the Stafford's home.

"We came back as soon as we could and found this," says homeowner, Barbara Stafford.

They have yet to assess the damage, but say it could have been worse.

"I'm feeling terrible. But basically it's just stuff and I've got my whole family safe and so that's what matters," says Stafford.

San Jose officials recognize there's a problem. At next week's meeting, the city council will consider whether to bring a quarter cent sales tax increase to voters, money from that could potentially go to fire and police.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:28:05 -0700

Thief steals construction truck, goes on dangerous joy-ride

San Francisco police say a thief took a stolen construction truck on a wild ride Wednesday morning into oncoming traffic and onto sidewalks, sending pedestrians running for safety.

Investigators say it began with the theft of an A. Ruiz Construction truck from a work site at Haight and Laguna Streets. A number of cars in the immediate area were damaged and a spokesman for the company told KTVU the suspect nearly ran over one of his workers fleeing the site. Several construction workers pursued the alleged thief in other trucks and personal vehicles.

It led to a collision at eastbound Market Street at Van Ness Avenue as one of those trucks blocked the suspect's path. Surveillance video from a Honda dealership shows the truck reversing and backing violently into a limousine to escape pursuers.

"All of a sudden, we heard people screaming and yelling up in front of us," said limousine driver Louis DelCorto. "He just slammed right into me and then tried to get away."

The surveillance video shows the truck veering onto the sidewalk. The driver then headed for Tower Car Wash a few blocks away on South Van Ness Avenue. Downed trees show where the truck drove onto a sidewalk and into the car wash lot.

Customers and workers began running as they heard the commotion.

"He was kind of driving erratically like he was coming at them so they were kind of jumping out of the way," said Tower Car Wash salesman Nevada Wilson. "I kind of turned around and ran, I didn't know if he was gonna come crashing into me."

Surveillance video from the car wash shows the truck striking the open door of Genie Mantzoros' Audi A4, which she brought in for a wash.

"My first reaction was 'Okay, well, another thing for my insurance company to deal with,'" Mantzoros told KTVU. "But then it was, 'Thank goodness nobody got hurt because it could've been very devastating, it didn't seem like this guy was going to stop for anything."

At least half a dozen cars were damaged by the time police pursued the suspect to San Francisco's Civic Center. In the end, a firefighter stopped the suspect when he took off on foot. Tenderloin Station #3 firefighters had monitored the pursuit and positioned their truck as a barricade at Civic Center.

Firefighter Damian Orduna chased and tackled the suspect near a children's playground. 

"I made a good tackle. As soon as he goes down, he goes 'I give up,'" said Orduna. "It's not really our job but we work with the police so much it just seemed natural."

Police say no one has stepped forward with injuries after today's incident. The driver, who has not yet been identified, could face charges including hit and run, vehicle theft and reckless driving

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:16:18 -0700

UCLA water main break causes concern in Bay Area

On average the L.A. water system is much younger than some Bay Area systems dating back to the Gold Rush era. 

So one would expect more water main breaks, more often within the Bay Area. And as water systems succumb to age, the utilities certainly expect that.

But because most utilities are self-insured rate payers will ultimately pay for the damage from such main breaks. That's why major utilities are spending more to speed up replacing old pipes.

More than half of the Bay Area pipes are over 50-years-old, and a great number of them are over 75 years old.

“Our oldest pipes are from the 1860's," says Abby Figueroa, spokeswoman for the Eastbay Municipal Utilities District.

For the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and Eastbay MUD, many factors go into replacing big lines.

"When you have a good asset management program, you're trying to predict and minimize your risk of failure," says Tyrone Jue spokesman for the SFPUC.

First consider the pipes, their age, their leak history, what kind of metal they're made of and how much water pressure is in them. Next, consider the soils surrounding the pipes. What would an earthquake do? Will the soil corrode the pipe more quickly? Can underground water undermine the pipe? Also, how dense is the population near the pipe? What effect would a break have on transportation? Finally, what are the economic consequences of a break in a specific location?

Eastbay MUD has 4200 miles of distribution pipelines, the mains range in sizes anywhere from six to 66 inches wide. 

"About a hundred miles of that of that we have on our critical replacement list," says spokeswoman Figueroa. 

Until now all the utility could afford is to ten miles a year.

"We want to quadruple that rate so that we can catch up," says Figueroa.

The bigger the broken pipe, the more time to shut it down.

"Much more difficult to close a 60 inch water main line than a 3 inch line on a city street," Jue said.  Snapping valves shut is out of the question.

"Once you snap them shut, you get a water hammer effect, the water hits the wall and it reverberates throughout the rest of the system, causing breaks all over," Jue said.

That's why it sometimes take hours to first reroute the water to impact as few people as possible and only then, slowly close the valves which can be far distances from the break itself.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:08:45 -0700

Stunning new details in Berkeley professor's death

It was a shocking fatal crash when it happened almost four months ago, but now that the details surrounding the death of a renowned East Bay professor are coming out, the crash is even more stunning.

In fact, the alleged driver should never have been behind the wheel in the first place.

The retired professor, 98-year old Joe Luft, was crossing Sacramento Street at Bancroft Way in Berkeley on April 4th when he was hit by a vehicle.

Police say 56-year old Robert Gilchrist of Oakland was driving north on Sacramento when he hit Luft, who was in the crosswalk at the time.

Investigators say Gilchrist told officers shortly after the accident that he was legally blind.

Further investigation revealed that Gilchrist's license had been suspended in 2000, 14 years before the accident.

"He was an unlicensed driver and shouldn't have been driving," said Berkeley Police spokeswoman, Jennifer Coats.

Despite that, Gilchrist was behind the wheel of his own vehicle and police add that he had a bowl of partially eaten macaroni.

"The driver may have been eating at the time," said Coats.

All this came out this week, when Gilchrist was arraigned on two charges: misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license.

Joe Luft was a psychology professor who taught at Stanford, San Francisco State, and the University of Florence. He was co-creator of the Johari window, a tool used to measure personality.

Even at 98 years of age, he took daily walks, which he had for some 50 years.

The family told KTVU that this has been a difficult and upsetting time and that they just want justice for Joe Luft.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:01:38 -0700

Peace Corp pulls volunteers in wake of Ebola outbreak

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has the Peace Corps pulling hundreds of volunteers from the affected areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Two of the organization's volunteers are being kept in isolation after being exposed to a man who later died from Ebola.

"This is clearly a very large outbreak." said Don Francis, an infectious disease expert in the Bay Area, who worked in East Africa during the first Ebola outbreak in the 1970's. "This virus has very high concentrations in the blood, and so you have to be extremely careful taking care of them."

In the last few months, more than 1,200 people in West Africa have been infected with Ebola. That's more than half the number infected in all Ebola outbreaks since the 1970's.

This outbreak is killing 60 percent of those infected.

"If it gets to funerals and hospitals, it goes like crazy!" Francis said. Ebola victims include one American with family ties in Liberia.

"He got it from his sister, who also died from Ebola weeks earlier without them knowing that she had Ebola." said Decontee Sawyer from the couple's Minnesota home. "We're kidding ourselves if we think it can't come to the U.S., and that's another fear of mine."

Sawyer's husband got on a plane before he knew he was infected with Ebola.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control warned doctors to be on the lookout for patients who have traveled to Ebola outbreak areas, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

"It's possible and maybe probable even; but with short incubation, you'd find it very quickly." said Francis.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:41:19 -0700

Security tightened at Oakland City Council meetings after stunning outburst

Oakland City Council meetings will now have police officers present after a distrubance at Tuesday night's gathering.

A man climbed over the speakers table and began complaining about gentrification in West Oakland. Then he charged toward the dais and tried to leap up to where the city council and city manager were sitting.

People at the meeting pulled the man down and escorted him out. No one was hurt.

Police later arrested the man, 20-year-old Dante Cano, for disturbing a public meeting and trespassing. He also has an outstanding warrant.

Councilmembers say they were stunned by his actions.

"It was very startling. I wasn't scared. But I was really startled," said councilwoman Pat Kernighan.

An Oakland assistant police chief happened to be in a room nearby, saw what happened on a tv monitor and called it in.

Council members say Cano has been a disturbance at other meetings.

The incident has sparked debate about security at City Hall.

Police used to be regularly assigned to city council meetings, but that changed to get more officers out on the street.

"We have people in the bulding who are watching the meetings and are there quickly," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who had stepped out to make a phone call when the distutbance happened.

But after what happened last night, police say they will be assigning at least two officers to every council meeting.

Meanwhile, the city has gotten a restraining order against Cano to keep him from attending any more council meetings.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:30:06 -0700

MTA approves three-year contract for Muni drivers

A contract for San Francisco Municipal Railway vehicle operators was unanimously approved by the city's Municipal Transportation Agency Wednesday afternoon, agency officials said.

The contract agreement was reached late last month after lengthy and contested negotiations that included a "sickout" staged by Muni workers during which about half of Muni drivers did not show up for work for three days.

A deal was finally brokered with the assistance of former Mayor Willie Brown, who stepped in at the request of Mayor Ed Lee. The agreement gives workers a roughly 15 percent raise over three years but has them paying progressively more for their pensions.

The Transport Workers Union Local 250-A ratified the agreement earlier this month by a vote of 634-485, making the SFMTA vote the final step to implement the three-year contract.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:07:35 -0700

Accused East Bay teacher takes stand at molestation trial

For the first time, a jury heard from a former Concord school teacher accused of molesting his students.

Joseph Martin is on trial for 150 counts of lewd acts on a child. He appeared calm on the stand Wednesday. He didn’t deny having a physical, hands-on teaching style, but said his actions were misinterpreted.

Cameras weren't allowed in court, but through his questioning, Martin's attorney tried to depict him as a popular, caring teacher who hugged students frequently but never with sexual intentions.

“He is an affectionate man, he's a caring man,” defense attorney Patrick Clancy said. “He's finally getting to tell the true story of what occurred.”

On the stand Wednesday, Martin talked about his teaching style.

He said his frequent back, shoulder and chest patting was a way to calm down students with attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities, whom he usually had sit next to him in class.

"I would touch them on the shoulders, the back. If they're sitting in front of me the upper collarbone, chest area,” Martin testified.

When asked about an accusation from a former student who said the teacher touched his groin, Martin said it was an accident: "He was turning to get his book at an angle, it started to fall, I reached over to grab it and I thought I might have brushed him in the privates."

On signing his notes to students with the word, "love", Martin explained he wrote that to all of his students, girls and boys.

“I send them an end-of-the-year letter that says, ‘I will always love you and value you,'” he said.

When his attorney questioned him about accusations Martin was too close to a particular student he mentored for several years, Martin said he befriended student at the mother's request.

Martin was at the hospital when the student’s mother died unexpectedly and appeared to get choked up when recounting the story the day the woman passed away.

“[The student] had to be brought out in a wheelchair, because he couldn’t stand. He was crying and he kept saying, “I can’t believe I don’t have a mother anymore” and I told my wife, “We have to help those kids," Martin testified, referring to the student and his younger brother.

When asked to explain a letter found on him the day he was arrested, in which he asked God for forgiveness for wanting to "feed my sinful desires", Martin said he was referring to the sin of pride, not pedophilia.

"I was also desiring to become the absolute top [as a teacher]," he testified. "I was becoming arrogant, being told year after year that I was the best...Those were all factors in my mind when I wrote that."

Martin is on trial for 150 counts of lewd acts on a child. Most of the charges involve rubbing the chests of 14 students under their shirts over a period of several years when Martin taught 4th and 5th grade at Woodside Elementary in Concord.

In February, two brothers, who were Martin’s former students and two of his alleged victims, talked to KTVU.

"He would constantly tell us he loves us," one of the brothers said.

"He started getting way too friendly. I thought he was real creepy and weird,” said the other brother.

H. Paul Bryant is the attorney representing the family of those two boys. He said he doesn’t buy Martin’s explanations for his behavior.

“When you give love and you want love back in a way that's physical, in a way that's touching and in a way that carries on for a period of time, that is inappropriate,” he said. "It does things to children that should not be done at that age."

The boys' family is suing the Mt. Diablo Unified School District for failing to report Martin to authorities when suspicions about his behavior first came to light.

Martin’s attorney argues that his client's actions were never sexual and that his client was the victim of a community-wide rumor mill fueled by envious colleagues and peer-pressured students.

“It starts with a simple accusation, and that one allegation let to what’s called group hysteria, or a group conformity,” Clancy said.

Whether Martin's actions amount to child abuse will be up to the jury to decide.

Late Wednesday afternoon, prosecutor Derek Butts began cross-examination of Martin. One of the first things he asked him about and showed the jury as evidence was a still photo taken by KTVU of Martin on the first day of the trial looking directly at the camera and smiling.

When Butts asked Martin why he was smiling while being on trial for child abuse, Martin explained he was trying to keep a positive face and didn't want the still picture to look like a mug shot.

Cross-examination of Martin will continue Thursday morning.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:46:07 -0700

Sheriff's office asks for help in finding missing at-risk man

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office Wednesday asked the public for help in finding an at-risk Watsonville man who was reported missing after being released from a behavioral health clinic.

Darin Zinola, 51, was reported missing by a family member after being released from the clinic in Santa Cruz on Saturday. He has medical issues that put him at risk if he is not treated and he has difficulty communicating verbally, sheriff's officials said.

Zinola may be found near the river levees in Watsonville or Santa Cruz, according to the sheriff's office.

Zinola is described as a white man who is 6 feet 1 inches tall, 265 pounds and has gray hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a beige "Big Sur" T-shirt, gray exercise pants and dark brown leather loafers, sheriff's officials said.

Anyone with information about Zinola's whereabouts is asked to call the sheriff's office at (831) 471-1121.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:28:28 -0700

Jean Quan files papers to seek second term as mayor

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan filed papers Wednesday seeking re-election to a second four-year term, saying, "Our city is rising overall."

Surrounded by a group of supporters at a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Quan said she has developed "momentum" in improving Oakland's economy and reducing its crime rate and would like to "finish the job."

Quan, who previously served on Oakland's City Council and its school board, surprised many political observers by winning a close election in 2010. She faces a difficult task in the November election, in which 16 candidates have taken out papers to challenge her. The filing deadline is

Aug. 8.

The best-known of the other candidates who are challenging Quan in the November election are City Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Libby Schaaf, political science professor and former television commentator Joe Tuman, who finished fourth in the 2010 election with 12 percent of the vote,

City Auditor Courtney Ruby, former Port of Oakland commissioner Bryan Parker and civil rights attorney Dan Siegel.

Quan said of her campaign, "We're pretty confident we can win because we have the best ground game" in terms of having a large group of volunteers from throughout Oakland.

Quan said, "I've learned a lot" since being elected mayor.

She said she has improved the city's finances by erasing a $58 million deficit and has brought its crime rate down "in a sustainable way" by working with police Chief Sean Whent to change the Police Department so that it complies with court-ordered reform measures and works "within the Constitution."

Among those who joined Quan Wednesday to endorse her are the Rev. J. Alfred Smith of Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland, school board member Rosie Torres and Andreas Cluver of the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council.

Published: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:02:44 -0700