Thursday, 20 November 2014 16:18
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
Three people have been arrested and face felony charges, including kidnapping and robbery, after a police chase that began in Castro Valley went through I-580 in San Leandro and ended in Oakland Monday night.
The three suspects allegedly robbed the Safeway at 20629 Redwood Road in Castro Valley at around 6:20 p.m., taking formula, diapers, and other baby-related items.
Store security guards tried to stop the thieves, but the suspects then attacked the guards, causing cuts and busies to the guards’ faces and hands which required treatment at Eden Medical Center, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.
The suspects, who have been identified as Catrina Freeman, 22; Marquez Trent, 22; and Tiffany Thurman, 37; all from Oakland, got away from the guards and fled in a white SUV.
A patrolling sheriff’s deputy spotted the SUV on I-580 at Carolyn Street, and tried to stop the car. The vehicle pulled over near the Benedict Drive exit in San Leandro and Thurman got out of the car and surrendered to police, who arrested her for robbery, Kelly said.
The SUV then took off, leading police on a 3-mile chase that reached 100 m.p.h. on the freeway, until Thurman told officers that her 2-year-old was in the car, at which point the deputies called off the chase for safety reasons.
“We immediately terminated the pursuit based on the safety of the child, which outweighed the reason for pursing the suspects,” said Kelly.
Kelly believes that Thurman surrendered to police in order to use the baby as “a tool” to help her friends get away, knowing that law enforcement would not get in a chase with a child involved.
“It’s very possible that they had this all planned,” said Kelly, who believes the group may have used the same tactic to steal in the past.
It didn’t work this time, as deputies tracked the two remaining suspects to their home on the 3400 block of 69th Avenue in Oakland where they found the SUV hidden in the backyard and inside the SUV they saw the stolen goods from Safeway.
The deputies demanded that Freeman and Trent exit the home, but the suspects refused, Kelly said.
Sheriff’s deputies, Oakland police officers, and California Highway Patrol officers entered the home, concerned with the safety of the child, according to Kelly.
The toddler was found safe in the home, but the two adults had barricaded themselves in a back bedroom.
Officers arrested Freeman in the room, but Trent tried to escape by jumping out of a window. Deputies caught him outside of the home, and he suffered a chipped tooth and cuts to his face in the fall.
All three are being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and are scheduled for arraignment later this week.
Freeman is being held on suspicion of robbery in lieu of $200,000 bail, Thurman is being held for robbery and child endangerment in lieu of $300,000 bail, and Trent is being held for robbery, kidnapping, evading arrest, assault, and child endangerment in lieu of $490,000 bail.
Thursday, 20 November 2014 16:16
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
The officer-involved shooting that took place in early October may be the first major test of the wearable cameras all San Leandro police officers are now wearing.
The officer who shot at a suspect who fled the scene of a crime was wearing his body camera at the time of the shooting, but San Leandro police refuse to say whether or not it was turned on and recording.
Last May, the City Council unanimously approved equipping officers with small cameras that clip onto their lapels. At the time, Sgt. Mike Sobek said that the cameras won’t usually be turned on, but that officers can activate them “if things start to go south.”
The city paid $442,000 for 80 body cameras and data storage for the recordings. The officers began wearing them in September.
On Oct. 5 a patrolling officer attempted to make a traffic stop when he spotted a man driving recklessly on the 13600 block of East 14th Street.
The driver refused to stop, leading the officer on a high-speed chase for about two miles until he reached a dead end at a cul de sac off of Woodland Avenue, according to police. Then the suspect turned his car around and rammed the police officer’s vehicle. The officer got out of the vehicle and shot at the suspect multiple times.
The suspect drove off and police do not know if he was hit. The suspect remains at large.
The police department will not say whether the police officer turned his camera on during the high speed chase or later during the incident.
“We are not sharing what evidence we do or do not have in the middle of an active investigation,” said Lt. Robert McManus.
With any police shooting, the district attorney’s office reviews the use of force, McManus said. The investigation can take several months.
After a public records request, City Clerk Marian Handa responded that the city doesn’t have a video of the incident. School board member Mike Katz-Lacabe said he received the same response when he made his own records request.
Katz-Lacabe has long been a watch dog when it comes to the use of cameras and other surveillance by the police. He says he supports the idea of body cameras if they are used correctly, but is wary that officers could pick and choose the things they want to record.
“In theory, body cameras could be a great thing for the public and the police,” said Katz-Lacabe. “The issue is that the officers decide when to use them and that could be a problem.”
CAPTION: A police wearable camera is about the size of a pager.
Thursday, 20 November 2014 16:12
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
It remains to be seen whether the City Council will allow the San Leandro Police Department to get the armored vehicle it wants, but at least three similar tank-like vehicles are close by – the East Bay Regional Parks police have one and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has two.
The East Bay Parks armored vehicle saved an officer’s life within months of being purchased in 2011, according to Lt. Lance Brede of the East Bay Parks police.
An officer discovered an illegal marijuana growing operation in a parks-owned area and was shot at and seriously wounded before being rescued by officers in the armored vehicle, Brede said.
“There are a lot of illegal marijuana growing operations in remote parts of the East Bay,” said Brede. “And we have talked to many agencies that found the vehicles valuable. We have a lot of open space to patrol.”
The East Bay Parks armored vehicle is kept at their Lake Chabot headquarters and Brede says they use it about five to ten times a year, plus during training sessions.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has two armored vehicles, which are available to the San Leandro police, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s department.
Kelly says that there are “probably a dozen” BearCats and similar armored cars at different departments in the East Bay, including Oakland and Hayward.
“We use them as rescue vehicles,” said Kelly. “Anytime that SWAT would be deployed, we have found them to be very useful. They are an asset, not an offensive weapon.”
Kelly said that the armored vehicles are used several times each year and also prove popular at public relations events where people enjoy checking them out.
The issue of armored vehicles being used by local police departments is being debated nationwide. Federal Homeland Security grants are often used to purchase the vehicles and others are donated directly as military surplus.
In September, the San Leandro police got a $200,000 federal grant to pay for the vehicle via the Sheriff’s Department. Also in September, the U.S. Senate held hearings about the wisdom of the militarization of local police departments.
When the public found out that the San Leandro police were interested in buying the vehicle, a Lenco “BearCat,” many people urged the City Council against allowing it. Most said that militarization is a disturbing trend, especially in light of the riots last summer in Ferguson, Missouri where a militarized police force appeared to exacerbate the tension.
The armored vehicle that San Leandro police want is a bullet- and explosive-resistant, with space for medical equipment. It comes with a gun turret, but police officials say its purpose is to protect officers and citizens alike and it is not designed for offensive use or to intimidate.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about the public resistance to armored vehicles and questions about the militarization of police that are popping up nationwide.
In New Hampshire, a state senator introduced a bill that would ban municipalities from having armored vehicles without voter approval after a small town in that state listed “protecting the town’s pumpkin festival” on their grant application as a reason the vehicle was needed.
In Salinas, the police department received hundreds of complaints after a military surplus vehicle was added to the force.
And last month in Davis, that City Council voted 3-2 to return a free armored vehicle that was donated to that city from the military, also cautioning against the militarization of local law enforcement. They then voted unanimously to create a policy that would give city officials notice before their police department accepted any military equipment.
Meanwhile, in San Leandro, the police armored vehicle will be discussed by the City Council at a future meeting, likely after the new year.
CAPTION: The East Bay Parks District says their armored car saved the life of a policeman who was wounded in a raid of a marijuana growing operation.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EAST BAY PARKS POLICE
Thursday, 20 November 2014 16:11
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
A 34-year-old San Lorenzo man has been arrested for the hit-and-run crash that killed a 14-year-old boy on East 14th Street last week.
Police say Sonny Anderson was the driver of a 2001 maroon Saturn that struck and killed San Lorenzo High freshman Ivan Cruz as he crossed the street on Oct. 11 at around 6:30 p.m.
Anderson led Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies on a high speed chase southbound down East 14th Street after refusing to pull over for a traffic stop on 163rd Avenue, police say.
The suspect wove in and out of traffic and was driving on the wrong side of the street when he struck and killed Cruz near the intersection of East 14th Street and Ashland Avenue, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly of the sheriff’s department.
Anderson evaded arrest at the time of the killing, but police later found the car abandoned in Fremont and traced it to a relative of Anderson’s, authorities said.
Officers discovered that Anderson had been driving the car since at least Aug. 20, when he was arrested by the sheriff’s department for DUI.
Anderson was taken into custody in Newark last week.
Anderson as a long rap sheet including a 1999 arrest for cruelty to animals after breaking in to the Kennedy Park petting zoo in Hayward and allegedly committing bestiality on a goat and a slashing other animals there.
Anderson was also arrested in 2008 for beating a 74-year-old San Lorenzo woman during a break-in at her home.
Anderson is currently being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail and is set to be arraigned at the Hayward Hall of Justice later this week on charges including second degree murder and evading police.
The family of Ivan Cruz has set up a donation site to help pay for funeral expenses, www.gofundme.com/ivancmemorialfund.
Thursday, 20 November 2014 16:07
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
Both the City Council and School Board tabled discussions this week about how to fund school police officers – the police have asked the school district to come up money for new officers, but the district says they don’t have the funds.
In October, the San Leandro police department announced that they received a 4-year, $500,000 grant to pay for officers to patrol the public schools.
However, the total cost of those officers would be over $2 million, so the school district would be on the hook to pay the remaining $1.7 million to fully fund the program.
The police applied for the grant without having the remaining $1.7 locked down, and now district says that paying for police would be a major strain on its budget and mean cuts to student services.
City Manager Chris Zapata and Superintendent Mike McLaughlin have been meeting to see if the city and schools could divvy up the cost of the officers.
Issue Struck from the Agenda Pending Further Talks
At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, the item was struck from the agenda pending further talks between the city and the district, but several people still spoke up during the public comment period to urge the school board to stay away from funding the officers.
Most said that they see the benefits of having police officers on the campus, but that the school district should not pay for police, who are city employees assigned to protect all of San Leandro, including its schools.
“Our teachers strongly support the school resource officer program,” said Jon Sherr, president of the teachers’ union. “But police work has always been the responsibility of the city. Please do not ask the children of San Leandro to directly subsidize the city budget with funds that would otherwise go to their education.”
Tim Holmes said that the school district is being put in an unfair position by the city and police.
“I don’t recall the district even asking for this,” said Holmes. “I’m offended that any elected officials would even suggest that the money we pay in taxes for schools to go to policing.”
Currently, the school district is patrolled by two officers who are paid for by the city and the city was going to stop paying for those officers when the grant money kicked in. The school district also employs five security guards.
A student even weighed in on the police grant money issue. Washington Elementary student Oscar Ivy spoke up, urging the school board to spend its budget on students, not police officers.
“Although I do appreciate the police, I don’t believe we need them in our schools,” said Ivy, who said that, because of budget cuts, teachers and parents are often asked to pay for the most basic schools supplies. “Pencils – we need pencils to do our work.”
Ivy then listed a variety of areas when the school district could better spend its money: music, arts, school nurses, cooked meals, after-school programs, and better lighting on campuses.
City Proposes Splitting Cost: Would Leave School District with a $1.1 Million Bill
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Zapata said that the city had proposed splitting the cost with the school district 50/50, but the district informed him that they could not match that number, so it’s back to the drawing board.
“We have to re-calibrate,” said Zapata.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy said that he believes a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached and that some money from the recently-approved Measure HH sales tax increase could be used to fund “the lion’s share” of the $1.7 million shortfall.
“I’m confident that we are going to ultimately find a solution,” said Cassidy. “We are trusted to serve the public’s interest.”
The police department has until Dec. 24 to decide whether to accept the $500,000 in grant money.
CAPTION: Police pay frequent visits to the high school.
TIMES FILE PHOTO