What people think of the dead has much to do with how they died, and the anonymity of the Internet lets folks say exactly what they think.
Even before the coroner's office released their names, Jason Saradeth and Erjude Juanatas-Ventura were being praised and mourned by friends and slammed by strangers. Saradeth, 23, and Juanatas-Ventura, 22, died when their motorcycles sped at more than 80 mph into a retaining wall near the Port of Oakland on August 9. Police called it a drag race the pair had just left a Fremont meet. Accusing cops of a cover-up, insiders on the Bay Area Riders Forum insisted that the pair weren't racing but fleeing a police car.
In any case, they were speeding. Two other riders were injured. And the online comments hit flashpoint instantly. "Darwinism in action," quipped hecanfoos at SFGate. "THEY PUT OTHER PEOPLES' LIVES AT RISK," mupditt added. "The people on here getting hippy-dippy about what they could have possibly contributed to society ... please. Perhaps if they had not killed themselves first their contribution to society would have been running down some grandma."
"Jason Saradeth was an Angel," Maria posted at a Topix forum. "His death has took my breath away." At the memorial MySpace page that quickly popped up, the comments were mostly laudatory, if somewhat indecipherable. People posted photos Saradeth flashes a wry smile, cigarette in one casual, luxuriously long-fingered hand; Juanatas-Ventura stands ramrod-straight in snow-white shirt and pinstriped suit, gazing solemnly under lush eyebrows.
"J," a friend wrote on Topix. "I KNOW YOU'RE ON A LONG VACATION ... if your reading this while i type, i hope you're still smiling 'cause that smiling is all we saw bro. Ima miss you. ... When i Ride, You're going to be next to me showing me some moves. See ya when its my time playboy. Holla."
Meanwhile, at a racing-bike site, a rider calling himself SportFighter demanded: "Am I the only one who doesn't feel sorry for these tools?!"
Bay Area Riders Forum hosted mixed reviews: "If I'm riding like a shithead and die running from the cops, then I would have indeed gotten what I deserve," one proclaimed. Brown81 defended the pair's impulse to speed: "If you have done none of these things than you are not a man. PERIOD. It's just not possible." Squidly McSmearstain, however, begged to differ: "To the families of the deceased and injured I offer my sincerest condolences. To the 'tard riders, I shake my head in dismay."
It takes a pillage: A two-hundred-strong mob swarmed kicking and tearing into Hayward's Southland Mall on August 18, upturning displays at Macy's and snatching items off racks. Terrifying hundreds of shoppers, the mob swept in and, as some sixty police converged, swept out. None were arrested. "Our first priority is public safety and restoring order," Hayward Police Lieutenant Reid Lindblom says. "When a mob mentality sets in and you've got an unruly group, you try to limit access to that area and ask people to leave. You give them an escape route and you move 'em out. You're probably outnumbered."
Cartographic violence: Updated daily, stunning but scary, a brand-new interactive map at Oakland.crimespotting.org lets you view crimes by locale and type. Its three creators at San Francisco's Stamen Design built and run it for free. Michal Migurski lives near Lake Merritt, where, he says, "last winter there was a palpable sense of rising crime." It struck him that "if you hear sirens in your neighborhood, you should know why." Migurski, Eric Rodenbeck, and Tom Carden investigated the sparse local crime-search resources. "Their overall message," Rodenbeck says, "is: Go away." Just in time for a homicide spike, the map launched this month as a public service, Rodenbeck says. It offers "live information that you can look at it ways that are simple and meaningful to you. It gives the community a picture of itself, so that you can start your own conversations" about crime. "Ideally, it would be great to get calls from the mayors of nearby cities" requesting, say, maps for Berkeley or Emeryville. While creating the map, Migurski was mugged: "It was one of those simulated-weapon-give-us-all-your-money things. They got away with four dollars and a cell phone."
Take, take, take: A slender young woman wearing large black sunglasses robbed Berkeley's downtown Mechanics Bank of $4,800 on August 14. The same day, an apparent epicurean swiped wine and cheese from the Berkeley Bowl. Two hours hence at the Bowl, someone swiped fish. A less picky eater nabbed five frankfurters from Berkeley's Touchless Carwash. And someone swiped the cremains of two small pets from Walnut Creek's Ygnacio Animal Hospital on August 10. Further mayhem unfolded in the WC when a white Chevy Impala drove backward down Locust Street on August 11. After nearly hitting pedestrians, it stopped. Its occupants emerged and, according to the police report, "walked into Mr. Lucky's." That's a bar. The question is: Did they walk into it backwards and order akdov dna reeb?
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