Less than three hours into the New Year, a terrible tragedy unfolded at the Fruitvale BART station. Hayward resident Oscar Grant was riding home on the BART train, when he apparently got into a nasty fight with a man after a heated argument. BART cops swarmed up to stop the fight and waded into a crowd, trying to separate everyone and calm the scene down. One officer, who has not been named by authorities, shot and killed Grant during the incident. Although the BART station's cameras did not record the shooting, a witness did, and KTVU aired the footage a few days later. Grant, it appears, was lying on his stomach and struggling as an officer tried to put handcuffs on his wrists. The officer then drew his gun and shot him in the back. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the bullet traveled through Grant's body, ricocheted off the ground, and reentered him; Grant later died at Highland Hospital. BART officials are now trying to determine if the officer meant to tase Grant, and grabbed the wrong weapon. Local attorney John Burris, who has handled police brutality cases for decades, has announced plans to file a $25 million lawsuit against BART on behalf of the family. Grant, who worked at an Oakland market, leaves behind a young daughter.
Gang-Rape Suspects Held
When a lesbian was kidnapped and brutally raped by a gang of men in Richmond on December 13, the story shocked and horrified people all over the Bay Area. Soon, four suspects were identified, and Richmond police put out a very public all-points bulletin, as the incident made national headlines. Last week, the four men were either arrested or turned themselves in. The victim was walking near her car when the men struck her and threw her into a vehicle, then raped and taunted her with homophobic slurs before dumping her naked on the street. Now, the men are in custody while police investigate the incident.
End of Nacho's Era
City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente has presided over the city council for so long that it's hard to remember a time when he was just another vote. For years, Nacho has been part of a machine that has at times included Jerry Brown and Don Perata, and once he was poised to become the next mayor. Ron Dellums ended that, but De La Fuente managed to hold onto the presidency in 2007, beating back a challenge from rival Larry Reid. But over the weekend, De La Fuente declared that he would not seek another term as president, which seemed to suggest that he didn't have the votes this time around. And indeed on Monday, the council voted 8-0 to name Councilwoman Jane Brunner as the new council president, and then named De La Fuente as vice mayor.
Typically, the role of vice mayor is just ceremonial — but there is one major exception. Under the city charter, the vice mayor assumes the role of mayor if the mayor were to leave office before the end of his term. Rumors have spread for months that a recall campaign may be mounted against Mayor Ron Dellums, or that the former longtime congressman may seek a post in the incoming Obama administration. If Dellums were to leave early, then new vice mayor De La Fuente would finally become mayor — at least until there is a special election, which must be held within 180 days of Dellums' departure.
In the meantime, the new council leadership will face a host of painful financial problems, as city officials project a budget deficit of $50 million for the next fiscal year. To that end, the city council has put together a wish list of infrastructure projects it hopes incoming President Barack Obama will fund in his expected economic stimulus package. The projects tally some $89 million in work, including a $20 million plan to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed properties, and councilmembers hope they will result in more than 1,000 jobs. Hope, of course, being the operative word.
Bailey Revelations Anger Oakland Cops
As new revelations emerge about how Oakland police handled the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, rank-and-file officers are reportedly disgusted at how the department's leadership has dealt with the case. The Chauncey Bailey Project writes that many cops are angry that homicide Sergeant Derwin Longmire apparently failed to report key evidence that suggested a conspiracy to kill Bailey on the part of members of Your Black Muslim Bakery. Meanwhile, Longmire's attorney Michael Rains has denounced the department's decision to delay raiding the bakery for two days in 2007, a decision that likely cost Bailey his life.
Problems at the Port
Facing a steep decline in airline traffic, officials with the Port of Oakland have announced that they will face a $12 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year. At least they can rely on steel shipped in to build the Bay Bridge, right? Wrong. A contractor with Caltrans tried to unload a boat full of bridge material at the port, but hired two unions other than the local longshore union. Longshoremen promptly shut down the berth and refused to let the goods through, claiming that they had the exclusive right to unload material at the port. After several days, the contractor agreed to sail the ship under the new bridge and unload the goods there.
The US Census has announced that San Pablo has become the first city in Contra Costa County with a Latino majority. ... Cal football coach Jeff Tedford, fresh from a 9-4 record, has agreed to extend his contract to 2015.
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