Friday, March 16, 2018

DA O’Malley Took $10K From Fremont Police Union Before Clearing Fremont Cops in Killing of Pregnant Teen

The president of the police union was one of the cops who shot and killed Elena Mondragon.

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 5:02 PM

  • File photo by Lori Eanes
  • Nancy O'Malley.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley accepted a $10,000 campaign donation from the Fremont police union just months before her office cleared Fremont police officers of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of pregnant teen, Elena Mondragon. In addition, the president of the Fremont police union — Sgt. Jeremy Miskella — is one of the cops that shot Mondragon to death one year ago and was subsequently cleared by O’Malley’s office.

At a candidate’s forum in Alameda on Wednesday, O’Malley’s competitor in the June election for district attorney — civil rights attorney Pamela Price — called O’Malley’s actions “disturbing.”
"There's an actual conflict and then there's the appearance of impropriety," said Price. "And I will say to you when we have a district attorney that accepts $10,000 from the Fremont Police Officers Association and then clears the Fremont police officers of killing an unarmed 16-year-old child in a car, that's the appearance of impropriety."

O'Malley defended her campaign’s acceptance of the large contribution by the Fremont Police Officer’s Association and denied that it diminishes her office's ability to remain unbiased in cases involving law enforcement. "The police and people in the community that care about public safety, that care about stability, that care about leadership, that care about the truth and that when putting out information, that it is accurate information, those are the people who are supporting me and have given me contributions," said O'Malley.

"This is a law enforcement job and we work with the police. As I said before, when police do something that is against the law, they either get fired or they get prosecuted."

Miskella and Fremont Detective Joel Hernandez killed the 16-year-old Mondragon in March 2017 in Hayward when they were attempting to apprehend 19-year-old Rico Tiger, who was wanted for a series of armed robberies. Mondragon, who had no criminal record, was a passenger in a car driven by Tiger, and according to police, Tiger attempted to smash his car past a group of police vehicles. Miskella and Hernandez said they shot at the car in self-defense, although neither one of them turned on their body cameras. Mondragon was the only person hit by the police bullets.

Earlier this week, the Mondragon family filed a federal lawsuit against the Fremont Police Department, alleging that it failed to properly discipline Miskella and Hernandez.

O’Malley’s office investigated the shooting and concluded last month that Miskella and Hernandez had done nothing illegal. O’Malley accepted the $10,000 donation from the police union in November, while her office was still investigating union President Miskella and Hernandez.

“They gave her money; they're not charging the officers," Price said in an interview. “That's why you don't want to receive tens of thousands of dollars from the police officers’ associations, because you have to maintain the goal of at least the appearance of independence."

Miskella declined to comment about the large donation to O’Malley. The Fremont police union’s contribution was the largest made to O'Malley's campaign during the current election cycle. Former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer also made contributions totaling $10,000 from a campaign account used to hold previous funds.

In addition to the Fremont POA, the Oakland police union gave $9,500 to O'Malley's campaign; the Livermore police union donated $2,500; the Berkeley police union gave $1,000, and San Leandro police contributed $1,000. The union representing Alameda County sheriff deputies also pitched in $8,500 to O’Malley.

Friday’s Briefing: Oakland Moves Forward with Plan to Buy County’s Share of Coliseum; Blizzard Closes I-80 in Sierra

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 10:07 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for March 16, 2018:

1. The city of Oakland is moving forward with its plan to purchase Alameda County’s share of the Coliseum property in order to make it easier to develop the land, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The need for the city and county to co-manage the property will lessen once the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors leave in the next few years. The A’s have yet to decide whether they plan to build a new ballpark at the Coliseum site or at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square, but city officials have long sought to turn the property into a housing or commercial development.

2. Heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada forced the closure of Interstate 80 this morning over Donner Pass, reports Amy Graff of SFGate. The storm has dumped more than 2 feet of snow in the area and weather forecasters expect snow to continue to blanket the region throughout the day.

3. State lawmakers are considering a bipartisan plan to cut the retail tax rate on cannabis from 15 percent to 11 percent for the next three years — and eliminate all taxes on growers until 2021, reports Brooks Edward Staggs of the Cannifornian$. The legislation authored by state Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, and Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, comes in response to complaints that high tax rates are keeping the black market for weed alive.

4. The Berkeley City Council moved forward this week with an ambitious affordable housing project that includes 186 below-market-rate units, reports Madeleine Gregory of the Daily Cal. The Berkeley Way housing project, which is to be built in conjunction with nonprofit developer Bridge Housing Corporation and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, would feature “53 permanent units for the homeless, 12 beds exclusively for veterans, 32 homeless shelter beds, and 89 affordable housing units for low-income residents.”

5. Bicyclists will get their own dedicated lanes next to Lake Merritt on Lakeside Drive under a plan moving forward in the city of Oakland, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$.

6. The West Contra Costa County school district, which includes Richmond schools, is a considering a plan to remove law enforcement officers from campuses, reports Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle$. A district task force says that “a police presence at schools contributes to a ‘school-to-prison pipeline.’”

7. And a panel of California judges has concluded that embattled Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Bruce C. Mills has committed multiple ethical violations, and he could be removed from the bench later this month, reports Nate Gartrell of the East Bay Times$.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Memorial for 16-Year Old Girl Killed by Police Follows Filing of Federal Lawsuit Against Fremont Officers

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 10:19 AM

Christina Flores, Elena Mondragon's aunt, lights a candle at yesterday's memorial for the slain teenager.
  • Christina Flores, Elena Mondragon's aunt, lights a candle at yesterday's memorial for the slain teenager.

Family and friends of Elena "Ebbie" Mondragon gathered in Hayward last night to remember the 16-year-old girl who was shot and killed by Fremont police Detective Joel Hernandez and Sgt. Jeremy Miskella exactly one year ago.

According to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, four police officers with the South Alameda County Major Crimes Task Force were attempting to arrest Rico Tiger, a 19-year-old man wanted for armed robbery, when they shot and killed Mondragon. Mondragon and her cousin had gone swimming with Tiger and another friend, but as they were leaving a pool in a Hayward apartment complex, the car they were traveling in was blocked by two unmarked vehicles carrying four heavily-armed plain-clothed police officers. Tiger, the driver, attempted to smash through the police barricade, but officers opened fire with AR-15 rifles. Mondragon was hit multiple times and died at a nearby hospital.

None of the police had activated a body camera to record the incident, but they said they shot into the moving car in self defense because Tiger was trying to run them over. Tiger allegedly killed an innocent bystander in a car accident the month before while fleeing the from the Oakland police.

Elena Mondragon's family criticized the police tactics that led to the fatal shooting.
  • Elena Mondragon's family criticized the police tactics that led to the fatal shooting.
John Burris, an Oakland attorney representing the Mondragon family, said at a press conference earlier this week that police made "egregious tactical errors and contravened their training and basic common sense" by allowing the teens to get into a car before moving in to arrest Tiger, and then by opening fire on the vehicle.

The family's lawsuit alleges the city of Fremont's failure to discipline its police for the fatal shooting "demonstrates the existence of an entrenched culture" that tolerates improper detentions and arrests, and the use of excessive and deadly force.

At last night's memorial, Mondragon's family marked the one-year anniversary of her death.

"Ebbie was the glue that held this family together," said Michelle Mondragon, Elena's mother.

"I just want everybody to remember that Ebbie was the high spirit of our lives," said Evelina Mondragon, Elena's sister.

Christina Flores, Mondragon's aunt, criticized the police tactics that led to the shooting. "Another victim, the cops are going to take somebody else from us, from this world, that are innocent," she said during yesterday's vigil. "But I just want everybody to remember her name. Elena Mondragon. Ebbie. Our Ebbie."

The district attorney's office investigated the police shooting and cleared officers of any wrongdoing. But the Hayward Police Department, which was also tasked with investigating whether or not the shooting was lawful, has yet to complete its full report.

Tiger was subsequently charged with attempted murder against two of the officers for allegedly trying to run them down with the car. He has also been charged with murder in Mondragon's death.

But the Mondragon family said they believe that the Fremont police are also responsible, but so far, they have avoided any accountability for their role in the incident.

"We're here against justice not being served," said Miguel Minjares, Mondragon's uncle. "We're here for accountability, not just for my niece, not just my family member, but for the victims of this kind of crime, and it is a kind of crime. Just because you're the police doesn't mean they don't commit murder."

Thursday's Briefing: Two People Die in Lake Merritt; BART Seeks Developer for Oakland Housing Tower

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 10:02 AM

Stories you shouldn't miss for March 15, 2018:

1. The bodies of a man and woman were pulled out of Lake Merritt this morning after neighbors reported that the couple had been fighting and heard the woman cry for help, KTVU reports. When emergency crews arrived on scene, they saw the man thrashing in the water. But he didn't respond to CPR and was declared dead. The woman's body was recovered later in the water. Police said it was unclear how the couple ended up in the lake.

2. BART is seeking a developer for a proposed housing tower and commercial project to be built on the Lake Merritt station parking lot, reports Roland Li of the San Francisco Business Times$. The housing would include 20 percent affordable units. The project, which would be built on properties at 98 and 101 8th St., is part of BART's ongoing effort to add more housing near its transit stations.

3. Vandals have been endangering the lives of bike riders in the East Bay by cutting the brake lines on Ford GoBikes, reports Otis Taylor Jr. of the San Francisco Chronicle. It's not clear who has been cutting the brake lines, but the bike share rentals have sparked anger from radical anti-gentrification activists.

4. Oakland police released the names of the four officers who shot and killed a man whom they said was armed in North Oakland on Sunday, reports George Kelly of the East Bay Times$. Sgt. Francisco Negrete and officers William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, and Craig Tanaka killed Joshua Pawlik, 32, whom they said refused to put down his weapon. All of the officers were wearing their body cameras during the shooting, but police have yet to release the footage.

5. And the Trump administration alleges that Russia is trying to interfere with the U.S. electrical grid and has hacked other U.S. infrastructure, the Associated Press reports.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Oakland Tech Students Call for Stricter Gun Control at Walk-Out

by Nuria Marquez Martinez
Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 3:48 PM

  • Photo by Nuria Marquez Martinez
Students at Oakland Technical High School braved the rain on Wednesday as they walked out of their classrooms to show their support for gun control. The demonstration was part of the national walk-out at schools across the country. The demonstrations were in response to the mass shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida exactly one month ago.

The Oakland Tech walk-out started at 10 a.m. as students lined the front steps of the school building chanting "Enough is enough." They devoted 17 minutes of their demonstration to remembering the victims of the Florida shooting - one minute for each victim. Though other schools were only walking out for that number of minutes, students at Oakland Tech decided to extend the protest to last all period.

"We really wanted to see this event be done to justice," said Caroline Pers, one of the student organizers of the event. "Extending the time made it so much more valuable."

As students started unfurling their umbrellas, speakers lined up to the microphone to participate in the event's open mic. Students were encouraged to go up and speak. Some read poems, others gave impassioned speeches, but all denounced President Trump's plan to arm teachers and called for stricter gun laws.

"We can choose what we want our futures to look like," said Mia Elliott, another student organizer. "Making sure everyone is aware of their power is really important to changing our country to how we want it to be."

Atiya Black, a ninth grader, said she was surprised and encouraged by how many of her classmates participated.

"We expect people in power to listen to us and do something," she said. "We didn't come out here for no reason. We care about happens."

Throughout the morning, students could also register to vote and write letters to Congress at stations set up outside the school.

The event ended early due to the rain after about an hour of speakers but student organizers already have plans moving forward. Pers said they want to start a social justice club at the school to get other students involved in this kind of activism.

"We have a lot of momentum. We know we're capable of doing this," she said.

Berkeley Council Approves Surveillance Technology Oversight Ordinance

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 11:46 AM

  • Darwin BondGraham
Berkeley's police and other city departments hoping to acquire new surveillance technologies will now have to disclose publicly the equipment or software they're seeking to acquire and justify the acquisition before gaining approval.

The Berkeley City Council approved a new law last night that subjects surveillance technologies to sweeping civilian oversight, making Berkeley the first city in California to do so.

"Last night's unanimous vote by the Berkeley City Council was another strong indicator that citizens are demanding input into how powerful surveillance equipment is used in their community and who gets access to the data," said Brian Hofer, a member of the civil liberties group Oakland Privacy.

Under the new law, city departments must show that the benefits of a new surveillance technology outweigh possible harms to privacy and civil liberties, before gaining permission to buy and use these tools.

The rules will apply to surveillance cameras, gunshot detection microphones, license plate reader cameras, cellphone tracking devices, and any other devices or systems that "collect audio, electronic, visual, location, thermal, olfactory, biometric, or similar information specifically associated with, or capable of being associated with, any individual or group."

Departments must also create policies to govern how surveillance technologies are deployed, who can access the data they collect, and whether and how it's shared with other cities, the state, or federal agencies.

On an annual basis, the city will also report how various surveillance tools are used and whether any policies were violated or data was breached and accessed by unauthorized parties.

"This was a unanimous vote in support of protecting our privacy," said Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator of the Council on American Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. "It's important to enact these laws locally because we’re not going to be seeing this kind of direction from the federal government. That’s why we’re taking this local control and deciding how this type technology can be used."

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin tweeted that the council received 193 letters and emails about the ordinance, demonstrating a very high level of public interest in the new law.

Hofer said similar ordinances are currently being considered in Davis, Oakland, and by BART. He said local attention to how police obtain and use surveillance technology is an especially important topic that was underscored by the recent revelation that some cities have been feeding license plate scans to ICE through contracts with companies like Vigilant Solutions.

"It was only after a public vetting and discussion occurred that Alameda and Culver City became aware that their license plate reader data could be shared with ICE," Hofer said about two cities that recently voted against license plate reader deployment. "The ordinance adopted by Berkeley ensures that these types of dangerous oversights will be addressed, and that vulnerable communities will be protected."

The Berkeley ordinance still requires another vote by the council before it officially takes effect.

Wednesday's Briefing: Students Walkout of Class Nationwide to Protest Gun Violence; City and County Might Sue Raiders Over Coliseum Debt

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 10:29 AM

Stories you shouldn't miss for March 14, 2018:

1. High school students are walking out of class around the country today to protest the nation's lax gun control laws in the wake of the mass killing at Parkland High School in Florida last month. Students protested outside the White House this morning and in cities across the country in what may be the nation's largest ever student-led demonstration. In the Bay Area, high school students - and many middle school students - are planning to join the walkouts with a variety of protests today.

2. The city of Oakland and Alameda County are considering suing the Oakland Raiders over the massive debt the team will leave on the Coliseum when it moves to Las Vegas in a few years, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. City and county officials at first dismissed the idea of suing the Raiders, citing the costs of litigation, but two high-powered law firms - Berg & Androphy in Houston and Weil, Gotshal & Manges of New York - have offered to sue the football team for free. The firms would then take one-third of whatever proceeds won in the suit. The Coliseum still has about $80 million in bond debt from renovations that the Raiders demanded in the 1990s.

3. Oakland is facing another $1.1 million financial hit from the legal case involving Councilmember Desley Brooks' assault on ex-Black Panther Elaine Brown, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The city is already on the hook for a $3.77 million judgment in the case, plus jurors ordered Brooks to personally pay Brown $550,000. Now, Brown's lawyers are demanding that the city pay them $1.1 million in legal fees, too.

4. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have reversed course and now say they have no idea how many immigrants avoided capture because of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's decision to warn people about ICE sweeps, reports Hamed Aleaziz of the San Francisco Chronicle. ICE officials and President Trump had originally claimed that Schaaf's warning allowed about 800 immigrants to avoid capture, but ICE spokesperson James Schwab later said that assertion was false - and resigned when he refused to parrot it.

5. CIM Group, which is Oakland's largest landlord, plans to break ground soon on a 16-story, 288-unit housing project on 11th Street in downtown, reports Roland Li of the San Francisco Business Times$. The project has already been approved by the city. CIM Group owns numerous properties in Oakland, including all of Jack London Square.

6. The family of Elena Mondragon, the pregnant teen who was shot dead by Fremont police, has filed a federal lawsuit against the department and the city of Fremont, reports Aaron Davis of the East Bay Times$. Police killed Mondragon while they were shooting at a car driven by a man wanted for a string of strong-armed robberies.

7. A proposal to create a single-payer health care system in California is dead in the legislature this year, reports Angela Hart of the Sacramento Bee$. The bill, SB 562, stalled in the Assembly because there is no financial mechanism to pay for its $400 billion pricetag.

8. And Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist and best-selling author who made science accessible to average people, died at the age of 76 at his home in England.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tuesday's Briefing: Ice Official Quits Over Lies About Libby Schaaf; Trump Fires Tillerson After He Criticized Russia

Plus, Trump's new CIA chief oversaw torture.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 10:01 AM

James Schwab
  • James Schwab

Stories you shouldn't miss for March 13, 2018:

1. ICE spokesperson James Schwab resigned from his job because he said Trump administration officials wanted him to falsely inflate the number of undocumented immigrants who avoided capture after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's warning about ICE sweeps, KTVU, CNN, and the San Francisco Chronicle report. Schwab, who was the chief Northern California spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, said President Trump's claim that "close to 1,000" people avoided arrest because of Schaaf was false. Schwab said the agency never had any expectation of capturing that many people.

2. President Trump fired his secretary of the state, Rex Tillerson, one day after Tillerson strongly criticized Russia following a nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in London, CNN reports. The White House contends that the president was planning to fire Tillerson for months. Last year, the secretary of state had called Trump a "moron." Trump fired Tillerson via a tweet this morning and announced that he's replacing him with CIA Chief Mike Pompeo.

3. Trump's new CIA chief appointee, Gina Haspel, is expected to face tough questioning because she oversaw a so-called black site where suspected terrorists were tortured during the George W. Bush administration, Politico reports.

4. The number of women who have accused famed Oakland restaurateur Charlie Hallowell of sexual harassment now stands at 31, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports in an investigation. In addition, 10 women say the man who replaced Hallowell after he stepped away from day-to-day operations of his restaurants - Richard Weinstein - sexually harassed them as well.

5. ICYMI: The Oakland cafe that is refusing to serve uniformed police officers - Hasta Muerte Coffee - has become super popular with lines out the door.

6. And "a whopping 99 percent of mussels collected from the San Francisco Bay were contaminated with at least one algal toxin, while more than a third contained four different kinds of algal toxins, according to a study published in the March issue of the scientific journal, Harmful Algae," KQED reports.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday's Briefing: OPD Kills Man in North Oakland; Authorities Have No Idea How Many Homeless People Die on the Streets

Plus, Oakland bans cannabis businesses from displacing tenants.

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 10:19 AM


Stories you shouldn't miss for March 12, 2018:

1. Oakland police shot and killed a man whom officers said was armed in North Oakland on Sunday, KTVU reports. The fatal shooting occurred at a home in the 900 block of 40th Street near MacArthur BART. Police said firefighters first responded to the scene and then called OPD when they said a person in the home had a gun. Police said the man refused to drop his weapon before cops killed him.

2. Local and state authorities have no idea how many homeless people die on the streets every year, because they don't keep track of the information, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Because of the lack of data, officials not have no clue as to the extent of the dangers of living on the street. "Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said if more people knew how dire homelessness is - by way of mortality statistics, for instance - there might be a heightened sense of urgency."

3. The Oakland City Council approved a new law that prohibits cannabis businesses from receiving permits if they displace people from their homes, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. "The legislation came after residents and business owners at The Oakland Cannery, a live/work space in East Oakland, urged city officials to protect their spaces after a cannabis business purchased the building and expressed intentions to turn it into a commercial cannabis facility."

4. Despite this winter's dry weather, Californians have increased their water use to pre-drought levels, reports Paul Rogers of the Mercury News$, citing new data from the State Water Resources Control Board. Southern California residents, in particular, have started using more water, despite the fact that nearly half of the state is considered to be back in a drought.

5. Northern California authorities have been tight-lipped about why a former Army rifleman killed three female health care workers at a veterans' home in Yountville, the Associated Press reports. The shooter, Albert Wong, 36, "was enrolled in The Pathway Home's veteran treatment program until he was recently expelled, according to a relative of one of the women."

6. ICYMI: In a surprise move, the Alameda City Council voted unanimously to place City Manager Jill Keimach on paid administrative leave. The announcement followed a closed-door meeting during which councilmembers were scheduled to discuss the results of an internal City Hall probe. Keimach had alleged that councilmembers interfered in her selection of a fire chief last year.

7. And Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio, who has served for 25 years on the council, has decided to retire at the end of this year and will not seek reelection, reports Frances Dinkelspiel of Berkeleyside.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Alameda City Manager Placed on Paid Leave

The usually divided Alameda City Council voted unanimously to sideline Jill Keimach.

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 9:25 PM

  • File photo by D. Ross Cameron
  • Jill Keimach.

Following a nearly five-hour closed session meeting Friday evening, the Alameda City Council, in a surprise move, unanimously voted to place City Manager Jill Keimach on paid administrative leave.

The topic of Friday’s special closed session is believed to have been the results of an independent investigation into allegations made by Keimach that councilmembers violated the Alameda City Charter by interfering in her selection of a new fire chief. Keimach made the claims in a memorandum she sent to the council last October.

Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer declined to comment on Friday’s announcement or offer a reason for placing Keimach on leave. But the post-closed-door meeting statement read by Spencer suggests that the city's investigation into Keimach's claims may have uncovered new information.

“The report includes confidential advice regarding potential litigation given to the council, which the council is currently assessing in conjunction with its attorneys. The city will release the actual findings of the investigative report as soon as possible after the requisite legal analysis has been completed and delivered to the city council,” according to the statement.

“The city manager has been place on paid administrative leave with full salary and benefits during this assessment by unanimous vote of the city council.”

The unanimity by the council is highly unusual. The council often is deeply divided on issues.

Friday is not the first time councilmembers have discussed the independent investigator’s report. They also met in a special closed session on Jan. 27 that also lasted five hours, but without any reportable action. Keimach was not seen at either closed session.

Most Popular Stories

© 2018 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation