Lots of Trouble 

BART parking lots are assault-and-robbery hotspots, a vicious killer is finally caught down south, and botanical bandits snip stems.

We're not even supposed to notice BART parking lots. But they've become gauntlets, scenes right out of the Wild West. It has been a summer of mayhem. In the Bay Fair station's parking lot June 9, three teens beat a man about the face and fled with his phone and laptop. At El Cerrito del Norte on June 17, a woman was slammed to the ground and her phone was stolen by a teen whose flirtatious advances she had spurned. At the Coliseum station that day, six men attacked another, hurling him to the ground and demanding his money. He managed to wrestle free and escape. At Pittsburg on June 21, two men accosted a couple, punching the man and fleeing with the woman's purse. An hour later, three armed men trailed another into the Bay Fair lot, injured his face, broke two of his teeth, stole $400, and fled in his SUV. At the Coliseum station on August 2, two juveniles wielding a replica rifle robbed a man. Back at the Coliseum on August 13, two teens seized and ran off with a man's backpack. At Bay Fair on August 15, a teen gunman knocked a woman to the ground, escaping with her purse and phone. At Union City on August 22, two juveniles and an adult jumped a man, punched him in the face and stomach, and fled with his wallet and headphones. That same day at Hayward, a teenage girl demanded a woman's purse and chased her, attempting unsuccessfully to seize it. At Lake Merritt on August 23, a bicycling teen threatened to shoot a woman. At Coliseum on August 25, three juveniles — one wielding hedge-trimmers — surrounded two men, pinning one to the ground and punching him before stealing his wallet. On August 26 at Richmond, two men knocked another to the ground, held a knife to his throat, and beat him before fleeing with his phone and cash. If you're on the train, watch your back.

Whatever isn't nailed down: A Rockridge resident alerted neighbors on August 24 that thieves had stolen some 75 hydrangea blooms — about as big as grapefruit — from her front yard: "Anyone see anyone walking down the street with a big, beautiful bunch of flowers?" The old snip 'n' snatch, while nothing new, is a kind of mayhem you might feel silly reporting. But it's not just some yardless unfortunate longing desperately for a wee posy. Bloom bandits are pros who sell their caches. They've been seen plying streets with shopping carts, working in pairs: One cuts, one's the lookout. The flowers turn up for sale at farmers' markets, flea markets, and BART entrances.

Knightmare: David Knight was already a convicted killer and nine-strike felon on parole for a drug conviction and corporal injury to a child, police say, when he murdered his girlfriend Akiba Finister near Eastmont Mall last September. Finister, 29, had two children, and 46-year-old Knight had literally promised her mother that he wouldn't kill her. But when Finister tried to leave him, he stabbed her seventy times, according to the police, then slashed a friend who tried to save her. Having served less than ten years for shooting someone to death during a 1987 robbery, Knight is also suspected in yet another woman's 1997 stabbing death. He was arrested August 17 in Bakersfield. Better late than never.

Snap shot: He had a safe suburban boyhood, but crime became real to Matthew Reamer when he started tutoring at the Richmond after-school nonprofit Making Waves. "Because Richmond is so violent, yet so small, every murder connected back to my students," Reamer says. "The victim would be one of their friends or relatives." After a triple shooting near Making Waves, "I watched the aftermath from the ambulances onward. That first night, the site was packed with people partying. The next day, a hundred liquor bottles were there, and graffiti and stuffed animals." A professional photographer whose work is at HalfFullPhoto.com/pages/MainFrame2.html, Reamer began capturing East Bay street shrines, enriching a new genre whose wealth of material in a record homicide year is conflicting for artists who want their work to look good but not ghoulish. "These memorials are testaments to people left behind who loved someone," he says. "I don't like how, in the newspapers, each victim is dismissed as just another young male of color."

Them's the brakes: A OPD sergeant wore plainclothes at 42nd and Broadway on August 27 to gauge how many drivers would yield to a pedestrian: him. Between 10:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., he issued 27 citations. What part of "right of way" don't you understand?

Sibling misery: After being arrested for assault in May and for DUI in June, gridiron star Maurice Purify was suspended from the University of Nebraska Huskers, then reinstated amid wild controversy. But Purify left practice at its preseason height to fly home after his brother was murdered in Oakland on August 21. The brother, Ronald "Tay" Spears, was celebrating his 29th birthday in a Dodge Charger with two female teens, and asked a stranger for directions at 55th and Market streets around 1 a.m. Welcomed into the car, the stranger pulled a gun. After a scuffle, he shot Spears and fled. The Pittsburg High School grad — who had a young daughter — was once an athlete too, holding College of the Redwoods' single-season record for receptions. Pigskin skills didn't save Spears, however, from his fateful late-night decision, and almost didn't save his brother. In a Cinco de Mayo fracas near the UN campus, "Little Mo" Purify attacked a bar bouncer, hit the bouncer's girlfriend when she tried to intervene, and fiercely resisted arrest. Then he was caught speeding while intoxicated on June 8. Pleading no contest to all charges, he received probation and a fine. Almost exactly a month later, tragedy brought him home to Northern California. That's a lot of firsthand experience for a criminal-justice major.


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