Vigil held where Berkeley homeless man died in street

A group of people held a memorial service Friday for a homeless man who died on the street. Photo: Ted Friedman

A group of people held a memorial service Friday for a homeless man who died on the street. Photo: Ted Friedman

On Sunday, Berkeley police got a call about a dead body near the doorway of what used to be the U-Haul building on San Pablo Avenue and Addison Street. When they arrived they found a homeless man who appeared to have died of natural causes.

Six days later, a group of Berkeley residents gathered at the spot to commemorate the man, whom some said was named Roberto Benitas. (When Berkeleyside called the coroner’s office, it did not release the name because the next of kin had not been notified). Most of those gathered only knew the man by sight but wanted to call attention to the fact that a homeless man had died on the streets.

“It seems very wrong for a person to die out of doors and their death isn’t noticed,” Linda Franklin wrote to Berkeleyside. “Their story needs to be told.” … Continue reading »

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Friends mourn loss of 19-year-old gunned down in Berkeley

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The day after Ignacio Francis Jr., also known as Greg or ‘lil G’, was gunned down while standing with a group in the 1800 block of Fairview Street, his friends paid their respects at the site of his death.

A group of about 20 people, mostly in their early 20s, gathered Friday afternoon at the intersection of Fairview and Harper to light candles, make wax initials on the sidewalk, and write lil G’s name on a pole to convey how sad they felt that the 19-year-old Berkeley man was killed.

“He was a good friend, he was always there for us,” said Greg Symons Jr., 24, who knew Francis for about a year. “He was a good person. He was not a street person.”

Other friends of Francis’ also said that he had not been mixed up in gang behavior, but was an innocent who was shot on the street.

“The dude didn’t do anything,” said a 20-year-old man who didn’t want his name used but who attended Berkeley Technology Academy with Francis. He said Berkeleyside could refer to him as Wallace. “Violence is everywhere. A bullet has no name on it. I have had too many people killed.” … Continue reading »

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News

The Berkeley Wire: 09.23.16

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Berkeley Chamber 2016 Visionary Award winners
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BERKELEY VISIONARY AWARDS It’s not on the weekend — unless you’re in the habit of taking long ones —but the 2016 Berkeley Visionary Awards that take place Monday just had to be mentioned. The Berkeley Chamber created this honor to celebrate innovative entrepreneurs based in Berkeley, and Monday evening’s event promises, it says, “accomplished speakers, inspirational videos and a chance to meet the business leaders who are making Berkeley known for transformational enterprises.” Award recipients this year are: Steve Isaacs, Chairman, President and CEO, Aduro Biotech; Danielle Applestone, CEO, Other Machine Company; Emilie Mazzacurati, Founder and CEO, Four Twenty Seven Climate Solutions. The keynote speaker is Michael Witherell, Director, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and there’ll be hors d’oeuvres and wine and it runs 5-7pm at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Street. Tickets are $50. Get details. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley police step up patrols after recent shootings

Police are on the scene of a shooting in South Berkeley. Photo: Citizen reporter
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Update, 1:40 p.m. Police have identified the young man shot and killed Thursday night as 19-year-old Ignacio Francis Jr. of Berkeley. Those who knew him have said he went by the name “Greg.” He was shot around 7:30 p.m. while standing with a group of people at Harper and Fairview streets. The shooting was not random, according to Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police Department spokesman.

Original story, 1:34 p.m. The Berkeley Police Department has increased patrols and stepped up investigations this week after several recent shootings, including a homicide Thursday night.

It was the city’s second fatal shooting of the year.

According to a notice released shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, police are asking the community for help as investigators work to identify and capture suspects linked to a series of shootings.

“We ask community members to quickly report any disputes or altercations, especially if a firearm is seen,” according to the statement. “Community members can also play a crucial role in locating evidence, and providing information such as newly discovered damage or providing information or home video surveillance recordings.”

A shooting Wednesday involved a 16-year-old boy from outside Berkeley who was dropped off at the hospital but expected to survive.

“Multiple residents reported gunfire, resulting in immediate response from Berkeley Police,” BPD said.

Officers say this shooting and several others “appear to have involved two groups shooting at each other. This does not appear to have been a random act, but rather an incident involving two groups of individuals targeting each other.”

Previously, police identified the groups as “gangs,” but no further information has been provided. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school district places teacher Yvette Felarca on administrative leave

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The Berkeley Unified School District has placed Yvette Felarca, a Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher who is also a controversial anti-racist activist, on administrative leave “pending an investigation into concerns that have been raised.”

Felarca was placed on leave Wednesday, according to Charles Burress, district spokesman, who declined to be more specific because it was a personnel matter.

But Felarca and members of a group in which she serves as a political organizer, BAMN, or By Any Means Necessary, said the investigation is connected to her actions at a counter-protest against white supremacists in Sacramento on June 26. A television station filmed Felarca taunting and hitting a neo-Nazi attending the rally led by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist extremist group. Felarca, along with a number of others, was injured in the confrontation. Film clips show her with a head wound.   … Continue reading »

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Bites: Ale Industries, Steel Rail Public House, more

A pint of beer at the Ale Industries tasting room. Photo: Ale Industries
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Openings, closings

ALE INDUSTRIES IS EXPANDING Fruitvale’s Ale Industries is growing rapidly, and, according to marketing director Joseph Gudino, has been working over capacity for “a while now.” While Ale Industries will continue to operate out of its current brewery space, it will increase its production capacity 150% by adding 2,200 bbl per year. It is also adding new routes and a more efficient delivery system so more customers can find Ale Industries beer more consistently. “This is an exciting move for us. We are definitely ready to start this next chapter of our journey,” said production manager Richard Angeles. Ale Industries has made a name for itself by making quirky, flavorful beers in a range of styles. As it writes on its website: “We unapologetically refuse to let our beers be categorized into styles, types, or profiles because we believe it relegates our vision of craft beer from a verb to a noun, from a spirit to a product.” The brewery has partnered frequently with The Half Orange and, before it closed, Salsipuedes. The newest Ale Industries beer to hit the taps will be a kiwi sour, which Gudino describes as “awesome.” Ale Industries is at 3096 E. 10th St. (between Fruitvale and Derby avenues), Oakland. Connect with the brewery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.Continue reading »

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Police

City seeks rejection of wrongful death lawsuit against police; celebrity pathologist disputes cause of death

Kayla Moore protest 9/20/16. Photo: Daniel McPartlan
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Attorneys for the city of Berkeley have asked a U.S. District Court judge to reject a wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2014 by the father of a transgender woman who died in police custody in 2013.

Representatives for both parties are expected to appear in court Friday morning at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. If the case moves ahead, the trial itself has been scheduled to begin Oct. 17, according to materials from lawsuit supporters.

Kayla Moore, a 41-year-old Berkeley resident, was in her Allston Way apartment Feb. 12, 2013, when police responded to a disturbance call there, authorities have said. She stopped breathing during a struggle as officers tried to detain her. The Alameda County coroner’s office said Moore — whose given name was Xavier — died due to “acute combined drug intoxication” and pre-existing medical conditions, and ruled her death an accident.

The city filed a motion for summary judgment in June essentially arguing that the family has neither the evidence nor the facts to back up the wrongful death suit. The city says officers used “minimal force” and have “qualified immunity” under the law as to the force they did use.

Oakland attorney John Burris, whose firm is representing Kayla’s father, Arthur Moore, has argued police had no cause to arrest Moore and “used unreasonable force” during the arrest.

To bolster the case, Burris has filed a declaration by Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist who has worked on a variety of high-profile cases in recent decades. Spitz said restraint by the officers made it difficult for Moore to breathe and contributed to her death. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Update: Homicide victim ID’d as Berkeley 19-year-old

Police investigate a homicide at Fairview and Harper streets, in Berkeley, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. It was the city's second homicide of the year. Photo: David Yee ©2016
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Update, Sept. 23, 1:40 p.m. Police have identified the young man shot and killed Thursday night as 19-year-old Ignacio Francis Jr. of Berkeley. Those who knew him have said he went by the name “Greg.” He was shot around 7:30 p.m. while standing with a group of people at Harper and Fairview streets. The shooting was not random, according to Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police Department spokesman.

Original story, Sept. 22: One person has died after a shooting in South Berkeley, authorities reported just after 9 p.m.

Acting Capt. Kevin Schofield, a Berkeley Police spokesman, said a small group of men and women were at the corner of Harper and Fairview streets when a man walked up to them Thursday evening.

“Following some type of verbal exchange, the adult male produced a handgun and fired multiple rounds,” Schofield said. “The group scattered and one person sustained life threatening injuries. BPD officers arrived quickly and attempted to provide medical aid as they summoned BFD. BFD transported the victim to the hospital where he was declared deceased.”

Police got multiple 911 calls about the shooting beginning just after 7:30 p.m.

One person, a male, was taken to Highland Hospital for treatment, according to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside. The incident took place in the 1800 block of Fairview, according to a Nixle alert released by BPD at 9:20 p.m.

No further information about the victim has been provided. It’s the second homicide in Berkeley of 2016.

Schofield said no arrests have been made but police are looking for the shooter.

According to the 9:20 p.m. Nixle, “While officers work this active crime scene the 1800 block of Fairview Street between Adeline and Ellis Streets is closed to all traffic. Harper Street between Woolsey and Fairview Streets is also closed while we investigate this matter.” … Continue reading »

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News

The Berkeley Wire: 09.22.16

And the Band Marched on by Film & Photo Archivist

And the Band Marched on by Film & Photo Archivist

California Nurses Association holds town hall to address Alta Bates’ closure (Daily Cal)
Masterful design defines Berkeley craftsman (SF Gate)
Two Berkeley alums win MacArthur ‘genius’ grants (UCB News)

Follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and Facebook or get the latest news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s Daily Briefing. Email us at tips@berkeleyside.com. Keep Berkeleyside running and support independent local journalism by becoming a member.

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Police

Berkeley Police Department to focus on staffing, will ‘take a collective deep breath’ under new chief

Capt. Andrew Greenwood, many other members of the department, and retirees and family, attended the ceremony Thursday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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In the wake of the abrupt departure Tuesday of Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, Acting Chief Andrew Greenwood says his short-term goals are to hire more officers and keep the department focused on the future.

“Calm, steady, forward movement is the way to go,” Greenwood told the city’s Police Review Commission on Wednesday night. “That’s kind of where I’m at.”

Greenwood was at the PRC meeting to give the regularly scheduled chief’s report and discuss the mid-year crime report, but the first topic that came up when the meeting began was Meehan’s sudden departure, announced Wednesday, and what will happen next.

Commission Chair George Perezvelez called Meehan’s resignation the elephant in the room, and noted that the leadership change — which put Berkeley native Greenwood at the helm — is “effective immediately.” … Continue reading »

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TCHO chocolate lab; climate-change deep dive in Berkeley

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TCHO’s Chief Chocolate Maker Brad Kintzer is to host a special chocolate lab at Berkeleyside’s Uncharted Festival of Ideas, on Friday Oct. 14. Kintzer, who studied botany and has spent months working on cacao plantations throughout Latin America, will provide an insider’s perspective on how cocoa is sourced and offer enlightening chocolate tastings.

Also on the program at the two-day Uncharted festival, which is back in downtown Berkeley for its fourth year, are conversations with Michael Krasny, Mark Bittman, Sujatha Baliga and Aminatou Sow. Kevin Powell and Eve Ensler will be on stage together on Saturday Oct 15 in a session titled, ‘Violence or love? Rape culture, race, and building social movements.’ See full program.

End-of-summer 30%+ discounted Uncharted tickets end midnight Friday Sept. 23.

This year also sees the festival’s first deep-dive session on climate change, in partnership with the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley. As part of CNR’s first ever Big Ideas @CNR competition, John Battles will discuss how and why many ecosystems are suffering from loss of resilience, and Dennis Baldocchi will address the water-food-people nexus: how climate change threatens California’s ability to sustain its population and its economy. The pair will be joined by Steve Bumgardner (aka Yosemite Steve) one of the world’s great natural-history filmmakers, who will provide a visual insight into working in the High Sierra. … Continue reading »

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Mark Summer explores life after Turtle Island

Mark Summer and Ken Cook are the duo Celloland. Photo by Silos Napa.
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Cuban reed virtuoso Paquito D’Rivera likes to call Mark Summer a barking cat, which is actually a compliment. As a cellist well-versed in improvisation, Summer is as rare as a woofing feline, though his three-decade run with two-time Grammy Award-winning Turtle Island Quartet has paved the way for several generations of conservatory-trained cellists with at least one foot in jazz. In his first East Bay concert since leaving Turtle Island in 2015 Summer introduces his new duo with veteran jazz pianist Ken Cook, Celloland, 7 p.m. Sunday at Freight & Salvage.

D’Rivera got to know Summer well while collaborating on the 2002 Turtle Island String Quartet album Danzón (Koch International), back before the group dropped “string” from its name. He was so impressed with Summer’s skills and versatility that he launched the Jazz Chamber Trio, a group “that I wouldn’t have thought possible before meeting Mark,” D’Rivera said in an interview around the time of the group’s Grammy-nominated 2005 eponymous debut album on Chesky.

Celloland offers another opportunity for Summer to explore his love of jazz and Latin American music. Cook, who holds the Jazz Piano chair in Sonoma State University’s Jazz Studies Department and has studied in Cuba, works regularly with vocalists Terrie Odabi and Deborah Winters, Brazilian guitarist Ricardo Peixoto, and Latin jazz flutist John Calloway. Together they’ve developed a far-ranging repertoire at the crossroads of jazz, European classical music and various South American traditions, with tunes by Brazil’s Egberto Gismonti and Pixinguinha, Argentina’s Nuevo tango maestro Astor Piazzolla, and jazz greats Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett (with some Jimi Hendrix and J.S. Bach thrown in for good measure).

“Ken is a very sympathetic musical partner,” says Summer, 58, who settled in Novato after several years in Berkeley in the mid-aughts. “I heard him with his trio a few years ago and was blown away. We started talking and quickly realized we shared a love of Keith Jarrett and Latin music.” … Continue reading »

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Curbside electric car charging stations arrive in Berkeley

Bernhard Haux installed one of the city's first personal curbside charging stations at his McGee Street home in February. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Sebastian Vollering was first in line to reserve a Tesla Model 3, the more economical version of the electric car, at the Walnut Creek store this spring.

The South Berkeley resident won’t get his new car until the end of 2017, but he is already preparing for it. Vollering is the latest to be approved under a city program that allows some residents to install personal electric-vehicle charging stations in the public right of way in front of their homes.

The 2014 Residential Curbside Electric Vehicle Charging Pilot allows for up to 25 of these stations by December 2017. Applicants must not have a driveway or garage where they could otherwise place a charging station. Twenty people have qualified for curbside stations so far, though only four have completed the installation, said Sarah Moore, a planner in the city’s office of energy and sustainable development.

Vollering was relieved when his application was approved earlier this month.

“It’s very hard for us to have an electric vehicle,” he said. Vollering’s Emerson Street home has no driveway. “It becomes quite cumbersome when you go to a public charger and you have to pay for it long enough for it to charge.” Vollering also wanted the option to charge his car at home because he uses solar power. … Continue reading »

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