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Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2005 10:00 pm

Regional roundup

Lodi firefighters to be honored today

Four Lodi firefighters will be among 13 people honored as community heroes by the American Red Cross today at a breakfast.

Acting Capt. Aimee Dalyrymple, Capt. Pete Iturraran, Engineer Rick Gerlack and Firefighter Geremy Quaglia are being recognized for saving the life of a diver off the coast of Fort Bragg.

Others being honored include Stockton Police Officer Robert Ramirez, retired nurse Bert Speegle, Stockton residents Becky and Jim Mizener, Victor Tinold, Grayson Moyse, Ripon resident Steven Laman, Tracy security guard Kenneth Gleason, county Animal Control Officer Janell Percey and Doberman Pinscher Heidi.

Proceeds from the breakfast, which will be held at 7:30 a.m. at Wine and Roses in Lodi, will go to the American Red Cross.


'Adam's Law,' which would toughen DUI penalties, passes committee

"Adam's Law," which would stiffen penalties for repeat drunken drivers, made it past what the bill's writer said was the biggest hurdle on its way to becoming law.

Named for 17-year-old Adam Lawrence Williams, of Galt, the law would permanently revoke the driver's license of anyone with three drunken driving convictions. It would also require an ignition interlock device to be installed on the vehicles of those with two convictions in which their blood-alcohol content level was twice the legal limit.

Williams' father, Steve Williams, testified Tuesday before the state Assembly's Public Safety Committee, where he told the story about how his son was rear-ended and killed almost two years ago. The other driver, Kathy DeLaurentis, of Galt, ultimately pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and DUI and is serving an 11-year prison sentence. She had a history of drinking violations but still had a valid driver's license.

The bill's author, Assemblyman Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont, said the proposed law would have to be passed by the safety committee, then go through several more steps before being passed. The bill will then take a similar path through the state Senate.

Bogh had said that Tuesday's committee would be the toughest challenge, and the bill could become law in one or two years.

Steve Williams, who will mark the two-year anniversary of his son's death April 21, was encouraged by Tuesday's vote and was impressed when three committee members -- including two Democrats -- offered to help sponsor the bill.

Committee members did make one amendment before approving it: The proposal had called for licenses to be revoked for three DUI convictions regardless of the date. Now, the convictions will be limited to those within 10 years.

"I'm OK with that, because people do recover," Steve Williams said Tuesday. "But three times within 10 year is just too much."

Firefighter arraigned on arson charges

A Thornton firefighter was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he set three fires while on duty.

Brian Patrick Schneider, 27, of Lodi, was arrested in early March after three fires in a two-week time period. Nobody was injured in the fires, but one damaged a two-story home off Walnut Grove Road.

Brian Schneider

Schneider is charged with two counts of arson of property and one count of arson of a structure, with an enhancement alleging that he used a device to accelerate the fire or delay ignition, according to San Joaquin County court records.

Under California law, the maximum punishment for arson of a structure is six years, and the enhancement carries as much as five additional years.

Schneider allegedly admitted during an interview with San Joaquin County Sheriff's detectives that he set the fires.

In addition to the home, a recreation vehicle burned near Thornton and Kile roads, and a storage shed was burned just behind the Thornton fire station, according to investigators.

Schneider, who had been working part-time with the department for about a year, was placed on unpaid administrative leave, Fire Chief Vince Tafuri said at the time of Schneider's arrest. Tafuri declined to comment on Schneider's current status Tuesday.

Schneider, who was released on $130,000 bail the day of his arrest, could not be reached for comment.

Inmate escapes from Honor Farm

San Joaquin County Sheriff's deputies were searching Tuesday for an inmate who walked away from the Honor Farm in French Camp.

Bariki Jamal Wiltz, 25, of Stockton, was found missing when jail officials conducted a count at 5 a.m. Tuesday, according to a Sheriff's report.

Wiltz had originally been arrested by Stockton Police and was sentenced to serve jail time for possession of a controlled substance and petty theft with a prior conviction.

Anyone with information on Wiltz's location is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at 468-4500.

Churches hope to expand

Churches in south Lodi and Morada, hoping to expand their property, will be on Thursday's San Joaquin County Planning Commission agenda.

Bear Creek Community Church on Lower Sacramento Road requests a two-year extension to complete the second phase of its project because of the higher cost of steel. The county's permit to complete the second phase expired on March 11.

Bear Creek owns almost 7 acres, but hopes to add another 10 acres. Plans call for gardens, recreation, a 2,000 seat worship center with high-quality sound, lighting and multi-media for enhancement of the arts, a prayer and healing center, an outdoor amphitheater and a cafe.

In Morada, St. Michael's Catholic Church on Ashley Lane has requested a county use permit to build a 5,480-square-foot building for office space and meeting rooms.

Thursday's Planning Commission meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Public Health/Planning Auditorium, 1601 E. Hazelton Ave., Stockton.

Privatization fight heads back to county court

STOCKTON -- A legal dispute over privatization of Stockton's sewage and water operations heads back to San Joaquin County Superior Court after a state appeals court dismissed an effort by a citizens group to halt the project.

The Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton sought to overturn Judge Bob McNatt's decision that undid one of his previous rulings on the issue.

McNatt ruled in January 2004 that the 20-year, $175 million contract violated state law because the city failed to study the environmental impacts of handing over city operations to OMI-Thames, a private firm. The decision was a win for Concerned Citizens, which has been fighting the privatization deal.

But a few months later, McNatt vacated his own ruling, saying city attorneys found a state law that "escaped notice in earlier briefing" but that may change the outcome of the case.

McNatt, Lodi's former city attorney, granted the city's request for a new hearing on whether the law exempts the water privatization deal from environmental review.

Concerned Citizens sought relief from the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which rejected the motion Monday and sent the case back to San Joaquin County.

In January, Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a court document in support of Concerned Citizens, asking that the water-privatization contract be set aside until it receives a proper environmental review.

Man killed after being subdued by police taser

DELHI -- A Merced County man is dead after authorities attempted to subdue him with a Taser over the weekend, police said.

An autopsy was set for Tuesday to determine if the electric jolt from a Livingston police officer's Taser killed James Floyd Wathan Jr. while being subdued by authorities Sunday night.

Wathan, 32, was declared dead at his parent's home after the altercation with law enforcement officers, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said.

Authorities were called to the home by Wathan's father, although it was not immediately clear why.

"He was just annoying my dad," said Wathan's sister, Debra Baucom, explaining that he was tired and wanted to go to bed. "He didn't call the cops because my brother was irate."

Wathan lived in a trailer behind the family home.

Upon arrival, sheriff's deputies learned that Wathan was had a felony warrant for investigation of giving false identification and four misdemeanor warrants on drug and alcohol charges.

Pazin said Wathan was "already agitated (but) became combative" when deputies tried to arrest him on the warrants. Eventually, deputies called in the Livingston Police Department and California Highway Patrol.

One Livingtson police officer and three sheriff's deputies are on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

Jury convicts Washington man of killing Red Bluff police officer

COLUSA -- A Colusa County jury deliberated just 35 minutes Tuesday before convicting a Washington man of ambushing and killing a Red Bluff policeman in Nov. 2002.

Andrew Hampton Mickel, 26, of Olympia, Wash. had admitted to the killing during the trial.

Mickel, who acted as his own attorney, told jurors before they began deliberations that "you would have to be fools to find me innocent. I would find me guilty."

Mickel said on the first day of the two-week trial that he shot and killed officer David Mobilio, 31, while the patrolman refueled a police cruiser at a Red Bluff gasoline station.

Mickel, also known as Andrew McCrae, said after the murder that he shot Mobilio to make a political statement against police brutality, but a Colusa County judge refused to allow him to use it as a defense. Mickel had also claimed corporate immunity from prosecution because he formed a corporation named "Proud and Insolent Youth."

The trial's penalty phase begins Wednesday.

Tehama County prosecutors said they are seeking the death penalty.

2 shot; SUV hits SMUD pole, cuts power

SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento police are following leads on a Sunday night shooting that hit at least two men inside an SUV and sent the driver careening into a SMUD pole that toppled and cut off power to about 10,000 homes in the Pocket and Greenhaven areas, officials said.

Sacramento Police Sgt. Justin Risley said no one offered a description of the gunman, and the fracas may have been tied to drugs.

At about 6:20 p.m. Sunday, several men were sitting in a Chevy Blazer near a park south of Meadowview Road and Amherst Street, Risley said. A man approached and began to talk to one of the passengers. "Then the driver guns it, takes off," Risley said. "Next thing you know, they think they're being chased."

Someone apparently behind the Blazer fired multiple shots. No witnesses have come forward.

The SUV's driver sped north on Amherst into the intersection at Meadowview Road, hitting a white Chevrolet, rolling over and knocking down a power pole. Several men ran from the Blazer. Two of them, Kenneth and Dennis Lomack, persuaded a woman in a nearby neighborhood to drive them to a family member's house, where they called for medical aid for bullet wounds.

Another man, Joseph Deonte Elmore, who told fire personnel at the scene that he was a pedestrian, was found to be in serious condition. Another witness said Elmore had been in the SUV, Risley said.

Uncle arrested in death of baby

SACRAMENTO -- The uncle of a 7-month-old baby, who died of a skull fracture last weekend, was arrested early Monday on homicide charges after investigators questioned discrepancies in his description of the events that led to the baby's injuries.

Roberto Garcia, 25, had been watching the infant at his Natomas home from Friday night to Saturday afternoon, when he told an emergency fire dispatcher that the child, Miguel Angel Mendez, was not breathing and that he was administering CPR, according to Sacramento Police Sgt. Justin Risley.

Garcia is the brother-in-law of the baby's mother.

Investigators said Garcia initially said the baby went into convulsions without incident, and later modified his statement to say he may have dropped the baby while bathing him.

"We're not sure what transpired, but we believe that some form of physical force led to the injury," Risley said. "He said he dropped the baby and none of that is consistent with the overall injury pattern on the child."

Sacramento Fire Department paramedics called police when the severity of the baby's injuries didn't match the uncle's story, Risley said.

In addition to the fractured skull, the infant had bruising over his arms and legs, which had not been there before his mother dropped him off at the aunt and uncle's home on Dreamy Way about 8 p.m. Friday. The baby's aunt went to work at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, leaving him in the care of his uncle, Risley said.

Detectives interviewed the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Garcia on Saturday, but didn't arrest him then because they wanted to talk to others who had seen the baby's condition before his 20-year-old mother dropped him off there.

Doctors at Sutter General Hospital said the baby's condition was grave when he arrived, and he died Sunday after being transferred to Sutter Memorial Hospital, where he was taken off life-support systems, Risley said.

Coroner says Ceres Marine shot 11 times

CERES -- Autopsy results released Monday reveal that 11 gunshot wounds from three police officers killed Andres Raya late Jan. 9, three hours after he shot two Ceres police officers -- killing one.

The autopsy by the Stanislaus County coroner's office also showed the 19-year-old U.S. Marine was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the shootings.

According to the toxicology results, Raya had cocaine in his bloodstream and a "potentially toxic" level of benzoylecgonine, a chemical formed as the body breaks down cocaine.

But Monday night, Raya's father said the autopsy report doesn't answer many of the questions that linger with his family.

"Questions we have is, if our son had the chance to live, if he could have been brought to justice, if he really had a firearm (when he encountered police in the alley)."

Raya's uncle, Raul Raya, said the family heard some accounts that police shot Raya 40 to 50 times. The family continues to contest investigators' conclusion that Raya, a Marine lance corporal home for the weekend, had longtime ties to the Norteño gang, and that these ties influenced him to lash out at police.

"When he came home, he didn't come home OK from over there," Tomas Raya said regarding Raya's seven-month tour of duty in Iraq. "He was just a kid who liked to hang around with friends and liked to play and have fun and whatever. Something happened in his head, God only knows what happened over there."

Councilman accused of drug possession pleads innocent, fires attorney

SACRAMENTO -- Fairfield city councilman John English fired his attorney and pleaded innocent Monday to possessing drugs.

English, 53, was arrested on New Year's Eve at the Sacramento International Airport after security officers found methamphetamine and a pair of glass pipes in his bags.

English said the drugs belonged to his nephew.

English told Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette he wanted to act as his own lawyer.

Marlette warned English his decision was "generally not wise" and that he "could not imagine any situation where it was better to be without an attorney than with an attorney."

If convicted, English could face up to three years in prison on the felony drug charge, plus another year if convicted of the misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia.

English said his nephew hid the drugs in English's shoes in a closet and English later packed the shoes for a trip to Washington, D.C.

The nephew initially confirmed English's version of events but last month recanted, saying the drugs and paraphernalia were not his.

English is scheduled to return to court April 21.

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