Extra Police on Richmond Streets

October 25, 2007

By Nicholas Kusnetz

In anticipation of an escalating territorial conflict, the Richmond Police Department has extra officers on the street today, with several two-man cars patrolling the city’s south side.

The move comes a day after a 7-year-old boy was hit in a drive-by shooting and on the same day as the funeral of Ramona Price, 44, who was shot on Chanslor Avenue last week, also in a drive-by. The police fear emotions after the two events could fuel a larger conflict, said Lt. Mark Gagan.

“There’s going to be a very passionate response,” Gagan said.

Gagan did not directly associate the two shootings, but said there is a specific battle unfolding.

“It looks like Fifth and Chanslor is fighting with 20th and Chanslor,” he said.

The boy, who suffered a broken thigh, was shot on the 400 block of South 38th Street. He is in stable condition.


As The College Cycle Begins, Richmond Youth Fall Through the Cracks

October 24, 2007

By Anna McCarthy

For anyone thinking about going to college, now is the time to begin looking seriously for funding. Or so says the Foundation Center-San Francisco spokesperson Scott Ullman, who recently presented a workshop on finding money for college at the Richmond Public Library.

But few students enrolled in the Richmond public high schools are even considering college, let alone worrying about how to pay for it.

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Court Sets Hearing Date for the Diaz Brothers

October 24, 2007

Last Friday, the trial for two brothers charged with the murder of San Pablo man last year was set Friday for December 11, according to Judge John Sugiyama of the Contra Costa Municipal Court.

Rafael Diaz Valencia, 19, is charged with murdering 21-year-old Jose Cervantes on November 21, 2006. His brother, Hector Manuel Diaz, is charged as an accessory to the murder. Both face prison time, and Valencia may face the death penalty.

The brothers were arrested after their victim named Rafael Diaz as the man who shot him just before he died at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. San Pablo police arrested the suspects that same morning at their homes in Rodeo and Hercules, and they were taken into custody at the Martinez County Jail.

According to Contra Costa Times, at the time, the murder marked the sixth for San Pablo in 2006, which was the highest murder rate since 2003.

Working Against Gang Violence at Richmond High

October 20, 2007

By Nicholas Kusnetz

On a Friday afternoon, Gonzalo Rucobo walks the halls of Richmond High School, talking with students and keeping an eye out for trouble.  Rucobo, whose work brings him to both schools and San Quentin, is a gang intervention worker and the Northern California regional manager for the Amer-I-Can Program, a life-skills and development curriculum.

Richmond High is essentially divided in half: members of the Norteño gang, despite their name, stay on the south side of the building, while Sureños stay on the north, and mixing back and forth usually means trouble. But things are improving thanks in part to the work of Rucobo and his team, who first came to the school last year, said Dr. Orlando Ramos, the school’s principal.

“Our suspensions, our violent incidents, they went down 30 percent last year,”  Ramos said. “It was absolutely amazing. It was great work.”
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County District Attorneys Announce Strike

October 19, 2007

Contra Costa County’s district attorneys voted overwhelmingly in favor of going on a one-day strike to protest poor pay on Thursday night. The prosecutors are expected to strike in early November, though no date was set in order to avoid facing an injunction by the county, according to Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox, who is also the secretary of the District Attorney’s Association.

The association, which is in negotiations with the county on a three-year contract, has argued that they receive some of the lowest salaries in the Bay Area despite having to deal with a high crime rate. Contra Costa had the third highest number of homicides in the area in 2005, according to the California Department of Justice.

“We will continue our efforts to make the public aware of this crisis in public safety,” Knox said.
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Judge Finds Richmond Man Linked to Drug Ring at Preliminary Hearing

October 19, 2007

By Nicholas Kusnetz
Right before Earl Johnson, 37, was arrested last November, he had on his body about two ounces of cocaine salt, a gram of base, and an extended magazine of .45 caliber ammunition, which police saw him throw as he was being chased, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing. Johnson’s attorney, Colin Cooper, does not dispute these facts. At issue, though, is whether these items, especially the ammunition, connect Johnson to the cocaine base production and dealing operation at the safe house from which he ran as the police came that day.

In a preliminary hearing in Richmond on Wednesday, a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge decided that Johnson could stand trial in connection with the house and the operation, which was run by Johnson’s brothers Antione and Damien, among others. Johnson, who is charged with five drug and gun related felony counts, must now come before the court on Nov. 6 to enter a plea. Cooper said he plans to plead innocence.

“They’re punishing him for what was going on in that house, and it’s not his house,” Cooper said. Read the rest of this entry »

Panel Addresses Violence Prevention in Richmond, Finds Common Ground

October 18, 2007

Richmond Police Department’s Lt. Mark Gagan and community activist Tracy “Ptah” Mitchell talk about violence prevention.

By Anna McCarthy

Last July, Raequel Smith’s son, Colin Powell, 20, was shot and killed at South Third Street and Main in Richmond. Today, Smith joined a crowd of around 50 students, educators and community members at Contra Costa College to talk about why.

“People in this community are scared. They don’t trust the police, so even if they know who committed the crime, they don’t feel safe telling anyone,” said Smith.

Her son’s case is still under investigation.

Still, Smith understands that the high rates of violence in Richmond come from a host of issues that police can’t necessarily control.

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