Category: Stories

The 13 weirdest Bay Area crime stories of 2013 – Gallery

See the full story on - Ah, the Bay Area. Weird and dirty, strange and exotic. It’s a place so quirky that we explain things away with a shrug and the phrase, “Ah, San Francisco.” The Chronicle’s reporters encounter so many bizarre tales each year. We compiled 13 of the strangest in this year-end gallery.


Whatever Happened To Manners?


Webster’s definition of manners:

Etiquette, Decorum, Refinement, Good Manners, Polite ways of social behavior.

I was on patrol the other day when I saw three teens crossing the street. Actually, they were jaywalking but what caught my attention was that two of them were eating from a fast food bag and dropping the wrappers in the street as they walked. I stopped next to them and asked them if they dropped something. After a few replies of “huh?, I asked them how they would like it if I went to their house and threw a bunch of garbage and wrappers in their yard and their reply was “this ain’t nobody’s yard”. I felt like asking them if their mama ever taught them any manners but from the looks of how these rebel teens acted, I already knew the answer.

I told them I didn’t appreciate them throwing their garbage down in my city and I made them walk back in the street to pick up the wrappers. The only real satisfaction I got was that there was a slight breeze blowing and the wrappers were now some distance away and still blowing away. I sat and watched as the teens chased the wrappers down the street and returned with them in their hands. They also had quite a mad and embarrassed look on their faces. Not embarrassed that it was wrong to litter, but embarrassed that I caught them and made them chase down the wrappers in front of commute traffic. I told them to find the nearest garbage can or wait until they got home to throw away their garbage. I’m sure the minute they went around the corner they threw their garbage down again and gave me a few hand gestures, but I had made my point to them, at least for the moment.

Yesterday I was driving down an industrial road and saw two teens on the sidewalk. One was walking and the other had a shoe off and was hopping on one leg. A forklift was stuck against a nearby curb in the middle of nowhere, away from any businesses. The forklift’s location told the whole story even before I contacted the teens. The kids lied at first telling me they had nothing to do with the forklift. After finding the key to the forklift in one of the kid’s pockets, they continued the lie with how they found the forklift in the street and tried to move it so no one would hit it.

After an area check, I quickly found the owner of the forklift and a witness who saw the kids spinning “donuts” in the street with the forklift. Turns out the kids stole the forklift from a business a ¼ mile away and drove it around until they hit the curb and broke one of the wheels. The teen that was hopping either got his foot caught in-between the wheel and curb or got it run over by the forklift. He was in great pain with a rapidly swelling and purple foot. While the kid’s father was in route to my location to take him to the hospital, I spoke with both teens that were 12 & 13 years old.

Neither teen had any remorse for stealing and damaging the forklift. Neither teen realized that they had committed a serious crime. Neither teen realized how seriously they could have been hurt, or even killed. The owner of the forklift said that he was shocked that the kids didn’t flip the forklift over the way they were driving it. Turns out that the teens were the same ones who caused over $6000 damage to a local school during a late night vandalism spree just one month earlier. The teens broke over 100 windows, set off fire extinguishers and ruined computers.

How is it that kids can do something like steal a forklift or car, vandalize property or throw down their garbage in public without thinking that they did anything wrong? It’s called manners and respect, something that a lot of kids lack today. I asked one of the teens that had stolen the forklift what he wanted to do when he grew up and he said nothing. I pressured him and asked him what he wanted to be doing 10 years from now and he finally said he really wanted to be a photographer.

This kid actually has a dream but no one knows about it due to non-caring parents at home. Instead of pursuing his dream, he’s out stealing things and ruining other people’s property. The irresponsible parents should be encouraging and helping their child pursue his dream. After meeting mom, It was obvious that she couldn’t care less about her son’s dream. She was too busy figuring out where her next high was going to come from.

I remember when I first moved into a new house with my family. A beautiful, quiet, peaceful neighborhood. Then the new high school opened up nearby and what a change when school let out. Kids throwing down garbage as they walked across the street, teens not obeying traffic lights, thinking all cars should stop for them as they shuffle slowly across the street against a red light. And one thing that really pissed me off was seeing some punk throwing glass bottles up in the air and breaking them on a brand new walking trail.

Many of these kids don’t live in the neighborhood. These are kids from other neighborhoods (often low income or run down neighborhoods) that take buses to go to “a nice school” Some are even from different cities that use a relatives address so they can to go to a new up-to-date facility. These are the same kids who ruin the school and neighborhood with their lack of respect attitude. The bus stops are full of loud disrespectful teens throwing down garbage and breaking bottles even though a garbage can is 5 feet from them. After 4 PM and on weekends after the disrespectful punks have gone home, the neighborhood is back to the quiet peaceful place it was. I’m sure I sound bitter and that’s because I am. If parents taught their children respect and manners, the world would be a much safer and enjoyable place.

I’m not going to go into gangs or teen violence here, I’m sure if you look through the archives you’ll find stories me or Jim wrote regarding those topics. But it all starts at home. I see parents throw a garbage bag out of a car window at a stoplight with kids in the back seat. How is a kid going to know that it is wrong if mom and dad do it? What I’m talking about here is the basics. Respect for other people, other people’s property, and manners.

I get in a coffee shop drive-thru line and I see a group of teens sitting at a table. One is carving something into the wooden table with a knife, another is spitting on other chairs, and the whole group is swearing and talking about their sexual escapades with girls at school. All this in front of moms with kids in the drive-thru line and customers walking by. What happened to manners? Yes, kids can be kids, but they should have some respect for others around them. When I was that age, I never would have sworn in front of a stranger or littered in front of someone. I had respect for adults, authority and other people’s property. That’s what I was taught at home.

Kids of today seem to lack respect for themselves, lack of respect for others and lack of respect for other people’s property. Kids of today seem to think nothing of telling a cop to fuc* off, steal from their neighbors or trash someone’s property. When I grew up, most kids had a two-parent household and got their butts whooped if they got out of line. That generated respect for authority and a fear of doing wrong. Something kids of today lack.

Someone needs to take responsibility. Parents, grandparents, somebody. Someone needs to teach the kids of today some manners. Someone needs to teach the kids of today some type of respect. If not, the world will only get worse and there’s no one to blame but irresponsible parents who are raising (or abandoning) irresponsible kids.

I think it’s too late for some of the teens of today but let’s start now with the young ones, or our grandkids. Let’s try to instill a little respect and pride for the community while the kids are young, and maybe one day there might be another Mayberry that we can all enjoy.

What you need to know about “The System”:

The Pro’s:

What I’m going to discuss here is the “Pro’s and Con’s” of the system.

The Pro’s would normally cover the prosecution or rather the good guys. The Con’s would normally describe the bad guys, the inmates, and the convicts. Unfortunately the roles can sometimes get interwoven and it can be difficult to figure out who’s who.

As stated before, I cannot possibly comment on the criminal justice systems outside of California. In fact, I can really only comment on the systems that are near the area that I work in. But most criminal justice systems consist of the same players. A criminal case going before the court system can almost be compared to a football game.

· The head referee is the “Judge”.

· The other referee’s and officials are the jury.

· The coach of the home team is the district attorney or their representative, the deputy D.A.

· The players on the home team are the victims of the case, witnesses, and the cops.

· The coach of the visiting team is the defense attorney or public defender.

· The players on the visiting team are the defendants in the case.

What occurs in the courtroom is just like what you watch on Sunday Football games.

There are good plays made, bad plays made cheap shots, dirty play, incredible strategies, and every now and then a “Hail-Mary” that can win the game.

Keep in mind how the coach of the team keeps his job. By winning games! The coach of a losing team isn’t going to benefit in the area of job longevity. On a similar note the district attorney is an elected official. The D.A is evaluated by the county government and by the voters, as to the number of “wins” the office scores. The DA is voted into office by YOU the voting public and that in itself gives you more power than you could possibly imagine. That gives YOU the power to decide who is going to coach your team.

Speaking along those lines, you as a defendant also have the power to control who represents you in your case. An attorney with a poor track record of winning cases isn’t going to be your first choice. A public defender with a non-caring or burnt out attitude that was assigned to you because you have no funds, is not going to help your case very much.

I’m not going to address private attorneys or public defenders here because as we all know there is no drastic shortage of them. The person I’m going to address is the one responsible for sending bad people to jail. The coach of your team. The DA.

Before I got into law enforcement I paid little, if any attention to the people who were running for the office of district attorney. I had the mindset that the person in office was probably doing a good job and that they would have the best experience and background for doing the job because they’ve already been doing it. If you share that line of thinking as I did, you will need to change that thought!

The wrong person in the wrong office can make all the difference in the world as to how criminal prosecutions are handled in your county! Good, bad, or indifferent.

There are district attorneys that do an outstanding job. They have a “Zero Tolerance” approach to the job and I respect their outlook towards their objectives. If someone is guilty of a crime they charge for that crime and go after it. One hundred percent! Their passion is going after someone that wronged someone else, and their motivation is to do “what’s right”.

The case has to be correctly presented to the DA’s office for prosecution, and any deficiencies on the part of the police are evaluated. If it’s a solid case they take it. If there were mistakes made they immediately say “Hey, you guys blew this one, our hands are tied. Learn from it and bring us a solid case next time.”

No Bull crap. Right to the point. They aren’t going to waste taxpayers money in court by going after a weak case hoping for a “plea bargain” that will give them a “win” on paper.

On the opposite side of the coin, there are some DA’s that demonstrate questionable motives and ethics. These traits and expectations are passed down to the “Deputy DA’s” in the courtroom. Win cases at any expense and make me look good, or you won’t be employed in this office very long. It’s all about winning cases and having a good track record on paper.

They get to the point where they don’t really care what the particulars of the case are, or who got victimized. They only care about the end result on paper. The “stats” at the end of the year. The ammunition that they can take out to the voters by means of saying “Hey, I’ve got a 99 percent closure rate of guilty verdicts and I’m doing a great job for you!”

What you need to know, is how many of those serious “felony” cases were reduced down to a petty “misdemeanor” on a plea bargain. A reduction that will result in little or no jail time for the defendant. A reduction that will usually result in the defendant getting “probation” that he or she will violate in the next month or two.

The problem with this, is that the bad guy goes out and commits a felony with the mindset “No big deal if I get busted, I’ll “cop a plea” and get a slap on the wrist.” And the bad guy is right! And the bad guy tells his friends, and those friends tell other friends, and soon you have a whole lot of people running around with NO incentive to not commit serious crimes because they have learned how to “work the system.”

I’m not going to name names, but I’ll say this. I have worked with a number of outstanding deputy district attorneys who make me proud to be in law enforcement. They are a total credit to their profession and to you the taxpayers. They have been around the block a time or two and they believe in standing up for right over wrong, even if it goes beyond the political aspirations of their boss, the “head coach”.

I will always remember one of the first deputy DA’s that I worked with on a court case. He called me several days before the court date to discuss the case. On the date of the preliminary hearing he called me in an hour early to again discuss the case. During the preliminary hearing the case was so strong that the public defender offered the deputy DA a “plea”. Her defendant would plead guilty to a misdemeanor violation with credit for “time served” (no jail time) and limited terms of probation.

At what point did Society “Cross The Line”?

At what point did Society “Cross The Line”?

I’ve been a cop for over 20 years, and I’m sure Jim will agree with me, we’ve all seen crime trends come and go. Burglaries, identity theft, drugs, weapons violations, vehicle thefts, forgery, criminals are always looking for better, faster and less detectable ways of committing crimes. But there’s a new trend that seems to be growing and it has me worried along with most other law enforcement officers. And it should worry you too. What is this trend? Guns in the hands of young people who have no regard for life. There’s always been teens and guns which occasionally mixed but in the past, guns were not used as frequently or with such disregard for life as in today’s society.

Last night there was a local shooting at a 3-yr-olds birthday party. A large family birthday party was going on with people behind a mostly closed garage door and a few scattered on the porch. Two subjects walked up, one with a red hat on, and opened fire spraying the porch and garage with gunfire. In the end, 4 people were shot including a 9-yr-old girl. When these two thugs opened fire, they had NO IDEA where those bullets were going to go. They shot through a partially closed door knowing people were behind the door. They didn’t care a 9-yr-old girl was shot. They wouldn’t have cared if a bullet went through 2 walls killing a sleeping baby in another room. They just don’t care. I’m thinking walking up to a large Hispanic party with a gun and a red hat on was an obvious sign of saying “I’m a Norteno” but hey, I’m just a cop with an opinion. Whether or not they saw someone they were targeting, it doesn’t matter. To endanger kids at a 3-yr-olds birthday party, that’s just insane.

At what point did society “cross the line” to where guns are being pulled out and used by so many young people nowadays? I believe a lot of the kids are de-sensitized by the violence in society today. The violent movies, songs, and especially the video games kids are playing today. The graphics are so realistic that these kids are shooting and stabbing real looking people on their video screens over and over and over, getting de-sensitized to death with each kill. Then they turn the game off, put a gun in their pocket and hit the streets. How do you think these kids are going to react when they get into a confrontation on the street? The same way they did playing the video game; pull a gun out and shoot.

As cops, we train until our tactics become “muscle memory”. At the range or in self defense class, we practice over and over until we react the same way automatically without having to think about it. When the whistle blows at the range, we draw out guns and shoot the target without even thinking about it, we train so much the action becomes automatic, muscle memory. Unfortunately, the youths of today are playing so many violent video games, killing people over and over, they are developing “muscle memory” on how they handle street conflicts; they pull out a gun and shoot.

But in real life there is no re-set button, no on-off switch, no extra lives. It seems the youths of today are confusing video game life with real life. How else can you explain teens opening fire at a kid’s birthday party just because they spotted a possible “rival” gang banger at the house? How do you explain the disregard for human life, for the carnage those bullets cause. This wasn’t a loser parolee pulling a gun to commit a robbery; these were young punks with guns and no sense. They don’t think about what happens if they get caught, the years they’ll have to spend in jail. Or if someone at the party recognized them and later sprays their house with gunfire killing their family or young siblings. Video games don’t have that reality check built in so these young kids don’t think about that.

I sound angry because I am. Why should a 9-yr-old girl have to experience a gunshot wound because someone wants to play gang banger? It’s a miracle no one was killed, that a baby or toddler at the party wasn’t zipped up in a coroner’s bag that night.

There have been several recent high profile incidents of innocent children being shot or killed by stray bullets from idiots shooting at each other. They usually miss each other and hit innocent people, including children. When did society “cross the line” to where people are so de-sensitized that they shoot at each other in front of children or innocent people? De-sensitized to the point where these criminals and young thugs just don’t care if an innocent child gets struck by gunfire? Don’t these people have little brothers or sisters? Trouble is they don’t think of the consequences of their actions and they don’t have a conscience, two very dangerous things for someone with a gun in their hand.

Crime statistics rise and fall with the economy but I’ve seen a seen a huge increase in the number of guns carried by teens and young adults, and the number of shootings. Youths are shooting at each other for wearing the “wrong color”, for looking at each other “the wrong way”, for “disrespecting” them or their family, basically for nothing. It still shocks me to see these people gunned downed in the street because they had a red or blue hat on, or because they looked at someone and it was taken as a “mug”. Not only are today’s kids killing each other, but they are also wounding and killing innocent people.

When did society “cross the line” where the youths of today feel this is the norm, the way to respond to being disrespected, that this is the way to settle differences, that it’s OK to open fire at a kid’s birthday party. Each fired bullet doesn’t have a joystick control, no re-do, each fired bullet is on an unstoppable route with the potential to maim or kill. When did this become OK to today’s kids? Is it the way society presents itself today? Is it piss-poor parenting or lack of parenting? When did society “cross the line” to where this is happening so frequently. We really need to reverse this trend before it happens to you. But it probably won’t be a party at your house bringing the bullets; it will be the large youth party across the street or next door.

It’s a shame in today’s society where youths can’t have a large party without some kind of violence breaking out. When I was young we’d hunt down parties to go have fun at, sneak a beer, not to look for trouble. But most large youth parties nowadays more often than not end up with fights, stabbings or shootings. Neighbors houses struck by gunfire. Violent fights, stabbings, parents asking themselves “what went wrong”. Society is what went wrong. At some point, society gave these kids the idea that violence is cool, killing someone is OK, shooting into a crowded kids birthday party is the norm.

I’m all for gun rights and legal possession of guns, but parolees and kids carrying stolen guns don’t quite fit the term legal. And why do we have laws such as carrying brass knuckles is a felony but carrying a loaded concealed firearm is a misdemeanor? Which weapon really has the potential for more damage? We need to fix things, change laws, make the youths of today fear punishment or consequences.

If we don’t change something fast, this will soon be coming to a neighborhood near you!