Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 3, 2010

News Digest

Police arrest burglary suspect after manhunt

A reported burglary-in-progress in Palo Alto early Thursday morning (Sept. 2) has resulted in the arrest of one suspect and a continuing search for possibly others, according to Palo Alto police.

The manhunt involved three police agencies (Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Stanford), according to Palo Alto police spokesman Max Nielepko. Police are looking into a possible connection between the burglars and a home-invasion robbery of a 78-year-old man on Morris Drive on Aug. 27 and a July 3 burglary on the 1500 block of Hamilton Avenue, he said.

In the Hamilton Avenue case, burglars entered the home while a family of four slept and stole a 50-inch television, a camera, watch, cell phone and laptop computer, which they loaded into the family's Toyota Sienna mini-van and drove away.

Similarly, a man sleeping in his second-story bedroom on the 100 block of Waverley Street was awakened by noises downstairs at about 1:33 a.m. Thursday. The man's wife and children were also asleep in the home, Nielepko said.

The man called 911 and as police arrived, he still heard noises downstairs. A suspect ran from the residence and began jumping fences through neighboring yards, he said. Police set up a perimeter and searched for the suspect, who re-emerged a short time later and tried to walk out of the perimeter.

Police arrested Sergio Fuentas, 22, of East Palo Alto. He was booked into Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose on one count of burglary, one count of vehicle theft, one count of possession of stolen property — all felonies — and one count of probation violation for a prior burglary conviction in San Mateo County, Nielepko said.

If Fuentas is connected to the Hamilton Avenue and Morris Drive crimes, his arrest could be a breakthrough in a string of crimes that appear to be increasingly brazen and dangerous.

Mosque proposal in Palo Alto wins architectural OK

A Muslim group seeking to build a mosque on San Antonio Road has revised its plans for the proposed building in South Palo Alto.

The new mosque would be located at 998 San Antonio Road, across the street from the recently built Oshman Family Jewish Community Center. The building, an old church, has been used as a mosque by the organization Anjuman-E-Jamali for the past six years.

The group plans to demolish the existing building and construct a new 11,436-square-foot mosque with a prayer hall, a minaret, two residential units and a social hall.

The city's Architectural Review Board approved the project last year, but revisited it Thursday morning to review several modifications, including removal of an underground parking garage and reduced height in the social hall. The board unanimously approved the changes, though it asked the applicants to reconsider the material color for the new building.

Under the new design, the new building would still provide 44 parking spaces. With the garage eliminated, 12 of these spots would be transferred through a parking agreement to a neighboring property at 1000 San Antonio Road, an office building owned by Indian Muslim Charities.

According to the project architect, Abha Nehru of the Palo Alto firm Carrasco & Associates, the new changes also include an increase in height of the base flood elevation and addition of stone cladding on the prayer hall.

Board members on Thursday praised the project, which has been in the planning stages since 2008. Board member Judith Wasserman even suggested a new name for the portion of San Antonio where the mosque will be built.

"We should rename this piece of the street Brotherhood Way, like they have in San Francisco," Wasserman said.

Nearly 30 auto burglaries hit Palo Alto in 12 days

Nearly 30 automobiles have been broken into in Palo Alto since Aug. 16, prompting the Palo Alto Police Department to warn car owners about keeping valuables in plain sight.

Police are investigating 28 automobile break-ins that occurred between Aug. 16 and Aug. 27, primarily near downtown Palo Alto and the Stanford Shopping Center, police reported.

Most of the items taken during the 12-day period have been electronic products such as GPS devices, cell phones and laptop computers, police said.

A police statement warns people to "never leave valuables in vehicles" and that "any items left in plain view can be stolen by a thief in a matter of seconds."

Anyone who witnesses a break-in is urged to call 9-1-1 immediately. Suspicious activity can be reported through the department's 24-hour phone line at 650-329-2413.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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