Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 16, 2011

News Digest

East Palo Alto police investigate shootings

Police are investigating the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man and the shooting of another in East Palo Alto Wednesday (Dec. 14), a police spokeswoman said. The San Mateo County Coroner's Office has identified the victim as East Palo Alto resident Brandon Bradford.

Officers were dispatched to the 2400 block of Gonzaga Street after the city's ShotSpotter system detected possible gunfire in that area at about 11:50 a.m., East Palo Alto police Officer Veronica Barries said.

Arriving officers found Bradford, who had been shot multiple times, Barries said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A second man was also shot Wednesday. Tywaun Livingston, 18, of East Palo Alto, suffered a gunshot wound to his torso.

Livingston was walking with a friend in the 100 block of Verbena Drive when an unidentified suspect fired upon them. Livingston found a friend to transport him to the hospital.

The East Palo Alto Police Department is looking into the possibility that both shootings might be related. Both Bradford and Livingston played football for the Palo Alto Knights Pop Warner team in the mid-2000s.

Anyone with information regarding either crime can contact the East Palo Alto Police Department anonymously by emailing epa@tipnow.org or call or text-a-tip to 650-409-6792.

-- Palo Alto Online staff (with Bay City News) Police release sketch in attempted robberies, burglary

Palo Alto police are investigating two attempted street robberies and one residential burglary that occurred in the north end of the city last Saturday morning (Dec. 10).

Police released a sketch of the man believed to be responsible for the crimes Thursday.

No one was injured in any of the events, which occurred on Waverley Street, Tasso Street and Walter Hays Drive. Officers said they believe the same person likely committed the three crimes.

The first attempted robbery occurred in the 300 block of Waverley about 10:10 a.m. A man on a bicycle approached a female pedestrian in her 50s and, in Spanish, demanded money. When she refused, he gestured toward his waistband and said, in Spanish, that he had a gun.

No weapon was seen or displayed. The victim again refused to give him money and he rode away.

The second attempted robbery occurred about 10:25 a.m. in the 1900 block of Tasso. The suspect rode a bicycle up behind a 14-year-old male pedestrian who was carrying an iPod. The suspect said "hi" in Spanish, causing the boy to turn around. The suspect tried to grab the iPod, but the victim held onto it and ran away. No weapon was seen or displayed.

The residential burglary occurred at 10:40 a.m. in the 100 block of Walter Hays. A neighbor observed the suspect ride a bicycle into the driveway of the victim's residence, enter through the open garage door, steal a bicycle from the garage and ride away, leaving the old bicycle behind.

The description of the suspect was similar in all three events.

Victims and the witness described him as a Hispanic male in his 40s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a thin build. He was last seen on a stolen gray 21-speed Marin mountain bike.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Palo Alto Police 24-hour Dispatch Center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips may be e-mailed to paloalto@tipnow.org.

-- Chris Kenrick Walgreens arsonist committed to psych facility

Nearly two years after his conviction for burning down the Walgreens building on University Avenue, Donald Ray Williams was finally committed to a federal psychiatric facility, a federal prosecutor said on Friday (Dec. 9).

Williams, 48, of East Palo Alto, was convicted of arson by a jury in Jan. 29, 2009, of setting the July 1, 2007, fire that destroyed the 1903 structure at the corner of Bryant Street and University Avenue, but his sentencing had been put off innumerable times because of his psychiatric condition, according to court documents.

Williams has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and had not been taking his medications to control the disease.

Williams' attorney, Susan Steiger Dondershine, on Feb. 4, 2010, asked U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel to throw out the jury verdict, maintaining that Williams was incompetent during the 2008-09 trial and never received a psychiatric evaluation despite a 20-year history of severe mental illness.

Fogel in 2010 admitted that Williams had outbursts during court and was obviously mentally ill. But "lots of people have mental illness but are not incompetent," he said.

Dondershine tried but failed to get the conviction overturned prior to sentencing. Fogel said in a report by a defense psychiatric expert, Dr. Arturo Silva, was compelling enough to open an inquiry into Williams' mental incompetence during the trial but maintained that procedurally the time for such inquiry would come after sentencing and not before.

Williams could be placed in a federal prison to serve out his 20-year sentence if in the future he is no longer mentally ill, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Fry said.

-- Sue Dremann

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