Odds and ends: Palo Alto saw stripping robbers and mysterious mailings this year


There was the news, and then there were other things that happened in and around Palo Alto this year. For a review of the some of 2014's mishaps and misdemeanors, read on.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENTS ... Minutes after she reportedly robbed a Wells Fargo Bank on California Avenue on Sept. 3, Joyce Rodriguez stumbled upon a novel way to thwart Palo Alto police: shedding her clothes and dumping them into a nearby parking lot. Spoiler alert: It didn't work. The sight of the 20-year-old San Francisco resident walking down a quiet College Terrace street in her bra and jeans aroused suspicions and led officers to arrest her just minutes after the robbery occurred. It also didn't take long for the police to find her pile of clothes, along with a wig she allegedly wore during the robbery, and to arrest her on charges of felony robbery, felony burglary, destruction of evidence and an outstanding warrant for prostitution. Discretion also wasn't a strong suit for Ryan Goodson, who in February led police on a wild and violent chase through downtown Palo Alto after a resident spotted Goodson in his backyard. The 34-year-old Fresno resident began his Feb. 6 rampage by climbing backyard fences in Downtown North. He then proceeded to University Avenue, where he smashed through the window of Da Hookah Spot in a less-than-subtle burglary attempt. When officers caught up with him, he did not go down quietly. During the chase and the fight that ensued, Goodson reportedly bit an officer on the shoulder, ripped off the officer's gun and tried to pull the trigger. Fortunately, the amped-up felon couldn't remove the Glock 22 from its holster, and the weapon would not fire. After two more officers joined the struggle, Goodson was buzzed with a Taser, restrained with a leg-immobilization device, taken to a local hospital and ultimately booked at the Santa Clara County Main Jail and charged with taking a peace officer's firearm, resisting arrest with violence, brandishing a deadly weapon while resisting and battery on a peace officer with injury.

OH NO YOU DIDN'T! ... Under the heading of "Things you can no longer do ..." come three new Palo Alto ordinances. Feeding ducks and squirrels at the local duck pond in the Baylands used to be a popular pastime. Now, it's a crime. This June, the city banned people from feeding wildlife and feral animals in city parks and open space, attaching a $250 fine to the offense. The move was prompted by hungry animals, accustomed to the generosity of humans, who were said to be getting aggressive, stealing food from golf carts, biting people at Mitchell Park and intimidating hikers at Pearson-Arastradero Preserve. Meanwhile, with the drought continuing, Palo Alto also banned use of potable water to wash sidewalks and to make fountains splash — although, the penalties that come with it make the bans seem a tad more like suggestions: The first violation will result in a door hanger or an educational email or phone call; the second violation will bring the same "punishment"; and the third will net a letter from the Utilities Department warning of a potential future fine of up to $100, which would then actually be issued upon the fourth violation. Speaking of bad habits, smokers now have even fewer places where they can take a puff. This month, Palo Alto continued its crusade against cigarette smoke by expanding its existing ban to commercial districts, such as Stanford Shopping Center, Town & Country Village, downtown and California Avenue, and "neighborhood commercial" sites such as Alma Village. Smoking is now prohibited at all publicly owned sidewalks, alleys, parking areas, public places, outdoor dining areas and service areas in these districts. The one exception: e-cigarettes, which the City Council will discuss at a later date.

MISHAPS ... Sometimes things just don't go as well as they should have. Early on the morning of April 6, an intoxicated East Palo Alto man literally and figuratively shot himself in the foot. The 20-year-old injured himself with a handgun in the 2200 block of Terra Villa Avenue shortly after 7 a.m., was taken to a local hospital to be treated for the wound — and then admitted to police what happened, said Sgt. Jeff Liu. He was booked into San Mateo County Jail for negligent discharge of a firearm, a misdemeanor. Well, at least he was honest. And also in April, someone lost some weed, and not the dandelion kind. A Palo Alto medical office received an unexpected USPS delivery with four pounds of marijuana hiding inside. The receptionist at One Medical Group at 590 Forest Ave. promptly called police, who later said the box had been mailed from a Palo Alto post office to an address for a vacant house in Chicago. It was then sent to the return address — One Medical's — which the sender had presumably chosen randomly. We're guessing no one stepped forward to claim it.

OF WAX AND MEN ... Hometown boys Jeremy Lin and James Franco returned for visits this year. Actor Franco, most recently of "The Interview" fame, used his alma mater, Palo Alto High School, as a canvas this fall by hand-painting two black-and-white murals on the outside walls of Paly's student center and hanging his art in the library and new Media Arts Center. Franco had plenty of company while he painted, with adoring teen girls hanging on his every brushstroke. And NBA point guard Jeremy Lin got perhaps one of his most memorable gifts ever just two days before his 26th birthday: a life-size wax figure of himself, which was unveiled in August at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Lin, joined by his mother and other relatives, admired the 6-foot-3-inch-tall statue of himself frozen in mid-air, dunking an invisible basketball into a net and sporting a purple and yellow jersey. "I think it's awesome; it's a little too real," Lin joked.

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Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

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