News Digest | March 16, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 16, 2012

News Digest

Car flips into parking garage, hits Mercedes

A car that slid on a rain-slicked road fell into the Birch Street garage near California Avenue and crashed into a new Mercedes Benz Wednesday morning, March 14. The driver of the Toyota was trapped in her vehicle, Palo Alto Fire Battalion Chief Chris Woodard said.

A woman in her 70s driving a light-colored older-model Toyota Corolla was negotiating the turn from Oregon Expressway around 11 a.m. when her vehicle skidded on the curve, Palo Alto police said. The car struck two yellow road signs in the median before swerving across the roadway and plunging through the shrubbery and over the below-street-level garage wall.

Police said the parked car, a black Mercedes, broke the Toyota's fall and prevented it from flipping onto its roof. The driver of the Toyota was not injured and no one was in the Mercedes.

Woodard said the rear wheels of the Toyota rested on the brick retaining wall, and the nose of the car had gone into the windshield of the Mercedes. The roof of the parked car was observed to be mashed down nearly to the top of the door on the passenger side.

Palo Alto fire and emergency personnel blocked the entrance to Birch from Oregon Expressway while the Toyota was lifted back up to the road. The vehicle was secured with chains and a rope and the driver was extricated with a ladder. Damage totals are unknown, but one vehicle was a total loss, Woodard said.

It is the second time a vehicle has plunged into the partially sunken garage in three months, and the structure's property manager wants the city to do something about the hazard. Hensel Troche, the garage property manager, said there have been six crashes in the six years he has worked there.

"The city should be asked to get a railing or something," he said.

On Dec. 29, 2011, a Ford Mustang skidded on the wet roadway and plunged several feet into the same section of the garage, landing on its roof.

Man robs Jack in the Box with handwritten note

A man robbed a Jack in the Box restaurant on the corner of El Camino Real and Cambridge Avenue using a handwritten note Wednesday night, March 14, Palo Alto police said.

Police said there were no injuries and no weapons used in the 7:55 p.m. robbery. The robber, who police describe as a white male in his 20s with blond hair and a thin build, approached the employee at the counter and gave him a handwritten note demanding money, according to police.

The employee complied and the suspect fled southbound on foot on El Camino Real. Police stated that the robber was wearing dark jeans and a black hooded sweater with red writing on the front. About $150 was stolen, police said.

Con man Simon Gann loose in Bay Area, police say

Good Samaritans beware: A traveling con man has returned to the Bay Area, and may be only too eager to help relieve you of your money and peace of mind, according to police.

Simon Gann, one of the notorious Gann twins, returned to the attention of Menlo Park police officer Felicia Byars after his parole date arrived. "Knowing what I know about him, I double-checked," she said.

Gann violated parole by departing for areas unknown, according to police, or at least unknown until people who had the misfortune of encountering the man under one of his well-worn aliases turned to Google and unearthed a trove of newspaper stories about his past activities.

He'd been sighted in Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Las Vegas, according to Byars, who started getting telephone calls. He was allegedly up to "the exact same thing."

"The exact same thing" for Gann usually involves posing as a math savant and business tycoon who just needs a helping hand to recover from losing his passport and wallet.

In December 2010 he admitted sweet-talking a Menlo Park woman into a relationship and out of approximately $1,900 by pretending to be a millionaire MIT graduate named "Saleem Dutante" who could count cards "like Rain Man," and pleaded no contest to multiple felony charges in San Mateo County Superior Court. He was sentenced to 16 months in state prison.

While it's nice to help someone out, Byars urged everyone to first make sure that the person asking for assistance really needs the help. Anyone with information about Gann's activities can call the Menlo Park police department at 650-330-6300 or email

— Sandy Brundage


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