RICHMOND

Chemical board to report on refinery fire

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will present and vote on adopting the latest report on its investigation into the 2012 fire at Richmond's Chevron refinery at a public meeting Wednesday in the City Council chamber.

The 6:30 p.m. meeting at 440 Civic Center Plaza will present the draft regulatory report, which CSB officials say recommends that California "develop and implement a step-by-step plan to establish a more rigorous safety management regulatory framework for petroleum refineries ..." that resembles those used in Europe.

The board will consider and vote on the report stemming from the Aug. 6, 2012, fire at the Chevron refinery that endangered 19 workers and sent more than 15,000 residents to the hospital seeking medical attention.

-- Robert Rogers, Staff

PLEASANTON

Tax fraud nets woman 27 months in prison

A Pleasanton woman was sentenced Monday to 27 months in prison for filing a series of fake tax returns and lying to a judge about receiving breast cancer treatment to achieve a more lenient sentence, attorneys said.

Denise LaShawn Reed, 45, pleaded guilty to one of 14 counts of filing false claims to the Internal Revenue Service and received three years of supervised release in addition to her prison sentence, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said.


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Reed's sentence was extended after a judge discovered she had forged documents claiming proceedings would interfere with cancer treatment despite being free of the disease.

Prosecutors said that between January 2009 and February 2010, Reed filed 14 fraudulent income tax claims totaling $94,700 using a series of women's names that were not hers.

-- Erin Ivie, Staff

Antioch

Fire burns suspected marijuana grow house

Police seized nearly 1,000 marijuana plants and equipment used to cultivate them from a house that caught fire Tuesday night, authorities said.

Police took 960 plants from the two-story house in the 4500 block of Hidden Glen Drive after serving a search warrant on the home hours after fire crews put out the blaze, Antioch police Sgt. Tony Morefield said. The one-alarm fire began in a wall behind a fuse box about 9 p.m., and fire crews extinguished it within minutes, fire Inspector Steve Aubert of the Contra Costa Fire District said.

Police were called after firefighters found marijuana plants inside as well as other evidence of a grow operation, Aubert said. The damage to the house was limited to the wall where it began, Aubert said.

Nobody was injured.

Police were still investigating the case and did not reveal whether the house was occupied by residents or if it was abandoned. It was not yet known who owned the home.

Morefield said the house had a "large-scale" grow operation.

According to Aubert, the fire began in a wall behind a fuse box where wiring had been installed to bypass detection by any utility company. Investigators were trying to determine the cause, but Aubert said a wire may have sparked.

-- Rick Hurd, Staff

OAKLAND

Teen charged with New Year's Eve killing

A 17-year-old boy has been charged with murder and will be prosecuted as an adult in the fatal shooting on New Year's Eve of a 21-year-old woman in East Oakland, authorities said Tuesday.

Authorities said Dashawn Cooper is charged with killing Ashlee Walker, an Oakland college student and fast-food restaurant worker. She was shot while in a car with three other people who had stopped about 9:15 p.m. Dec. 31 in the 2000 block of 22nd Avenue.

Cooper is also charged with three counts of attempted murder because of the other people in the car, none of whom was wounded. Police said Cooper has denied being involved in the shooting.

Officer Rob Rosin said Cooper lived in the area and did not know any of the people in the car. He said police are still trying to determine a motive.

The three other people in the car -- two men and a woman who police said were all "hanging out" for New Year's Eve -- drove Walker to Highland Hospital, where she died.

Rosin said witnesses were found after the shooting and helped identify Cooper as the suspect. He was arrested Thursday night near his home. He is being held at Juvenile Hall in San Leandro.

Walker's death was the 92nd and last homicide of 2013.

-- Harry Harris, Staff

Vallejo

Solano County records 1st flu death of season

A Vallejo man is the first reported influenza-associated death this season in Solano County, officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

The victim, in his 40s, had chronic medical conditions that put him at risk for severe illness, said Dr. Bela T. Matyas, Solano County health officer and Social Services deputy director, in a news release.

The Vallejo man's death, related to H1N1, also known as the swine flu, is the 18th flu-related death reported in the nine Bay Area counties and Santa Cruz County.

Additionally, 10 other people younger than 65 have been hospitalized in Solano County as a result of the flu.

-- (Vallejo) Times-Herald

VACAVILLE

Pastor arrested in home arson case

A Vacaville pastor has been arrested on suspicion of arson after someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a local residence last week.

Mark Lewis, 39, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, was arrested along with three other people on suspicion of arson of an occupied home on Chateau Circle. Police said one of the occupants of the home has an active restraining order against Lewis.

Lewis had also been named as a suspect in four other incidents of harassment and vandalism against the victim since Christmas. In one incident, bushes in front of the victim's home were set on fire.

In the most recent incident, Vacaville police received a 911 call at 3:30 a.m. Thursday from someone inside a residence on Chateau Circle who said a Molotov cocktail had been thrown into their home.

Police said no one was injured and that damage to the home was minor, as the residents were able to put out the fire before firefighters and police officers arrived. Six people, including three children, were asleep inside the residence at the time of the incident, police said.

-- The (Vacaville) Reporter

Hercules

Community holding King holiday program

A breakfast and program honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 20 at Hercules Middle & High School, 1900 Refugio Valley Road.

The second annual Fulfilling His Dream event will feature food, music, performances and special guest speakers.

Sponsors include La Strada Restaurant, Richmond Sanitary Service and the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

-- Chris Treadway, Staff

OAKLAND

Suspects in assault of elderly man sought

Police are investigating an assault on Christmas Eve involving an 82-year-old man who was found near Oakland High School with multiple facial injuries and broken ribs.

The victim, Phuc Pham, was found about 11:30 p.m. Dec. 24 near the intersection of Park Boulevard and East 28th Street, police said.

Investigators believe he was assaulted in the area of Ninth Avenue and East 28th Street and was able to make it to where he was found before collapsing.

-- Harry Harris, Staff