orinda

Debris causes flat tires on Highway 24

About 20 cars were disabled with flat tires Friday morning after running over debris on Highway 24, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officers were called at 5:44 a.m. by a motorist on westbound Highway 24 at St. Stephens Drive who reported about 20 vehicles with flat tires, Officer Eric Anderson said.

The woman reported the flats were from debris in the roadway and asked for officers' assistance in changing the tires, Anderson said.

"I hit a big piece of metal in the road," said Tony King, of San Ramon, who was on his way to work in San Francisco. "It was a big chunk of metal; it was probably about 8 feet wide."

The impact threw his car into the air, and when he got out, oil, gas and coolant were leaking from the vehicle, King said.

Crews cleaned up the spill from that mishap, according to the CHP.

No injuries were reported.

-- Natalie Neysa Alund, Staff

CONCORD

District won't discuss molestation lawsuits

The law firm representing the Mt. Diablo school district said it will not comment on specific allegations in two lawsuits filed Tuesday related to suspected child molestation by a former Woodside Elementary School teacher.

The lawsuits allege several past and current employees and trustees failed to alert police or Child Protective Services about suspicions related to teacher Joseph Martin when they first came to light in 2005-06.

The law firm Meyers Nave said in a statement that it is legally prohibited from discussing any specific child, employee or incident related to the lawsuits, due to state and federal privacy laws. However, the district is taking the allegations seriously, is investigating the claims and is working with law enforcement agencies, according to the firm.

-- Theresa Harrington, Staff

Pleasanton

Two men resold stolen pesticides, police say

Pleasanton police have arrested two San Jose men on suspicion of stealing $15,000 worth of pesticides from a local company, then selling some of the chemicals on eBay.

On Wednesday, detectives from the Pleasanton Police Department served a search warrant on a home in San Jose, where they recovered pesticides they said had been stolen from Terminix Pest Control, based in Pleasanton, during recent commercial burglaries.

Arrested were Anthony Torres, 25, a former Terminix employee, and Nicolas Gil, 27, a current employee. Both men are San Jose residents. Torres was arrested at his home, and Gil was arrested while at work, just as he was arriving at an appointment.

According to police, the men began stealing pesticides from their employer last March and kept the product at a San Jose storage unit. This week, detectives located $15,000 worth of pesticides at the storage unit. Another $500 worth of pesticides were sold on eBay, police said.

Torres and Gil were booked at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin for burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary.

-- Karina Ioffee, Staff

Berkeley

Consortium seeks more faculty diversity

A new consortium of elite California universities hopes to increase the diversity of science and engineering faculty, starting with graduate students.

Led by UC Berkeley, the California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate -- which also includes UCLA, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University -- aims to encourage more minority students to complete their doctorates and find jobs in academia.

The project began with a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to bring more African-American, Latino, American Indian, Alaska Natives and Pacific Islander scholars into the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, generally termed the STEM fields.

A recent analysis by this newspaper showed that while student bodies have become more racially diverse, faculties are still largely white. At UC Berkeley, 77 percent of the faculty is white, compared to 28 percent of the students.

"As we become an increasingly diverse state and nation, this is a crisis," said Mark Richards, UC Berkeley's executive dean of the College of Letters and Science in a news release issued Friday.

"The participation of underrepresented minorities in academic STEM careers is especially important given the pivotal role that faculty members have as role models for future scientists and engineers."

-- Katy Murphy, Staff

Berkeley

Former instructor faces drug charge

A former UC Berkeley graduate student instructor has been charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance after police said he slipped a drug into a woman's drink and then sexually assaulted her.

Timothy Rodriguez, 40, was charged Friday by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. He was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of unlawful sexual penetration and possession of controlled substances. The District Attorney's Office, however, did not file sexual assault charges against him. A spokeswoman for the office declined to comment on the case, saying the investigation is ongoing.

UC Berkeley police said that on Jan. 25, Rodriguez met a 22-year-old college student at a bar near campus, where the two had drinks together. The woman reportedly left her drink unattended for a short period of time, then became intoxicated and ill after she returned, police said.

Rodriguez then took the woman to his home at University Village in Albany and assaulted her, police said. After his arrest Tuesday, he was jailed but posted $120,000 bail and was released.

-- Kristin J. Bender, Staff

Oakland

Protesters arrested at state office building

Eight people among a group protesting fatal police shootings were arrested Thursday night on trespassing charges by California Highway Patrol officers when they refused to leave the state office building after it closed, authorities said.

The eight men and women were part of a larger group trying to get state Attorney General Kamala Harris to open a criminal investigation into the fatal Oakland police shooting in May 2012 of 18-year-old Adam Blueford.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has cleared the officer involved of any wrongdoing.

CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld said the people remained in the lobby of the Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St., when it closed at 5 p.m. and were arrested about 6 p.m. after repeated orders to disperse were ignored.

Todd Chretien of the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition, which organized the protest, said Friday all but one of the protesters had been released.

They were given a March 13 court date.

He said those arrested included Anne Weills, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and the wife of Oakland mayoral candidate Dan Siegel.

-- Staff report

Oakland

Man charged in pickax slaying of housemate

A man suspected of using a pickax to kill his 69-year-old housemate and trying to dismember her body has been charged with murder, authorities said Friday.

Jeff Girard, 43, is accused of killing Carole Wilson on Feb. 8 inside the home she owned in the 1700 block of 103rd Avenue. He is being held without bail and is scheduled to enter a plea Monday.

-- Harry Harris, Staff