City officials honor pioneering aviator
The Port of Oakland honored the first African-American female aviator Friday, who briefly worked in the city nearly a century ago, by renaming a portion of Airport Drive as Bessie Coleman Drive.
Coleman was a 23-year-old manicurist at a Chicago barber shop in 1915 when accounts of the Flying Aces in World War I inspired her to become a pilot.
Unable to gain admission into U.S. flight schools because of her race and gender, Coleman moved to France where she earned her pilot's license.
Upon returning home, Coleman became a star on the barnstorming circuit where she performed aerial stunts. She was well-known in Oakland where she appeared in ads for the Coast Tire and Rubber Company.
Coleman died in 1926 when an aircraft piloted by her mechanic malfunctioned as they were heading to an air show in Dallas.
Several elected officials were on hand to honor Coleman on Friday, including Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan and City Councilman Larry Reid.
"Bessie Coleman was a trailblazer, an inspiration and the finest example of the remarkable contributions made by women of color in our nation's history," Lee said in a prepared statement.
-- Matthew Artz, Staff
Plans would increase diversity in faculty
A new consortium of elite California universities plans 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, California Institute of Technology and Stanford University -- aims to encourage more minority students to complete their doctorate and find jobs in academia.
The project began with a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to bring more black, Latino, Native American, Alaska Natives and Pacific Islander scholars into 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, faculty are still largely white. At UC Berkeley, 77 percent of the faculty are 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 issue 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
Former grad student instructor charged
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, saying the investigation is ongoing.
UC police department is asking for anyone who might be a victim of a similar type of incident to contact the criminal investigation bureau at 510-664-9687.
-- Kristin J. Bender, Staff
Eight protesting police shootings arrested
Eight people among a group protesting fatal police shootings were arrested for trespassing Thursday night 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 among those arrested was Anne Weills, a member of the National Lawyer's Guild who is the wife of Oakland mayoral candidate Dan Siegel.
Man charged in pickax slaying of housemate
A man suspected of using a pick ax 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 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 Feb. 17.
Girard, who police said had lived at the house with Wilson for five years, was arrested after firefighters and police responded to a medical emergency call at the home about 11 a.m. Feb. 8 and saw major trauma to her body -- described as "mutilation and mayhem" in court documents.
According to police and court documents, Girard admitted drinking the night before, to the extent that he "blacked out" and hit Wilson with the ax. Her injuries were fatal and Girard claimed he "panicked" and later attempted to "dismember Wilson's body but gave up and later had a friend call police, according to a probable cause statement filed by Officer Nick Calonge.
Evidence recovered at the scene corroborated Girard's admissions, court documents say.
Girard, who listed his occupation as recycler, was also charged with having a prior 2008 felony conviction for grand theft.
-- Harry Harris, Staff