Free Fridays at East Bay Regional Parks

The public can visit East Bay Regional Park sites for free on the third Friday of each month, starting this Friday.

Fees for parking, swimming, fishing and launching boats -- plus entry charges for dogs and horses -- will be waived one Friday per month at regional parks the rest of the year to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the park system.

The district has more than 65 regional parks in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

Anglers still will need a state fishing license, and the district will continue to collect fees for camping and reserved group picnic sites.

The regional park system was founded in 1934 during the Great Depression when East Bay residents agreed to raise property taxes to buy and protect open space.

-- Denis Cuff, Staff


Animal control officer attacked by dog

The investigation into an attack Monday afternoon by a pit bull-rottweiler mix that left an Oakland animal control officer with severe bite wounds on her forearm, hand and leg, continued Tuesday, authorities said.

The officer was treated for her injuries at a hospital and released Monday evening and the dog remained in isolated quarantine Tuesday at the Oakland Animal Shelter where it continued to growl and bark at employees, officials said.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the dog could be euthanized or its owner would have to severely restrict its movements and face heavy fines, officials said.

The officer, an eight-year-veteran, responded to the home in the 2200 block of 11th Avenue about 3:50 p.m. Monday to check on a complaint about a pit bull-rottweiler mix being kept in a confined space, police said.

The officer was talking to a resident outside the house when the 3-year-old male dog, who weighs at least 75 pounds, ran down a driveway and attacked her, police said.

The officer, who was not carrying a catch pole, tried to fight off the dog with the help of the resident, and was injured in the process. She was able to escape to safety after the resident gave her the keys to the house where she went and radioed for help.

The dog's owner arrived a short time later, put a chain around the growling animal and surrendered him to officers.

-- Kristin J. Bender and Harry Harris, Staff


Residents face federal tax fraud charges

Two Oakland residents who set up a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service based on false claims had their first appearances in court after being indicted last month, federal authorities said Monday.

Akysha Rockwell made her initial appearance Monday and Paul Lamont Lee made his initial appearance on Friday in federal court on a 20-count indictment charging them with conspiracy to file false claims, false claims and identity fraud, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. Their ages were not released.

Between Jan. 12 and July 16, 2012, Rockwell and Lee allegedly obtained names, Social Security numbers and birth dates for numerous people and then electronically filed federal income tax returns in their names, claiming refunds derived from tax credits they did not qualify for, including the Earned Income Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Credit, federal authorities said.

Both face up to 17 years in federal prison and fines of up to $750,000.

-- Kristin J. Bender, Staff


Selfie robbery suspect charged

An armed robbery suspect whose selfie taken with the victim's stolen cellphone camera last August led to police identifying him has been formally charged after being arrested in Las Vegas, authorities said Tuesday.

Raymond A. Smith Jr., 18, is charged with one count of second-degree armed robbery, authorities said.

He awaits extradition from Las Vegas where he was being held on a probation violation since February after showing up at his probation agent's office under the influence of drugs, authorities said.

Police said Smith was one of two men who robbed a 42-year-old woman at gunpoint Aug. 19, taking her cellphone, a gold necklace and other items while she was walking her dog in the 2100 block of East 28th Street.

After the robbery, police say Smith took a picture of himself on the cellphone. The woman saw it while looking at her computer iCloud account the next day and turned it over to police.

Robbery investigator Officer Omar Daza-Quiroz released the photo to the media on Dec. 27 to identify the suspect. Within days, several people called him, telling him the man pictured was Smith.

Daza-Quiroz later learned Smith had fled to Las Vegas after the robbery and he contacted authorities there.

It turned out Smith had been arrested and convicted in the desert city for a July 2013 attempted residential burglary and was on probation there. Daza-Quiroz and Sgt. Todd Mork went to Las Vegas to interview Smith, but he refused to talk to them. None of the woman's property has been recovered and the second suspect is still being sought.

-- Harry Harris, Staff


Chevron donates land to parks for Bay Trail

Chevron has donated a portion of its bay-front property to the East Bay Regional Park District to help complete the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Chevron donated a 20-foot-wide, mile-long strip of land along the shoreline of the Point San Pablo Peninsula. The district will build a 14-foot-wide trail on the land in the next two years with money from voter-approved tax measures, said Trails for Richmond Action Committee Chairman Bruce Beyaert.

Upon completion, this one-mile segment will provide biking and walking public trail access along the historic shoreline property extending from the foot of the eastern shore of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Point Molate Beach Park. Beyaert said about 32 miles of the Bay Trail are already usable in Richmond, but about 10 miles must still be built. More than half of the incomplete portion is between the Point Richmond Plunge and the Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. Beyaert hopes that the trail can be completed within the next decade.

-- Robert Rogers, Staff