Entries in California (368)


Police Identify Man Held in Mall Standoff, Arson

Police are now holding the man suspected of setting Westfield Galleria on fire in Sacramento, Calif. Photo Courtesy - News10, Sacramento

(ROSEVILLE, Calif.) – UPDATED:  The man being held in a standoff and fire at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville Thursday has been identified as Alexander Piggee.

According to Roseville Police Lt. Michael Doane, detectives believe Piggee started a fire inside the GameStop store on the second floor of the mall and barricaded himself inside before being taken into custody.

The fire, which has burned for hours, has knocked down a roof and continues to billow smoke.

Initially, firefighters were unable to battle the blaze from inside because of a suspicious backpack and device that Piggee left behind.

Piggee is also a suspect in connection with an arson at a Walmart store Wednesday, according to Sacramento Metro Fire Captain Christian Pebbles.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


(ROSEVILLE, Calif.) -- A mall in Roseville, California – outside of Sacramento – continues to billow flames and smoke following a standoff there.

Police say that earlier on Thursday, a man started a fire inside a GameStop video game store
at the Westfield Galleria and barricaded himself outside the store before police took him into custody, according to ABC affiliate KXTV.

Firefighters have been unable to enter the building because of concerns over a backpack the man left behind.  The building has been evacuated.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


New Highs: Growing Support for Legalizing Marijuana in California

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Voters in California could set the precedent for the rest of the country November 2 as they go to the polls for a ballot measure that would make California the first state in the country to fully legalize marijuana.

Proposition 19 would allow people 21 and older to cultivate up to 25 square feet of marijuana and carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use at non-public locations. The state would regulate businesses selling marijuana and collect fees and taxes the way it does for cigarettes and alcohol.

Support for the controversial measure is gaining steam, polls show, but it remains to be seen whether young voters, the main demographic group that supports Proposition 19, will come to the polls.

Even if Proposition 19 passes in California, it's unlikely to get a pass from the federal government. Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law and Attorney General Eric Holder made it clear last week that the Justice Department would enforce the federal law even if Proposition 19 passes.

Proponents of the measure, however, argue that it would not only help California's sizable budget deficit, but would in turn reduce crime by shifting law enforcement's focus to harder substances and targeting only serious offenders.

Marijuana is California's biggest cash crop, worth $14 billion in sales, nearly double the state's second biggest revenue generator, dairy.

This is not the first time that a state has dabbled in such a measure.  Earlier this year, a marijuana-legalization bill was introduced in Washington, but it was struck down by the state legislature.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Cheney Appears Frail at First Public Event Since Heart Surgery

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) -- Former vice president Cheney appeared frail and noticeably thin during a public appearance this weekend at the Bakersfield Business Conference.

Cheney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The former vice president has been on the mend since a July procedure to implant a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) into his heart. Cheney said at the time he was "entering a new phase of the [heart] disease" when he began to "experience increasing congestive heart failure."

Cheney was released from the hospital August 9.

The California event was Cheney’s second appearance this month. Last week, he spoke at a closed press event for the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers in Colorado Springs.

Cheney’s history of heart problems includes five heart attacks, dating back to his first in 1978 when he was just 37 years old. His most recent one took place in February.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Homegrown Terror? FBI Tracks California College Student

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/KGO-TV San Francisco(SANTA CLARA, Calif.) -- A 20-year-old college student from California said he was shocked to discover he has been followed by the FBI when he found a GPS tracker placed underneath his car.

Yasir Afifi, a half-Egyptian, half-American Muslim and U.S. citizen, said he was having the oil changed on his car last Sunday at a Santa Clara, Calif., auto shop when he noticed a wire and the black device underneath the automobile as it was being raised.

"I was born here in Santa Clara, I just turned 20 last August. I'm a sales manager, we sell laptops and I'm a full-time student," Afifi told ABC News.

Afifi, the son of a prominent Muslim community leader who travels frequently to Egypt and the Middle East, said that two days after discovering the tracking device he was stopped and questioned by FBI agents and Santa Clara police as he left his apartment complex.

According to Afifi, the FBI agent asked him whether he had been to Yemen for any type of training and whether he knows anyone "extreme or abnormal" or who has been posting anything online that they shouldn't be.

"He goes, 'Where is the device you located under your vehicle?' I didn't even answer that, I just asked him, 'Did you guys put it there?' and he goes, 'Yeah,'" Afifi said.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Schadler refused to discuss Afifi's discovery with the media but did respond with the following statement: "Court decisions have consistently upheld that there is no warrant necessary for GPS tracking of a vehicle when the vehicle is in a public space."

Afifi, who lived in Egypt for several years, travels there approximately once a year to visit his two brothers who currently live there, his lawyer said. In addition, his work in sales sends him to the Middle East on and off. He plans to travel to Dubai next week.

Although the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recently re-affirmed the government's ability to use GPS devices on cars, Afifi's attorney said the college student's civil rights were violated in this series of events, and that his client was intimidated and harassed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


'Heroes' Tackle Gunman Firing at School Children

Photo Courtesy - Getty ImagesCARLSBAD, Calif. -- Two children were injured when a gunman opened fire at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad, Calif. Friday.  The children were taken to a children's hospital with minor wounds to their arms.

The suspect, described only as an adult male, is in custody after being chased and tackled by witnesses at the scene.

Jordan Sears was driving by the school when he heard a shot.  "We heard one gunshot go off and we looked up and we saw a gentleman in all black with a jack-o-lantern running sideways shooting toward the kids," he told ABC News.

Carlsbad Mayor Claude "Bud" Lewis praised the men who subdued the gunman.  "I would also like to commend our local citizens for their heroic efforts to stop the shooter," Lewis said. "I am proud of the quick and thorough response of Carlsbad safety personnel and all of the other agencies (that) assisted throughout the incident."

A school administrator said that Kelly Elementary will be open on Monday if the school is no longer a crime scene.  Counselors will also be available for students.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Amber Alert and Sharp-Eyed Citizen Help Save Missing Girl in California

Photo Courtesy --, Calif.) -- Thanks to an Amber Alert and a quick-thinking citizen, an 8-year-old California girl was rescued Tuesday.

Elisa Cardenas was playing with friends outside her house in Fresno, Calif. early Monday evening, when police say Gregorio Gonzales tried to lure the girls into a pickup truck.

The children ran, but Gonzales allegedly grabbed Elisa and sped away.  Her mother chased after the truck, but it was too late.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued, and more than 100 officers immediately went on the hunt, searching for the truck, which was captured on surveillance video at a nearby intersection.

Then, early Tuesday morning, a man named Victor Perez spotted the truck.  He jumped into his car and began following it.  When he saw Elisa's head in the window, he acted boldly.

"I was yelling at him and kept cutting him off," said Perez.  "He was hiding her, pushing her down."

Investigators say Gonzales shoved Elisa out of the truck and onto the street. As Gonzales fled, Perez called the police.

Elisa was taken to a local hospital, where she was reunited with her mother -- shaken and scared, but alive.

"I gotta tell ya, it was a highlight of my career to see Elisa and her mom reunite in that hospital room," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

A few hours later, police arrested Gonzales, a 24-year-old known gang member who was already on felony probation.  Authorities say Gonzales had also exposed himself to two other young girls earlier that day.

Gonzales allegedly held Elisa for 11 hours.  He is being charged with kidnapping and sexual assault.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


San Quentin: Cash-Strapped California to Spend $356M to Upgrade Death Row

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN QUENTIN, Calif.) -- San Quentin State Prison's death row will soon be getting a controversial upgrade.

California State officials justified the $356 million project to renovate the state's notorious death row by pointing out the security and safety flaws on three housing blocks constructed in the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s, which house such high-profile murderers as Drew Peterson, Richard Ramirez and Cary Stayner.

However, local and state officials questioned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's commitment to pay a $64.7 million down payment out of the cash-strapped state's general fund, at a time when funding is being reduced or withheld from schools and state workers have been forced through a summer of furlough days.

"It is the poster child for this administration's failure to prioritize in tough times," state Assemblyman Jared Huffman, R-San Rafael, said. He added "It's the most expensive prison cell space on the planet."

Huffman is one of two state legislators to file a legal challenge to Schwarzenegger's use of veto power to excise from the budget language that would have called for studies and resolutions of the state's well-known prison overcrowding problem.

A decision is expected in November, but bids are scheduled to be opened on the project on Tuesday.

H.D. Palmer, the state's deputy finance director, said that the death row is in dire need of immediate attention and that because the state's penal code dictates executions be done at San Quentin, they cannot even consider moving death row elsewhere.

"Given the safety issues and the structural issues that are involved here, and given the fact that capital punishment is still the law of the land here … this facility needs to go forward," Palmer said.
On the East Block, there is only one line of perimeter security between the cells and the San Francisco Bay. It is a 12-foot masonry wall topped with razor wire. The state, which has questioned the current structure's ability to contain prisoners during an earthquake, plans to construct a double wall with an electrified fence in between. 

However many in the area aren't buying this project as a state necessity. The Larkspur City Council, whose town sits adjacent to San Quentin, voted -- at Huffman's request -- to send a letter to Schwarzenegger opposing the expansion.

The project is to be completed in two phases and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Record Heat Scorches Downtown Los Angeles

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Record heat hit the Los Angeles area Monday, with temperatures topping 113 degrees.

"It's 101 [degrees] in my home right now," resident Herbert Pineda told ABC News. "It's horrible."

Monday's temperature is an all-time high for downtown L.A. The previous record was 112 degrees, set on June 26, 1990.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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