Witnesses said the driver was heading west on University Avenue and had just passed the Bay Road intersection at approximately 8 p.m. when he attempted to swerve around another car and struck the median curb and spun around, striking a tree.
The impact caused the car to split in half. The front portion landed on its side against a tree in the median while the rear portion of the car sheared off into the eastbound lane. Shattered glass and car parts were scattered across the roadway and into the driveway of a nearby strip mall where the PAL Market is located in the 2300 block of University Avenue.
East Palo Alto police interim Chief Jeff Liu said on Tuesday the incident was captured on surveillance video. There was no evidence of street racing.
The San Mateo County Coroner's Office on Tuesday identified the driver as Jesus Alejandro Belmonte Castro Jr., 29, of East Palo Alto.
Multiple Menlo Park Fire Protection District units and police responded to the scene. East Palo Alto police closed off University Avenue in both directions between Runnymede Street and Bay Road until after midnight.
— Sue Dremann
Residents want surveillance cameras after park shooting
When volleys of gunfire erupted at Jack Farrell Park in East Palo Alto on May 17, the shootout shattered a balmy evening of games and sports for an estimated 60 people who had been enjoying a normal weekday.
At a specially convened City Council meeting on May 19, community members decried the violence caused by two pairs of shooters who fired 33 bullets at each other in the crowded park. Both residents and city staff said it is time to add surveillance cameras to the Fordham Street community space.
The 6 p.m. shootout killed one man, Ralph Fields Jr., and injured three others. Video taken by a child on her cell phone, which has since gone viral online, captured her trauma as she ran and dozens of gunshots cracked nearby.
Interim Police Chief Jeff Liu, Mayor Ruben Abrica and faith leaders quickly convened a press conference the day after the incident to address the shooting, which they said has traumatized many residents in the community. Liu said his department has already increased patrols with the help of the Menlo Park Police Department.
Interim City Manager Patrick Heisinger said the city is in the middle of developing its parks master plan, which could include security measures at the parks.
"An idea about security at parks and cameras has always been, I would say, pleasantly debated at these meetings. But just from the administration's perspective, I do — we do — think it's time we need to really look into that," Heisinger said.
On Tuesday, East Palo Alto police arrested two people on outstanding warrants in connection to the May 17 shootout and asked for the community's help to locate the person who shot and killed Fields.
— Sue Dremann
Bill to limit police encryption scores another victory
State Sen. Josh Becker's proposal to require police departments to find alternatives to radio encryption took another major step forward on May 19 when the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to advance the bill.
The committee's 5-2 vote means that Senate Bill 1000 will now advance for a full vote by the state Senate. The bill would still need to clear the state Assembly and get the governor's signature before it becomes law.
Becker's bill addresses a recent trend by police departments throughout California, including in Palo Alto, to encrypt their radio communications, a practice that removed the historic ability of journalists and members of the general public to monitor police activities through a police scanner.
SB 1000 would require agencies to come up with policies that would open up communications while ensuring that personal identifiable information such as Social Security numbers and criminal records remains protected. Some agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, already have such policies in place.
The bill that advanced out of committee on Thursday has a Jan. 1, 2024, deadline for compliance.
— Gennady Sheyner
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