OAKLAND — The mother of Lolomanaia “Lolo” Soakai had to watch her son take his final breaths moments after the two innocent bystanders were struck by a vehicle fleeing Oakland police officers in an unauthorized chase.
The tragedy on June 26 left the East Bay’s Tongan community scarred, and the two officers involved were suspended. Now the family of Soakai, a 28-year-old Hayward resident remembered by family members for having the singing “voice of an angel,” is suing the city of Oakland for damages.
The federal civil rights complaint alleges that the officers behind the high-speed pursuit of 19-year-old Arnold Linaldi “watched the carnage, injuries and death” unfold after Linaldi crashed into parked vehicles and multiple people—including Soakai, who was waiting with his mother near a taco truck on International Boulevard.
The complaint alleges that the officers left the scene without alerting emergency medical services or documenting the “ghost chase”—a term for unauthorized chases where police vehicles do not activate sirens or lights—in order to avoid scrutiny.
“It really saddens all of us to know that, somewhat, the system is broken,” said Ian Finau, a cousin of Soakai’s, at a tearful news conference Thursday in the office of civil rights attorney Adante Pointer.
The senseless death, which took place right after Soakai’s family had celebrated at a cousin’s graduation ceremony, prompted community rallies and calls for police accountability from the Tongan community. Soakai had been a dedicated gospel singer, and at a vigil last year his family and friends sung Tongan hymns to commemorate his life.
Witnesses to the scene told Pointer that the officers, before leaving, had remarked “I hope that driver dies” in apparent reference to Linaldi, the attorney said.Ian Finau, front left, a cousin of crash victim Lolomanaia “Lolo” Soakai, speaks at a news conference on January 26, 2022 about the role of Oakland police officers in the tragedy. The family, including mother Lavinia Soakai, front right, have filed a federal civil rights complaint through attorneys Patrick Buelna, back left, and Adante Pointer. (Shomik Mukherjee/Bay Area News Group)
“These officers conspired to try to cover up what they had caused,” Pointer said, “in order to, I can only imagine, avoid any type of discipline, accountability, and, frankly, criminal charges, for the death and destruction they caused. As opposed to going to the scene and offering medical help or summoning an ambulance, they drove off.”
The city in 2014 had adopted a policy against high-speed vehicle pursuits except in cases of serious or violent crimes, which also required that officers weigh risks to the safety of other motorists or bystanders, the complaint notes.
In the case of Linaldi, who pleaded not guilty last September to vehicular manslaughter in Soakai’s death, the Nissan he was driving had been suspected by officers of being involved in a sideshow, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said at the time.
“It’s not just police officers that need to be held accountable, and those that come in and (are) involved in this unlawful activity also need to be held accountable, because we can’t continue to accept this, because it’s leading to tragic outcomes for families,” Armstrong said last year.
Police said Linaldi was driving over 100 miles per hour during the pursuit. But the alleged officer misconduct may come into play in the suspect’s legal defense, with a pretrial hearing scheduled next month. His public defender declined a request for comment.
Several others were injured in the crash, including Soakai’s mother, who clutched at a button honoring her son and wiped away a steady flow of tears during Thursday’s news conference.
“It’s brought us a lot of trauma” said Ina Lavalu, another cousin of the victim. “After the incident up until now, everything such as sirens, Oakland (police) cars, screeching noises, all of that—it takes a big toll on me.”
“Lolo did everything for his mom, literally everything,” Lavalu added. “When we go on drives, all Mama Soakai talks about is Lolo…. I have two kids of my own, so to hear her cry out for her son, I can’t imagine what it would feel like.”
Few details have been made available by Oakland police about the identity or current job status of the officers who pursued Linaldi. They were suspended at the time of the crash, and Pointer said Thursday they appear to remain on paid leave.
Armstrong, meanwhile, was himself placed on leave last week following a misconduct scandal involving a sergeant’s hit-and-run of a parked vehicle and subsequent cover-ups by higher-ranking officers. The chief has denied wrongdoing and demanded reinstatement, and he has received support from the Oakland NAACP.
Treva Stewart, another attorney representing the family, said the officers involved in last June’s chase were “100% responsible” for Soakai’s death.
“We will pursue justice for (this family) with the same vigor, determination and force that these officers used to pursue Mr. Linaldi,” Stewart said. “The only difference is we will go about it legally.”
Staff writers Nate Gartrell and George Kelly contributed to this report.
By Tierney Sneed | CNN
The State Bar of California unveiled new disciplinary charges against John Eastman for his involvement in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election results.
The state bar’s trial counsel is bringing 11 counts against Eastman, accusing him of violating a variety of attorney ethics rules in multiple episodes, court cases and other conduct.
Among the gambits the new disciplinary proceedings are targeting is Eastman court filings submitted in Georgia and with the Supreme Court, the pressure campaign on then-Vice President Mike Pence to disrupt Congress’ certification and Eastman’s promotion of false election fraud claims.
“There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power,” said George Cardona, the state bar’s chief trial counsel, said in a statement. “The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land — an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy — for which he must be held accountable.”
Eastman now faces a deadline to respond to the charges.
The proceedings will eventually move to a state bar court for adjudication, though the state supreme court has the final word on whether disciplinary proceedings should result if an attorney’s suspension or disbarment.
A group of Texas death row inmates have filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s prison system over its policy of mandatory and indefinite solitary confinement for all prisoners who are awaiting execution.
Seattle University and Gonzaga University law school leaders said this week they won't provide data to U.S. News & World Report.
The U.S. is poised to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like a yearly flu shot.
The discontent, while widespread, was most acute among younger workers, women and those managing multiple teams across remote and on-site schedules.
Boston medical researchers are hoping to get ahead of Alzheimer’s by testing a possible treatment in patients who don’t have symptoms but may be at risk for the progressive disease.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital is part of the global AHEAD Study, an Alzheimer’s clinical trial that is looking at whether an investigational treatment can slow or stop the earliest brain changes in people with a higher risk of developing the disease later in life.
The scientists, who are seeking participants for the four-year clinical trial, are testing lecanemab — the recently FDA-approved Biogen drug for patients exhibiting Alzheimer’s symptoms — in patients as young as 55 years old who are at risk of developing symptoms as they get older.
“Our goal is to see if we can change the trajectory of cognitive decline using a medication early in the disease process,” Seth Gale, lead researcher at the Brigham, told the Herald this week.
“My hope is we find a treatment, coupled with lifestyle, that prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s disease for people who might have a higher risk,” added Gale, a neurologist who’s co-director of the Brain Health Program in the Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder affecting more than 6.5 million Americans that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out simple tasks.
While the specific causes of Alzheimer’s are not fully known, it is characterized by changes in the brain — including amyloid beta plaques and neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles — that result in loss of neurons and their connections. These changes affect a person’s ability to remember and think.
In the AHEAD study, the researchers are testing the effect of lecanemab in healthy people who have amyloid in their brain, known as preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
The study requires a number of medical procedures, including: MRI scans; memory and thinking tests; IV infusions of the investigational treatment (or placebo) that aims to help remove amyloid plaques from the brain; and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans to look for the amyloid plaques and tau tangles associated with Alzheimer’s.
“The ability to identify people at risk for developing cognitive decline due to AD based on amyloid PET provides the opportunity to test whether early intervention can delay cognitive decline,” said Reisa Sperling, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, and co-principal investigator of the AHEAD Study.
The total worldwide enrollment goal for the study is 1,400 people, and the researchers hope to complete enrollment by the end of the year. The Brigham site has nine participants as of now, and the site has “capacity to have much more than that,” Gale said.
Those in the Boston-area who are interested in participating in the study at the Brigham should visit studymemory.org. People can also call the study team at 857-307-0345.
People interested in the AHEAD study and enrollment sites across the U.S. and Canada should visit www.aheadstudy.org.
HALF MOON BAY — The shooting massacres at two coastal mushroom farms earlier this week were fueled by the suspected gunman’s mounting frustrations with his job conditions and simmering tensions with other colleagues at the farm where he lived and worked, a law enforcement source told the Bay Area News Group.
The workplace problems included co-workers picking on him over his small stature, said the source.
Chunli Zhao, 66, apparently had enough with his purported mistreatment Monday and responded by fatally shooting four people and wounding another at California Terra Gardens farm, where he worked. He then drove three miles south to Concord Farms — which once employed him — and killed three more farm workers.
That’s the general sense of investigators to this point, and sheds light on why early on, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus may have been so confident in calling the shooting a instance of “workplace violence” without offering more detail. The same goes for Peninsula Rep. Anna Eshoo, who said the victims “were killed with purpose, with intent, execution style,” while similarly not revealing what supported that swift conclusion.
The law-enforcement source, who is close to the shooting investigation, also built upon eyewitness accounts illustrating what seemed to be deliberate targeting by Zhao, affirming that Zhao methodically selected his victims and ignored other people who unwittingly got in his way during the rampage.
Then on Thursday, Zhao reportedly affirmed this narrative in a jailhouse interview with NBC Bay Area at the Redwood City jail where he is being held on seven counts of murder and one of attempted murder, with numerous sentencing enhancements attached to each charge that stand to put him in prison for life if he is convicted.
In the television report, which recounted an off-camera interview with Zhao, he is said to have admitted to committing the shootings and described being fed up with long hours at the farm and bullying by his co-workers. The law-enforcement source who spoke to this news organization said the final straw might have been an insult about his “diminutive” size, which is said to have occurred not long before the shootings.
He reportedly voiced remorse for the killings, and suggested that undiagnosed mental illness may have factored into his actions.
Zhao also stated that the legally-obtained semi-automatic Ruger pistol that authorities say he used was bought in 2021, and that he moved to the United States 11 years ago on a green card. He and his wife, who both lived on the farm, have a 40-year-old daughter who lives in China, according to the report.
That timeline aligns with court records showing that in 2013, a one-time roommate of Zhao’s at a home in San Jose filed a civil-harassment restraining order against him after alleging that Zhao tried to smother him to death with a pillow and threatened to use a knife to “split” open his head. The conflict apparently arose, according to a court petition, from Zhao wanting his job back after quitting at a South Bay restaurant where the roommate also worked.Related Articles
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Zhao was arrested about two hours after the shootings in the parking lot of the sheriff’s substation in Half Moon Bay, where he surrendered and was taken to the ground by police officers in a scene captured on witness video. According to the TV report Thursday, Zhao reportedly said he drove immediately to the substation and sat in his car for nearly two hours after failing to find someone to surrender to. He later gave himself up after watching police surround his vehicle and cautiously approach. Authorities found the gun and a note Zhao had written to his wife in the vehicle.
Zhao was arraigned Wednesday and could face up to life in prison without parole, and possibly the death penalty, based on the charges filed against him by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
In the meantime, elected officials and community and advocacy groups are working to support the farmworkers who worked at the shooting sites and the families of the shooting victims. Among the newest fundraising efforts is a GoFundMe campaign sponsored by the advocacy groups Chinese for Affirmative Action, Asian American Foundation, the Asian Pacific Fund, the Asian Law Caucus, and Stop AAPI Hate.
Check back later for updates to this story.
For figure skating fans, what could be better than attending the U.S. championships this weekend at SAP Center in downtown San Jose? Maybe doing that and hanging out with Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano.
Boitano, a Sunnyvale native, is hosting Boitano’s Lounge at the arena Friday through Sunday in the swanky club-level space where well-heeled fans mingle during the NHL season. It’s a pop-up version of his bar and restaurant at the Kindler Hotel in Lincoln, Neb., where he had a hand in creating the dozens of signature cocktails served there since it opened in 2019. (Remember, on top of being an elite skater, Boitano hosted two seasons of “What Would Brian Boitano Make?,” a cooking show on Food Network.)
The cover charge was a VIP-level $250 a day, or $650 for the whole weekend, which included food and drink in the lounge, as well as seeing Boitano and a few of his friends, including Olympic medalists Kristi Yamaguchi and Ashley Wagner and 2022 U.S. national champion Mariah Bell. And those tickets were all snapped up faster than a triple-Salchow.
Oh, well. At least fans can still enjoy watching the next generation of elite figure skaters — and likely members of the U.S. team for the 2026 Olympics. Tickets for the weekend’s events are available at www.skatesanjose2023.com.
EXTRA! EXTRA!: Redwood Middle School in Saratoga is putting on a production of “Disney’s Newsies Jr.” this weekend at Saratoga High’s McAfee Performing Arts Center. And, if you’ve ever seen the show, you know that a big part of the story involves newspapers, or “the papes,” as they say.
Vidya Vineet, the parent of Redwood performer Ria Vineet, figured if you’re looking for newspapers to use as props, you should go to the source. So she called the Mercury News to see if the school could get bundles of newspapers for the show.
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WELCOME RETURN: A concert celebrating the music of African American composers is back in East Palo Alto this weekend after two years off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The African American Composers Institute was started in 2009 by a group of musicians — including retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell — to provide a showcase for work by Black composers who might otherwise be unknown to audiences.
The program for this weekend’s concerts will feature work by composers including Jacqueline Hairston, Betty Jackson King, Jeremiah Evans, Regina Baiocchi, John Robinson, and Valerie Capers. The shows will be held Jan. 28 and 29 at 3 p.m. at Eastside College Prep’s Performing Arts Center, and tickets are available at aacinitiative.org/concerts.
LET’S CELEBRATE: If you’re up for more Lunar New Year festivities, head over to Eastridge this weekend. The East San Jose shopping center has a three-day celebration of the Vietnamese Year of the Cat going on Friday through Sunday. There’ll be lion dancers, fashion shows and carnival rides and games in the parking lot at the corner of Tully and Quimby roads. The party starts at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s what we have learned in the past 24 hours …
— The Pac-12 will hire a replacement for CFO Brent Willman but not a successor to Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.
In combination with the decision to move production facilities to an office in the East Bay, the decision to not replace Shuken provides insight into the future of the networks.
Commissioner George Kliavkoff has stated publicly that the Pac-12 will remain in the content production business during the next media contract cycle, which begins in the summer of 2024.
The decision to lease 42,000-square feet in the East Bay city of San Ramon is evidence of the strategy.
That said, there is no indication the Pac-12 Networks will exist in their current form — as a media distribution company.
In fact, the news release issued two weeks ago about the move to San Ramon was framed this way: The Pac-12 “announced the relocation of its San Francisco production studio …”
It said nothing about the Pac-12 Networks, the linear media company with a national and six regional feeds.
If the media company is going away — if it’s being downscaled to a production unit — there’s no need for a network president.
In other words, the model is changing.
Into what? There are at least two options:
1. An entity that produces streaming-only content about Pac-12 Olympic sports. (Football and basketball have far too much value to be sequestered on a conference-owned platform.)
2. A production facility that provides Pac-12 Olympic sports content and produces sporting events for a major digital media company like Amazon or Apple.
The Pac-12 Networks’ infrastructure is cutting-edge, especially the remote broadcasting technology that eliminates the need for costly production trucks at stadiums and arenas.
— How might the imbroglio impact the Pac-12’s media negotiations with ESPN, Fox and other linear and digital companies?
Bob Thompson, the former president of Fox Sports Networks, wrote the following on Twitter:
“Only way it affects the media deal is if there is an offer to buy Pac-12 Networks as part of the overall deal. If so, this represents 4% of Network revenue and comes straight off the bottom line. The value of the Network goes down and the price has to be renegotiated.”
To this point, there is no indication the Pac-12 Networks will be sold outright.
— Multiple sources have confirmed the Hotline’s original report that the overpayments made by Comcast occurred on a yearly basis and, Comcast asserts, were for approximately $5 million annually over the course of 10 years.
That’s a $50 million bill.
But those same sources believe the Pac-12 won’t write a check to Comcast. Instead, the company will simply withhold payments to the Pac-12 Networks until it has recouped the $50 million.
Comcast is under contract with the networks until the summer of 2024. The math suggests that as a result of the (presumed) withholding of payments, each of the 12 schools will receive about $4 million less in revenue distributions from the conference over the 2023-24 fiscal years.
However, the Pac-12 has an emergency reserve fund.
In the spring of 2020, as the pandemic hit, the Pac-12 had about $22 million stockpiled.
The presidents approved the use of reserves to mitigate the loss of revenue resulting from the cancellation of the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.
Exactly how much was tapped, and how much remains, is not clear.Related Articles
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The Pac-12’s tax filing for the 2021 fiscal year shows approximately $18 million in “savings and temporary cash investments.”
At least a portion of that stockpile could be the reserves, potentially available to offset the Comcast revenue hit.
According to conference bylaws, three-quarters of the presidents would have to approve any expenditures from the reserves.
— The Hotline hasn’t confirmed the next step for Shuken and Willman and whether they intend to take legal action against the conference.
The Pac-12’s statement announcing the termination of two (unnamed) senior executives indicated the moves were the result of failing “to disclose material information to the Pac-12 Board of Directors and external Pac-12 auditors.”
It said nothing about whether they told then-commissioner Larry Scott, who was the chief executive of the Pac-12 Networks.
It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that Shuken reported the results of the audit to Scott immediately in December 2017 (Why nobody told Kliavkoff when he took over in July of 2021 is one of the many mysteries.)
From a legal perspective, what matters is corporate law.
The Pac-12 Networks are an arm of Pac-12 Enterprises, which is legally registered in Delaware.
The wording of the Pac-12’s statement — failing to disclose “material information” to the board or external auditors — suggests they had fiduciary duties to inform the Pac-12 board and external auditors under at least Delaware law.
In a general sense, Delaware law states the following:
“The directors and officers of Delaware corporations owe the corporation and its shareholders a fiduciary duty of loyalty and a fiduciary duty of care. The duty of loyalty requires them to put the best interests of the corporation and shareholders above their personal interests and to act in good faith. The duty of care requires directors and officers to make informed decisions.”
The extent to which Shuken and Willman executed the “duty of loyalty” and the “duty of care” — and the specific requirements within those broad frameworks — could be relevant if legal action unfolds.
*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to email@example.com or call 408-920-5716
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.
The federal government will allow Medicaid dollars to treat some people in prisons, jails or juvenile detention centers for the first time ever.
I flip through a lot of home design books in this job. Frankly, most run together. Betsy Wentz’s “Design Happy ─ Colorful Homes for the Modern Family” (available Feb. 21, Gibbs Smith Publishing) stands out as the exception.
All the interiors featured in the book’s photo-filled 224 pages jump out for their bright, unapologetic use of color.
“You can do that?” I thought.
Yes, you can. Well, at least Wentz can.
Wentz, 49, grew up working alongside her mother, an interior designer who ran a design shop out of the family home. Wentz pursued a career in psychology and after working as a counselor, came back and partnered with her mentor mom in 2001. When her mother retired 10 years later, Wentz rebranded and launched her own studio near Pittsburgh.“Design Happy” by Betsy Wentz
A designer trained as a counselor. This makes perfect sense.
But back to the book. Of all the traits I admire in designers, creative courage tops my list, and Wentz has this gift in (paint) buckets.
I mean, this woman did not pause before covering an heirloom antique wooden grandfather clock ─ which let’s face it, few people really want in their homes anymore ─ with bright yellow citron lacquer paint, which made everyone in the family fall in love with it.
So, I called Wentz, who, proved just as colorful in conversation:
Q. You have a master’s degree in counseling psychology and were a behavioral therapist before starting a design firm. How do those two worlds relate?
A. At first, I didn’t think there was any correlation, but in fact, I use that degree every day. Designing someone’s home becomes very personal. From the moment you start working with someone, building that relationship is imperative, because that people piece is what makes a project click. I think every designer should have this degree.
Q. Did the title “Design Happy” spring from your therapy background?
A. Yes, in a sense. I like to think the common thread when you look through these interiors is they are happy environments. We wanted a title that would get across that this book is about having fun with color, design and pattern. Your surroundings affect your mood and your quality of life. I tell clients let’s start with colors you’re comfortable with, then let’s add one that you are a little uncomfortable with.
Q. Of all the colors in your interiors, intense blue, especially deep turquoise, seems to be the common denominator. Why?
A. Let me start by saying there is not a color I don’t like. But blue! I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like blue. I try to find a color combination that is unique to each client and in their bandwidth. If a client really wants neutral, I go high contrast. I put white with aubergine. However, a medium bright palette is my favorite.
Q. Because of their colorful interiors, the homes in your book look as if they are all in bright sunny places. But many are near you in Pennsylvania, and others are in Ohio and Maine. Talk to me about color and geography.
A. That a home in an area not saturated in natural color can’t be colorful is a mistaken stereotype. I live in Pittsburgh. Today it’s very gray and drab out. The trees have no leaves, but my home is full of color. Just because it’s Maine, doesn’t mean you have to decorate in dark green. I see a place for color everywhere. Don’t ignore your setting, but do add splashes of color.
Q. Tell me about your signature touch.
A. For me, it’s a twist. It can be an unexpected pattern on pattern, or having the nerve to put two patterns or colors together that most people wouldn’t. I use a lot of colorful vintage rugs. You have to be careful not to cross the line of “too much,” but the longer I do this, the more permission I give myself.
Q. What makes you cringe when you walk into someone’s home?Related Articles
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A. Circular rugs — I don’t know why. Vertical blinds, in general. Poor lighting, particularly a fixture that is too small for the space. You can almost never go wrong with a big light. Ceiling fans with built-in lights are never okay. We call them fandeliers. Just get a plain fan and add recessed lights.
Q. If you had one word of design advice for those of us trying to liven up our homes, what would it be?
A. Go for what you like. Most people know what they like, but are afraid to take a chance on a great color or pattern because, they say, “I’m afraid I’m going to get tired of it.” That’s no fun at all. If you love something own it and do it. That’s also a metaphor for life. Don’t be afraid.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books. Reach her at www.marnijameson.com.