How Bay Area cops tied shootout at Sun Valley Mall to freeway gang shootout that killed 1-year-old Fremont boy

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 5 min ago

On the early afternoon of Nov. 6, 2021, Keison “Keke” Lee was pulling away from a friend’s house on 82nd Avenue in Oakland when something suspicious caught his eye. He called the friend and asked him to check his home security camera.

As the 82nd Avenue resident would later tell police, Lee was concerned by a dark gray Infiniti that appeared to have been scoping out the residence and just “pushed up on them.” The Infiniti appeared to be following the gray Nissan carrying Lee and Richmond resident Johnny Jackson toward Interstate 880.

It turned out that Lee’s suspicions were correct. As the Nissan approached the Filbert Street exit heading northbound on I-880, a gun battle broke out between Lee and Jackson and the occupants of the Infiniti. One of the bullets struck a Lexus, and fatally wounded 1-year-old Jasper Wu, who was just weeks away from his second birthday.

A split-second difference could have prevented the boy’s death; his family was traveling southbound on I-880 in the Lexus, and happened to cross paths with the two northbound vehicles at the exact moment someone fired a shot.

The shocking death of a toddler spurred a wide-ranging police investigation that eventually led to San Francisco and Contra Costa County, linking a mall shooting in Concord to the Oakland case and giving authorities enough evidence to file charges in Jasper’s death. This is the story — based on police and court records — of how Jasper’s alleged killers were caught.

After the shooting, police scoured the northbound side of the freeway for shell casings, hopeful that fingerprints on at least one of them would point them toward a suspect.

It would take days before police received their first solid tip indicating that the Nissan and Infiniti contained rival gang members engaged in a daytime shootout on a crowded freeway. And it would take more than a year before three suspects were arrested and charged: Jackson, 34, of Richmond; Trevor Green, 22, of Richmond; and Ivory Bivins, 24, of Vallejo.

By the time the arrests were made, Lee was dead. He was killed in a drive-by shooting, almost a year to the day after Jasper’s death, in the 800 block of 81st Avenue in Oakland.

Authorities allege that Lee, Jackson, and the 82nd Avenue resident — whom the Bay Area News Group is not naming because he was not charged in the incident — were members of a Bay Area gang known as Eddy Rock.  Green and Bivins are affiliated with a rival group known as Chopper City. Both gangs originated in San Francisco, but gentrification and rising costs of housing forced some members to relocate to other parts of Northern California, taking their rivalries with them.

Police say they first became aware of the gangs’ possible involvement thanks to an unrelated occurrence: A man named Ronnie Mitchell, in custody for alleged gun possession and a probation violation, picked up the phone at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and called the 82nd Avenue resident. Their conversation — monitored by deputies, as is legally allowed — included details about the freeway shooting and how “Keke,” later identified by police as Lee, had been shot in the back and wounded, while Jackson was uninjured.

With recordings of the jail call in hand, investigators were now convinced that Eddy Rock gang members played a role in the shooting. But the next big break would tie in the rival gang: While crime lab technicians found no fingerprints from shell casings on I-880, they were able to recover a woman’s DNA. The woman was a close relative of Green, the suspected gang member, and her name had come up in a similar shooting, in Contra Costa County, six months before Jasper was killed.

That shooting involved a May 24, 2021, incident at Sunvalley Mall, in which Green and the female relative spotted a man wearing an expensive chain entering a jewelry store; Green allegedly later returned to the mall, along with fellow Chopper City gang member Bivins, and opened fire at the man.

It took Contra Costa County authorities until March 2022 before they had evidence to charge Green and Bivins with attempted murder in the mall shooting. Bivins was arrested March 16 at his Vallejo home. Green was arrested a day earlier at San Francisco International Airport, court records show.

Just two weeks earlier, police had conducted surveillance on Green’s Richmond home in the 100 block of South 16th Street. Police say Green appeared to notice the surveillance team and sped away from the residence in a stolen Honda.

Later that same day, police served a search warrant on Green’s home, where they allegedly found 27 rounds of ammunition with the same-numbered head stamp as the shell casings found on I-880, as well as some of Bivins’ possessions. That discovery turned out to be the long-sought break in Jasper’s killing.

Police confirmed that Bivins had owned a dark gray 2008 Infiniti similar to the one described by eyewitnesses to the freeway shooting, but authorities said that the car had been involved in a crash and turned over to an insurance company.

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Bivins, Green and Jackson all face charges of special circumstances murder, making them eligible for sentences of life without parole, but it is unclear if those charges will stick. Now-former District Attorney Nancy O’Malley filed the special circumstances enhancements against Bivins, Green and Jackson in December, a month before her term ended.

The new Alameda County district attorney, Pamela Price, ran on a platform that opposed capital sentences or terms of life without parole. Price’s office has already stricken special-circumstances enhancements for an accused serial killer and child rapist, with stated plans to review additional similar cases.

All three men have pleaded not guilty, and are being held without bail in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. The Contra Costa County attempted murder case against Bivins and Green in the mall shooting is pending trial.

Categories: Local News

Trial date to be set for Bay Area father of 10 charged in horrific child torture case

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 9 min ago

A Solano County Superior Court judge in the coming months will schedule a trial for a 33-year-old Fairfield man who was charged, along with his wife, in a notorious child torture, endangerment and assault case that came to light more than four years ago.

Jonathan AllenJonathan Allen 

Jonathan Michael Allen, who appeared in Department 11 on Jan. 19 for more proceedings in the case, will return at 8:30 a.m. March 21 for a readiness conference and a trial setting in the Justice Center in Fairfield.

His wife, Ina Aurelia Rogers, also 33, appeared in Department 23 earlier this month, when her sentencing was rescheduled for 8:30 a.m. April 14, court records show. She has been charged with 10 counts of willful child endangerment and pleaded no contest in late 2019, and her sentencing has been scheduled and, over the years, rescheduled many times.

The alleged crimes surfaced in March 2018, when one of their sons, who was 12 at the time and said to have the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, disappeared from the family’s Fieldstone Court residence.

Police were notified and searched the home as part of the investigation and found what they described as squalid, unsafe, and unsanitary living conditions, “including garbage and spoiled food on the floor, animal and human feces, and a large amount of debris making areas of the house unpassable,” according to wording in the Solano County District Attorney’s complaint.

Nine more children, ranging in age from 4 months to 11 years old at the time, were found inside. The missing boy, asleep under a nearby bush, was located soon afterward.

Some of the charges against Allen, multiple counts of child torture, child cruelty with possible injury, and lewd acts on a child date back to 2014.

He originally had been scheduled for a jury trial in early May 2020, but, because of the pandemic and public health directives during the past several years, some court operations were reduced and cases reshuffled as COVID-19 cases surged and ebbed.

During a preliminary hearing in December 2018, horrific allegations of torture, based on investigators’ findings, were heard in public for the first time. All directed at Allen — more than 10 of them, the maximum number posted on a public court calendar — they included physical abuse that left scars and cuts, evidence of choking, malnutrition, the use of duct tape and waterboarding, biting that drew blood, the shooting of sharp wooden sticks or small metal rods from a bow, the pouring of scalding hot water on a child’s feet. Allen also is charged with at least three counts of lewd acts on a child under 14.

Former Solano County Chief Deputy District Attorney Sharon Henry said at the time that she was “horrified” by the children’s statements and that “as a parent, first and foremost in my heart, we believe these children deserve justice.”

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If found guilty of the torture and molestation charges, Allen faces more than 50 years to life in state prison.

The Alternate Public Defender represents Allen, who remains in the Stanton Correctional Facility in Fairfield, with bail set at $5.25 million.

In Rogers’ case, her no-contest plea meant she did not admit guilt but stated, essentially, she would offer no defense. She is represented by Fairfield criminal defense attorney Barry Kent Newman.

Rogers has remained out of custody after Newman earlier submitted a motion for her release and the judge granted it. At sentencing, Rogers could face up to six years in state prison and up to a $10,000 fine for a single felony charge alone.

She was arrested on April 3, 2018, while Allen was taken into custody several weeks later, on May 10, with the couple’s story making national headlines.

Categories: Local News

TripAdvisor’s top trending destinations for 2023 include several close to home

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 21 min ago

Tripadvisor recently announced its annual Travelers’ Choice awards for the best places to globetrot in 2023. You’ll find several very familiar destinations on the list, and several you may have never considered — which is half the fun.

The awards, which are based on millions of Tripadviser users reviews, give a shout out to the most popular destinations — Dubai, Paris, Rome — in the world, as well as foodie hot spots, cultural gems, ski meccas, natural wonders and trending locales. The latter are places where interest on the travel planning site has shot up the most since last year. That’s the one that piques our interest the most, because those lists — both the global and the U.S. versions —  are always full of surprises.

The trending list runs the full gamut from the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean to Juneau, Alaska and Tierra Verde, Florida. There’s Lanzarote in the Canary Islands (west of Morocco), and Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (east of Bali), as well as Sonoma and Paso Robles.

You can learn more about those locations and read travelers’ reviews and suggestions at tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Destinations. Meanwhile, here’s a peek at the top 10.

Top 10 Trending Destinations in the World

1 Cuba
2 Hoi An, Vietnam
3 Mauritius
4 Siem Reap, Cambodia
5 Chiang Mai, Thailand
6 Grand Cayman, Caribbean
7 Fes, Morocco
8 Baku, Azerbaijan
9 Kathmandu, Nepal
10 Krakow, Poland

Top 10 Trending Destinations in the U.S.

1 Juneau, Alaska
2 Page, Arizona
3 Salem, Massachusetts
4 Sonoma, California
5 Tierra Verde, Florida
6 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
7 San Juan Island, Washington
8 Camden, Maine
9 Galena, Illinois
10 Whitefish, Montana

Categories: Local News

7 fantastic Bay Area things to do this weekend, Jan. 27-29

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 21 min ago

There are a LOT of fun things to do, see, eat and drink in the Bay Area this weekend, from great shows and exhibits to delicious Lunar New Year dishes and cocktails. So let’s get to it, shall we?

As with everything these days, be sure to double check websites for any last-minute health guidelines. Meanwhile, if you’d like to have this Weekender lineup delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning for free, just sign up at www.mercurynews.com/newsletters or www.eastbaytimes.com/newsletters.

1 WATCH: Harrison Ford’s new show

He may be one of our biggest movie stars, but Ford is killing it on the tube these days, too. First there was the Western drama “1923” with Helen Mirren; now there’s the new dramedy, “Shrinking,” a “Ted Lasso”-like charmer that tops our roundup of new shows and movies you should know about.

Chef Martin Yan’s special spicy crab dish will be on the menu at Fog Harbor Fish House. (Fog Harbor Fish House)  2 EAT: A culinary celebration of Lunar New Year

Different communities have different ways of marking the new year holiday, and so do some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants. Here’s a rundown of some of the mouthwatering specials on tap.

3 PLAY: Fun in Sunnyvale

Yes, the Silicon Valley city is more than just a place to work for the pocket protector crowd. There are cool hikes and neat places to sup and nosh there, too. Here’s a day-trip planner.

4 LAUGH: Sketchfest is in full swing

San Francisco’s legendary comedy/improv festival SF Sketchfest is serving up a crazy-fun mix of shows through Feb. 5. Here are some of the most promising.

5 MAKE & EAT: A champion chicory salad

With its bold colors, crunchy texture and bold orange-and-fennel flavors, this delicious salad can almost make you forget we’re in the dead of winter.

Anthony Norman stars in “Dear Evan Hansen,” now playing in San Francisco. (Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade/BroadwaySF)  6 SEE & HEAR: Dazzling shows and exhibits

The Bay Area has got it going this weekend and beyond, with a rich choice of new and classic plays, a folk music legend and terrific (and inexpensive) art exhibits. Here’s just a sampling.

7 PLAY: A winning ‘One Piece’ game

The classic “One Piece” manga series has proved problematic for video game developers. But this new release gets it right.

Categories: Local News

With Layoffs, Retailers Aim to Be Safe Rather Than Sorry (Again)

N.Y. Times - 11 hours 22 min ago
Companies that ramped up hiring in areas like technology over the past few years are cutting back as customers slow their spending.
Categories: Local News

A big problem on narrow I-5 is driver speed and behavior: Roadshow

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 50 min ago

Q: There is no solution to the Interstate 5 issue. Human behavior is the problem. Drivers think that anyone who goes under 85 is “slow.” People who stick close to the speed limit and somewhat above are bullied into submission. I drive thousands of miles each month, and people are just rude and selfish. It’s not “slow” drivers (who are going at or above the speed limit), it’s entitled drivers who think that the freeway belongs to them as they go 85+ and endanger everyone. You don’t need to drive 90 mph to get to Costco.

Diana

A: You’re spot on. Drivers need to share the road and go with the flow.

Q: Highway 17 is not a dangerous road. Many users make it that way with poor driving. I have used 17 daily since January 1977.

I’ve always wondered why the CHP and/or tow truck operators don’t throw debris from banged-up vehicles in the car when they are getting vehicles ready for towing. The road or lane is almost always closed, so what’s another 10 minutes to load bumpers, etc., too?

Dennis Kennedy, Santa Cruz

A: Interesting idea, though it’s often not that simple. Debris can be scattered over a long distance.

Q: I regularly read about the high cost of building the tunnel through Pacheco Pass for high-speed rail. It seems that the Panoche Pass south of Hollister would be easier and cheaper. What do high-speed rail planners think of this option?

Robert Hull, Scotts Valley

A: This would put it closer to a major earthquake fault and soil in that area is not as stable as going through a tunnel.

Q: Why can’t Caltrans use their roadside message boards to emphasize the use of all car lights when it is raining?

“Wipers On / Headlights On.” Simple message, important subject.

Many people think that front running light means their lights are automatically on. The key is to get tail lights on, so they are visible from the rear, as well.

Now my question: How far in advance of your birthday can you apply for the renewal? I will be 83 in 2023 and will be on an extended vacation on my birthday.

Robert Sullivan

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A: You can apply for a driver’s license renewal up to 120 days prior to your birthday.

Q: Could you urge people to remember the law and, when their wipers are on, also turn on headlights?

It’s not about whether you can see where you’re going, but whether others can see you! Front “running lights” don’t cut it. You need lights front and behind.

Chris MacIntosh, Redwood City

A: Caltrans has added this message to its signboards. It has used them before, and will again.

Mr. Roadshow is off

Gary Richards, aka Mr. Roadshow, is off and will return in February. If you can’t wait or want to catch up on Mr. Roadshow’s coverage of traffic, transportation and just about anything on wheels, please go to https://www.mercurynews.com/tag/mr-roadshow/ or facebook.com/mr.roadshow.

 

Categories: Local News

We asked ChatGPT to do some homework. Here’s what we got

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 50 min ago

Since ChatGPT‘s release, teachers and students alike have been stunned by the artificial intelligence tool that can write essays, papers, poems  and just about anything a human can come up with — with a simple prompt.

The internet has been buzzing about ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence tool that can write essays, papers, poems — and just about anything a human can come up with — with a simple prompt.

Click here to read why Bay Area students are raving and teachers ranting about ChatGPT

We tested the platform ourselves — and aside from it thinking San Jose has stellar beaches, it didn’t do half bad.

Prompt: Write a poem about the San Francisco Bay Area.
Time to complete: 24 seconds

The Bay Area, a land of mist and fog
Where the Golden Gate Bridge stands proud and tall
A symbol of the city, a beacon to all

From the hills of San Francisco,
to the shores of Berkeley
The Bay Area is a place of diversity

Where tech and art, blend seamlessly
And cultures mingle, effortlessly

The Bay Area, a land of innovation
Where ideas are born, and dreams take shape
A place where the future is shaped

From the streets of Oakland,
to the beaches of San Jose
The Bay Area is a place of beauty

Where nature and city, coexist in harmony
And the hustle and bustle, never cease to be

The Bay Area, a land of opportunity
Where anything is possible, if you believe
A place where dreams are achieved

So come and see, the Bay Area’s charm
A place where anything is possible, if you have the heart
A place where dreams can come true, and you’ll never be apart.

Prompt: How do you get a puppy to learn how to sit?
Time to complete: 16 seconds

To teach a puppy to sit, you can use positive reinforcement training. This involves rewarding the puppy with a treat or praise when they perform the desired behavior. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Get your puppy’s attention by calling their name or making a noise.
  2. Hold a treat in front of their nose and move it above their head so they have to look up to see it.
  3. As the puppy’s bottom touches the ground, say “sit” or “good sit” and give them the treat.
  4. Repeat the process several times a day until the puppy starts to sit automatically when you say “sit” or make the hand signal.
  5. Once the puppy is consistently sitting, you can begin to phase out the treat rewards and give verbal praise or a petting instead.

It’s important to make sure that your training sessions are short and positive, with lots of praise and rewards. This will help your puppy to enjoy learning and make the process more effective.

Prompt: Explain string theory in simple terms.
Time to complete: 12 seconds

String theory is a theoretical framework in physics that attempts to unify the fundamental forces of nature. It suggests that the smallest building blocks of matter are not particles, but tiny, one-dimensional “strings” that vibrate at different frequencies. These vibrations give rise to the different particles and forces in the universe, such as photons and gravity. String theory also predicts the existence of extra dimensions beyond the familiar three spatial dimensions and one time dimension of our everyday experience. In simple terms, String theory is an idea that the universe is made of tiny strings instead of tiny particles and these strings vibrate in different ways which creates the various particles and forces we see in the universe.

Prompt: Write an email to a parent who is concerned about their student’s grades dropping in the classroom.
Time to complete: 33 seconds

Dear Parent,

I am writing to you regarding your concerns about your student’s grades dropping in my class. I understand that this can be a stressful and difficult time for both you and your child, and I want to assure you that I am here to help.

I have reviewed your child’s performance in my class and have noticed that they have been struggling in certain areas. I have spoken with your child, and we have discussed ways to improve their grades. We have set some goals and have established a plan to help them achieve those goals.

I would like to schedule a conference with you and your child to discuss their progress, answer any questions you may have, and come up with a plan together to help your child succeed. Please let me know a date and time that works for you and I will make sure to schedule the conference.

In the meantime, please encourage your child to take responsibility for their learning and to reach out to me if they need extra help or support. I am available for extra help during office hours and also encourage them to utilize any additional resources such as tutoring or study groups.

I am here to support your child and am committed to helping them succeed in the classroom. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further concerns or questions.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Categories: Local News

AmazonSmile’s end is alarming, say nonprofits that benefited

Seattle Times - 11 hours 51 min ago

Since 2013, more than 1 million charities received donations from AmazonSmile, which sent a small portion of a customer's purchase on Amazon to a nonprofit of their choice.
Categories: Local News

California looks to Santa Clara County model to stop incarceration of girls

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 51 min ago

After spending her teenage years in and out of juvenile detention, Arabella Guevara was used to crowded conditions such as mattresses on the floor and girls triple-bunked in cells meant for two.

But nothing prepared Guevara for her final stint at the 96-bed William F. James Ranch in Morgan Hill. As other young women finished their terms and headed home, no one arrived to replace them. By June 2020, Guevara, who had been arrested on car theft and burglary charges, found herself alone with a handful of probation staff.

“It was depressing,” said Guevara, 19, of San Jose. “You’re already away from your family and friends. And now you’re just by yourself.”

Arabella Guevara, as a teenager, was in and out of juvenile detention for car theft and burglary. Santa Clara County is one of a growing number of areas looking critically at the practice of locking up girls and gender-expansive youth, and implementing reforms. This new approach has helped Guevara to turn her life around, she graduated high school a year early and is a youth organizer for the Freedom Center, helping other girls like herself to avoid jail time. (Photo courtesy Arabella Guevara)Arabella Guevara, as a teenager, was in and out of juvenile detention for car theft and burglary. Santa Clara County is one of a growing number of areas looking critically at the practice of locking up girls and gender-expansive youth, and implementing reforms. This new approach has helped Guevara to turn her life around, she graduated high school a year early and is a youth organizer for the Freedom Center, helping other girls like herself to avoid jail time. (Photo courtesy Arabella Guevara) 

What Guevara didn’t know was that the quiet around her reflected a flurry of activity on the outside involving the local courts, probation department, prosecutors, mental health providers and community groups. Santa Clara County’s Juvenile Justice Gender Responsive Task Force had been meeting regularly in service of an ambitious goal: ending the incarceration of girls.

Amid dramatic declines in the number of incarcerated youth over two decades, Santa Clara County is one of a growing number of areas looking critically at the practice of locking up girls and gender-expansive youth (a term that includes transgender, nonbinary and gender-fluid youth). The new approach centers on providing community-based support while taking a hard look at whether girls actually pose a public safety threat. Many are now diverted before they ever reach juvenile hall or a courtroom.

The Santa Clara County initiative is considered so successful that California officials are launching an effort to replicate it statewide.

From 2018 to 2020, the number of girls admitted to juvenile detention facilities in Santa Clara County dropped by 58%, according to the New York-based Vera Institute for Justice. In a one-year period ending in April 2022, the number of girls in the county juvenile hall was either zero or one. County officials say there are currently three girls locked up, including two housed locally rather than in the state youth prison system, which is now shutting down. By comparison, in December there were an average of 67 boys in the county’s juvenile hall.

The effort to divert girls from incarceration is mirrored in several other states, including Hawaii, which recently reported it did not have a single girl in its long-term commitment facility.

A different approach

Santa Clara County launched its effort in 2015, focusing initially on improving conditions for girls and gender-expansive youth in juvenile detention facilities.

At one meeting of the gender-focused juvenile justice task force, then-Assistant Chief Probation Officer Nick Birchard, who was recently named probation chief, proposed a bolder challenge: “Why are we trying to create better programming for girls in custody?” he asked. “Why don’t we try to get them out?”

The new Chief Probation Officer for Santa Clara County, Nick Birchard, at the Juvenile Justice Courthouse in San Jose, Calif., on Jan. 19, 2023. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)The new Chief Probation Officer for Santa Clara County, Nick Birchard, at the Juvenile Justice Courthouse in San Jose, Calif., on Jan. 19, 2023. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Birchard’s colleagues agreed. But first, they needed a clearer understanding of what was landing girls in secure custody to begin with. That assistance came from the Vera Institute, which is pushing to zero out the imprisonment of girls and gender-expansive youth nationwide by 2030.

Researchers from Vera and New York University reviewed the files of more than 70 girls involved with the delinquency court and found that 80% had prior involvement with the child welfare system. On average, each girl had been the subject of 10 reports of child abuse or neglect. Eighty percent had experienced homelessness or housing instability.

Sixty percent of those in detention had low to medium scores on a risk assessment tool designed to determine whether they posed enough threat to public safety to justify detention. Property offenses were the most common charges.

The data showed that police were taking girls into custody not because they were dangerous but because they were vulnerable. Law enforcement had come to rely on juvenile hall as a way to get them off the streets and connect them with social services.

The problem with that approach, reformers argue, is that protecting girls is not the role of a locked institution, and incarceration brings with it traumas of its own.

“Those services should be provided out in the community,” Birchard said. “We shouldn’t involve a young person in the justice system at all, if possible.”

‘An invisible population’

Former juvenile court Judge Katherine Lucero, who was instrumental in launching Santa Clara County’s gender task force, has since been named head of California’s Office of Youth and Community Restoration. In her state role, she is spearheading broader efforts to stop the incarceration of girls, who Lucero says too often remain “an invisible population.”

During her time on the bench from 2001 to January 2022, Lucero was increasingly troubled by the reasons girls were brought before her.

“Girls were coming in for lower-level offenses, often committed with older men,” she said. “I was seeing broken relationships with families, and sometimes a really angry parent who did not want that girl to come home — and that really old narrative of locking a girl up for her own safety.”

Today, Birchard said, local police understand that unless a girl faces serious charges, the probation department, which runs the juvenile hall, is likely to turn her away at intake.

“They can cite and release; they can contact a parent,” Birchard said, “but they can’t bring them into custody for something low-level because we’re going to release them anyway.”

The last girl in the building

In the spring of 2020, while she was still being held at the ranch, Guevara was on FaceTime with her mother when a supervisor interrupted the call.

“Pack your things,” he told her. “You’re getting out.”

During Guevara’s time at the ranch, Lucero had met with Jessica Nowlan, then the executive director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center, a statewide organization that provides support and advocacy to young women and transgender youth who have grown up in poverty or in the foster care or juvenile justice systems. Together, they laid plans to launch one of the center’s several California satellite locations in Santa Clara County and secured $1 million from the state to fund the collaboration.

Now, each time a girl lands in juvenile court, judges call on the Freedom Center to help the young women to identify and pursue goals such as getting a driver’s license, enrolling in college, finding full-time work or securing housing.

A pod at the William F. James Ranch for juvenile offenders in Morgan Hill. Santa Clara County officials are trying to end the incarceration of girls. (Photo by Max Whittaker)A pod at the William F. James Ranch for juvenile offenders in Morgan Hill. Santa Clara County officials are trying to end the incarceration of girls. (Photo by Max Whittaker) 

With such support, Guevara reached a crucial goal: getting her education back on track. Having entered juvenile hall with just 15 high school credits, she has since managed to graduate a year early.

Guevara said the juvenile court’s new approach helped her turn her life around. And in her current role as a youth organizer for the Freedom Center, she is helping other girls like her to avoid jail time altogether.

When she came before the court, Guevara said, Lucero always wanted to know what was going on at home and how she was feeling — and it inspired her: “I could see that she actually cared.”

This story is being co-published with The Imprint, a nonprofit news outlet that covers child welfare and youth justice.

Categories: Local News

What new federal money will mean for WA ferries

Seattle Times - 11 hours 51 min ago

The Federal Transit Administration says it will send millions to develop passenger ferry and electric-power improvements on Puget Sound.
Categories: Local News

Snohomish County pays $1.9M to settle suit over deputy’s killing of man in crisis

Seattle Times - 11 hours 51 min ago

The settlement marks the third time in recent years that the county has paid $1 million or more to settle a lawsuit stemming from a deputy's use of deadly force.
Categories: Local News

Ending homelessness in King County will cost billions, regional authority says

Seattle Times - 11 hours 51 min ago

The King County Regional Homelessness Authority estimates it would take more than $8 billion in capital costs and up to $3.5 billion in annual operating costs.
Categories: Local News

Sawant pushes anti-caste discrimination law in Seattle

Seattle Times - 11 hours 51 min ago

If passed by the City Council, the local statute would add caste discrimination as a form of prejudice outlawed in local workplaces.
Categories: Local News

Rainier Beach students are right to ask: What are we doing to keep them safe?

Seattle Times - 11 hours 51 min ago

Our kids are begging for compassion. Why aren’t we listening? Marcus Harrison Green reflects on a recent town hall at Rainier Beach High School.
Categories: Local News

As capital gains tax goes to WA Supreme Court, a push to ‘microtarget’ justices

Seattle Times - 11 hours 51 min ago

A conservative think tank has touted a plan to target an ad campaign to justices' homes and workplaces in high-profile case.
Categories: Local News

‘Shock to the education system’: This AI chatbot is already writing school essays and could rewrite the future of learning

San Jose Mercury - 11 hours 56 min ago

A few weeks before winter break, 17-year-old Kaden Hyatt sent a mass email to his Oakland high school, College Preparatory. He had just stumbled across a new artificial intelligence platform called ChatGPT. Hidden behind its innocuous name is a search engine on AI-laced steroids that can churn out original essays, solve complex math problems and even compose short fiction — on virtually any topic — in seconds.

Write a 1,000-word paper on the rise and fall of Genghis Khan? Finished in one minute, 45 seconds. Find the derivative of a quadratic polynomial? Less than 30 seconds, with step-by-step explanations marking the process.

The platform has left students raving and teachers — at least the ones who have heard about the chatbot — scrambling, with many debating whether ChatGPT could upend education as we know it.

“It is one of the most powerful tools released in recent years and it is completely free right now!!” wrote Hyatt, who had long been fascinated by emerging technologies.

Kaden Hyatt, 17, of Berkeley, records a video at his home in Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Hyatt creates YouTube videos to help teachers understand how to use ChatGPT, a new AI platform with the potential to write lesson plans, do essays, and complete math homework. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)Kaden Hyatt, 17, of Berkeley, records a video at his home in Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Hyatt creates YouTube videos to help teachers understand how to use ChatGPT, a new AI platform with the potential to write lesson plans, do essays, and complete math homework. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Hyatt’s email hit dozens of students, teachers and school staff, but not all of them shared his enthusiasm. According to experts, ChatGPT is perhaps the most convincingly human form of free artificial intelligence to date, one with the potential to disrupt countless industries — and utterly rock the classroom.

“We’re looking at a shock to the education system, technologically,” said Victor Lee, who leads the Data Interactions & STEM Teaching and Learning Lab at Stanford University. “The same way Google outperformed search engines, or Netflix changed our expectations for streaming content … Whether ChatGPT is the exact model we’ll continue to use remains to be determined. But either way, we’re in a new era.”

GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer, a type of artificial intelligence that can write like a human after crawling through — and synthesizing — massive amounts of text. San Francisco-based research company OpenAI launched ChatGPT just two months ago. Ever since, scholars and students alike are abuzz on social media as it produces cover letters, poems, and even scientific studies with the click of a button. In seconds, anyone on the internet can create a free account and start using the tool, though access has been limited due to surging traffic.

We asked ChatGPT to do some homework. Click here to see what we got

Just a month after ChatGPT was released, school districts in New York City and Seattle blocked it from their school devices and networks. So far, it appears no Bay Area school district has done the same. But across the region, many are clambering in the chatbot’s wake.

A ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. New York City school officials started blocking this week the impressive but controversial writing tool that can generate paragraphs of human-like text. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)A ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. New York City school officials started blocking this week the impressive but controversial writing tool that can generate paragraphs of human-like text. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan) 

Within Hyatt’s email to the school, he included self-made YouTube videos to help teachers understand the program. In the first episode, he went over how to use ChatGPT and what its limitations are — and in a later one, he showed how the platform can help students understand math problems.

“It’s frankly amazing that this tool is now available to anyone,” said Hyatt in one video.

In December, College Prep, a $50,000-a-year private school, invited Hyatt to speak with the school’s curriculum committee, where teachers, students and administrators tried to explore what education meant in a world with such an intelligent tool.

“There was a wide array of different reactions,” Hyatt said. “Some of wonder and amazement, others of outright fear, and a sprinkle of existential dread.”

In an experiment to test ChatGPT’s abilities, Hyatt said, one of his friends submitted two essays to their teacher at College Prep. One was written by ChatGPT, while the other was written by the student himself. The teacher tried to determine which piece belonged to the student, assuming it would be a relatively simple choice.

According to Hyatt, however, the teacher chose wrong.

“If you ask ChatGPT to do a literary analysis of Beloved, or House on Mango Street, or the Great Gatsby, it will do a pretty good job,” said Sarah Levine, assistant professor of Education at Stanford University. “It will give you a B+ essay, one that many teachers would be delighted if their own students could write.”

The first reactions from teachers across the country echoed the apprehension felt at the College Prep meeting. “With Open AI & #chatGPT I’d be shocked if ½ as many schools use essays 2 yrs. from now,” tweeted Rick Clark, the director of admissions at Georgia Tech. Another user described that while using the chatbot, he was “witnessing the death of the college essay in realtime.”

But as experimentation with the tool continues, some teachers are seeing the benefits of an AI-infused education. Kim Lepre, a middle school English teacher based in Chula Vista, thinks ChatGPT could be used to help students learn in new, innovative ways.

“It’s like when people switched over from the abacus to the calculator, and they thought it was going to make people not good at math anymore,” said Lepre. “But they realized that the calculator was just a great tool. I think that ChatGPT can be used as a great tool too — you just have to reframe how you see it.”

Some teachers have started using ChatGPT to reduce their own workloads, trimming the time they spend on tasks like writing lesson plans and sending emails, along with other work that takes up about half of teachers’ time, according to a survey conducted by EdWeek Research Center.

Jake Carr, an English teacher in Chico, has been leaning on ChatGPT every day since mid-December to create flawed paragraphs of text for students to refine, and instructing the chatbot to write up examples to use in the classroom.

“I’ve come to view ChatGPT and other machine learning as the intern I’ve always wanted,” Carr said. “I shift the heavy lifting to that intern, and finesse what it produces afterward.”

Many teachers aren’t concerned that the bot will lead to an explosion in cheating. Ever since school has existed, Lepre said, some kids have tried to bend the rules. But it’s unlikely that those who do not cheat will begin doing so just because a new chatbot makes it easier.

Cheating — even with artificial intelligence — is nothing new, said Danielle Alm, who teaches high school algebra and precalculus in Danville. And especially after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s learned to spot the signs. AI-produced math homework, for example, often includes zeros where a human student would not.

Kaden Hyatt, 17, of Berkeley, works on his computer at his home in Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Hyatt creates YouTube videos to help teachers understand how to use ChatGPT, a new AI platform with the potential to write lesson plans, do essays, and complete math homework. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)Kaden Hyatt, 17, of Berkeley, works on his computer at his home in Berkeley, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023. Hyatt creates YouTube videos to help teachers understand how to use ChatGPT, a new AI platform with the potential to write lesson plans, do essays, and complete math homework. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

“There’s nothing out there that’s going to replicate a human brain,” Alm said. “You still have to take your tests in front of me, and it can’t help you then.”

On top of that, ChatGPT is far from infallible. According to an OpenAI spokesperson, because of the way it was built, ChatGPT has limited knowledge after 2021. (That being said, it also has the ability to both admit its own mistakes and fabricate what it doesn’t know — doing both in ways that are eerily human.)

Still, many experts feel ChatGPT could inevitably shatter education’s status quo. Today, the tool remains free, but it remains to be seen whether it will stay that way. Later this year, OpenAI is expected to release the newest version of the tool, ChatGPT-4, that some experts claim will be 500 times more powerful than its predecessor.

But even with its current model, Levine said the tool will force teachers to rethink what — and why — they teach what they teach, and whether writing essays is really the best way to assess students’ learning. The take-home essay may soon be dead, experts say. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the classroom is.

Just ask the culprit itself.

“Overall, using Chat GPT or other language models in schools can be a valuable tool to enhance education, but it’s important to approach this technology with caution and ensure that it’s being used in a way that is beneficial for student learning,” said ChatGPT in a conversation with the Bay Area News Group.

Categories: Local News

California has strongest U.S. gun laws and just passed more. Why so many mass shootings?

San Jose Mercury - 12 hours 6 min ago

Six months ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom trumpeted new additions to the state’s already towering stack of gun restrictions that he and advocates for stricter firearm regulations credit with driving the state’s gun homicide rate below the national average.

So how did a state with a top rating by gun control groups just see an eruption of mass shootings — three in as many days — that took a total of 19 lives in Half Moon Bay, Oakland and Monterey Park? Here’s a look at the state’s laws and how they intersect with what we know so far about the shootings:

Q First, what do we know about the shooters and their weapons?

A In the Los Angeles County city of Monterey Park, a 72-year-old man used a semi-automatic pistol with an extended ammunition magazine Saturday to gun down 11 people at a dance studio.

Monday afternoon, an allegedly disgruntled 66-year-old employee at a Half Moon Bay mushroom farm used a legally purchased semiautomatic handgun to shoot eight people, killing seven at his workplace and a neighboring farm, then drove to a San Mateo County sheriff substation and surrendered.

Monday evening in Oakland, five people were shot and one died, at a gas station where they apparently were recording a music video. Police believe there was more than one shooter who opened fire with a low-caliber weapon and a rifle, based on spent ammunition casings found at the scene, but had no information on suspects.

Q California’s gun restrictions include a decades-old ban on so-called assault weapons — semiautomatic rifles and pistols with military styling — and large-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Were banned firearms involved in the shootings?

A Only in the Monterey Park shooting was such a weapon used. Authorities said the gun was a Cobray M11 9mm pistol with a 30-round magazine, both of which appear to be illegal under California law. How and where the gunman got it remains under investigation.

It wasn’t the shooter’s only gun either. After a bystander wrested it from him, the gunman fled and as police closed in the next day, took his own life with a Norinco 7.62 x 25 semiautomatic handgun that was registered to him. Police found a .308-caliber rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at his home.

Q Is it possible to buy a gun banned in California in another state?

A Retailers won’t sell the Cobray gun to California residents. But in the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, the gunman had moved to Nevada, where he bought a replica AK-47 assault weapon that is illegal in California three weeks before returning to his hometown for the shooting.

Q What about background checks? Could they have kept the accused shooters from buying guns?

A The Associated Press reported that according to the Los Angeles County sheriff, the Monterey Park gunman in 1990 was arrested for unlawful firearm possession and had a limited criminal history. But the sheriff could not say whether that would have barred him from owning weapons, since laws have changed over time.

Authorities said the accused Half Moon Bay gunman legally bought his gun, which would suggest he passed a background check. A former roommate who said he’d threatened to strangle or knife him sought a restraining order 10 years ago, but it wasn’t served and expired four months later. Prosecutors said they are trying to find out how he bought his gun.

Q What about the waiting period?

A California requires a 10-day wait for gun buyers to pick up their weapon to ensure a thorough background check and allow a “cooling off” to prevent someone who’s enraged from buying a gun and shooting someone later that day. It appears the gunmen in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay had their weapons for some time.

Q California has a “red flag” law, which allows authorities to disarm a gun owner behaving menacingly. Could it have been used?

A It’s possible the red flag law could have come into play with the suspected gunmen in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, both of whom appear to have nursed simmering grudges.

But a red-flag case would require a threat of gun violence that would prompt someone to file for or ask police to seek a gun violence restraining order.

According to reports, the Monterey Park gunman complained about feeling disliked, and he was divorced. But his former wife said he wasn’t violent toward her and there were no reports he’d threatened to shoot anyone.

The red-flag law wasn’t in effect 10 years ago when the former roommate obtained a court restraining order against the Half Moon Bay gunman. Though law enforcement described him as a “disgruntled” worker, they said there were “no preceding factors” suggesting he was preparing for an attack.

Q What about those new gun laws the state passed?

A Newsom last summer touted a pair of bills that would expose the gun industry to civil lawsuits for harm caused by guns in the state.

One, SB 1327, modeled after a Texas abortion bill, lets any Californian sue those who violate state law by making, selling or distributing assault weapons or untraceable ghost guns or providing them to underage buyers. They can face damages $10,000 or more per weapon involved. It took effect this month.

Newsom Deputy Press Secretary Daniel Villaseñor said this week that “until we have more information on the type of weapon used, we won’t know whether SB 1327 can be used, given it applies to specific types of guns.”

The Cobray Company that made the Monterey Park gun did not respond to questions.

The law only comes into play for assault weapons, ghost guns or underaged buyers. Those don’t appear to be factors in the Half Moon Bay shooting, and the circumstances in Oakland are unknown.

Q What about the other new law?

A Newsom also pointed to AB 1594, which lets the state, local governments and Californian gun violence survivors sue gun makers for violations of state laws concerning the sale or marketing of firearms. However, the law doesn’t become effective until July 1.

Q If all these laws don’t stop the violence, what can be done?

A Newsom and groups pushing for more gun restrictions have made their top priority a new national assault weapon ban, like one Congress allowed to expire in 2004.

Gun rights groups counter that such a law will only disarm the law-abiding who use their weapons to deter more than a million crimes a year. They call for tougher crime penalties.

Categories: Local News

IBM and SAP are cutting thousands of jobs

San Jose Mercury - 12 hours 9 min ago
By Michelle Toh and Hanna Ziady | CNN

IBM and SAP are the latest tech companies to slash thousands of jobs, as they reorganize businesses and profits come under pressure from a slowing global economy.

IBM announced the cuts Wednesday, saying they were related to the previously announced spinoff and sale of two business units. Some 3,900 positions, or 1.5% of its global workforce, are expected to go. The move will cost IBM about $300 million this quarter, a spokesperson confirmed.

SAP, Europe’s largest software company, will lay off 2.5% of its global workforce of 112,000, or around 2,800 employees, according to an earnings report published Thursday. The restructuring will cost between €250 million ($272 million) and €300 million ($381 million); the company’s shares were down 3.3% in Frankfurt.

In a live streamed presentation to reporters, SAP CEO Christian Klein said that the restructuring was “targeted” and would allow the company to invest in the areas “where it really matters for SAP to be competitive in the future,” particularly its cloud business.

The news comes as other major tech companies downsize their workforces around the world in response to the gloomy global economic outlook and waning demand for some digital services following the pandemic. Last week, Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft each announced layoffs of 12,000 and 10,000 workers, respectively.

That followed similar plans outlined by Amazon and Salesforce to shed thousands of jobs, with more than 18,000 employees affected at the e-commerce giant alone. The US tech sector, which went on a hiring spree during the pandemic, announced 97,171 job cuts in 2022, a 649% increase on the previous year, according to consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

An IBM spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday that the company’s cuts were related entirely to the reorganization of the two business units affected, “not an action based on 2022 performance or 2023 expectations.”

The units affected are Kyndryl, an IT infrastructure services business that was officially separated from IBM in November, and IBM’s healthcare analytics business, which an investment firm is in the process of acquiring.

The New York-based company also reported mixed earnings Wednesday, with revenue coming in slightly higher than expected but operating profit and free cash flow lower than projected.

IBM shares were 2% lower in premarket trading in New York.

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Asked about the outlook for demand for software from its business customers this year, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said that most of the company’s clients appeared confident they would “emerge stronger.”

“We’re seeing them double down,” despite “different headwinds in 2023,” he told analysts on a conference call.

Krishna also noted that while other tech companies may have reported more downbeat forecasts recently, “the reason that we are remaining in this optimistic frame of mind [is], we have no consumer business.”

“So I think, consequently, we might be seeing a little bit different subset of the economy than those who might have a large direct exposure to a consumer business,” he added.

SAP reported a 7% year-on-year decline in operating profit in 2022, as it moved to end operations in Russia and Belarus, and collected less revenue from software licenses. It said that increased investment into research and development, sales and marketing also impacted performance.

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Categories: Local News

49ers’ biggest defensive challenge vs. Eagles? Keeping Jalen Hurts from running amok

San Jose Mercury - 12 hours 10 min ago

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers need only turn the clock back 10 years to see what kind of potential nightmare Jalen Hurts represents Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

That was the night their own Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards on 16 carries in a 45-31 win over the Green Bay Packers in a wild card game at Candlestick Park.

The Packers never knew what hit them as Kaepernick found small creases and gigantic holes enroute to a record-setting rushing performance that is still a playoff record for a quarterback.

The 49ers, 15-4, face a challenge similar to the one Green Bay faced that night, when dealing with Hurts, a finalist for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award in large part because his running ability adds a dimension the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense has yet to see this season.

In Week 17, the 49ers found themselves flummoxed by the Raiders’ Jarrett Stidham, a game they won 37-34 in overtime. Stidham had 34 yards on seven carries and had the 49ers defense on their heels in a way that happened infrequently in 2022.

“I think we got tested in that Raiders game kind of unexpectedly and it reminded us of what the Kryptonite could be of the way we play,” defensive end Nick Bosa said.

Although Hurts missed two games with an injured right shoulder, he carried 165 times for 760 yards and had 13 rushing touchdowns. The carries were the most among all NFL quarterbacks and the yardage figure was fourth. That came after a 784-yard season with 10 touchdowns a year ago.

The shoulder didn’t appear to be a problem in the Eagles’ 38-7 divisional win over the New York Giants, as Hurts carried nine times for 34 yards.

The Eagles can put Hurts on the run in three different ways — a read option where the quarterback reads the defensive end then either hands the ball off or keeps it; a called run such as a sweep or quarterback draw; or a scramble after not finding an open receiver on the first or second read.

Quarterbacks against the 49ers this season gained only 283 yards on 62 attempts in the regular season and had 50 yards on eight rushes in two playoff games. Only one quarterback all season — Justin Fields of Chicago with 11 carries for 28 yards in a rain-soaked opener — ran the ball more than 10 times.

The most yards gained by a quarterback against the 49ers this season was 50 yards on six carries by Marcus Mariota in a game where the 49ers were missing defensive tackle Arik Armstead, Bosa and nickel back Jimmie Ward due to injury.

Opposing quarterbacks had just two rushing touchdowns against the 49ers all season, a 3-yard run by Mariota and a 1-yard sneak by the Rams’ Matthew Stafford.

Hurts has carried 17 times in a game three times, including a high-water mark of 157 yards in a win over Green Bay on Nov. 27. The last time Hurts faced the 49ers was Week 2 of the 2021 season. He rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries but the 49ers won 17-11.

Linebacker Fred Warner sees a much more experienced quarterback this time around.

“He has command of the offense, knowing where to go with the ball, being more decisive,” Warner said. “He’s using his legs to create plays and launching the ball downfield to guys who can make plays. I think that’s what’s elevated him to an All-Pro quarterback.”

Jalen Hurts is the best running back on the Eagles roster.

And no, this isn’t a criticism of his passing ability. Don’t even go there. pic.twitter.com/fzO4NyFafP

— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) November 28, 2022

For the 49ers, defending a running quarterback was more of a nuisance than a serious concern. That changes Sunday, and defenders will need to be aggressive enough to get after Hurts but not so aggressive they invite penalty flags.

Defending against a running quarterback has gotten more problematic every year with rules implemented to protect the highest-paid players from harm. Ronnie Lott, the 49ers Hall of Fame defensive back, urged his team on KNBR to take no prisoners when Hurts is on the run.

“As long as he’s a run threat, you’re going to attack him like he’s a running back,” Lott said. “They’re not going to attack him like he’s a quarterback, they’re going to attack him like he’s a running back.”

The problem is that if Hurts slides into an open area or is near the sideline, over-zealous defenders hoping to make him pay can wind up being flagged for unnecessary roughness or roughing the passer.

“It’s a huge challenge for these guys,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. “We’re expecting this quarterback to run it. We’re expecting him to lower his shoulders. We’ve always got to come out and treat him as a running back until he gives himself up sliding. And when he does, we’ve got to be good enough athletes to deal with it.”

Armstead went so far as to pull up on a potential safety against Prescott and said afterward he was concerned about getting a penalty. He doesn’t expect to make the same mistake again but acknowledged the dilemma facing defenders.

“You can treat him like a running back and try and get him down, but he may slide and you’ve got to be careful of that too,” Armstead said. ‘It’s just being smart in those situations. It’s tough but you do it to the best of your ability.”

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw was flagged for unnecessary roughness against Chicago’s Justin Fields in Week 1 and then ejected for a helmet-high hit on Justin Herbert of the Chargers in Week 9. Greenlaw said Hurts may slide one time and then look to make a one-on-one move the next, with the defender needing to make a split-second decision on whether to deliver a blow.

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“When quarterbacks run the ball they’re a running back and they can get hit, but they’re kind of in between so you’ve got to feel it out,” Greenlaw said. “With his shoulder, you don’t know how much he’s going to run, but you’ve got to be aware of where you are on the field, who you’re trying to tackle and how you’re tackling him. There’s never a perfect way to go about it.”

On option plays, defenders who don’t properly play their assignment can be out of position, with Hurts getting loose as a result.

“With a read option any time you’re facing a quarterback who runs it you’ve got to be on your assignments for a full 60 minutes which is easier said than done,” Warner said. “There’s times you’re in a game for a long drive, and you might forget where to fit on a certain play. It’s all about being detailed and everyone swarming to the ball when he does pull it (and run).”

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