Police Bulletin | June 3, 2022 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |
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Pleasanton Weekly

Community Pulse - June 3, 2022

Police Bulletin

Man charged with murder for freeway crash on Valentine's Day 2021

Alameda County prosecutors filed charges last week against a Manteca man with prior drunk-driving convictions for allegedly causing a high-speed crash while intoxicated near Dublin 15 months ago and running from the scene while his passenger lay dying on the freeway after being ejected from the car.

Alejandro Valencia Torres Jr., now 26, faces six felonies and seven special allegations in connection with the solo-vehicle wreck on westbound Interstate 580 that killed Kenia Hernandez Berber on Valentine's Day 2021.

The case remained under investigation by the California Highway Patrol's Dublin office for more than a year, including one exchange late last year in which the CHP presented initial findings to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and prosecutors then requested more evidence, before the criminal complaint against Valencia Torres was filed on May 25.

Valencia Torres is scheduled for arraignment in Alameda County Superior Court later this month. It is not immediately clear whether he is yet represented by an attorney. The defendant's last name is also recorded as ValenciaTorres.

Documents filed with the court in the case thus far serve to confirm early information reported publicly by CHP-Dublin, as well as reveal new details including the allegation that Valencia Torres fled after the crash but was soon apprehended at a gas station in Dublin.

The situation unfolded at around 4:45 a.m. Feb. 14, 2021, when a silver Toyota sedan traveling at a high rate of speed on westbound I-580 just west of the San Ramon Road/Foothill Road exit drifted out of control to the right, the CHP reported at the time. The car went up a dirt embankment and flipped over.

The impact of the crash caused passenger Hernandez Berber to be ejected from the sedan, landing face down on the freeway with major injuries. The 25-year-old woman was pronounced dead at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley later in the day.

Hernandez Berber, a native of Mexico, had been living in San Leandro and working as a nail artist in the Bay Area, according to a brief obituary online.

Upon arriving at the crash scene that morning, CHP Officer Amandeep Singh spoke with witnesses who said the driver ran away from the wreckage north of I-580 toward Dublin Boulevard, according to a probable cause declaration from Singh filed with the court.

The suspect -- later identified as Valencia Torres -- was spotted at the Shell gas station at Dublin Boulevard and San Ramon Road within the hour, according to the officer.

"Upon contact I immediately smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from his person and his eyes were red and watery," Singh stated. "I read Torres his Miranda rights and he declined further questioning and testing."

The officer arrested Valencia Torres on suspicion of DUI just after 5:50 a.m. Feb. 14, 2021.

The CHP investigation concluded within the past several weeks, and the DA's office formally charged Valencia Torres for Hernandez Berber's death on May 25.

The six felony charges include murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with prior convictions, DUI-alcohol causing injuries with priors, DUI with a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit with priors, leaving the scene of a serious car accident and reckless driving causing great bodily injury.

He also faces special allegations including having a blood-alcohol content at or above 0.15%, speeding at least 30 mph over the posted maximum, causing serious injury to his passenger and having prior DUI convictions.

The criminal complaint cites two prior DUI convictions against Valencia Torres for incidents occurring within 11 days of each other in Alameda County in 2015.

-- Jeremy Walsh

In other news

* A Tri-Valley man who may have been intoxicated died in a crash that left three children from his car and another driver with major injuries late Sunday on Highway 160 just north of the Antioch Bridge, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The wreck was reported about 10:20 p.m. on the two-lane highway between the Antioch Bridge and Highway 12, the CHP said. The area is in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in southern Sacramento County.

A Mazda reportedly traveling southbound at a high rate of speed went over the double-yellow lines and into the opposing lane of traffic, colliding with an oncoming Audi, according to CHP spokesman Officer Mark Leavitt. The Mazda overturned and the Audi spun out to the right shoulder.

The Mazda's driver, a 38-year-old San Ramon man who may have been intoxicated, was not wearing a seatbelt and died at the scene, Leavitt said. His identity has not yet been revealed publicly.

Two boys in the Mazda's back seat, ages 6 and 4, were not wearing seatbelts and sustained major injuries. There were no car seats in the vehicle. A 15-year-old girl in the front passenger seat may have been wearing a seatbelt, Leavitt said.

All three children were hospitalized. The relationship between the occupants of the Mazda was still under investigation, according to Leavitt.

The driver of the Audi, a 71-year-old woman from Rio Vista, was hospitalized with major injuries and was in stable condition on Monday.

Interviews with witnesses indicated that the driver may have been intoxicated and driving recklessly, according to the CHP.

-- Kathleen Kirkwood, BCN

* A father and son from the Tri-Valley were sentenced last Friday for conspiracy to commit mail fraud through a scheme to embezzle medical equipment owned by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, Inc., the Department of Justice announced.

Anthony Montanelli, 34, and his father, Steven Montanelli, 63, both of San Ramon, pleaded guilty to the charges on Jan. 14.

According to the plea agreement, the men worked for Kaiser as biomedical engineers and were responsible for repairing and servicing ultrasound equipment. The men used their positions to order new ultrasound parts that were supposed to be used for repairs or maintenance, but instead were diverted into their own side business, Pacific Coast Imaging (PCI).

The defendants then sold those parts through PCI for their own profit, according to the plea deal. The pair also did not disclose to Kaiser that they had the side business, which they operated during their Kaiser work hours.

The father and son admitted that from February of 2010 to about April of 2018 they worked together to defraud Kaiser. They even went as far as to rent a storage facility to stockpile new, used, and decommissioned Kaiser-owned ultrasound systems and parts. Some of the Kaiser inventory was sold or leased to PCI customers. The pair also admitted that they would report items as decommissioned so that they could divert them to their side business.

The Montanellis admitted that the value of the loss to Kaiser exceeded $1.5 million. Anthony Montanelli has given Kaiser restitution in the amount of $449,955 so far, bringing the total restitution amount to $1,649,955, according to the DOJ.

Anthony Montanelli was given a year and a day in prison for his crime and he is due to surrender on or before July 1. His father Steven has been given five years' probation. Both are ordered to pay $1.2 million within 90 days, as well and a fine of $150,000 each.

-- Bay City News Service

* A young man from Concord with an outstanding burglary warrant was taken into custody in Danville after police allege he fired a gun following a fight in the heart of downtown early Sunday morning.

Jacob Filipo, 20, was booked into the county jail on suspicion of multiple firearm charges, as well as in connection with a separate warrant alleging eight counts of both burglary and conspiracy, according to Danville Police Chief Allan Shields.

The situation unfolded around 1:20 a.m. Sunday, when Danville police received a call reporting shots fired in front of Kick N' Mule Bar & Kitchen on Hartz Avenue. Officers investigated the case and determined Filipo was the suspect who "fired a gun into the ground and across the street in the direction of parked vehicles and closed businesses after a fight had taken place," Shields said.

Police did not locate any gunshot victims related to the incident, according to the chief.

Filipo was arrested on suspicion of discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, carrying a concealed firearm, possessing a loaded firearm and resisting arrest, according to Shields. He was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on those charges, in addition to an unrelated 16-count outstanding warrant. His bail has been set at $395,000.

-- Jeremy Walsh

* A bill from State Sen. Josh Becker that would require California law enforcement agencies to find alternatives to radio encryption cleared the State Senate last week.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 1000, addresses the recent trend of police departments throughout California switching to encrypted communication, a practice that keeps the media and residents from monitoring police activities through a police scanner. The bill gives law enforcement agencies until Jan. 1, 2024 to come up with policies that would protect confidential information while restoring public access to regular radio communication.

The Palo Alto Police Department was one of dozens of law enforcement agencies throughout the state that have switched to encryption in response to an October 2020 memo from the state Department of Justice. The directive from the agency ordered agencies to protect personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, license plate numbers and criminal records.

Some agencies, including Palo Alto police and most other police departments in Santa Clara County, responded by encrypting all radio communications. Others, including the CHP, adopted a "hybrid" approach in which personally identifiable information gets transmitted through secure channels while most of other communication continues to be publicly accessible.

SB 1000 states that agencies may comply with the confidentiality requirement by using an encrypted channel for dissemination of confidential information; by transmitting the information by a mobile data terminal, tablet or other text display device; or by communicating it through a telephone or other private device-to-device communication.

Becker's bill easily cleared the Senate by a 25-8 vote, which fell largely along party lines on May 26. Republican Sens. Patricia Bates, Andreas Borgeas, Brian Dahle, Shannon Grove, Melissa Melendez, Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh and Scott Wilk dissented. Sen. Melissa Hurtado was the only Democrat to join them in opposition.

The bill will still need to get approved by the State Assembly and then signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom before it becomes law.

-- Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly

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