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Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 6/24/20, PM


Governor Newsom Addresses COVID-19 Outbreak At San Quentin / Attorney General Declines To Investigate Vallejo Police Shooting / Magnitude 5.8 Earthquake Strikes Central Valley

Governor Newsom Addresses COVID-19 Outbreak At San Quentin

San Quentin State Prison has become a hotbed of COVID-18 cases. In less than four weeks, the number of infected incarcerated people has increased from zero to 456 around noon today. The virus spread rapidly after several prisoners were transferred from California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County — a prison that has suffered its own outbreak and 16 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

At a press conference, Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom did not say whether or not the state is responsible for causing the outbreak at San Quentin. He did say the state has been trying to decompress the prison system by releasing people who are within 180 days of the end of their sentence and were not convicted of sex offenses, domestic violence, or certain other crimes. He said about 3,500 people have been released so far, and:

“We submitted to the courts, a number of days ago, an additional strategy and plan of a roughly similar cohort of roughly 3,500, that would begin the process of reviewing their plans, making sure they have housing plans, parole plans. We don't want to just throw people out in the streets and sidewalks — that wouldn't be humane either.”

He said processing the next group of incarcerated people will begin next week, on July 1.

“For San Quentin, specifically, we’ll be moving that process before July 1 to decompress that system, again, in a very thoughtful way but with a sense of urgency, and let me just close on that.”

Newsom noted that 42% of the San Quentin population is “medically vulnerable.” He did not specifically say how those who remain incarcerated will be kept safe. California Correctional Health Care Services have sent extra public health staff to the prison. And since April 21, all state prisons have staggered activities like dining and showers to allow for safe social distancing and surface disinfection. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says it has distributed reusable cloth masks to every person living or working within its institutions.

Prison rights organizations and a district judge in Oakland say not nearly enough is being done to protect the lives of San Quentin’s infected population. They call for transferring prisoners to safe locations, allowing house arrest, or increasing the rate of early release.

The State Senate Public Safety Committee plans to conduct a hearing about prison oversight next week.

Attorney General Declines To Investigate Vallejo Police Shooting

California’s attorney general is declining to independently investigate the fatal shooting of a man killed by an officer in Vallejo. Police say they initially thought he was carrying a handgun in his waistband but he actually had a hammer. Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said Wednesday that the Solano County district attorney is capable of handling the investigation, even though she had asked Becerra to step in. Sean Monterrosa was suspected of stealing from a pharmacy amid national protests when he was killed June 2. Vallejo police say he dropped to his knees and put his hands above his waist, revealing what an officer incorrectly thought was the butt of a handgun.

Magnitude 5.8 Earthquake Strikes Central Valley

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck in a remote area of central California, today, and was followed by a series of aftershocks.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 10:40 a.m. and was centered in the Owens Valley region below the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada. It was felt widely, including some 240 miles away in Sacramento.

The Inyo County Sheriff's Office said there was a report of a rockslide on the road leading to the trailhead for Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, and debris on another road.

Veteran seismologist Lucy Jones said on Twitter that the temblor occurred in the same location as a magnitude-4.6 quake Monday night. She says that one is now considered a foreshock.

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.