Bay Briefs

Monday February 12, 2001

Stolen Koalas were beaten, zoo officials say 

SAN FRANCISCO — The two koalas kidnapped in December from the San Francisco Zoo and later recovered were beaten by the two teens who abducted them, officials said Friday. 

Zoo animal keeper Nancy Rumsey told a juvenile court judge that the older koala, 15-year-old Pat, was beaten “to submission” and briefly fled up a tree while attempting to escape her captor. 

Rumsey’s testimony came at a sentencing hearing for two boys, ages 15 and 17, who stole the koalas from the zoo December 27. 

“I noticed right away that (Pat’s) lower jaw was swollen and she had trouble walking,” Rumsey said. “She was really wobbly and continues to be disoriented.” 

Veterinarians who conducted initial examinations said the koalas appeared to be in good condition, and were later told about the maltreatment. 

The koalas were recovered Dec. 28 after an anonymous tip led police to the house where the animals were being kept. 

The teen-agers pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, possession of stolen property and grand theft. Their sentencing has been postponed until April. 


Peninsula city to get new public high school 

EAST PALO ALTO — This fall, high school students here could finally be able to walk to school. 

A long-awaited public high school approved Thursday for East Palo Alto will be the first in the city for 25 years. Students in the city have been bused to schools in other cities since 1976, when Ravenswood High closed. 

The Ravenswood City School District board authorized the college preparatory charter school to open in September with 80 students. 

“The community is happy,” said Superintendent Charlie Mae Knight. “It was like Camelot again in East Palo Alto.” 

A lottery system will decide who will attend the school from the district, which covers East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park. 

The school will be operated by Aspire Public Schools, a nonprofit co-founded by a former superintendent of San Carlos schools. 


Kidnap suspect causes trouble 

VALLEJO — Kidnapping suspect Curtis Dean Anderson allegedly struck a Solano County jail officer Friday. 

Anderson was being transported to a court hearing at about 6:30 a.m. when the incident occurred. 

Solano County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Gary Faulkner said Anderson struck an officer with his open hand and then spit blood on the officers face. 

Anderson is in jail on charges that he kidnapped and sexually assaulted an 8-year-old Vallejo girl last year. 

Anderson has also been questioned in connection with death of Xiana Fairchild. The seven-year-old went missing in 1999 and her skull was recently found in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

No arrests have been made in that case. 


Flasher clown faces ban 

CLAYTON (AP) — Flasher the Clown’s “dog in the pants” act has gotten him in trouble before, and the children’s entertainer may now be banned from a family Fourth of July parade. 

“We have no problem with Mr. Manion,” said Ben Jay, parade chairman. “But it becomes a problem when he flashes his coat - a dog pops out of his pants and he wants kids to pet it.” 

Bob Manion is familiar with criticism of the act he has performed for 30 years — he was also banned him from the Walnut Festival in Walnut Creek. 

The Clayton parade committee has fielded complaints from the public and committee members for the past two years. It renewed deliberations last week to decide whether Flasher will return, and could decide as early as next month. 

Manion was taken aback with the news that he may not be welcome at the parade. 

“It’s ludicrous. I can’t believe this,” he said. 

The 59-year-old father of three has said he is not being rude or insensitive, that he just wants to make kids laugh. Supporters, such as Clayton Councilwoman Julie Pierce, called critics “a little bit hypersensitive.” 


Man arrested for passing out Bibles 

SAN RAMON (AP) — A man has been arrested for passing out Bibles at a middle school and refusing to leave school grounds. 

Jerome Denham, a 65-year-old Walnut Creek resident, told officials he was “doing God’s work” as he gave the books to drivers who were picking up students at Pine Valley Middle School. 

Eight other people who were members of Gideons International were also handing out Bibles on the sidewalk, but they were not on school property and were not arrested. Gideons International distributes Bibles to motels, hospitals and others. 

School officials said that even after repeated requests, Denham would not leave the area where he stood, which slowed the flow of traffic on campus. 

“It has nothing to do with distributing Bibles, which is within their right to do,” said San Ramon Valley school district spokesman Terry Koehne. “The issue was a safety issue,” he said. 

Koehne said the district will not press charges against Denham. 


Bus catches fire 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An electric bus caught fire in the city’s financial district Saturday afternoon. 

The incident happened as the Muni trolley coach was unloading passengers in downtown around the financial district. The driver was able to usher his five passengers off the bus through the front door as the back of the vehicle went up in flames, and no one was injured. 

The blaze blew out the vehicle’s windows and melted the seats. 

Passengers said they have never seen an electric bus catch fire. A Muni spokeswoman said the fire started where the electricity comes through overhead wires to power the bus.