West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief hopes to inspire more diverse fire crews as she takes over as Fire Chief in Woodland
By Daniel Wilson Early in her career, West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief Rebecca Ramirez, who will take over as the first female fire chief for the Woodland Fire Department on Feb. 27, More »
By Jan Dalske for the News Ledger Parishioners of Our Lady of Grace Parish in West Sacramento gathered in the church hall last month to celebrate Sister Michael Henry’s 80th Birthday. Sister More »
Mother of alleged gang member discusses son’s charges and her involvement with Broderick is Not a Gang
Editor’s Note: The following was provided by West Sacramento mother Sonia Rodriguez when asked to provide details about her son in a way to humanize the neighborhood youth who, in addition to serious crimes, has been labeled as a gang member, even though she said he was never affiliated with a gang. Some of it has been edited to fit the newspaper.
Name: Elijah Rodriguez
Age: 21 (now) 17 at time of arrest
On May 5, 2012, Elijah Rodriguez was arrested at school around Franklyn Way and Glide Avenue for attempted murder. The charges were dropped to assault with a deadly weapon. He took a deal for 12 years with two strikes.
He was charged with:
CT1 PC 245 (a) (1) assault with a deadly weapon (3 years), CT1A PC 186.22 (b) gang enhancement (5yrs)
CT2 PC 245(a) (1) assault with a deadly weapon (1 year) CT2B PC 12022.7 (a) inflicts great bodily injury (3 years)
Statement from Sonia Rodriguez
I completely understand what my son did was wrong and believe he deserved to go to prison. What he was charged with is a very serious matter that we don’t take lightly. However, I have a problem with a couple things.
The first being the amount of time Elijah got. He took a deal for 12 years. He was threatened with 25 years to life if we went to trial granted there were no deaths in this case. Because of the “safe zone” if this crime would have happened one block over, my son wouldn’t have gotten gang enhancements which added five years to his prison term. I take issue with the 12-year sentence because in 2008 my 17-year-old daughter was hit and killed by a hit and run drunk driver and the offender only got a 9-year sentence and served less than three years for killing my daughter and injuring my daughter’s friend. It just doesn’t seem balanced.
The second thing I have a problem with is my son receiving the gang enhancements and being labeled a gang member. I take issue with the way (the officer) used determined my son was a gang member. The officer has never had contact with my son before this. In court the officer said my son did this to move up in rank with the ‘Broderick Boys’. My son was a dumb kid that did something stupid. This had no rhyme or reason. He wasn’t doing this to be promoted in a gang he was never a part of to begin with. Just because the officer says it, doesn’t make it true. My son is an aspiring rapper and has hundreds of notebooks with raps he wrote. The officer used those as evidence of ‘criminal activity’. The raps were not about rainbows and sunshine, that’s for sure but none on the raps were about gangs or being in gangs. They were stupid raps my son made up, he was a teenage boy. My son is not and was not a gang member. My son was never served with the gang injunction before this. My son has never admitted to being in a gang.
Did my son know kids that said they were in a gang? Of course, these are kids he has gone to school with since preschool through high school. But that is not a crime nor does it make you a gang member. West Sacramento is a very small community. Not every boy in Broderick is a gang member. In prison, my son is not affiliated with a gang. He is considered an ‘other’ meaning he is not in a gang.
However, his paperwork says he is a Norteño gang member and that has caused him problems with other inmates and guards. He has to explain how Yolo County labeled him a gang member but he is not. If he was a former gang member he would be considered a ‘drop out’. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but in prison apparently it is a big deal. It affects how other inmates treat you. My son is okay right now but he is a young impressionable boy with 10 years left in prison. He will have spent a large majority of growing up years around hardened criminals. I can’t say how he will be when he gets out of prison and is a man of 31 years of age. This will affect my son for the rest of his life. Not only while he is in prison but when he gets out and tries to move on with his life.
While in prison he has gotten no write ups and is taking college courses. The last we heard from our son was three weeks ago. He was transferred to a prison in Arizona from The California Correctional Center in Susanville, California. He called us and said they told him he was being transferred again to a prison in Mississippi. We have no further information on his whereabouts. He has been in prison for the past two years. He has 10 more years to serve.
Since joining Broderick is a Community, Not a Gang I have heard story after story about how these kids are being charged as adults, labeled as gang members, and threatened with 25 years to life and offered a deal of 12 years regardless of the crime. It just doesn’t seem right. How can every boy in Broderick be a gang member? Yolo County has the highest direct filing in the state. How can the DAs justify this? If our boys were not criminal gang members before prison, what do they think they will come home as?
Broderick is a community, not a gang: New nonprofit stems from racial profiling of neighborhood boys
By Monica Stark
Editor’s Note: This is the first part in a series about the Broderick Boys and neighborhood efforts to bring attention to racial profiling and what community members call unjust sentences. One of the stories in the series will focus on the police perspective.
On Saturday, April 23, West Sacramentans came together at the West Sacramento Police Department to rally against the gang injunction which members of a newly formed nonprofit, Broderick is Not a Gang, say has caused four juveniles to be detained in custody for more than a year.
In June 2015, four youths — Angelo Yabes, 14, Joseph Gomez, 15, Xavier Vincent Perez, 16, and Xavier Westford, 17 — were detained and accused of three separate robberies of pizza delivery drivers despite statements from all the drivers indicating they could not identify who assaulted them. District attorney attempts to charge them as adults and under gang enhancements failed causing all charges to be dropped, only to be picked up against under a “995” (which states the Judge made an error). Yet, Double Jeopardy prohibits a person from being charged twice for a crime. In another attempt to prosecute, on April 7, the DA announced and filed grand jury indictment charges against the four youths as adults.
Their mothers are taking a stand to stop the gang injunction with Broderick is a Community, Not a Gang. This is for the four sons, they say, are being victimized and incarcerated by the gang injunction. The nonprofit will hire legal counsel to overturn the gang injunction in West Sacramento.
The injunction puts several restrictions upon those it affects, including a curfew, making it illegal to associate or assemble with other alleged members, trespassing and drinking anywhere in public view.
Activists say the people of Broderick are a close-knit bunch and that they’ve known each other for years, were raised next door to each other and many have helped raise their children together as well.
Residents of the area say the community has been torn apart by the injunction. “Friends and family members can no longer go to family barbecues or attend each other’s children’s birthday parties,” said a community activist. “They can’t go to the movies together; they can’t attend night school because classes get out after the curfew. This injunction harms the quality of life of our community.”
In a letter to the editor of the Woodland Daily Democrat, Becky Olvera of Woodland, back in 2010 wrote that prior to West Sacramento building James Marshall High School in the early 1950s, students from east Yolo were bused to and attended Woodland High School for years; as were students from Knights Landing, and perhaps also from the town of Yolo. “Those students congregated on campus in their respective city groups. The Woodland students identified and referred to the out of town boys by where they lived. Thus they imposed the identification names, such as the Knights Landing Boys, the Bryte Boys, the West Sac Boys, the Broderick Boys, and the Yolo Boys. Later the Yolo Boys’ name was changed to The Yolo Cats,” Olvera wrote.
She wrote about the beginning of the West Sacramento Gang Injunction Trial. “In 2008 Judge Kathleen White imposed the preliminary injunction, and now the District Attorney’s office is seeking a permanent injunction for a certain area called the ‘safety zone’ in West Sacramento, which I assume incorporates only the streets that once were the streets of the city of Broderick before it became part of West Sacramento. As an interested citizen I sat in on the proceedings the first week when the civil trial began last month. The District Attorney’s office, to put it in the simplest term, intends to prove that a triangle exists. Namely, that the Broderick Boys, Nortenos, and street gangs mean one and the same thing, and that they are intertwined and prevalent in the ‘safety zone’ area.”
Back in 2007, for the same newspaper, the author of today’s News-Ledger article wrote about Billy Wolfinton who went by the name “Bouncer.” Rather than serving all 350 alleged members of the gang, the district attorney served just him. Reisig said that Wolfington, a self-proclaimed Broderick Boy, was seen talking to other gang members at the time the gang injunction was served. “It would be an absolute certainty that he told other gang members,” Reisig said back then. The DA said that Wolfington had a tattoo on his chest that says ” Broderick “, was wearing Broderick ‘s gang color – red – and has been arrested many times in relation with the Broderick Boys for possession of drugs and guns.
But Wolfington didn’t show up in court. And because he didn’t come to court to accept his injunction, Justice Thomas Warriner placed it on the entire neighborhood.
The injunction’s three-square-mile radius which previously included Doss Way, Brookfield, Franklyn Boulevard and Morrison Creek has been extended out to Interstate 80, activists say. Under the provisions of the order, violating any of the activities listed on the junction becomes a crime. For instance, if an employee of a gang member litters or is present on the premises of an uninhabited or abandoned apartment or building, that person is in violation.
Under the West Sacramento Police Department’s list of criteria for gang membership, any two of eleven criteria must be met to be considered a gang member. But the criteria are broad, including items such as: “Individual wears gang clothing/colors” and “Individual displays gang graffiti on personal belongings,” without specifying which colors, clothing or graffiti are considered gang-related.
The organizers of the April event also included members of the National Latino Information and Resource Center, the ANSWER Coalition, the Labor Council For Latin American Advancement, ALF-CIO, the Brown Berets de SacraAztlan, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the West Sacramento Committee To Boycott Driscoll.
Being an election year, the group has continued to take action with a voter registration drive that will impact the Nov. 8 elections. One of the group’s founders, Maria Grijalva, stated she will run for city council. “This November a new wave of West Sacramento residents will be raising their voice with their vote and will end the gang injunction.”
“The reason we formed the nonprofit is that four boys were accused of a pizza delivery robbery. And now they have a $2.5 million bail. Even though there was no violence, they are being threatened with life sentences. Their mothers are the ones who are being directly impacted… A public defender told us that it’s common knowledge that Yolo County uses direct filing to put away Latinos for life and to get rid of them in Yolo County,” Maria said.
Mother Sonia Rodriguez, whose son Elijah is profiled in this issue of the News-Ledger, said she got involved with the nonprofit as soon as she heard about it. “It is too late for my son but I believe this is an issue that will not go away. I speak for the group telling my sons story whenever I am asked, I attend the weekly meetings, I send out donation requests to help fund our efforts, I try and help out whenever and with whatever I can.”
Rodriguez would like the nonprofit to educate the community about the dangers involved in having the gang injunction in West Sacramento/Broderick Area, to remove it, to stop the direct filing on future offenders, and to have an investigation on gang officers as to their evidence gathering. “(The officer’s) word should not be law on our kids; it is too high of a price for our kids to pay for one man to determine. I don’t believe every teenaged boy that gets into trouble is a gang member. I am scared for future generations if this is not done. I don’t believe that having pride in your neighborhood makes you a gang member.”
Further, she said she would like to help change the way the police department interacts with Broderick youth. “I would like to help provide the youth of West Sacramento and Broderick a place they can go to get off the streets, to see a free youth center or free sports center opened in our neighborhood, (not only Southport) so that at-risk, low income kids have easy access to it. I would like to see these kids given a chance in life to succeed. I know it is a lot but you have to dream big. The ultimate goal is to make the Broderick community a better place to live and raise your children.”
Water regulations are recommendations, not mandates
The Stage Three Water Shortage for the City of West Sacramento was lifted on June 1. This change in water regulation has been shared through social media channels and will be in the June utility bill.
It is recommended that watering return to three days a week. This is a recommendation, not a mandate, explained Ryan Burnett, City of West Sacramento Water Conservation Coordinator. “Our hope is to offer more watering while still encouraging water conservation,” he wrote in response to an inquiry from the Ledger after readers questioned this year’s watering schedule. Burnett provided the following recommended watering schedule, as well as current water waste prohibitions:
Recommended watering schedule:
Addresses ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Addresses ending in 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8: Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays
Water waste prohibitions:
1. Allowing irrigation to run-off to streets and gutters
2. Using a hose not fitted with an automatic shut-off nozzle to wash a vehicle
3. Irrigation of landscape during rainfall
4. Running an irrigation system that applies water to an impervious surface
5. Running an irrigation system that is in disrepair
Let’s Talk Bike Path
By Michele Townsend
West Sacramento’s Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Master Plan is a huge project that the city of West Sacramento has begun.
Its purpose is to increase safety and connectivity for the bicycle and pedestrian travel throughout town. The project is citywide and will include the development of bike paths, bike routes and 10.3 miles of bike lanes will be added throughout town.
However, currently, the part of this project that has begun to take shape is the construction of the Sycamore Trail. Several pieces of land are being developed to create this trail. It begins from at the end of Rice Avenue behind Westfield Elementary, travels to Michigan, from Michigan to West Capitol, through Sycamore Park, from Evergreen to the north side of Westmore Oaks Elementary parking lot, around the front of the school and then from the south end of the school to the corner of Stone and Park.
These access easements were previously fenced off and not patrolled. They were unsafe and unsightly. These easements are now being developed to create a bike path that will allow bicycle and pedestrian traffic a safer and easier way across that section of our city.
With safety and concern for the residents a priority, the city is looking into such things as the installation of two-stage lighting. These lights will have low light output with motion sensors that will brighten the light as you get closer. This type of lighting will increase safety, save energy, and will be less invasive to the residents.
Though we already have a few West Sac bicycle police officers, the Eyes on the Street concept will be the primary system of security. The Eye on the Street concept simply means that when something is in public and can always be seen, there are more eyes on it – which in itself brings down the crime risk. This is NOT to say that the city expects the adjoining residents to keep watch over the bike path. They don’t! But the simple truth is that the more often it is used, the safer it is likely to be.
The city of West Sacramento is also working closely with Washington Unified School District to promote the Safe Routes to School program. This path will allow for safer bike passages to Westfield and Westmore Oaks elementary schools. In addition to the health benefits, the more people who can transition to biking and walking to school, the more it will relieve the stress and congestion of drop off and pick up times at the elementary schools. It’s also a great way for a family bike ride!
With the BPT Master Plan getting under way, the City of West Sacramento held an Open House on May 17 and 18 at City Hall where they updated the Master Plan, talked about premier projects that are moving forward, and listened to concerns that community members have. It was very informal and welcoming. As you walked in, there were several large maps on display with the existing plan, both upcoming and completed. There was also a blank map set up, and markers, for the community members to mark on the map their areas of concern. Along with it was a large tablet for those people to explain what their concern or desire was with the correlating section of map. Everybody walked around and spoke like friends.
Chris Dougherty, the project manager (or, Bike Path Master) was there to answer any questions, listen to ideas, and problems that were brought to him regarding all aspects of this project. Also attending the meeting was Jason McCoy, who explained plans and answered any questions regarding bridges. In addition, Katie Yancey was there for anything that has, does, or will involve the railroads. All three were very knowledgable and extremely forthcoming. They were also very receptive to comments from the public. A popular topic was bike racks. Maureen Price, from the Iron Works area said “I ride for pleasure but I also ride for errands, but my problem is bike racks!” Chris explained that the city is aware and working on that, but that there are conflicts between some property owners, and the businesses that lease that property. Who pays for the bike racks? Who Maintains them? Who is liable? etc. Chris listened to ideas and suggestions as he added to his growing list of areas of interest or concern. Chris told me “I think that the Open House was a success. A lot of information was exchanged, in both directions, and it was really good!” There are no current plans for any additional meeting of this sort, but the city is still very interested in the townspeople’s opinions and encourages you to go to their website, or you can email Chris at ChrisD@cityofwestsacramento.org