Death by Beemer

Speed kills yet again; Castro Valley bank robber doesn't get far, but Berkeley burglar makes a squeaky-clean getaway.

Could these two have been friends, had they met? Both were smart, sporty, and middle-class. Both liked fast cars.

David Caspillo drove his BMW in Sports Car Club of America autocross tournaments. Dale Zenor, as a Piedmont High School student in 1969, would race his Triumph TR3 down Oakland’s Lincoln Avenue against one classmate driving an Austin-Healey Sprite, another a Porsche Boxster, another a Mini Cooper, going “as fast as we could,” the Sprite driver remembers: “Crazy boys and their toys.” But they won’t meet, because Caspillo sped onto Lafayette’s Stanley Boulevard, his BMW doing some 50 mph in a school zone as he hit the intersection, rear-ending Zenor’s Miata. It hurtled through the air and crashed, killing Zenor. Five other cars were struck.

That was March 22. Caspillo’s name went public on August 29, when he was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter. The case took so long to investigate because, among other things, he left no skid marks. But weeks earlier, locals had ferreted out his identity and posted it on a Topix forum, where dozens raged about what they wanted to do to him. As in: “This man should be hung out!” And: “David Caspillo!! Why don’t we go to his house??” His employer was named. Vigilantism is alive and well, but who hasn’t felt that urge?

Zenor cherished his cats Nikky, Rocky, and Shadow. A skeet shooter, he treated his Martinez Gun Club pals to ice cream every Wednesday. They held a memorial, a 67-gun salute. With ice cream. Caspillo endorses a nutritional supplement that allegedly reduces exertion-burn. On its Web page, he posted a rave: “I use SportLegs(TM) for skiing, riding motocross, and playing soccer on weekends. It works great for all three sports.” Busy guy. Or was.

Withdrawal symptoms: Bank robberies aren’t just in the movies. Fremont had four in August, Berkeley one, Oakland two. Two women robbed the Rockridge Washington Mutual. Three men robbed the Temescal Bank of the West: One flashed a gun at workers and patrons; one kept watch; one surmounted a counter to rifle through drawers. The same bank had been hit two months earlier, though cops think the two hits weren’t connected.

On August 29, Police say, Oakland resident Jamilia Owens robbed a Castro Valley Bank of the West, pocketing $400, then thanks to a proactive security guard was caught minutes later near the Lake Chabot entrance with a man and a seventeen-year-old girl in a van containing dye-pack dye. All three were arrested; the teen is suspected of robbing at least fifteen banks this summer in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties.

Seller beware: Piedmont is a town without pity for peddlers, who are required by municipal law to purchase $20 annual permits before soliciting door-to-door. And don’t think the locals won’t tattle. August 24 alone yields the following reports: “11:52 a.m. Lakeview Avenue. Caller reported a peddler in area without a permit. Officer advised peddler of ordinance.” After an identical report for 11:53 a.m. at Wildwood Gardens came: “12:46 p.m. Hazel Lane. Caller reported two peddlers in area without permits. Peddlers gone upon officer’s arrival. 1:53 p.m. Cambridge Way. Caller reported a peddler in area. Officer advised peddler of ordinance; peddler was going to leave city. 4:08 p.m. El Cerrito Avenue. Caller reported peddler in area. Peddler gone upon officer’s arrival.” Ditto 5:34 p.m. on El Cerrito Ave. Flog thy cockles and buttonhooks in Canyon or San Lorenzo — anywhere but here.

Violated pupils: Back-to-school means back-to-steal in Berkeley, whose annual spike in auto burglaries, car thefts, and stickups arrived on schedule, says Sergeant Mary Kusmiss: “The bad guys and gals, most of who come from outside Berkeley, know there’s gonna be more cars in town, more laptops, more golf clubs, more young people walking around.” On cue, three muggings occurred near Ashby BART shortly before midnight on August 31. In one, a trio of muggers laughed upon finding only three bucks in their victim’s wallet. They took his iPod but gave back his sunglasses.

Worth it? On September 3, someone detached a window on Ashby Avenue just to steal 26 bars of soap. On August 27, someone smashed a window at Downtown Berkeley’s Luggage Center just to steal two suitcases. Clean hands and spontaneous vacations are cool, but …

Hoop dreams: On August 30, a Walnut Creek resident left a message for local police that he “would like some advice,” having “received a threatening e-mail stating that he has three days to live.” Attempting to call him, officers got no answer, so left him a message to call back if he still needed advice. Later that day, the police heard from another man “concerned about literature left behind” by an individual “with no information on how to obtain free salad.” Toward evening, another Creekster reported that someone had tampered with the basketball hoop in front of his residence. Asked for details, he “said it was a long story and didn’t want to get into it.” Twenty-four hours later, a woman reported having sent $200 to someone who told her she’d won a sweepstakes in Jamaica. “The reporting party has since found out she didn’t win a sweepstakes.”

Steal my sunshine: Meanwhile in Oakland, whose staggering homicide rate overworks an understaffed police force, bold daylight burglaries are on the rise. Locals report being startled as brazen opportunists stride up their driveways to peer through their windows, then walk casually away upon finding someone at home.


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