Extensive Blunt Trauma

Political signs go missing, a gunman gets caught, and a man's fatal freeway dash remains a mystery.

Investigators are still trying to figure out why twenty-year-old Richard Banner was on foot, on the freeway, around 11 p.m. on October 11. Drivers called the CHP to report a pedestrian “jumping on car hoods” on southbound 880 near Fremont; a Mitsubishi Montero struck and killed Banner. The impact was ruled accidental; Banner died of “extensive blunt trauma,” says Michael Yost of the Alameda County Coroner’s Office. “Often we get crazy tales of what people think they see,” says CHP officer Oscar Johnson. “That night, one of the early witnesses said a male was stopping vehicles and jumping on them. Another said it looked like he was trying to flag down vehicles and get into them. Almost always, when a pedestrian is running around on the freeway at night, we have impairment” — e.g., drugs or alcohol in the system. Johnson speculates that Banner fled onto the freeway from “some situation he was trying to escape,” and that this was “an escape attempt rather than some kind of stunt.”

What was Banner fleeing? What could possibly make someone run onto a freeway? “When you get hit at freeway speeds,” Johnson says, “you’re done.” An investigation is underway. Banner’s pals are posting memorial messages on their MySpace pages and his — which depicts a playfully smiling Banner as reed-thin, with a peaches-and-cream complexion. “R.I.P RICH BANNER I LUV BRA ILL NERVER 4GET U BRA my nigga is gone bra!!!!” writes one. “2NITE ALL RICHARDS PATNAZ GUNA DRINK ON BEHALF 0F RICH 2NITE.R.I.P RICHARD BANNER ULL BE MISSED,” writes another. A San Leandran laments: “AN0THER LIFE GONE BUT Y MI NIKKA RICH.” An East Oaklander mourns: “FUCK LIFE R.I.P MY BROTHER RICH I LOVE YOU BRA FUCK LIFE I DONT WNAT TO HEAR ABOUT LIFE IS GOOD CAUSE ITS NOT TAKE ME NOT MY NIGGA I LOVE YOU RICH MY BROTHER IM NOT GOING TO STOP GET THIS MONEY.” Banner’s page offers no clue to what might have sparked his freeway run. A greeting dated June 2 reads “Happy birthday nigg nigg. For real, 20 is hallaa old.” The page’s primary image is, ironically, a large car, depicted repeatedly along with the proud message “Dodge Charger.”

Springs, Sprung

Shaped like yard-long eyelashes and made of solid steel, leaf springs support axles as part of the suspension in trucks. In use since medieval times, when they were known as cart springs, they’re yet another target for that most voracious, stop-at-nothing, how-low-can-you-go kind of criminal: the metal thief. In the last few months, more than sixty leaf springs have been swiped from US Spring Services in Emeryville — forty of them on a single night. “We keep a lot of our stock out in the back of our shop,” says manager Brad Bowers. US Spring has had to continually heighten its cyclone fence to ward off thieves; at this point the fence stands twelve feet high. “There’s a direct correllation to the markets in China and the price of steel and scrap,” Bowers says. Each leaf spring weighs around thirteen pounds. US Spring is located near several recycling centers. “That’s where they’re getting the money for it, and then it gets shipped to China.” As yet another security measure, he has installed motion-detecting digital cameras. Hope it helps. Like ants stripping a picnic clean in a cartoon, metal thieves snatch whatever they can pry, saw, or unscrew loose. According to Antioch police reports, a man “was seen carrying copper wiring” and suspected of stealing it on October 10; that same day, “four subjects … were seen taking license plates from vehicles.” On October 12, an Antioch resident “discovered that someone had stolen the tailgate from his company pickup, resulting in a loss of approximately $2,000.”

Placard Pilferage

Some stuff getting swiped these days has no monetary value whatsoever. On local neighborhood-watch sites, reports are afoot of No on Proposition 8 signs being stolen. (In case you’ve just fallen off the Sauvignon Blanc truck, Proposition 8 bans same-sex marriage in California.) “We’ve been steadily replenishing our No on 8 sign … after several disappearances,” writes one Oaklander, “and were lucky enough to catch sight of some folks taking it today around 4 p.m. Four white young adults in a maroon pickup with an extended cab (one of whom was brazen enough to flip us off as they drove away).” Elsewhere, the proposition is allegedly drawing blood: On October 12, José Nuñez told Modesto cops that he was punched in the eye by an assailant who stole the 75 pro-8 signs he was attempting to distribute, according to MSNBC.

Lock. Those. Windows.

And/or get a wall safe installed, hide its combination lock behind an unobtrusive wedding photo where no one would think to look, and use the safe. On October, 12, yet another Orinda home was burgled bigtime in broad daylight by someone who entered “through an unlocked window,” reads the police log, “and took $19,200 in jewelry” between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

One Gunman Gone

After reading a Berkeley Police Department alert about eight armed robberies in the lower hills, all involving a silver sportscar, a resident contacted BPD on October 15 to report seeing the car. At Virginia and Arch streets, where several of those robberies occurred, cops stopped the Mitsubishi Lancer. The license plate on the car matched the plate number provided by one of the victims. Its driver, eighteen-year-old Davon Vigay, had a loaded gun. He was arrested for three counts of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a concealed weapon in a vehicle, carrying a loaded stolen firearm, and possession of a firearm not registered to the possessor, according to Officer Andrew Frankel.


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