General Crime

* Eric Banford was Arrested for the Killing of a Motorcyclist in Palo Alto

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A 7-year-old girl was killed in East Palo Alto today when she was struck by a car driven by a teacher on her way to work — just a block away from where a motorcyclist died in a separate collision earlier this morning. The girl was crossing Bay Road at Gloria Way in a crosswalk a few feet ahead of her mother and two younger sisters shortly after 8 a.m. when she was struck by an eastbound car, East Palo Alto police spokeswoman Veronica Barries said. “She was on her way to school,” Barries said.

 The girl, a student at Green Oaks Academy whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver, Alisha Whiteparker, 49, of East Palo Alto, was on her way to teach at Costano Elementary School, Barries said. She stopped at the scene and cooperated with investigators.

 It is not yet clear what caused the accident. “It’s still all under investigation,” Barries said. “We’re taking a lot of things into account at this point.” The tragedy came less than three hours after a motorcyclist was killed a block away, at Bay Road and University Avenue, when he was struck by a driver fleeing from police. The chase began after police responded to a 5:25 a.m. call from a resident of the 400 block of Bell Street who believed someone was trying to break into her home. “She heard voices in her backyard,” Barries said.

 Officers went to the neighborhood and spotted a dark-colored Land Rover and tried to pull it over, but the driver sped away, she said. A brief chase followed, ending when the Land Rover struck the motorcyclist while traveling the wrong way on University Avenue, Barries said. The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not been released but Barries said he was an adult male.

 Police detained several people in the Land Rover for questioning, and arrested the driver, identified by Barries as 46-year-old Eric Banford, of East Palo Alto. Barries said Banford has an extensive criminal history. She said the Police Department will investigate the circumstances of the chase and crash. “Our basic protocol is to conduct an investigation not only on the actual crime itself but on the pursuit,” Barries sasid. She said it appears the chase lasted less than 30 seconds, and that investigators will review footage from cameras inside the police cars involved. 

There was speculation that this morning’s second accident could have been related to the street closures prompted by the first crash, but Barries said that appears not to be the case. The deaths have shaken the community. “It’s a tragic event, both the motorcycle accident and the 7-year-old,” East Palo Alto Mayor Carlos Romero said. Ravenswood City School District board member Saree Mading said district officials sent out an email updating faculty and staff on the situation. “It’s a small community. I know the teacher personally,” Mading said. 

Grief counselors are being made available to students, faculty and staff today, Mading said.   
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