Monday, May 15, 2017

Chak's Editorial: Fresco News On Scene of a San Jose Police Officer-Involved Shooting

Friday, April 21, 2017 - the day started out quiet, but didn't stay for long. The ending to a work week was a nightmare, but I ended up with some extra change in my pockets via the Fresco News app. I was out and about on a sunny day and listening to the 5-0 radio app for any sign or detection of a major incident. The first one was a palm tree that caught on fire not far from Story Road on Remillard Court, though I could not trespass due to restriction signs.

That was only short-lived, as I was heading inside a nearby Walmart to search for a small meal, using the Ibotta app. I was then heading back to downtown San Jose to rest when during my drive along Santa Clara Street, I was on the 5-0 radio app and tuned into the San Jose Fire dispatch radio channel for a possible Delta radio call of a man that was seen holding a knife and making threats on other people around 12:44pm (PST). Gunshots were also mentioned on the dispatch, so I went almost immediately to Google Maps and pinpointed the intersection. I was there within 20 minutes due to me having to find parking - surprised that I was the first Fresco user on the scene. And so my own investigation began.

For three straight hours, I aimed my iPhone's camera directly at the scene just across the street along Senter Road at Lewis Road. At the time of the arrival, reporters from KTVU FOX 2 were unavailable, but I started to upload Fresco content as quickly as possible, given the overwhelming evidence I uncovered. Reporters Azneith Smith and Jesse Gary were unavailable; the latter of which was covering ComicCon.

The one that I was deeply concerned about was how long the investigation was going to last. And it was not looking so good. Lewis Road was shut down for at least 6 hours to facilitate the investigation. Seeing the enormous evidence I uncovered, I did make contact with the KTVU newsroom and identified myself as a Fresco user to report at least 3 gunshots were fired. I also was the first to tweet out the warning about the incident after. News crews were still not there during the 3pm hour, and so I stayed at the scene to grab more information and upload as fast as possible on the Fresco app.

KTVU was apparently shocked to hear a crime happening in San Jose while Jesse Gary was having fun at ComicCon. But I was not having fun at all, and what was more shocking is that San Jose was not the only city in the Bay Area to have gun problems. Hayward was also having problems with police activities there as well, but no video was fed in, according to KTVU crime reporter and former San Francisco Chronicle reporter Henry Lee. I did put in a quote tweet in a response to my question to San Jose police that the activity may last several more hours. News crews never arrived on scene until around 4pm, when reporters from NBC and Telemundo arrived. CBS and ABC also arrived on scene as well shortly after, but Univision didn't arrive until 5pm.

In response to the late arrivals by NBC, CBS, ABC, Telemundo, and Univision, I created memes to show proof that a Fresco News user (literally, me) was on the scene within 20 minutes of the San Jose fire radio call for gunshot reports. Because San Jose police has as many as 7 frequencies, I was unable to track them all - San Jose Fire on the radio (via the 5-0 radio app) was very helpful in giving me tips of where things are happening. As San Jose fire on the 5-0 radio app was the critical tool in helping me track stories for the Fresco app, I still think that KTVU and Fresco News (on that fateful April day) have embarrassed local Bay Area news outlets for being almost 4 hours late.

The content eventually went to air about the officer-involved shooting, who I eventually learned later that the suspect was named Khanh Tran. He aimed his knife at officers which led officers to shoot him. While I was tuning in to the 10 O'Clock News on KTVU via my iPhone on a mobile browser, my content was recognized, even though my name was not mentioned that time - instead to read what happened there. Fully Involved Media's Andrew Tetreault also jumped in to ask me about my content, as I opted not to get in too close in order to preserve the crime scene.

Maybe Andrew's next road trip should be in the Bay Area, as random assignments are given out due to increasing Bay Area traffic...


The CEO of Fresco News, John Meyer, does follow me on Instagram and Facebook (the latter without a friend request), but not on Twitter. I so far managed to sneak too much stories on social media without Meyer looking at the Fresco app like my scene in San Jose. It's too obvious that Fresco is having too much fun with my silly uploads. Not all of my uploads have a three video minimum unless requested. I usually upload one video at a time to facilitate my ability to record and upload more as needed. Meyer only claims to have seen it all in terms of my posts on Fresco stories, but not follow all. I think Meyer may want to follow more users to see more exclusives, as some Fresco users have a Facebook setting that only allows users' friends to see the content supplementing the Fresco uploads like the officer-involved shooting mentioned herein.

Oh man, this story was only the start of a string of stories that were purchased by KTVU and/or other Fresco partners. I am getting some buzz among executives at the Fresco headquarters in New York City in spite of being a regular user (not yet a pro user)... Some examples as of so far in 2017 are described below...

1. Treatbot and Moveable Feast founder Ryan Sebestian saw me at the beginning, but he never realized that I was there to see and spot Steve Wozniak in person. I caught Steve Wozniak making announcements regarding ComicCon... and I was unaware that my shot on Wozniak caught KTVU's attention - and even Meyer himself! Meyer told me via a Twitter response that he did meet Wozniak in person.

2. While KTVU was covering a mudslide in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I uncovered a mudslide along East Dunne Avenue as the Anderson Reservoir was almost completely full. I was there from start to finish as other people were having a problem crossing the bridge. The mudslide completely blocked the roadway. I watched as truck after truck worked to clear the mudslide. The kid was late for school at Britton Middle School - lucky that another person took him to school. Over 11 cars were waiting on the bridge as the only road to Morgan Hill was not available, so they had to sit out and wait for 2 hours. I eventually called KTVU and they ended up snatching 5 of my videos - the most from any Fresco user.

3. When a flood affected north Salinas, KTVU called for the content and I responded with videos from the scene, despite the presence of another news station in the immediate area. The road was inaccessable for some users, but I was determined to get there within 30 minutes. Eventually, I shot some 5 videos and 2 of my videos ended up in KTVU's hands.

4. When a flood spilled over from Anderson Reservoir, I was among the 3 Fresco users that shot content from various spots, including one along Tully Road where some equipment near the Coyote Creek was flooded. I eventually got my video purchased by the Weather Channel - the first time that my video was snatched by a cable network.

5. My most recent content so far was the blackout at Great Mall in Milpitas (and one of 2 stories covered for Fresco in which KTVU got my contents), which I called up the KTVU newsroom to report it quickly. Then I dashed around the mall to get answers, and found out the whole mall was blacked out. I was the only user to capture content seconds after the blackout; that one ended up in KTVU's hands - and they subsequently reported on the blackout that day during the evening newscasts starting around 5pm up to around the recently launched 11pm news. Before that, I also covered an assignment in Redwood City, which was a funeral for San Mateo County officers that died in the line of duty. I was a bit surprised that 2 of my videos were purchased, despite the presence of a KTVU cameraman - probably because that my videos were uploaded before KTVU's cameraman got to the vehicle!

So far, what a year it has been for me. I do look forward to covering more stories at the sound of police or fire activity. KTVU does appreciate my calls to the newsroom for some of my tips even though they are busy - I am always ready to dial up the newsroom at anytime when news breaks in San Jose or upon the request of the Fresco app somewhere in Santa Clara County from Gilroy to Palo Alto and Milpitas to Los Gatos, even though I do not limit my Fresco stories to only Santa Clara County (I did have success in San Mateo and San Francisco; some of which I ended up stealing the show!). I do envision that I will cover more stories for Fresco from all parts of the Bay Area someday - but not now.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chak's Editorial: More San Francisco Bay Area content for Fresco News? Possible NBC addition? And for Boston?

Open up the Fresco News app and I found an assignment asking me to be at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco. And yes, I encountered NBC Bay Area business and technology reporter Scott Budman. I did see him in person on that day and see if Budman could give some thoughts about what he thought about the Fresco News and Stringr apps. Budman currently has very little to say about using those apps. The focus here is more on the Fresco News app rather than the Stringr app.

But what Budman never saw was what was on the other side of his mind, namely from the view of Fresco News. Markets without any Fresco News assignments given out, especially groups owned by various different companies, particularly by NBC and by Hearst (the latter of which they own SFGATE, which that is one of Fresco News' partners in San Francisco, for instance). Boston and Miami, for example, are two of the cities that have no Fresco partners when a major story breaks such as airplane crashes. Boston in particular has one station owned by Hearst (WCVB) and another owned by NBC (WBTS).

Budman never realized that Fresco News' CEO John Meyer had his take on NBC. I spoke with Meyer in March about NBC even though some Fox-owned stations are already partners with Fresco News. Meyer indicated that he is working out a deal with NBC, but NBC is slow to respond in spite of promising resources to NBC-owned stations including in the Bay Area (KNTV), Los Angeles (KNBC), and San Diego (KNSD).

As the Bay Area has yet to see more purchases from stations that put out Fresco News assignments, the question still lingers as to how the switch in the Boston area since the first day of 2017 is affecting Fresco's needs of a partner in Boston now that NBC owns WBTS. The coin is still flipping as to whether citizen multimedia photographers (rather than being citizen journalists as Fresco would define as) would do so in the Boston area.

But I found that Boston is not the only one without Fresco News' partners. Seattle is another market where there no such Fresco partners exist at the moment. The Seattle market has television stations owned by different owners that have no such connection to Fresco.

For the Bay Area, if Scott Budman thinks that Fresco News is limited to just one television group, well, that might be a toss-up between having more assignments put out by Fresco's partner stations or having more reporters (specialty reporters like business and technology would be spared). Until more Fresco partners are added, well, Scott Budman could be right... just for now. If only Budman could encounter John Meyer!

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION: Illegal Activity to commence in Sacramento, Stockton, and the state of Hawaii

As I was continuing my investigation into illegal sideshows and related activities in the Bay Area and Sacramento markets, I uncovered from social media posts that sideshows and illegal activities in both the Bay Area and Sacramento regions. From San Jose to Stockton and even Sacramento, police in those regions are cracking down on illegal activities. However, tracking whoever is doing that takes too many resources. My investigation into illegal sideshows has been ongoing since at least 2015, but some people made threats against me.

The people that were involved in the failed Bay Area Racing proposed movie that I've uncovered included Nick Higgins ("Higgins Built") and the founder of Bay Area Racing, Dean Hodel. The whereabouts on the two are still unknown, however, Hodel has not disclosed where Bay Area Racing's headquarters are. Bay Area Racing has been involved in illegal activity a few years ago in Stockton on Pershing Avenue as highlighted by a FOX station in Sacramento and confirmed via their social media and YouTube accounts, which Bay Area Racing accused the FOX station of falsified information. NBC Bay Area, however, also highlighted two women who took part in a racing scheme that landed the two ladies in jail. NBC's video was unedited on Bay Area Racing's YouTube page unlike the FOX station in Sacramento. 

Deeper into my research, from sources that I could not identify, Dean Hodel was trying to find a suitable location where vehicles can be raced legally, but so far has yet to find one. It was unclear whether Bay Area Racing (likely based in Alameda County?) or Fearless Muscle (based in Fresno) were involved in a massive sideshow in Oakland that caught the attention of all Bay Area television stations, as well as the California Highway Patrol, who it's Oakland office had to deal with protests in downtown Oakland at the time.

But sometime into the making of the Bay Area Racing movie, Hodel got into an argument with Cesar Perez, according to social media posts by Bay Area Racing. Hodel accused Perez of lying about the timeline and falsified promises according to unknown internal sources inside Bay Area Racing. Since the failed attempt of the Bay Area Racing movie, Perez has made his own vlogs by number, some of which highlighted illegal activity that is not allowed in the State of California per state law. As some of Perez's vlogs are shot in the state of Hawaii, I reached out to that state on social media to get answers regarding sideshows and illegal activities there, but got no response. The state of Hawaii has no such provisions about illegal activities involving sideshows unlike the state of California. A section of the state of California I researched on the state's Department of Motor Vehicle's website addressed concerns specifically related to sideshows. 

In my own investigation, the Stockton Police Department chief originally sent a strong message to those people visiting their city, warning them that they are not welcome to do illegal activities including sideshows. However, potential illegal activities are what I found on social media, which is not posted on this blog for safety reasons. I viewed KCRA 3's Melinda Meza report on sideshows and images showed the Stockton Police Department impounding vehicles from their city, as well as in Sacramento and Modesto (and possibly Oakland and San Jose). As of yet, it remains unclear whether the Stockton Police Department will pursue Nick Higgins and Dean Hodel, and if so, what charges may be filed against them. I was unable to get any answers from either Higgins or Hodel. 

Assaults against law enforcement officers seem to be the norm for some people associated with Bay Area Racing and Fearless Muscle, who the latter claims that they are from the Bay Area. Some of them were highlighted in Stanley Robert's report known as "People Behaving Badly." The decision as to whether any law enforcement from Sacramento and Stockton to Oakland and San Jose will pursue those illegal activities is left up to the individual agency. The charges will be very serious and could end up spending a significant amount of time in jail, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

But as for the planned events by Perez, I only learned about the event on various social media channels by users just before the blog was written, particularly those who reposted some of his content notifying his/her friends about an upcoming event using the hashtag.

Fortunately for me, I do not attend any events that involve illegal activities, including street racing and sideshows. I remain scared about potential illegal activities that could wake neighbors up in the middle of the night, which is why no images nor snippets from social media will be posted in this blog.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Revisiting: The San Jose Floods of Early 2017 and the Anderson Reservoir Spillover (SHORT)

The beginning of the year 2017 isn't so lucky for much of Silicon Valley. Rain has kept pounding hard at Santa Clara County and southward, filling up water banks faster than what engineers can do. But what I saw is a bleak picture that is trying to put much of downtown San Jose in ruins.

Television crews and many volunteer Fresco News users were scattered all over Silicon Valley, including myself, who I dedicated much of the day to watching for any flooding from start to finish. Traffic was a huge nightmare, starting with the incident along California State Routes (Highways) 9, 17, and 152 that caused major mudslides that closed the highway in both direction for days. Santa Cruz area drivers had a much harder time getting home from Silicon Valley. Even going through Gilroy was tough, down U.S. Route (Highway) 101 near the Uvas Creek south of the Monterey Street exit, where the road was flooded at times. One probable cause of the rain in my view was the Sobranes fire that burned in Monterey County for a couple of months sparked by an apparent arson over the summer of 2016. But the rain kept pummeling at Santa Clara County, especially in Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill. Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) crews were very concerned about the Anderson Dam that was supposed to go up to a maximum of 68% in capacity for seismic safety, but was well over the limit even prior to the spillover. 

Throughout the day, I surveyed the water damage caused by the spillover of Anderson Dam to the streets of downtown San Jose over the course of two days. The first day that the rushing waters gushed over, I was surveying areas from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's substation on Monterey Road and Metcalf Road to the Coyote Creek along Tully Road. Next, I went to Hellyer Park where part of the park was closed due to flooding and debris in the area, with several reports of contamination throughout the area. The portion of Coyote Creek along Tully Road that I shot for the Fresco app eventually made airwaves on The Weather Channel's digital platform, where they showcased a portion of the overflowing Coyote Creek shot for the Fresco News app. And just before the sky got dark, I managed to get to the area on Senter Road and Phelan Avenue, where I observed flooding. News crews went live wall-to-wall all night in that area and into the wee hours of the morning. 

The next morning, I tweeted out a heads-up to the San Jose Earthquakes' president (and now also Oakland A's president) Dave Kaval, where I showed him images of the flooding and warned him about concerns that he could have trouble getting to his office at Avaya Stadium from his home on the Peninsula. I was particularly worried that some backups could occur on highway 101 and eventually delay him by at least 30 minutes, where the roadway was shut down between McKee Road and Oakland Road exits since the Coyote Creek does run under highway 101, but 101 itself runs under the railroad tracks immediately south. Similarly, I was also concerned that the San Jose Earthquakes' staff would not make it to Avaya Stadium as scheduled. My simple tweet to Kaval have led him and the San Jose Earthquakes to set up a fund to those affected by the flooding along Coyote Creek just less than 2 hours later. Kaval apparently discussed about the flood to the San Jose Earthquakes' staff, and eventually the Oakland A's as well. The Earthquakes also had a special incentive to flood victims - that is to take them to the preseason opener against Sacramento Republic FC. The San Jose Sharks and the San Francisco 49ers also pitched in to help as well, but that only came after the Earthquakes made the call to help flood victims after my initial review of the Twitter feed.

The rest of the day that I observed included crews helping to clear downed power lines and repair them throughout downtown San Jose as there were no access to electricity to residents in the area for days. Shelter was set up at two local San Jose high schools - one of which I was at Evergreen High School that night of which I only saw at least 20 evacuees there.

San Jose certainly has a lot of things to do during the time that the cleanup is in progress. But the finger pointing is still ongoing to see who is ultimately responsible for the cleanup. San Jose certainly took the blame in terms of notification to residents. However, Anderson Reservoir is located in Morgan Hill along the same creek that serves the Coyote Reservoir as well. Even then, the Coyote Reservoir is also concerning to me because that reservoir is already in full capacity at the time and in the same situation as Anderson Reservoir but to a lesser extent.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has a lot of work to do in regards to the water levels at Anderson Reservoir and the concerns for a major earthquake. But the sports teams based in Silicon Valley, particularly the San Jose Earthquakes, deserves a lot of credit for their efforts to help flood victims along the Coyote Creek. However, I was very stunned by the overwhelming evidence of the floods along Coyote Creek.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Friday, February 10, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Morgan Hill Mudslide Shut Down East Dunne Avenue

The only roadway from Morgan Hill to Henry W. Coe State Park may have been a surprise to many residents east of Anderson Reservoir. Drivers encountered that surprise when they tried to leave for work, school, or play. A mudslide that carried a tree toppled onto East Dunne Avenue leaving many drivers inconvenienced. One driver who got out of his truck said that he was trying to get back to his residence east of Anderson Reservoir. A California State Park ranger who happened to be in the area brought out his shovels and called the the Santa Clara County Roads and Airport Department, who arrived after 9AM to partially clear the roadway. Two more trucks arrived at the scene to assist. Crews are still trying to figure out how the tree got onto East Dunne Avenue. One driver even volunteered to drive the student to Britton Middle School.

Fresco News was the first to uncover the early morning mudslide as the investigation into Anderson Reservoir's water revealed in a social media post that the capacity level well exceeded the 68% threshold. The Santa Clara Valley Water District issued a message to Morgan Hill residents about seismic concerns about the possibility of a large earthquake that is long overdue. The project, obtained by this blogger on Thursday night, revealed that an earthquake that has a magnitude of 7.25 or greater is a deep concern. Officials with the water district are anticipating to start the fortification of the Anderson Dam in 2020 and complete it by 2024.