Covina police nab alleged auto burglars

COVINA — Police hope the arrest of three burglary suspects in a Walmart parking lot Sunday will help curb a trend of auto burglaries in the area, authorities said.
William Gilbert, 23, of Covina, Rene Vasquez, 38, of Baldwin Park and Cynthia Esquivel, 36, of Covina were booked for investigation of burglary and suspicion of possessing stolen property, Covina police Lt. John Curley said. Esquivel is also suspected of possession of a methamphetamine pipe.
The arrest was made about 6 p.m. outside Walmart, 1275 N. Azusa Avenue, Curley said.
Covina police officers Ryan Davis and Ulrich Ramirez were patrolling the area in response to a recent increase in car break-ins when they spotted a suspicious older-model Mercury Cougar and pulled it over, the lieutenant said.
Inside the car, he said, the officers discovered a key ring with keys on it that had allegedly been stolen about a week earlier in a car burglary near Clearman’s North Woods Inn.
Officials are now investigating to see if the suspects may be tied to other Covina burglaries, Curley added.
In the past month, police have seen nearly 15 auto break-ins in the commercial areas surrounding Azusa Avenue and San Bernardino Road, Curley said.
Car thefts also appear to have increased in the area, he added.
During the holiday season, Curley said it’s extra important for people to lock their cars and not leave valuables inside in order to avoid becoming victims of opportunistic thieves.

Deputies investigate allegation of kidnapping, rape

INDUSTRY — Deputies investigated a report of a kidnapping and rape Sunday, authorities said.
Few details were released about the incident due to the ongoing investigation, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said.
The incident was reported in the early morning hours in the 13000 block of Valley Boulevard, the lieutenant said, where a woman reported she had been kidnapped and raped.
A Los Angeles man was arrested in that city in connection with the crime, Cacheiro said. His name was not released.
“Industry Station detectives are following up on the leads to determine whether in fact the crime has been committed,” Cacheiro said.
The investigation will include such processes as interviews with the alleged victim and witnesses, documentation of injuries and collection of DNA, he said.
No further details were available.

Family bound, threatened at gunpoint during home invasion robbery

ARCADIA — Three intruders tied up a father, mother and son at gunpoint during a morning home invasion robbery Sunday, the second violent robbery in a week in Arcadia, police said.
The robbers choked the father until he gave them cash and threatened to return and kill the family if they called police, Arcadia police Sgt. Dean Caputo said in a written statement.
The robbery occurred at 7:20 a.m. in the 100 block of West Forest Avenue, near Foothill Boulevard and Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. Mike Gima said.
The father was in the driveway of his home when three men ordered him into his house at gunpoint, according to police. They then bound his hands and feet.
“Once inside they confronted the victim’s wife and 9-year-old son at gunpoint and also bound them,” Caputo  said.
The robbers then choked the man, demanded money and ransacked the house, police said. They fled with stolen cash and jewelry.
The family did not report the robbery to police until several hours later, Caputo said, for fear of retaliation from the robbers.
“The suspects threatened the victims that if they called the police they would return to harm or kill them,” the police statement said.
Police gave no description of the robbers and declined to release any additional information regarding the crime.
Officials also would not say if Sunday’s robbery was believed to be related to the violent robbery of an elderly couple in front of their home four days before.
A 70-year-old man was unloading groceries from his car in the 300 block of West Duarte Road when he was punched in the face and robbed of his wallet by two robbers, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said.
The man’s 67-year-old wife heard her husband crying for help and came outside, and the robbers pushed her down and stole her wedding ring and watch, police said.
The attackers tried to tie up the elderly couple with plastic zip-ties, police said, however the bindings were apparently too small and the robbers ran off.
The robbers in Wednesday’s crime were described only as teenage boys of medium build who wore dark clothing.
Anyone with information on either robbery is asked to contact the Arcadia Police Department.

Four police officers slain in Washington coffee house shooting

From the Associated Press:

PARKLAND, Wash. — One of four police officers killed in an ambush at a coffee house Sunday fought with the gunman and may have wounded him before the officer died just outside the doorway, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer told reporters that investigators were asking area medical providers to report any people wounded by gunshots.
Troyer said investigators believe two of the officers were shot dead while sitting in the shop, and a third was killed after standing up. The fourth apparently struggled with the gunman out the doorway and “gave up a good fight,” getting off a few shots before he was either shot there or succumbed to earlier wounds.
“We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight … that he fought the guy all the way out the door,” Troyer said.
He added, “We hope that he hit him.”
The gunman burst into the coffee house Sunday morning and opened fire on the officers as they sat working on their laptops, killing the three men and one woman in what Troyer described as a targeted ambush.
Troyer said officers were looking for one male suspect who fled the scene and haven’t ruled out an accomplice, possibly a getaway driver.
Troyer said investigators determined that a hoax call from a person in nearby Tacoma led officers to believe the gunman was on foot and still near the coffee shop. A number of officers spent part of the afternoon carefully searching buildings close by.
Troyer said the attack was clearly targeted at the officers, not a robbery gone bad.
“This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers,” he said.
Troyer said the officers — all from the Lakewood Police Department — were catching up on paperwork at the beginning of their shifts when they were attacked at 8:15 a.m. Sunday.
“There were marked patrol cars outside and they were all in uniform,” Troyer said.
With no known suspects, there was no indication of any connection with the Halloween night shooting of a Seattle police officer. The suspect in that shooting remains hospitalized.
“We won’t know if it’s a copycat effect or what it was until we get the case solved,” Troyer said. “We don’t even have a suspect ID right now.”
Troyer would not release the names of the victims in Sunday’s shooting. He said Lakewood has a small police force and the deaths represent a loss of 10 percent to 15 percent of the department.
Troyer estimated that a couple of hundred officers from the Washington State Patrol and multiple surrounding police agencies in the area were at the crime scene, with some coming on their own time.
“We have no motive at all,” Troyer said. “I don’t think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it.”
Two employees and a few other customers were in the shop during the attack. All are being interviewed by the Pierce County Sheriff’s investigators.
“Some are in shock. They are very upset,” Troyer said. “They are the ones who are going to put together for us how this happened.”
The Forza Coffee Shop, part of a popular local chain, is on a side street near McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, about 35 miles south of Seattle. The shop is in a small retail center alongside two restaurants, a cigar store and a nail salon.
Troyer said the Lakewood officers were two blocks outside their jurisdiction, and the coffee shop was a popular place for officers from surrounding jurisdictions to meet and share information.
Streets around the coffee shop were blocked off late Sunday morning, and a police helicopter hovered over a large crowd of investigators. TV video showed police taking possession of a pickup truck parked in a grocery store in Parkland.
“We are looking at some people. We are looking at some cars. We are looking at some residences,” Troyer said.
Troyer said investigators were checking surveillance video from multiple sources, trying to identify a possible getaway car.
Dave Gabrielson, a clerk at Foot Mart about a block away from the coffee shop, told a newspaper all was quiet when he opened the store at 8 a.m. About 30 minutes later, “All of a sudden a million cops were zooming up and down the road,” Gabrielson said.
He said he saw officers bring a police dog into a nearby apartment complex.
Last month, Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed Halloween night as he was sitting in a cruiser with trainee Britt Sweeney. Sweeney was grazed in the neck.
Authorities say the man charged with that shooting also firebombed four police vehicles in October as part of a “one-man war” against law enforcement. Christopher Monfort, 41, was arrested after being wounded in a firefight with police days after the Seattle shooting. He remains hospitalized in stable condition, the hospital said Sunday.
The officers killed Sunday were a patrol squad made up of three officers and their sergeant. No threats had been made against them or other officers in the region, sheriff’s officials said. Their families have been notified.
“We lost people we care about. We’re working to find out who did this and deal with him.”
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told reporters at the scene.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said she was “shocked and horrified” by the killings.
“Our police put their lives on the line every day, and tragedies like this remind us of the risks they continually take to keep our communities safe,” she said in a written statement.
“My heart goes out to the family, friends and co-workers of these officers, as well as the
entire law enforcement community.”
At Rollies Tavern near the coffee house, the plasma TVs usually tuned to football had Northwest Cable News on. Three bar patrons live next door to the coffee house.
Jerry Arnold, 45, was in bed when he was awakened by sirens. He’s lived there seven years and never seen anything close to Sunday’s scene.
“I hope they get them. I can’t sleep until they do,” he said. “Those guys could be hiding in my backyard.”

Woman jailed after police chase

Police jailed a woman on suspicion of auto theft and evading Saturday after she allegedly led police on a chase from Monterey Park to Alhambra in a stolen car, officials said.
The incident began shortly before 10 p.m. when an officer tried to pull the woman over for a traffic violation at Hellman and Orange avenues, Monterey Park police Sgt. John Martindale said.
She refused to pull over and led officers on chase down the 10 Freeway before ultimately surrendering at Orange Grove Avenue and Ramona Road in Alhambra, the sergeant said. She was arrested without further incident.
Just before the woman pulled over, he said, she slowed down and a person described only as male got out of the car and fled on foot. He was not found.
The woman’s name was not available Sunday afternoon, Martindale said.

Man who had throat cut in Valinda survives through night

VALINDA — A man who had his throat slashed late Saturday survived through the night, authorities said Sunday.
The man underwent surgery after he was attacked about 6:40 p.m. near Hacienda Boulevard and Francisquito Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
His exact condition was unknown.
Little was known about the attack Sunday, officials said, except that the man had just walked out of a house and was getting into his car when an someone came up from behind him and slashed his throat. A description of the attacker or a motive in the assault was unknown.
The wounded man managed to stumble to a nearby gas station and ask for help.

Teens badly hurt in crash, DUI suspected

COVINA — Four teenage passengers were badly hurt and a 19-year-old man is suspected of drunken driving following a solo-car crash early Saturday, police said.
Police believe Francisco Javier Ramirez Jr. of West Covina was drunk while he was at the wheel of the 1994 Toyota Camry involved in the wreck.
Two girls and two boys from Baldwin Park, ranging in age from 15 to 17, were hospitalized with serious injuries following the violent crash, which occurred about 1 a.m. on San Bernardino Road at Grand Avenue, Covina police Lt. John Curley said.
Three of the passengers were thrown through the back windshield of the car and onto the street, and another had to be freed from the wreckage by firefighters, the lieutenant said. One passengers was flown to a hospital by helicopter.
“This car was completely demolished,” he said.
Ramirez, who was the least badly hurt, was also hospitalized with serious injuries, Curley said.
Ramirez was driving with his passengers eastbound on San Bernardino Road when, according to witness statements, he ran a red light at Grand Avenue, Curley said.
“The vehicle spun out of control and struck two large palm trees before coming to rest on the curb line,” he said.
The relationship between the five occupants of the car was not clear late Saturday.

Attacker slits man’s throat in Valinda

A man underwent surgery late Saturday after someone came up behind him and slashed his throat, authorities said.
The attack occurred about 6:40 p.m. near Hacienda Boulevard and Francisquito Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Bernard Peters said.
The victim walked out of his house and was getting into his car when he was attacked, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Arthur Scott said.
“Someone came up behind him and slashed his throat,” the lieutenant said. “He stumbled over to the (nearby) Arco station and asked for help.”
He was rushed to the hospital with wounds believed to be life-threatening, Scott said.
No description of the attacker was available, nor was a motive in the stabbing.
The largely unincorporated areas along the 60 Freeway known as the Valinda Corridor, which includes communities such as Valinda, East Valinda and Bassett has seen more than 30 violent assaults this year.
Officials have said much of the violence stems from disputes between the Bassett Grande, Puente Trece and El Monte Flores street gangs.

Deputies lure suspects with fake contest

LA MIRADA — Eight people who showed up at the Holiday Inn in La Mirada Saturday expecting to claim prizes won in a holiday giveaway left disappointed — and in handcuffs.
The event was a sting set up by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Norwalk Station in which people with outstanding warrants for their arrests were lured into the waiting arms of deputies with the promise of prizes and a chance to win a new car.
The goal of the operation was to bring wanted people to deputies, rather than sending deputies after the suspects, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Pat Valdez, who organized the sting. About 960 letters were sent out.
“We’re just trying to think outside the box,” Valdez said, adding that the sheriff’s Norwalk Station has never before tried such a tactic.
Four men and four women were arrested Saturday, all on misdemeanor warrants, officials said.
The largest warrant deputies saw in the sting belonged to Krystie Haro, 26, of La Mirada, authorities said, who had a $100,000 arrest warrant related to an obstruction of justice charge.
One 22-year-old arrestee, Chris Calderon of La Mirada, displayed his booking sheet from his driving under the influence arrest as a form of identification prior to his arrest. He was arrested on a warrant related to the DUI charge.
Several additional people showed up to claim prizes, but their warrants had been cleared up since the letters were sent out by deputies.
Officials said they were hoping for more arrests than they saw Saturday.
“It’s not the numbers we wanted,” Capt. Patrick Maxwell said, “(But) it was a learning experience.”
Posing as the “Pelican Marketing Group,” deputies sent letters last week to people throughout the county wanted in connection with all types of crimes, the captain said.
“They range from misdemeanor warrants to murder,” he said.
The letters assured the suspects that they are guaranteed a prize with a value of at least $100, and that they are one of 200 people with a chance to win a 2010 BMW 238i sedan.
To claim the prizes, people were advised to bring their letter and identification Saturday to the Holiday Inn in La Mirada, 14299 Firestone Blvd., where deputies posing as employees of the Pelican Marketing Group welcomed them.
To make the event seem legitimate, deputies borrowed a BMW sedan from McKenna Cars in Norwalk and parked it in front of the hotel, which was decorated with balloons and signs.
“We tried to make it as realistic as possible,” Valdez said.
Suspects who showed up for the contest were first asked to sign in with a deputy posing as a secretary, who would check to make sure the warrant was still valid, before filling out a brief survey.
As they filled out their paperwork, undercover deputies would chat with the suspects about what prizes they hoped to win.
The contestants realized they’d been conned when they were brought to a back room to pose for a photograph.
When the suspects were positioned in front of the camera and asked to smile, a team of more than half a dozen uniformed deputies swooped in to arrest them.
Suspects were all smiles when they showed up to collect their prizes, Deputy Janet Ramirez said.
“Once they tell them they’re under arrest, the smile fades quickly,” Ramirez said.

No one injured in Duarte drive-by shooting

DUARTE — No one was injured late Friday when apparent gang-members opened fire on a Duarte home, authorities said.
The drive-by shooting was reported about 8:45 p.m. in the 1900 block of Bradbury Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Walker said.
The attackers were described only as two black males who were last seen fleeing west on Broach Avenue, the sergeant said. They yelled out “Du Roc” during the shooting — a reference to the Du Rock Crips street gang that calls Duarte home.
No one was struck by the gunfire, Walker said, though a house was shot twice.
The City of Monrovia is currently trying to get a gang injunction against the Du Roc Crips as well as another area street gang known as Monrovia Nuevo Varrio.
Duarte has not joined the injunction, and city officials have said they fear that an injunction against the two gangs would serve to strengthen a third, Eastside Duarte, which was not named in the injunction proposal.
Feuding between black and Latino gangs in the Monrovia-Duarte area has erupted into violence in recent years, and is blamed for the deaths of four people in late 2007 and early 2008.