CA Attorney General says DNA backlog eliminated

LOS ANGELES — California Attorney General Kamala Harris says a backlog for a DNA database has been eliminated and that will allow investigators to analyze evidence within 30 days.
Harris said Wednesday that a review of DNA crime scene evidence once took an average of three to four months, but new technology and shifting the caseload among the state’s seven crime labs has improved efficiency.
For example, Harris says a new robotics technology allows investigators to analyze sexual assault evidence in two hours rather than two days.
Harris says timely investigation of evidence found at crime scenes is key to successful prosecutions.
The labs analyzed 5,400 evidence samples last year, compared to 4,800 in 2010.
The state’s DNA database contains profiles of 1.8 million offenders and is the fourth largest in the world.
- From the Associated Press

UPDATED: Probe continues into fatal Monterey Park police shooting; online video spurs discussion on police use of force

MONTEREY PARK — The investigation continues into the fatal police shooting of a 22-year-old Chino Hills man who threatened an officer with a large pipe bender outside a fast-food restaurant.
Steve Rodriguez was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after he was shot by two officers about 9:30 a.m. Monday outside a Carl’s Jr. restaurant along Avenida Cesar Chavez. The incident was captured on a cell phone camera by a witness who then posted the video online.
Though the video of the shooting has gone viral on the Internet, Monterey Park police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials continued to withhold the names of the involved officers Thursday. The two involved officers were described as 12-year and 3-year veterans of the Monterey Park Police Department.
“We’re not, at this point, releasing those names,” Monterey Park Police Chief Jim Smith said.
Officials added that the names would likely be disclosed in the over the next few days.
The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is spearheading the investigation into the shooting.
“Everything right now is new,” Smith said. “It’s under investigation by the sheriff’s (department) and DA’s office, which is the normal protocol with us. We’ll continue to follow the investigation. And its a tough thing for the officers, for the family, for the witnesses… for everyone involved.”
Also withheld by authorities Thursday was the coroner’s report in the case.
An autopsy had been carried out on Rodriguez’s body Thursday, however sheriff’s investigators had placed a security hold on the findings, barring coroner’s officials from releasing information on the case, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Because of the security hold, information such as how many times Rodriguez was shot or where the two electrified Taser probed ultimately landed were not available.
Chief Smith declined to comment on the shooting itself.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on it at this time,” he said. “I need to let the investigators to do their job.”
Family members of Rodriguez, as well as the sheriff’s detective handling the case, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave and offered psychological counseling, as is the policy for any officer involved in a shooting, Monterey Park police Capt. Eugene Harris said. They remained on leave Thursday.
“We expect them back to work if not next week, the following week,” he added. The amount of time an officer takes for leave after being involved in a shooting varies on a case-by-case basis, but is generally at least three days.
While the digital age has changed law enforcement a great deal in recent years and decades, Harris said the fact that many citizens are now carrying with them cell phones capable of doubling as video cameras makes no difference.
In fact, Harris said, the Monterey Park Police Department has gone “above and beyond” when it comes to using technology to ensure transparency in police work.
Every patrol car is equipped with a video camera, and all officers carry audio recorders, he said.
“Any citizen contact is recorded,” Harris said.
The presence of a civilian camera does not alter police behavior, he added.
“We teach people to perform as if you’re always being watched, taped or video recorded,” he said. 
Officers encountered Rodriguez after responding to reports that he was using the heavy tool to  smash windows at the restaurant, officials said.
In the video, an officer fires five gunshots at Rodriguez as he advances on the other officer while raising the tool over his head as if preparing to deliver a blow.
Rodriguez stumbles and turns his back to the officers, obscuring the camera’s view of him behind a parked car, before second group of five shots is heard.
The man who shot the video, who asked that his name be withheld due to privacy concerns, said he had mixed feelings about what he witnessed.
“I believe it was the correct response to take action and fire those first shots,” he said. “But while his back was turned to the officer, he paused and made another five shots. That was uncalled for.”
“In my opinion, somebody got shot and that was justified,” the witness added. “But somebody dying, that was not justified.”
“I’m not a cop, I don’t know what they go through. I’m sure it’s completely different mentally going through that. But as a police officer, to me, there job is to set an example and be, honestly, perfect in everything they do. They’re seen as the higher authority.”
Rocky Warren, a retired longtime Placer County Sheriff’s Deputy, consultant, instructor, author and sought-after expert witness in court cases involving police uses of force, reviewed the video and offered his thoughts.
“One of the worst failures of law enforcement is not educating the public about use of force,” Warren said.
Warren himself is no stranger to officer-involved shootings. In 1982, he became one of only four police officers in the nation to shoot a gun from a suspect’s hand on orders in the City of Lincoln.
Warren pointed out that the quality and angle of the video left many factors unknown.
He said, however, that after studying the amateur video of the shooting, “I don’t see anything that causes me to believe it’s unreasonable,” Warren said.
To determine whether a police shooting is justified or not, he said, “The legal standard is: given the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time, was the use of force reasonable? If the answer is yes, then the shooting was justified.”
Public response to officer-involved shootings is often colored by the “Hollywood Effect,” Warren said.
“People think that people are shot and fall down,” he said. In reality, suspects often are not pacified until shot multiple times.
“People don’t understand the threat level,” Warren added.
An average citizen may see a person armed with a weapon such as a knife or club standing about 8 feet away from someone and not perceive an imminent threat of serious injury or death, Warren said.
“With my training, I realize your possibility of being killed is good,” he said.
Police are trained to understand how fast people can cover ground compared with an officer’s reaction time, he explained.
It appeared from the poor quality video that the first five shots were fired by an officer in defense of his partner, who was being threatened by Rodriguez, Warren said.
Because of the limited view of the camera and the fact that Rodriguez went behind a parked car after the first volley of gunfire, “You can’t know why that second volley was fired.”
Warren said officers are trained to meet deadly force with deadly force. In the past, for instance, officers have died trying to disarm an opponent with their batons rather than shooting them, he added.
“We’ve literally had many officers killed when they used non-lethal force in a lethal force situation.”

Baldwin Park man accused of violent O.C. kidnapping and rape; police seek possible additional victims

58052-Jose Capacete-thumb-300x375-58051.jpeg
SANTA ANA — A Baldwin Park man has been arrested on suspicion of a violent Orange County rape and kidnapping as officials investigate the possibility he’s responsible for other similar attacks.
Jose Luis Capacete, 39, was arrested Jan. 20 on suspicion of rape and kidnapping with intent to commit rape in connection with an alleged vicious attack on a prostitute in Santa Ana on Christmas Eve of last year, Santa Ana police officials said in a written statement.
Capacete, who works as an armored car driver in Orange County, picked the woman up in a van along Harbor Boulevard, officials said.
“Once the victim was inside Capacete’s vehicle, Capacete produced a handgun and a Taser,” according to the police statement. “The victim’s hands were tied behind her back and she was sexually assaulted in the van.”
Evidence found at the scene ultimately led police to identify Capacete as a suspect in the kidnapping and rape, and authorities carried out a search warrant at his Baldwin Park home, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
“We collected evidence that belonged to six different females that have no relation to him,” Bertagna said. “That’s what leads us to believe there are other victims.”
Capacete was arrested Jan. 20 and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, according to police and Orange County booking records.
Since his arrest, Santa Ana detectives have learned of other strikingly similar kidnappings and rapes and are investigating the possibility Capacete was also involved in those cases.
Another woman, also a prostitute, reported she was kidnapped and raped with the use of a handgun and Taser on Jan. 7 in Garden Grove, Bertagna said.
Additionally, detectives learned following Capacete’s arrest that U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials investigating an unrelated case had interviewed another prostitute in August who told them she had been the victim of a similar attack in Santa Ana, the corporal said.
Federal officials did not notify Santa Ana police of the report until after Capacete’s arrest.
“This woman that they’re working with brought this incident to their attention and told them what happened, but the documentation never made it here, so we never had a case,” Bertagna said.
“Unfortunately, that’s one of those things that slipped through the cracks,” he said.
The investigation into the DHS report and the Garden Grove case remained in their early stages, Bertagna said. The only case in which a charge has been filed is the Christmas Eve assault.
“(The other two) cases are ongoing and being looked into, as well as the six additional pieces of evidence (from Capacete’s home),” Bertagna said.
All of the three possible victims identified so far were prostitutes, immigrants and in their 20s, officials said.
Police sought the public’s help Thursday in connecting Capacete to any additional crimes.
Though Capacete lived in Baldwin Park, investigators had not linked him to any assaults in the San Gabriel Valley, police said.
The brutality and sophistication displayed in the alleged Dec. 24 assault indicates an experienced attacker,” Bertagna said. “With this level of violence, our concern is, how long has he been doing this?”
Capacete appeared in court for arraignment Jan. 24, however it was continued and he did not enter a plea, Orange County District Attorney’s officials said. He was scheduled to return to the Central Jail Court Feb. 9.
PHOTO of Jose Capacete courtesy of the Santa Ana Police Department

Pomona man accused of being the “Puffy Coat Bandit” indicted in connection with 7 bank robberies

58050-Puffy Coat in Glendora-thumb-300x155-58049.jpg
LOS ANGELES — A federal grand jury indicted a Pomona man the FBI calls the “Puffy Coat Bandit” on suspicion of carrying out a three-week, three-county bank robbery spree that included a heist in Glendora, authorities said.
Steven Dwayne Paulson, 46, was indicted on seven counts of bank robbery for the alleged string of crimes, which took place between Dec. 20 of last year and Jan. 9, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
On Dec. 30, Paulson paid a visit to a Glendora Union Bank branch, 601 W. Route 66.
In the Glendora heist, as in the others, the bandit presented the teller a note while claiming or motioning as if he was armed, according to Glendora police and FBI officials.
The Puffy Coat Bandit earned his moniker because of the heavy ski jackets he wore during some of the heists.
He’s also accused of robbing the same bank branch in Chino twice, as well as other bank robberies in Cerritos, Rancho Cucamonga, Corona and Lake Elsinore, according to the indictment.
“Paulson was arrested on January 10, 2012, after a detective with the Upland Police Department detained a driver matching the description of the suspect who was driving a vehicle described by witnesses as a getaway vehicle used by the suspect,” Eimiller said.
“Further investigation resulted in Paulson’s arrest and he is currently being held in federal custody.”
The FBI joined the local police and sheriff’s agencies where the robberies occurred in the investigation, and Paulson’s case will be prosecuted by the Central District Office of the United States Attorney’s Office.
SURVEILLANCE photo of Dec. 30, 2011 bank robbery linked to the “Puffy Coat Bandit” courtesy of the FBI.

Female parolee leads Whittier police on pursuit

WHITTIER — A wanted parolee led police on a chase through Whittier Wednesday before she ultimately pulled over and surrendered, authorities said.
Monique Ramos, 30, was booked on suspicion of evading police and violating parole, Whittier police Sgt. Gregg Hamilton said.
An officer tried to stop her car for running a red light about 9:35 a.m. at Whittier Boulevard and Mar Vista Street, police said.
Ramos refused to pull over and led police on a chase through Uptown Whittier before making her way back to Whittier Boulevard and heading west, the lieutenant said.
The car finally pulled over on Whittier Boulevard at Esperanza Avenue, just west of the 605 Freeway, Hamilton said. She surrendered without further incident.

Nude man Tased, taken for psychiatric hold in Covina

COVINA — A naked man was hospitalized for psychological evaluation Tuesday after assaulting random passers-by along Grand Avenue, police said.
The incident was reported about 3:45 p.m. in the 900 block of North Grand Avenue, Covina police Lt. John Curley said.
Police responded to a report that a nude man had approached a resident and attacked him with a dustpan and with his fists, the lieutenant said. The resident was not injured.
Officers found the man in the area, still naked and appearing agitated, Curley said.
The man refused officers’ commands and began throwing punches at a man who was passing by, he said. The second alleged assault victim was struck only by glancing blows.
Police then shot the suspect with a Taser, which incapacitated him, and took him into custody without a further struggle, Curley said.
Officials did not initially believe the man was under the influence of drugs, he said.
Police took a report for assault and indecent exposure and placed the man on a psychological hold.

Man sentenced to prison for fatal Baldwin Park DUI crash

58031-Moreno, Rafael Espinoza-thumb-300x383-58030.jpg
BALDWIN PARK — An unlicensed and drunken driver who struck and killed a 25-year-old Baldwin Park woman as she was walking to church last year was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison Tuesday, officials said.
Rafael Espinoza Moreno, 27, was sentenced to 19 years and 8 months in prison after pleading no contest to charges stemming from the Aug. 14, 2011 crash that killed Esmeralda Ramirez of Baldwin Park, according to Baldwin Park police and District Attorney’s officials.
Ramirez was walking to church with her boyfriend about 2:30 p.m. when Moreno, who was later found to have a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit, lost control of the 2005 Jeep Laredo he was driving, travelling onto the sidewalk along Baldwin Park Boulevard near Stewart Street and fatally striking Ramirez, Baldwin Park police Lt. David Reynoso said.
“Alcohol and excessive speed were factors in this collision,” Reynoso said. “Moreno had never been issued a California Driver’s License but had previously received a citation for driving with no license and speeding. Moreno had also been previously deported and was in the country illegally at the time of the crime.”
Moreno fled the crash scene and was found hiding about two blocks away and arrested, police said.
“It appears Moreno was in the process of telephoning his family members to pick him up so he can elude arrest,” Reynoso said.
The crash occurred on Moreno’s birthday.
In Pomona Superior Court, Moreno pleaded no contest to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, leaving the scene of an accident, drunken driving causing injury or death and driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08 causing injury or death, District Attorney’s spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
After striking Ramirez, the Jeep Moreno was driving also struck a bus bench and a building, causing significant structural damage, officials said.
Ramirez was pronounced dead at the scene.
PHOTO of Rafael Espinoza Moreno courtesy of the Baldwin Park Police Department.

Three Pasadena teens suspected in burglary

PASADENA — Police arrested three teens Tuesday on suspicion of breaking into an apartment.
Officers responded to a report of a break-in about 1:45 p.m. at an apartment in the area of Mentor Avenue and California Boulevard, Pasadena police Lt. Jari Faulkner said.
Police cordoned off the area and performed a search with the help of a police helicopter and K-9, ultimately finding the three 16-year-old Pasadena teens hiding in the neighborhood, the lieutenant said. They were arrested without a struggle.
Cash and jewelry believed to have been taken from the apartment was recovered, she added.
Police instructed nearby Polytechnic School to keep students inside during the search as a precaution, Faulkner said.

Glendora police arrest Azusa burglary suspects

GLENDORA — A woman’s tip Tuesday led police to arrest three teenagers in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant on suspicion of breaking into a home in Azusa, officials said.
Brian Ibarra, 18, of Anaheim, a 17-year-old boy from Anaheim and a 17-year-old boy from Santa Ana were arrested on suspicion of residential burglary and possession of stolen property, Glendora police Lt. Jamie Caldwell said.
A woman called police about 12:20 p.m. to report seeing something suspicious — three young men going through women’s purses while sitting in a car parked at In-N-Out, 1261 Lone Hill Ave., he said.
Officers arrived and found the men still in the parking lot, Caldwell said.
They were found to have items in the car that had just been stolen in a break-in at a home in the 1100 block of North Pasadena Avenue in Azusa, according to Glendora and Azusa police officials.
The homeowner was at work and was not aware her home had been burglarized, police added. All of her allegedly stolen property was recovered.
Caldwell commended the tipster who first reported the suspicious activity.
“That’s the stuff I really want to impart on people,” he said. “The public — that’s our eyes and ears out there.”
Ibarra was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail and was due for arraignment Thursday in Covina Superior Court, according to county booking records.
The juvenile suspects were released to their parents with written promises to appear in court, officials said.

Motorcyclist injured in Rowland Heights crash

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — A motorcyclist suffered serious injuries Wednesday morning in a crash on Harbor Boulevard, officials said.
The crash was reported at 7:20 a.m. on Harbor Boulevard, just south of Dublin Way, California Highway Patrol Officer Jennifer Connolly said.
Initial reports indicated a motorcycle had rear-ended another vehicle, and that the motorcyclist suffered injuries including a broken leg, she said.
Both northbound and southbound lanes of Harbor Boulevard were shut down for about an hour as officials investigated the crash.