Covina man arrested on gun, drug charges after chase from El Monte to San Dimas

Deputies arrested a Covina man Wednesday after he brandished gun, threw a bag of drugs into a drainage ditch and led deputies on a chase from El Monte to San Dimas, authorities said.
Joel Lopez, 40, of Covina was booked on suspicion of possession of suspected methamphetamine while armed, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Edward Godfrey said.
The incident began about 10:40 a.m. when a gang enforcement deputy spotted Lopez brandish a handgun in the area of Maxson and Ferris roads in El Monte, the lieutenant said.
The deputy tried to stop Lopez, initiating a chase, Godfrey said.
Both a deputy and witnesses spotted Lopez throw something from his car into a drainage ditch at the outset of the pursuit, officials said. When deputies retrieved the tossed item, they discovered it was about an ounce and a half of what appeared to be methamphetamine.
The chase continued east on the 10 Freeway until Lopez ultimately pulled over and surrendered about 15 minutes later after exiting the freeway at Holt Avenue in San Dimas, Godfrey said.

El Monte toddler killed in crash at bus stop identified

EL MONTE — Coroner’s officials have released the name of an 18-month-old El Monte girl killed over the weekend when a pickup truck slammed into a bus stop she was sitting on with her grandmother and 12-year-old uncle.
Hade Sandoval died at a hospital following Saturday’s 2 p.m. crash at the corner of Valley Boulevard and Mountain View Road, coroner’s officials said Wednesday.
Her grandmother, 36, suffered critical injuries in the crash, and her uncle, 12, was hospitalized in stable condition following the crash, according to El Monte police.
The three family members were sitting on a bus stop bench when a 59-year-old El Monte man tried to park his pickup truck behind them in the parking lot of a pharmacy, investigators said.
For reasons that were under investigation, the pickup truck lurched forward, hopping over a curb and dirt embankment before striking the bus bench and coming to rest against a telephone pole, police said. No crime was initially suspected on the part of the driver.

Azusa man pleads no contest to poisoning wife’s cereal; receives 8-year prison sentence

POMONA — An Azusa man accused attempting to poison his wife’s cereal with adhesive remover entered a no contest plea Wednesday and was immediately sentenced to eight years in state prison, officials said.
Fernando Porras, 43, was due for an arraignment hearing in Pomona Superior Court when he suddenly pleaded no contest to one count of poisoning, with a sentencing enhancement because the substance used had the potential to cause death or great bodily injury, Los Angeles County Superior Court officials said.
“Judge Jack Hunt immediately sentenced the defendant to eight years in state prison,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
At sentencing, a charge of attempted murder was dismissed, she added.
His 51-year-old wife was not seriously harmed after ingesting some of the adhesive remover in her cereal, noticing a strange taste and going to a hospital, police said.
The cereal was a generic-brand rice cereal, Azusa police Detective Robert Landeros said.
The principal ingredient of the chemical — identified as Goof Off-brand adhesive remover — were xylenes and ethylbenzene, Landeros said.
The chemicals can cause serious health problems including brain and nervous system damage.
The bottle had a warning label on it indicating ingestion could cause serious injury or death, Landeros said.
Porras was arrested the evening of Feb. 2 after allegedly placing adhesive remover into his wife’s cereal at their home in the 200 block of North Dalton Avenue, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokes
Porras accompanied his wife to the hospital, officials said, and it was there that his behavior drew the attention of investigators.
He told officials he was going outside to smoke a cigarette, but never returned, police said.
Additionally, police learned from family members that Porras had made incriminating statement, investigators said.
Testimony at Porras’ preliminary hearing indicated the motive in the poisoning was marital problems the couple was going through, Davila-Morales said.
Though the case has come to a conclusion, Landeros said police were police officials continued to support the family members affected by the unusual crime.
“We’re gonna be there for the family,” he said. “It’s a tragic event for any family to go through.”

UPDATED: Former Covina police records clerk sentenced for embezzlement

WEST COVINA — A former Covina Police Department civilian records clerk was sentenced to 2 years and 8 month in prison Wednesday, and ordered to repay nearly $310,000 she stole from the city.
Family members cried as Louise Vance-Wasilchin, also known as Mary Wasilchin, 58, of Upland was placed into handcuffs and escorted from a courtroom after receiving her sentence from West Covina Superior Court Commissioner Harold Mulville.
She was pleaded guilty to hiding a report of her son-in-law’s May, 2008 drunken driving arrest, preventing his prosecution, officials said. The son-in-law was not suspected of having knowledge of the impropriety.
Covina Police Chief Kim Raney said the process has been a difficult one for all involved.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Raney said.
“It is my hope that she serves every day of the 2-year 8-month prison sentence,” the chief said.
Under the plea agreement, Wasilchin was to serve her sentence in prison and not be eligible to serve it in county jail under the state’s prison re-alignment program.
“I’ll be a little disappointed if she gets out early,” Raney said.
Wasilchin’s husband, Richard Wasilchin, said his wife’s crime was an uncharacteristic lapse in judgement.
“My wife, she’s never been in trouble in her life. She’s never had a speeding ticket,” he said.
“Obviously, she made a huge mistake, and she’s willing to pay for it,” he added.
Richard Wasilchin also questioned how a non-sworn department employee could be capable of such a massive theft could take place and go undetected for more than three years.
“Maybe they need to look at their policies a little more,” he said.
Louise Wasilchin, who wore a white sweater and remained silent other than answering “yes” when asked if the stipulated to the amount of restitution, cast family members a small smile as a bailiff led her out of the courtroom.
Wasilchin pleaded guilty late last year to stealing more than $100,000 worth of parking meter money, fine money and vehicle impound fees.
Police alleged she actually stole more than $340,000, and at her sentencing and restitution hearing Wednesday, Wasilchin admitted the theft amounted to $309,032.
She was ordered to repay the money to Covina, plus 10 percent interest annually. Slightly more than $5,000 already seized from her by Covina police was counted toward her debt.
The theft took place between January of 2008 and May of 2011, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Officials first became suspicious of Wasilchin after she was involved in a car crash in April of last year and police noticed she had about $1,000 worth of quarters in a canvass bag in her car, according to Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller, who prosecuted the case. She was not working that day.
Detectives then found an additional $3,000 or so worth of quarters in her home and office, and as the investigation went on, the amount of the alleged theft grew to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Additionally, when officials searched her desk at work on May 5, 2011, they discovered a police reported she had intercepted, preventing her son-in-law from being prosecuted for DUI, district attorney’s officials said. The arrest had occurred in May of 2008.
After nearly eight months of investigation, officials arrested Wasilchin Dec. 15, 2011 and placed her on leave, officials said. She resigned a short time later.
The plea deal prior to trial, along with Wasilchin’s subsequent admission Wednesday that she owes the city more than $300,000, “is reflective on both the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit and the investigators,” Raney added.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, a deputy immediately took her into custody to begin serving her sentence.
Prior to a plea deal she reached with authorities late last year, Wasilchin could have faced up to six years and 8 months in prison.

19-year-old suspect jailed in shooting death of 17-year-old boy near Whittier

On Monday, March 26, 2012 at 5:45 PM, Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives arrested 19-year-old, male Hispanic, Eudiel Lopez in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Michael Soto which occurred in the 9100 block of Painter Avenue, Whittier, yesterday afternoon. Lopez was booked at Norwalk Sheriff’s Station for murder. 
Sheriff’s K-9 handlers and deputies on scene were able to track down Lopez in the 9000 block of Painter Avenue, Whittier. A handgun was also recovered and is believed to be the murder weapon, however ballistics testing must be done to confirm this belief. 
The shooting appears to be gang related. 
Suspect Lopez is currently homeless, but has ties to the Whittier area. 
Homicide Bureau will not be releasing the booking photo of the suspect at this time. 
There is no other information. 


- From sheriff’s press release

One wounded in Whittier shooting

WHITTIER — Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the scene of a shooting Monday near the Frontier Continuation School, authorities said.
The shooting was reported at 12:07 p.m. near the intersection of Painter Avenue and Mulberry Drive, in an unincorporated county area just outside of Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. John Steele said.
A description of the victim was unavailable, and he was taken to a local hospital where his condition was unknown, the sergeant said.
Deputies cordoned off the area and blocked traffic on nearby residential streets as they  searched for the suspect or suspects.

Public’s help sought in mysterious slaying of La Puente man

LA PUENTE — The search continued Sunday for whoever gunned down a 44-year-old father in his own neighborhood early Saturday.
Detectives were left with few clues in the mysterious slaying of Ellis Rachal Jr., who was found just before 4 a.m. Saturday lying on a sidewalk in the 15900 block of Hill Street with a fatal gunshot wound to his chest, officials said.
No description of Rachal’s attacker was known, as no eye-witnesses had been located, Detective D. Retzlaff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“We’re really in need of the public’s assistance,” Retzlaff said, adding that there was no apparent motive for someone to attack Rachal, a father and husband who lived in the same neighborhood where he was killed.
“He was not a gang member,” the detective said. “He was well-liked. He had no real criminal history.”
Though investigators initially said they were looking into the possibility Rachal had been shot elsewhere and dropped off, Retzlaff said Sunday that the shooting took place on Hill Street.
No one called 9-1-1 to report a shooting, officials said, though neighborhood residents later said they heard between three and five gunshots about 3:30 a.m. The slaying was not reported to sheriff’s officials until a passer-by came across his body.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

Medical marijuana delivery man says he was robbed by ninjas — that’s right, ninjas — in West Covina

WEST COVINA — Police are looking into a bizarre report of a medical marijuana robbery involving two attackers dressed as ninjas, officials said.
Police received the strange report shortly before 10 p.m. Friday from a medical marijuana delivery man who said he had been robbed in the 800 block of South Sunset Avenue, near Cameron Avenue, after making a delivery to a patient West Covina police Lt. Alan Henley said.
The delivery man, who was in his 40s, told police that, “As he was going back to his vehicle, he was approached by two subjects in ninja costumes who chased him with batons,” the lieutenant said.
“The victim said he was scared and he dropped a bag with some marijuana and money. The suspects took it,” Henley added.
It was not clear how much cash or pot was taken, police added.
The incident remained under investigation. Police were not aware of any other recent crimes involving suspects dressed as ninjas.