Family rescued from burning apartment building in Pasadena

PASADENA — Firefighters used a ladder to rescue a trapped family from a third-story apartment Sunday, officials said.
The fire was first reported just after 5 p.m. at an apartment complex of about 30 units in the 700 block of Worcester Avenue, just north of Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena Fire
Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
Firefighters encountered “flames and heavy smoke” when they arrived, and police immediately began evacuating residents from the building, Derderian said. The fire primarily involved an apartment on the second floor, but damaged the units above and below it.
A family comprised of a man, woman and three girls became trapped on the balcony of their third-floor apartment, above the burning unit, Derderian said. The girls appeared to be about 2, 4 and 8 years old.
Firefighters raised a ladder to the balcony, where they brought down three girls and assisted their father in climbing down the ladder, she said.
The woman was unconscious and was carried out of the building by firefighters, Derderian added. She was hospitalized with possible smoke inhalation.
The three girls were taken to a hospital as a precaution, but appeared okay, Derderian said. The man also appeared unhurt.

Firefighters extinguished the fire in about 20 minutes, officials said. No other injuries were reported.
Though the fire mainly damaged three units, utilities to the entire building were shut off in the aftermath, Derderian said.
Officials summoned the Red Cross to help find temporary lodging for the residents displaced from their homes.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation late Sunday.

PHOTOS courtesy of Jaime Nicholson/Pasadena Fire Department

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Sheriff’s patrol car involved in collision in Altadena

ALTADENA — Two adults and a child suffered injuries believed to be minor following a crash involving a sheriff’s patrol car Saturday, officials said.
The collision took place about 3:45 p.m. at Fair Oaks Avenue and Woodbury Road, California Highway Patrol Officer Tatiana Sauquillo said.
The two-man unit was traveling with its emergency lights and sirens on to assist another deputy involved in a fight with a suspect when the crash occurred, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Mann said.
The patrol car collided in the intersection with a Toyota Camry, officials said.
The three occupants of the Camry were taken to a hospital for treatment of apparently minor injuries, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Richard Hastert said.
The deputies were not injured, officials said.
The patrol car appeared to have damage to the side, while the Camry had front-end damage, officials added.
The circumstances of the crash were being investigated by the Altadena office of the CHP.

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Suspect captured following La Verne bank robbery believed to be ‘Don’t Even Bandit’

A man arrested at the end of a chase following a La Verne bank robbery is believed to be a prolific bank robber linked to at least 11 heists in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties, officials said Saturday.
Dwight McGarrah, 29, is accused of a spree of bank robberies attributed to the “Don’t Even Bandit” dating back to Aug. 27, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
He earned his moniker from the FBI due to statements he made during the crimes, as reported by victims and witnesses, Eimiller said. The robber generally presents a note demanding cash to tellers while making verbal threats that include the phrase “Don’t even.”
His alleged string of robberies came to an end Friday after La Verne police arrested him following a 1:20 p.m. robbery at a Wells Fargo branch, 1487 Foothill Blvd., La Verne police officials said in a written statement.
Police caught up with him as he was driving away from the scene of the robbery, officials said. He was taken into custody after leading officers on a pursuit down the Foothill (210) and San Gabriel River (605) freeways that ended in a crash in the area of Myrtle Avenue and Live Oak Boulevard in an unincorporated county area near Arcadia.
McGarrah continued fleeing on foot but was quickly captured, according to La Verne police.
Following his arrest, investigators learned of McGarrah’s alleged connection to 10 other bank robberies.
They include an Aug. 27 robbery at a Bank of America in Ontario; a Sept. 7 robbery at a Citibank branch in Fontana; a Sept. 8 robbery at a Bank of the West in Alhambra, a Sept. 17 robbery at a OneWest branch in Covina; a Sept. 27 robbery at a Bank of the West in Rosemead; an Oct. 4 robbery a Bank of America in Garden Grove; and a Nov. 16 robbery a Chase bank in Fullerton, according to the FBI.
The bandit is also suspected in three additional robberies that took place between Nov. 16 and Friday’s robbery in La Verne, officials said, though further details on those crimes were not available Saturday.
McGarrah was taken to a hospital for injuries suffered in the crash, officials said. He was expected to appear for an arraignment in Pomona Superior Court Tuesday.

PHOTO: A serial bank robbery suspect arrested following a La Verne bank robbery and police pursuit on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, is believed to be responsible for a series of at least 11 bank robberies in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties since August of 2012. The FBI has dubbed the suspect the “Don’t Even Bandit” based on witness statement that he made verbal threats during his robberies which included the phrase, “Don’t even.” (Courtesy of the FBI)

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Bystander shoots pit bull that attacked horse in San Dimas

SAN DIMAS — A bystander shot and killed one of two pit bulls that were attacking a horse with a woman riding it Saturday, officials said.
A 47-year-old San Dimas woman was riding her horse about 9 a.m. at Foothill Boulevard and Walnut Avenue when two pit bulls, which had escaped from a nearby yard, attacked the horse, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Andy Berg said.
One of the dogs bit the horse, causing the animal to fall, according to the lieutenant. The rider managed to get clear of the horse as it fell and was not hurt.
“The dog was latched onto the horse and wouldn’t let go,” Berg said. “A third party, an uninvolved person, used a small-caliber rifle and shot one of the dogs dead.”
The bystander, a 24-year-old San Dimas man, fired several shots from a .22-caliber rifle, officials added.
Animal control officials took custody of the other pit bull, Berg added.
The horse, named Mecca, was injured and taken to a veterinarian, he said. It was not believed that it would be necessary to euthanize the horse.
The owner of the dogs was contacted, and animal control officials were investigating, Berg said.
The man who shot the dog was not cited or arrested, as the shooting appeared to have been necessary and carried out responsibly, he said.

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Police rescue suicidal man in Irwindale

IRWINDALE — A police officer pulled a man to safety Saturday as he sat poised with one leg already over the edge of a freeway overpass in an apparent suicide attempt, authorities said.
Witnesses called police about 10:45 a.m. to report a man on the Arrow Highway overpass of the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway was climbing over the railing, Irwindale police Sgt. Greg Gomez said.
Officer Diego Cornejo was the first to arrive on the overpass, the sergeant said.
“When he went on scene, he did not have lights or sirens on as to not frighten the subject,” Gomez said.
The officer had already exited his car and was approaching the man, later determined to be a Montclair resident in his 50s, when he spotted the officer, Gomez said.
“The subject started to place one of his legs over the railing,” Gomez said. “The officer acted quickly and grabbed him.”
After pulling the man back onto the overpass, officials took him for a psychiatric evaluation, he said.

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Man fatally struck by commuter train in Alhambra

ALHAMBRA – A man walked on the eastbound San Bernardino (10) freeway, jumped a wall and was fatally struck by a commuter train Friday night, authorities said.
Aaron Russell Warren, 35, died at the scene of the collision, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said. His city of residence was not clear Saturday.
Alhambra Police Lt. Gabriel Ponce said the California Highway Patrol was notified before 7:15 p.m. that someone was walking on the eastbound lanes of the 10 Freeway near Fremont Avenue.
As CHP officers were responding, Ponce said the officers received information that the person jumped a wall into the center area where the railroad tracks are.
“They get there and noticed the train was stopped,” Ponce said.
He said the officers walked the tracks and found the pedestrian. Alhambra firefighters pronounced the man dead at the scene.
The man was hit by a westbound Metrolink train 333, headed from San Bernardino to Union Station in Los Angeles, according to Metrolink officials. Officials created a “bus bridge” to transport passengers between El Monte and Los Angeles as train service was disrupted through the area due to the investigation.
An autopsy was pending to determine Warren’s officials cause of death, Molano said.
Officials responded to a similar report of a man acting strangely on Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena about three hours prior to the fatal collision in Alhambra, however he was not found, according to Pasadena police and California Highway Patrol officials.
Officers were summoned to the 210 Freeway near Lake Avenue shortly after 4 p.m. by reports of a man jumping between the train platform that runs along the center of the freeway to the roadway, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
It was unclear if the man from the 210 Freeway incident was the same man later struck on the tracks along the 10 Freeway.

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La Verne bank robbery suspect arrested after chase, crash

An armed bank robbery suspect led La Verne police on a freeway chase before crashing his car and being captured by officers, authorities said.
The robbery was reported about 1:30 p.m. at a La Verne Wells Fargo Branch, 1487 Foothill Blvd., a La Verne police dispatcher said.
Officers soon spotted the suspect’s car — a gray or silver sedan — and initiated a pursuit, officials said.
The chase went west on the Foothill (210) Freeway, then south on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway.
The fleeing driver exited the freeway and ultimately crashed on Myrtle Avenue, just north of Live Oak Avenue, in an unincorporated county area between Irwindale and Arcadia, according to initial reports from the scene. The suspect continued to flee on foot but was captured nearby.
Officers continued searching the area near where the pursuit ended for evidence.
No injuries were reported in the bank robbery.
Further details were not immediately available.

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Man arrested after Sierra Madre police chase

SIERRA MADRE — Police arrested a 22-year-old Los Angeles man Friday following a brief chase, authorities said.
A police officer tried to pull over a two-door coupe for speeding about 7:30 a.m. in the 600 block of East Sierra Madre Boulevard, Sierra Madre police Sgt. Joe Ortiz said. The driver refused to pull over, initiating a pursuit.
Police chased the fleeing car at high speeds down Sierra Madre Boulevard and Santa Anita Avenue before it got into the westbound 210 Freeway, Ortiz said.
The driver pulled over and surrendered on the freeway near Santa Anita Avenue, he added.
In addition to receiving a speeding ticket, the driver was arrested on suspicion of a misdemeanor count of evading police, Ortiz said.
The suspect’s name was not available pending the booking process, he added.

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Girls escape from kidnapper in Whittier

WHITTIER — Police and community members were on high alert Friday following reports of a predator in a red convertible attempting to kidnap girls in Whittier.
The most recent kidnap attempt was reported Thursday near Founders Memorial Park, when an 11-year-old Whittier girl was kidnapped by a masked man, according to Whittier police. She escaped from the suspect’s car and freed another frightened 7-year-old girl already apparently being held captive in the car. <USDEFAULT>The girls didn’t know each other.
Lt. Kent Miller said the suspect also tried to lure three teens into his car during two separate incidents last week.
Police have notified all Whittier school district superintendents and are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect.
As a precaution, “Patrol is beefed up in the areas around schools,” Officer Bradley White said.
Area schools notified parents via recorded messages of the situation Friday morning.
A recorded message sent to Whittier High School parents advised, “While this did not involve any Whittier High students,<USDEFAULT> as a precaution for those who walk to school, for your safety, please make every effort to have your students walk in a group and report any suspicious activity.”
Thursday’s kidnapping took place about 2:35 p.m. in front of Founders Memorial Park near Broadway and Citrus Avenue.
Miller said the 11-year-old was walking alone when she was grabbed and put into the back seat of a convertible which had the top up.
“Apparently the suspect walked away from the car. She jumped out,” <NO1><NO>Miller said.
When the older girl opened the door, she and the other girl ran out in opposite directions.
The 11-year-old made her way home and called police.
Police had not found the younger girl Friday, White said. The department hadn’t received any reports of missing children.
Last week a 17-year-old girl was walking by herself in the 1300 block of Broadway at 11:25 a.m. Feb. 5 when the suspect pulled over and asked if she wanted a ride.
“After the victim told him no, he proceeded to stop the car and open the door,” Miller said.
The teen ran and called police.
Then around 4:40 p.m., someone reported a similar incident.
The witness was in the 6700 block of Washington Avenue which is across the street from Central Park. Police said the witness saw two high-school-aged girls get into a verbal confrontation with the suspect who told them to get into his car.
The man fled.
The witness wasn’t able to get the names of the girls and the police received no calls from the alleged victims.
In all three cases, the suspect was seen driving a red convertible with a tan roof. He was described as a Latino, 25 to 35, of medium to heavy build and between 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet tall.
The kidnapping victim described the suspect as having short black hair with a tattoo of three dots on his left hand.
He covered his face with some sort of mask, “possibly a ski mask,” White said.
Police did not have enough information about the suspect’s appearance to create a composite sketch, White said. But investigators hoped that would change with the help of the public, as well as any victims who have not contacted by police.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Whittier Police Department at 562-567-9241 or Detective Woods at 562-567-9286.

- Ruby Gonzales (Brian Day contributed to this report)

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Rep. Linda Sanchez authors law to fund gun buybacks with 10 percent tax on new gun purchases

MONTEREY PARK — Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, joined with other political and law enforcement leaders Thursday to announce she has introduced legislation into Congress to fund gun buyback programs.
The Firearm Safety and Buyback Grant of 2013, also known as H.R. 793, would establish a grant program through the Department of Justice to be distributed to local law enforcement agencies for gun buyback programs, as well as anti-violence and gun safety campaigns, the congresswoman said.
She was joined at a press conference by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Montebello Police Chief Kevin McClure, Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The funds for the proposed grant program would come from a 10 percent tax on new sales of “concealable” firearms, such as handguns, which are most commonly involved in gun violence, Sanchez said.
“My heart breaks when I see story after story of gun violence,” Sanchez said.
While highly publicized incidents such as the recent school Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, has brought national attention to the issue of gun violence, she said, “In Los Angeles County, we already know the deep wounds created by gun violence. We know it all to well.”
Sanchez said that while no one law will be a panacea to address all the nation’s problems with gun violence, H.R. 793 is an important step in the right direction.
“Getting guns off the streets does make communities safer,” Sanchez said.
“We can’t stand here and say because we don’t have the perfect solution, we shouldn’t try,” she said.
Through the gun buyback grants, as well as the anti-violence and gun safety campaigns that would be created by the proposed legislation, the law would give local law enforcement officials additional tools to employ in their mission to protect public safety.
Sanchez added that the buyback programs are designed to give people a financial incentive to responsibly get rid of unwanted guns before they fall into the wrong hands. In buybacks, those who turn in guns are given gift cards for retailers ranging in value from $50 to $300, depending on the type of weapon surrendered.
Officials pointed recent at gun buybacks in Los Angeles County as signs that gun buybacks are useful and necessary.
Los Angeles police collected more than 2,000 firearms during a buyback event at two locations in December. Officials in Compton last month collected nearly 400 weapons at a buyback.
Sheriff Baca said the legislation would increase public safety, encourage responsible gun ownership and amounted to “common sense.”
“This is a prevention program,” the sheriff said.
“We’re not talking about infringing on the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution,” Baca said. “We believe we’re not asking too much.”
Over the past six years, 276 law enforcement officers have been assaulted with firearms in Los Angeles County, Baca said.
“This is unacceptable,” he said. “We believe the public deserves better. We believe our risk should be reduced.”
Chief McClure said he, too, was strongly in favor of the proposal.
“It’s common sense, it’s sensible, it’s responsible. It will reduce the violence. This provides financial resources to small agencies, like myself,” he said. “I encourage everyone to support this legislation.

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