Families, protesters angered over arrests at Baldwin Park checkpoint

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Immigrant rights activists and upset family members gathered Sunday in Baldwin Park to express outrage over the arrests of 37 people during an overnight sobriety and drivers’ license checkpoints.
Dozens of demonstrators, some carrying signs with slogans such as “driving is not a crime,” demanded answers from Baldwin Park police over what they called a round-up of undocumented immigrants.
But police said the arrests were the result of recent changes in policies regarding what types of identification the court will accept when police issue a misdemeanor citation, such as one for driving without a license. And officials maintained that such checkpoints are a valuable took in combatting intoxicated driving.
Tearful children were taken into the custody of county officials as parents were arrested during the checkpoint, said Debbie Leance, a volunteer with Inland Empire Rapid Response Network. The majority, she said, were arrested only for driving without a license. One video shot by the demonstrators depicted a girl crying while explaining that the police were taking her mother away, “Because she’s not from here.”
“It’s such a large roundup. It’s unprecedented,” Leance said. It’s so unnecessary. That seems like a federal agenda.”
Activists and family members of those arrested waited outside the police station for them to go through the booking process and be released from custody.
Baldwin Park police Captain David Reynoso said 37 drivers were arrested at the checkpoint “for a variety of reasons, including DUI.”
Three drivers were arrested for intoxicated driving during the checkpoint, and three others were arrested for other DUI-related offenses, such as driving without a court-ordered ignition interlock device.
A full tally of the booking charges from the checkpoint was not available Sunday, he said.
The checkpoints were held between 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday, the captain said. Officers first set up a checkpoint at Los Angeles and Littlejohn streets before moving it later in the night to Ramona Boulevard and Barnes Avenue.
“The checkpoint was properly posted,” Reynoso said, adding that advance notice was given.
Those arrested for driving without a license also had no valid identification with them, Reynoso said.
Changes in the types of identification being accepted by the West Covina Superior Court in recent months mean officers are no longer able to accept some forms of identification, such as Matricula Consular identification, when issuing misdemeanor citations, Reynoso said.
As a result, when officers encounter unlicensed drivers who do not have valid identification, police must take them to arrest them and book them at police station in order to confirm their identities before issuing a citation.
A checkpoint held by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in nearby La Puente on the night of Dec. 21 and 22 netted 78 arrests, 56 of them for driving without a valid license, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
But a checkpoint held by Arcadia police late Saturday and early Sunday resulted in three DUI arrests, six citations for driving without a valid license and three one-day vehicle impounds, according to Arcadia police Traffic Sgt. Brett Bourgeous.
While driving is not a crime, as protest signs stated, “Driving without a license is against the law,” Reynoso said.
“The whole purpose for this checkpoint is public safety,” Reynoso said. “We understand that this could create a hardship, but it only takes one impaired driver to change a family’s life forever.
Ivan Gonzales, 25, of Baldwin Park said his girlfriend was crying and shaking when taken to hail in handcuffs for failing to have a valid drivers license and identification.
“She’s never been arrested. Not even a ticket,” he said.
Fourteen hours after her arrest, Gonzalez said neither he nor his girlfriend’s family had heard from her as they continued awaiting her release.
Justice for Immigrants Coalition legal coordinator J. Daniel Guzman said police failed to release some vehicles to licensed drivers with the owners’ permission at the checkpoint, as mandated by a state law that took effect in 2012.
But Reynoso said officers released 12 cars that were being driven by unlicensed drivers to other drivers who with valid licenses.
Despite the new law regarding police impounds at checkpoints, a separate law governs vehicle impounds in cases in which the driver is arrested, Reynoso said.

Two men wounded in Duarte deputy-involved shooting

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Deputies shot and wounded two men, one of whom was allegedly armed, following a brief car chase early Sunday in a neighborhood near Duarte, authorities said.
Both suspects, described as a 24-year-old man and a 36-year-old man, were expected to survive the injuries suffered in the 1:20 a.m. shooting at El Toro Road and Van Meter Street, in an unincorporated county area just outside of Duarte, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
The incident began when sheriff’s gang detectives, who have increased their presence in the area in recent weeks in response to a spate of shootings spotted a man with a gun at Ivory Drive and Galen Street at the south end of Duarte, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
1230_NWS_PSN-L-DUARTEDIS2The man got into a nearby car, which drove away, officials said. The detectives began chasing the car.
“The pursuit, which lasted for approximately 30 seconds, ended when the vehicle collided with a curb at the 2400 block of El Toro Road (in an unincorporated county area),” according to Lt. Dave Dolson of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
“One of two Suspects Brandished a firearm, which resulted in a deputy-involved shooting,” Dolson said.
No deputies were hurt, said. “A weapon believed to be the suspect’s was recovered at the scene.”
Further details, including the identities of the suspects, the number of deputies involved in the shooting or the number of shots fired were not released Sunday.
1230_NWS_PSN-L-DUARTEDIS3A black Nissan Altima at the scene was riddled with more than two-dozen bullet holes. A dozen bullet holes were visible in the car’s rear windshield, and more than a dozen more dotted the driver-side of the car, with at least four through the driver-side window.
Neighbor Roger Villarreal, 29, said he was awakened by gunfire. He and other neighbors described hearing “more than 25” shots.
He said he dropped to the floor and pulled his fiancee to the floor as well as the shots continued ringing out.
“I heard commands after the gunfire,” he said. Deputies shouted at the men inside the car to exit the vehicle and show their hands.
One deputy yelled, “Where’s the (expletive) gun?” Villarreal said.
The driver crawled out of the car before being dragged and handcuffed by deputies, he said. He did not see whether the second man exited the car following the shooting.
Villarreal and his brother, Robert Villareal, 31, both said they saw deputies remove what appeared to be an automatic machine pistol, resembling a MAC-10, from the suspects’ car.
Rovert Villarreal added he was thankful no innocent bystanders were injured with so many bullets flying in the residential neighborhood.
The investigation was being spearheaded by detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, and anyone with information can reach the bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Home destroyed, lizards killed in Glendora fire

GLENDORA — A family’s home was destroyed, two pet lizards died and cat was missing following a mobile home fire Saturday in Glendora.
A woman and her 8-year-old daughter who were inside the mobile home in the 21200 block of East Arrow Highway when it caught fire just after 3:30 p.m. fire escaped unharmed, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Michael Bernal said. A man and 2-year-old girl who live there were not home at the time.
The fire was first discovered when the 8-year-old girl alerted her mother that she smelled smoke, the captain said.
The mother went to investigate, he said. “She found smoke, and fire going up the wall.”
Firefighters found the mobile home engulfed in flames when they arrived, officials said. They doused the fire in just under 20 minutes, however the home was deemed a total loss.
Two pet lizards that were inside the mobile home died in the fire, Bernal said. The family’s pet cat was missing.
Firefighters determined the cause of the fire was an electrical malfunction, he said.
Officials estimated the fire caused $120,000 worth of damage to the mobile home and its contents.
The manager of the mobile home park where the fire broke out, Royal Palms, offered to place the family in a vacant unit for the night as they made plans to move forward, Bernal added.

West Covina police welcome new canine officer ‘Reiko’

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Thanks to donations from the community, the West Covina Police Department has added a new four-legged officer to its roster, officials announced Saturday.
Reiko, am 18-month-old Belgian Malinois raised in Slovakia, along with his human partner Officer Bryan Rodriguez, graduated from a basic K-9 training course Dec. 20, according to West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez.
Reiko joins two other police dogs already on duty with the department. West Covina police are now able to field a police dog every day.
“The third police dog position represents seven-day-per-week coverage and a significant enhancement to the safety of the community an our police officers,” Lopez said in a written statement.
Reiko was purchased and trained entirely through community donations, officials added.
Police work is Reiko’s second career, Lopez explained.
“Reiko was initially selected by a United States Military Special Forces group because of his high drive, intelligence and superior abilities,” Lopez said. “However, it turns out that Reiko did not much care for jumping out of high-flying aircraft.”
1229_NWS_SGT-L-REIKO2While currently trained for routine patrol duties, officials plan to have Reiko certified to detect explosives as well, Lopez added, “an effort that will greatly enhance the safety and security of our schools, malls and places of worship.”
The WCPD’s K-9 unit began in 1983 and won national recognition for outstanding performance in 2012 and 2013.
Donations to support the K-9 unit are accepted on an ongoing basis. For more information, Lt. Pat Benschop can be reached at 626-939-8684.

Pasadena auto body shop owner bound during robbery

PASADENA — A woman who became concerned after her husband didn’t return home from work Friday night discovered him tied up inside his Pasadena auto body shop following a robbery, police said.
The man was found bound with zip ties shortly after midnight Saturday at his business in the 100 block of Vista Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
After the 34-year-old Pasadena man never came home from work, his wife went looking for him at the auto body shop, Clawson said.
“The showed up at the business and found him tied up,” he said. She untied her husband and the couple notified police.
The man told police he was at the shop when three men walked in, one of them armed with a handgun, the lieutenant said.
They tied the victim up and stole several thousand dollars, tools and a blue pickup truck with no license plates, he added. The man was not injured.
One of the robbers was described as a black man, about 6 feet 3 inches tall and about 300 pounds, Clawson said. A description of the other two robbers was not available.

UPDATED: Long Beach man accused of carjackings in Hacienda Heights and Industry, attack on woman

A man carjacked two drivers and attacked one of them with a bottle before being arrested late Friday, authorities said.
Markkis Porsche Sonier, 24, of Long Beach was booked on suspicion of carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon following his arrest, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
The series of crimes began about 8:50 p.m. in the parking lot of Denny’s restaurant, on 7th Avenue near the 60 Freeway, Sgt. Michael Mileski said.
“The suspect told the victim he had a gun and demanded his vehicle,” Mileski said. The victim complied, and the carjacker sped off in the man’s Dodge Neon.
Minutes later, Sonier abandoned the Dodge nearby at Turnbull Canyon Road and Gale Avenue in Industry, Mileski said. He then turned it attention to a woman with a Lexus sedan in a parking lot.
“He assaulted her with a bottle,” Mileski said.
The woman was struck in the head, Sgt. Greg Taylor said in an written statement. She was treated by paramedics for minor injuries.
The suspect then fled in the woman’s car, which was spotted by deputies just around the corner, officials said.
“As Industry station deputies were responding to area of the first carjacking, the suspect nearly collided into a patrol car,” Taylor said. “Realizing that the vehicle that nearly collided into them could possibly be related to the carjacking which had just happened, deputies conducted a traffic stop and detained the driver without incident.”
Sonier was already on probation for assault, Taylor added.
According to booking records, Sonier was being held in lieu of $185,000 bail pending his initial appearance Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

Car windows smashed in Covina neighborhood

COVINA —Police are seeking the vandal or vandals responsible for smashing the windows of five vehicles parked in a Covina neighborhood late Thursday.
The vandalism took place in a neighborhood just south of Cypress Street and east of Grand Avenue, Covina police Lt. Jason Walczak said.
Police received three calls from victims reporting there car windows had just been smashed in the area within a half-hour time-span beginning about 10 p.m., the lieutenant said.
Two additional victims reported similar damage when they awoke and discovered it Friday morning, he added.
Nothing appeared to have been stolen from any of the vehicles, he added, and a suspect description was not available.

Businesses cited for selling alcohol to minors in Pasadena, South Pasadena

PASADENA — Police working with a nonprofit community organization cited three stores in South Pasadena and one in Pasadena in recent weeks for selling alcohol to minors during a compliance check, officials said.
Officials made use of decoys to try and buy alcohol at 10 businesses in Pasadena on Nov. 22, as well as 10 businesses in South Pasadena on Dec. 13, representatives of the Pasadena-based nonprofit organization Day One said in a written statement.
One business in Pasadena, K + S Mobile at 1813 E. Colorado Boulevard, sold alcohol to the minor decoy, according to Day One.
Three businesses in South Pasadena failed the test, officials said. They were Big Lots, 1401 Huntington Drive; Ralphs, 1745 Garfield Ave.; and Carmines Italian Restaurant, 424 Fair Oaks Ave.
“Findings from studies conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism noted that underage alcohol use kills more young people than all illegal drugs combines,” according to the Day one statement.

Man wounded in second shooting in Norwalk neighborhood in a week

NORWALK — For the second time in a week in the same residential neighborhood, a man was wounded early Friday in a shooting, officials said.
The man was wounded in the leg in the most recent shooting, which took place about 1:54 a.m. in the 12000 block of Lowemont Street, just east of Elaine Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Cynthia McDaniel said.
“Somebody walked up to him and shot him,” according to Lt. Cynthia McDaniel of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station.
The attacker asked the victim about gang affiliation just before opening fire, Deputy Bill Lockridge said. It was not clear how, or if the victim, a man in his mid-20s, responded.
Officials described the shooter as a Latino man of about 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds and wearing dark pants and a Los Angeles Dodgers cap. After the shooting, he got into a white, 4-door Toyota Corolla which possibly had a driver waiting inside, Lockridge said. The car was last seen fleeing east on Lowemont Street.
The wounded man was taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood for treatment. McDaniel said the man’s injury was not considered to be “non-life threatening.”
The incident was the second shooting reported in the neighborhood in just under a week.
Paramedics said a man
Another man was lucky to be alive after being shot in the head early Saturday at Lowemont Street and Elaine Avenue, according to sheriff’s and fire department officials.
A man in his late-20s was approached by a vehicle containing four male attackers, McDaniel said. Someone inside opened fire.
The bullet struck the man in the head, however it travelled along his skull without penetrating it before exiting his skin, fire Capt. Steven Kumasharo said.
A description of the attackers or their car was not available.

Pico Rivera home struck by gunfire in drive-by shooting

PICO RIVERA — A house occupied by a family, including three children, was struck by gunfire in drive-by shooting Thursday afternoon, though no injuries were reported, authorities said.
The attack took place about 4:230 p.m. in the 8800 block of Coolhurst Drive, just northwest of Rosemead Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Meyer said.
Five to seven shots struck the house, but hit no one inside, the lieutenant said. Five to seven bullets struck the home.
The shots were fired by someone inside a passing white vehicle, Meyer said. No further description was available.
Sheriff’s gang detectives were investigating the shooting, he said.