Detectives investigate spate of home-invasion robberies in Los Angeles County

Detectives throughout Los Angeles County are comparing notes and looking for links following a spate of home-invasion robberies in recent months.
More than half a dozen home-invasion robberies have been reported in the San Gabriel Valley since October, including one in which a man and his 4-year-old daughter were shot in Covina earlier this month.
Additionally, Joseph Gatto, the father of Assembly Mike Gatto, was fatally shot in his Silver Lake home following an apparent home-invasion robbery last month, as was “America’s Next Top Model” director James Marcus Howe at his home in Eagle Rock.
Two failed home-invasion robberies took place Dec. 7 in Lancaster, including one in which a resident shot at the intruders.
And while the seeming spike in home-invasion robberies has caught the attention of detectives at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau, which investigates serial crimes, other than two failed home-invasions robberies in Lancaster believed carried out by the same suspects, investigators have not established concrete links between any of the brazen crimes.
“They’re not going unnoticed by law enforcement,” Lt. David Oliva said of the home-invasions. And investigators throughout the region are working together to find potential clues and discuss investigative leads.
“We coordinate with everyone that may have had some that are similar,” Oliva said. Everybody’s very cooperative with one another.” Some of the robberies appeared to share similarities, such as suspects descriptions and tactics, while others did not.
In some of the cases, the robbers posed as police officers.
Based on the number of crimes and the wide area they’ve been reported in, “I’m sure one crew isn’t doing every one,” Oliva said.
But he said it wasn’t clear whether several crews of home invaders are operating in the county, or whether each was isolated, perhaps indicating a trend among criminals to engage in home-invasion robberies.
“I can’t say at this point for sure,” he said.
Recent home-invasion robberies include:
— Oct. 14, 800 block of West Pine Street in West Covina: Two men kicked open the door of a home, ordered two residents to lie on a bed and ransacked their home about 11 p.m., West Covina police Lt. David Lee said. The robbers were initially described black men wearing hooded sweat shirts.
— Nov. 1, 17100 block of Francisquito Avenue in Valinda: Three masked men forced their way through a rear door before attacking and robbing the occupants, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Arthur Scott. A woman and teenage boy were struck with a shovel during the home-invasion, and another woman and young girl were held captive. The robbers were described only as three masked Asian men, armed with both a rifle and a shovel. The home was ransacked for valuables.
— Nov. 9, 1500 block of Camino Lindo in South Pasadena: A woman arrived home about 6:20 p.m. to encounter to intruders already inside, South Pasadena police Cpl. Matthew Ronnie said. They had a knife and claimed to have a gun as they ransacked the woman’s home, bound her and shoved her in a bathroom. They ultimately fled with a floor safe containing jewelry. Police described the robbers as two black men of average height, both wearing dark clothing and black leather gloves.
— Nov. 18, 2800 block of Bright Lane in Silver Lake: Joseph Gatto, 78, father of state Assemblyman Mike Gatto, was found fatally shot about 8 p.m. after an apparent home-invasion robbery, Los Angeles police officials said.
— Nov. 25, 15000 block of Facilidad Street in Hacienda Heights: An elderly man and woman, along with a 50-year-old woman, were held captive for about 45 minutes inside their home about 9:15 p.m., sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Boese said. After entering the home through a bathroom window, one robber guarded the victims while the other ransacked the house before both men fled. The intruders were described only as two Latino men in their 30s, both wearing dark clothing.
— Nov. 25, 500 block of Macenta Lane in Diamond Bar: Two robbers forced their way in to the home of an elderly couple and their adult son and ordered all three to lie down, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Roberto Causey. The robbers fled with about $120 taken from the victims’ purse and wallets. A detailed suspect description was not available.
— Nov. 27, 4400 block of West Avenue 42 in Eagle Rock: “America Next Top Model” director James Marcus Howe, 42, was fatally shot during a home-invasion after a gunman knocked at his door posing as a solicitor, LAPD officials said. Howe’s wife was injured in the attack. The killers were described as a black teen or man between 16 and 22 years old, a black man between 20 and 25 years old and a black woman. There were seen in a dark-colored, early-2000s Ford Mustang.
— Dec. 6, 200 block of South Cedar Avenue in Covina: A man and his 4-year-old daughter were shot and wounded during a home invasion about 12:20 p.m., Covina police Sgt. Ray Marquez said. The robber fled with jewelry. He was described as a black man in his early 20s with short hair, of thin build, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with no facial. He fled the area in a gold- or light-colored vehicle.
— Dec. 7, 3600 block of West Avenue K in Lancaster: Two armed men kicked in the door of a home about 10:10 p.m. and ordered a man to lie on the floor before he retreated to a bedroom with his 10-year-old son, sheriff’s officials said. The robbers, described as two black men wearing white ski masks, fled empty-handed.
— Dec. 7, 5700 block of Spice Street in Lancaster: Two armed men kicked in the front door of a home about 11:25 p.m and forced their way into the master bedroom, according to sheriff’s officials. The resident managed to arm himself with a handgun and fire two shots at the robbers, who fled without taking any property. Neither of the robbers, described as black men wearing white ski masks, was believed to have been struck by the gunfire.
— Dec. 15, 400 block of Charmingdale Road in Diamond Bar: Three robbers posed as police before they forced there way into a home occupied by two women and three children. The robbers bound some of the victims and ransacked the home, Deputy Lillian Peck said. The robbers were described only as three men in their 20s.
Detectives did not find any nexus connecting the victims of the home-invasions, nor was it known why or how the victims were targeted, Oliva said.
As many of the robberies began with the robbers knocking at the door, Oliva advised residents to be cautious when dealing with strangers at their doorstep.
“If you’re not sure, do not open the door,” he said. “Ask for picture ID.”
If a person seems suspicious, do not hesitate to contact police immediately, Oliva said.

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