UPDATED: Fire scorches Santa Fe Springs food manufacturing plant

SANTA FE SPRINGS — A fire scorched a food manufacturing plant in Santa Fe Springs before firefighters doused the flames Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 1:33 p.m. at Day-Lee Foods, Inc., 13055 E. Molette Street, a Santa Fe Springs Fire Department dispatcher said.
Both Santa Fe Springs and Los Angeles County firefighters worked the fire, as it occurred near the border between Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk, officials said. They declared the fire “knocked down” at 1:54 p.m.
About employees evacuated themselves from the burning building prior to firefighters’ arrival, Santa Fe Springs Fire Department Division Chief Mike Yule said. No injuries were reported.
Officials determined the fire ignited as employees were moving an air conditioning unit atop the building when they accidentally ruptured a pipe carrying 500-degree oil used to cook tuna fish, the chief said. The oil caught fire, spreading flames to the roof.
Firefighters managed to keep the fire confined to the roof of the building and a single maintenance room, he added.
The fire caused an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 worth of damage, Yule said.
The plant manufactures food products for sales in stores and restaurants, according to its website.

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Woman encounters burglar inside Pasadena home

PASADENA — A Pasadena woman awoke to find an intruder in her home early Saturday, police said.
The woman, who is in her 40s, woke up about 5:15 a.m. at a home in the 1100 block of Palm Terrace and discovered a burglar in her living room, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
“The suspect realized he had been noticed and ran out of the front door,” he said.
After looking around the home, the residents discovered several “minor” items missing, Clawson said. It was not clear exactly what was stolen.
The startled woman was only able to described the intruder male and wearing a red hooded sweat shirt.

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Alleged gang members arrested in connection with Altadena kidnapping

ALTADENA — Local and federal officials arrested two Pasadena gang members early Friday in connection with the beating and kidnapping of another man earlier in the week, authorities said.
James Patton, 27, and Jeffrey Butler, 20, were arrested by a task force comprised of Altadena sheriff’s deputies, Pasadena police officers and FBI agents during the service of two search warrants in the early-morning hours, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. They were booked on suspicion of assault, kidnapping and weapons charges.
The alleged kidnapping took place early Wednesday.
“An Altadena resident was assaulted, kidnapped and then held hostage inside a house on the 500 block of Stonehurst Drive,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
“Allegedly, the two suspects left him in the house to be watched by another younger male so they could steal his car,” the statement said. “The victim was able to escape through the back door and jumped over the rear fence. A short time later, the victim contacted several patrol Deputies on the 500 block of Figueroa Drive, Altadena and explained how he was beaten and threatened by two suspects with two different handguns.”
Butler was taken into custody about 6 a.m. Friday as officials searched a home in the 400 block of Athens Street in Altadena, according to sheriff’s officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
“Detectives are still looking for a chrome handgun that was allegedly used by Mr. Butler,” according to the statement.
Patton was arrested about 6:30 p.m. during a search at a second, undisclosed location, officials said. Also recovered during the search was a revolver believed to have been used in the crime.
Another alleged gang member was arrested along with Patton due to an outstanding $15,000 misdemeanor warrant, according to investigators and booking records.
Patton and Butler were being held in lieu of $1 million bail each pending their initial court appearances.

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Gunman robs Pasadena Radio Shack store

PASADENA — A man armed man robbed a Pasadena Radio Shack store Thursday afternoon, police said.
The gunman entered the electronics store at 3535 E. Foothill Blvd. about 6:30 p.m. and demanded money, Pasadena police Lt. Vasken Gourdkian said.
He obtained an undisclosed amount of cash and ran from the store, the lieutenant said.
Police described the robber as a white man between 40 and 45 years old, armed with a handgun. No getaway car was seen.

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West Covina sculpture of late Yankees pitcher, San Gabriel Valley resident Cory Lidle destroyed by metal thieves

0222_NWS_SGT-L-STATUE1

WEST COVINA >> A bronze sculpture of Cory Lidle — a Yankees pitcher and San Gabriel Valley resident who died in a New York airplane crash in 2006 — was destroyed in a theft attempt by suspected metal thieves early Friday, authorities said.
The thieves were unable to remove the 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the entrance of the Big League Dreams sport complex, 2100 S. Azusa Ave., however they toppled and badly damaged in the attempt, West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez said. The statue was valued at about $100,000.
0222_NWS_SGT-L-STATUE2But they did get away with three bronze plaques that were on display at the memorial to Lidle, which was installed by West Covina to honor the fallen pitcher in October of 2007. The larger-than-life statue depicted Lidle, in his Yankees uniform, in mid-pitch.
While it remained unclear if the badly damaged statue could be repaired, “It’s never going to be the same,” Lopez said.
Lidle died October 11, 2006, when the small airplane he was flying in crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper. The Glendora resident was a standout player for South Hills High School in West Covina before becoming a professional baseball player.
Also killed in the crash was Lidle’s friend, 26-year-old Tyler Stanger of Walnut.
“It’s a horribly act of vandalism, and I hope they catch the people that did this,” West Covina Mayor Steve Herfert said. As a city councilman at the time, Herfert was involved in selecting the artist when the statue was first commissioned.
0222_NWS_SGT-L-STATUE3“This is a memorial to Corey Lidle, who grew up here in West Covina. It’s very disturbing,” the mayor said. “What a senseless act. It stuns me how someone could do something like that to a beautiful statue like that.”
Police reached out to the public Friday afternoon for clues regarding the identity of the thieves, as well as the location of the stolen plaques, officials said. They also notified area metal recyclers to be on the lookout for the unique plaques.
The theft took place between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., Lopez said.
It appeared whoever was responsible used heady-duty tools to cut into the large, bronze statue, Lt. Dennis Patton said. But they were apparently unable to make off with the massive sculpture.
The statue weighs about half-a-ton, according to the Texas-based foundry that cast it, the Stevens Art Foundry.
The City of West Covina commissioned the late Texas artist Don Hunt to sculpt the monument in 2007. Hunt died in 2011 at age 70.
Though the detailed statue was valued at $100,000, officials said the vandals were likely only after the value of recycled metal it was made of.
And at a current price of $3.27 per pound for copper — the primary component of bronze — the metal itself is worth less than $7,000.
Big League Dreams Executive Board Member John Giambi, father of Lidle’s former Yankees teammate and longtime friend Jason Giambi, described the incident as “disheartening” and “discouraging.”
“It’s disappointing that someone in the community would have the disrespect to do it,” John Giambi said.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 visitors have passed by the sculpture as they enter Big League Dreams each year since its installation, he said.
“It’s about pride. It’s about the community, It’s about what the city has done,” John Giambi said.
In addition to honoring the life of Lidle, the monument was a source of pride for the city, Herfert said.
“The community will rally around,” he said. “We will repair, or replace, or whatever we have to do.”
“I promise our residents this act of vandalism will not deter us from our goal of fulfilling dreams at our Big League
Dreams facility,” the mayor added. “The statue will be repaired and we will be stronger in our resolve to stop crime and vandalism.”

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South Whittier gas station robbed

SOUTH WHITTIER — A knife-wielding man robbed a gas station in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier late Thursday, officials said.
The crime took place about 9 p.m. at the Mobile station at Mulberry Drive and Mills Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Cynthia McDaniel said.
“(The robber) threatened the clerk with a folding knife,” she said.
After demanding cash and receiving about $700, the robber ran from the store, the lieutenant said. He was last seen headed east.
Officials described the robber as a Latino man in his 20s, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, wearing a bandana over his face.
The robbery was being investigated by deputies from the sheriff’s Norwalk Station.

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Worker pinned by forklift in construction mishap at City of Hope in Duarte

DUARTE — Officials feared a man may lose his arm after it was crushed by a forklift in an industrial accident in the parking lot of the City of Hope early Thursday, officials said.
The rescue call came shortly after 8 a.m. in the parking lot of City of Hope, 1500 block of East Duarte Road, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire officials.
It initially appeared the man, who was part of a crew contracted to perform construction work at the hospital, was helping unload a forklift from a truck, sheriff’s Lt. Ismael Chavez said.
The man’s left arm became pinned between the forklift and a hydraulic leg used to stabilize the piece of construction equipment, the lieutenant said.
Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Keith Mora said the man was freed at 8:48 a.m.
The man’s injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, though it was not clear if he would lose his arm as a result of the mishap, Chavez said.
Further details were not available Thursday as the injured man was rushed to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Cetner by helicopter before investigators could speak with him, Chavez said. The California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health was notified of the incident.

- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

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UPDATED: Ex-Baldwin Park police officer accused of filing false report

LOS ANGELES >> Prosecutors Thursday filed a felony charge against a former Baldwin Park police officer accused of filing a false police report related to a drug arrest last year.
Matthew DeHoog, 29, pleaded not guilty to a count of filing a false report in Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. Judge Renee Korn ordered him released on his own recognizance pending his next court appearance.
“DeHoog wrote a false police report about a July 31, 2013, incident where a man was arrested for investigation of possession of methamphetamine,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
The criminal complaint filed against DeHoog alleges that, while working as a police officer, he filed a report regarding the commission and investigation of a crime, “and knowingly and intentionally included a statement and statements regarding a material matter which the defendant knew to be false.”
But further details regarding the alleged false police report, including the identity of the man who was arrested, were not available.
“We’re not releasing any more facts of the case,” district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling said. “They’ll be released during the (preliminary hearing).”
The case was investigated by DeHoog’s former colleagues at the Baldwin Park Police Department. But police also declined to discuss the circumstances of the case.
“He’s a former police officer with our department and he’s no longer employed by us,” Baldwin Park Police Chief Michael Taylor said.
DeHoog’s employment with the department ended in early January, Taylor said.
The chief said he had no further comment regarding the allegations against the former officer, or the case filed Thursday by the district attorney’s office.
“It’s unfortunate when anything like this happens in the law enforcement community,” Taylor said.
DeHoog was ordered to return to court March 4 for a preliminary hearing setting, Risling said.
DeHoog could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Under state law, DeHoog faces up to three years in prison if convicted as charged.
The July, 2013, incident was not DeHoog’s first time being involved in a controversial arrest.
He, along with two other Baldwin Park police officers, arrested then-city councilman Anthony Bejarano on suspicion of being drunk in public.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office ultimately declined to file any charge against Bejarano, and the former councilman filed a personnel complaint against his arresting officers. He denied he was drunk or uncooperative, as was stated in the officers’ report.
An internal department review into the situation was conducted and completed, though the results were never made public, as then-police chief Lili Hadsell said the issue was a confidential personnel matter.

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Man accused in child molestation, child pornography case pleads not guilty

NORWALK — A Norwalk man who’s recently being staying in Bassett has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing two young girls and trading in child pornography online, officials said Wednesday.
Manuel C. Montes, 43, was arrested Feb. 13 at a friend’s home in Norwalk following a month of investigation by detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau. In addition to trading in images of child pornography on the Internet, Montes is also charged with sexually abusing two girls under the ages of 14 in Whittier between 2006 and 2013.
He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Norwalk Superior Court to four counts of committing a lewd act upon a child, one count of possession of child pornography, one count of distributing child pornography and one count of using a minor for sex acts, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s official said in a written statement.
And detectives believed at least one additional girl had been victimized by Montes based on recovered images, though she was yet to be identified, Sgt. Peter Hahn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said.
He was being held in lieu of $460,000 bail pending his next court appearance, scheduled for March 17 in Norwalk Superior Court.
His brother, 46-year-old Lorenzo Montes of Claremont, as well as Manuel Montes’ ex-girlfriend Stacey Marie Oropeza of Bellflower were also arrested Feb. 13 and have been charged with acting as accessories after the fact, officials said.
Lorenzo Montes has entered a not guilty plea and was being held without bail pending his next scheduled appearance, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records. Oropeza, who was released from jail Friday after posting $20,000 bail, was yet to appear in court.
Sheriff’s detectives began looking into Manuel Montes in January after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that he had uploaded images of child pornography to the Internet, Hahn said.
Detectives seeking Manuel Montes encountered Lorenzo Montes near his brother’s Bassett residence Feb. 12, Hahn said.
“Lorenzo Montes claimed he did not know Manuel,” according to the D.A.’s office statement.
The investigation began with a visit to Oropeza’s home in Bellflower, where Manuel Montes had allegedly uploaded child pornography prior to moving out a month or two before investigators showed up, Hahn said.
“Oropeza is also purported to have tipped off Manuel Montes that authorities were looking for him,” according to the statement.
When detectives searched a building where Manuel Montes was believed to have been staying on the lot of a commercial property in the 1800 block of Workman Mill Road in Bassett, they discovered a rear room which they referred to as a “trophy room,” Hahn said.
It was full of child-related paraphernalia, as well as a collage featuring photos of children in various stages of undress, the sergeant said. Investigators also recovered hundreds of images of child pornography stored on hard drives and compact discs from the home.
If convicted as charged, Manuel Montes faces up to 16 years in state prison.

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Walk-up window opens to address traffic issues at Pasadena Superior Court

PASADENA — In an effort to streamline court visits for those who need to take care of some traffic-related issues, officials have opened a walk-up window outside Pasadena Superior Court, officials announced Wednesday.
The window, located on Garfield Avenue along the west side of the court, 300 E. Walnut Avenue, “now allows many people to take care of their traffic tickets without having to enter the courthouse,” Los Angeles Superior Court officials said in a written statement.
Services provided at the walk-up window include: paying traffic tickets and fix-it citations; setting traffic arraignment dates; extending traffic payments and appearances; and submitting proof of community service and fix-it ticket completion.
Requests for traffic school, as well as citations that have already gone to collection agencies cannot be handled at the walk-up window, and must be addressed in the clerk’s office inside the courthouse, officials said.
The traffic window is open from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Payments can be made at the window via cash, check, or credit card, including Discover, MasterCard and Visa.

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