Arcadia firefighter Mike Herdman remembered through photos

Colleagues of an Arcadia firefighter whose body was discovered in the Los Padres National Forest after he went missing during a camping trip two weeks ago are sharing memories of their fallen comrade through pictures posted to social media.
The body of Mike Herdman was found Friday near the site where he and a fellow firefighter were camping when Herdman disappeared while chasing after his dog on June 13, Ventura County sheriff’s Capt. Dan Aguilar said. The discovery ended a massive search operation that had been ongoing since June 15, when Herdman’s camping partner managed to exit the forest himself and seek help.
As loved ones come to grips with their loss, fellow firefighters are sharing memories of happy times with Herdman via photos posted on the Arcadia Firefighters Association Twitter account, as well as Facebook page.
They ranged from images of Herdman receiving his firefighter’s badge, to pictures of him goofing around with friends or cooking up his gigantic “Herd Burgers.”
Herdman, a seven-year veteran of the Arcadia Fire Department who grew up in Southern California and lived in Dana Point, would have turned 37 Sunday. He’s survived by his wife, Bridget Herdman, and a 6-year-old daughter.
Donations to benefit the Herdman family are being accepted online through the Fire Family Foundation at Donations should be earmarked “Mike Herdman.”

PHOTOS courtesy of the Arcadia Firefighters’ Association


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Girls’ softball team apprehends robbery suspect in Covina

COVINA — A man tried to steal a folder containing the personal information of a girls’ softball team as members gathered at a pizza parlor Friday before being chased down and captured by an outraged group of players and parents, police said.
Police arrested Marvin Duenas, 29, of Covina on suspicion of robbery, as well as an outstanding vandalism warrant out of Van Nuys, Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said.
The alleged crime took place about 8:20 p.m. at a pizzeria in the 900 block of North Citrus Avenue, the lieutenant said.
Eleven- and 12-year-old members of the Covina National Little League Softball girls’ all-star team, along with parents and coaches, were meeting at the restaurant ahead of a scheduled game Saturday against Baldwin Park Eastside Little League, police said.
The coach had with him a folder containing personal information of players, such as birth certificates, utility bills and tax forms which the league uses to verify players’ eligibility, Doonan said.
The lieutenant described the folder as a “gold mine” for someone seeking to carry out identity theft. The documents were also necessary for the team to be allowed to play their game.
After looking down an realizing the folder was gone from the table, Doonan said another patron of the restaurant told him that a man had just snatched the folder and walked out the door with it.
The group went outside and spotted the man, as well as a woman, entering a nearby gas station, Doonan said.
During a brief confrontation at the gas station, he said, Duenas shoved a 12-year-old girl, as well as one of the parents accompanying the group.
The group demanded the folder back, and Duenas returned it after pulling it from a backpack he was carrying, police said. The suspect then tried to run, but the group held onto him until police arrived.
Police detained the woman Duenas was with, but released her later in the evening after determining she did not appear to have been involved in the theft.
Duenas was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

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Man accused of DUI following injury crash in Azusa

AZUSA — A drunken driver blew through a red light and crashed his car into a pickup truck early Saturday, injuring himself, a passenger and the driver of the truck, police said.
Ricardo Luna Campos, 23, was accused of DUI following the 6:15 a.m. crash at San Gabriel and Sierra Madre avenues, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. His city of residence was not available.
Campos was driving a Honda Accord south on San Gabriel Avenue just prior to the collision, police said. A woman was riding as a front passenger.
Preliminary investigation indicated, “(The Honda) entered the intersection, against a red light,” Sgt. Mike Bires said in a written statement. “The Honda crashed into a Dodge truck, which had been traveling west on Sierra Madre Avenue.”
Campos suffered moderate head injuries, and his passenger suffered a spinal fracture, Bires said.
A man who was driving the pickup truck was hospitalized with moderate injuries to his knee and ribs, the sergeant added.
None of the injuries were believed to be life threatening, police said.

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Police car struck by alleged DUI driver in Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS — A Whittier Police Department officer has been hospitalized with minor injuries after his vehicle was struck by an alleged drunken driver early Saturday in Santa Fe Springs, officials said.
The 12:40 a.m. occurred in the intersection of Florence Avenue and Orr and Day Road, California Highway Patrol Officer Monica Posada said.
It was initially believed to have been caused by a woman who ran a red light in a Ford Focus, striking the patrol car, CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said.
The eastbound Whittier cruiser on Florence was struck by a southbound Ford Focus in the intersection, Posada said. The impact then pushed the cruiser into a collision with another vehicle.
The drivers of all three vehicles were transported to hospitals, Posada said.
The officers injuries appeared to be minor, amounting to bumps and bruises, Whittier Police Sgt. Jason Zhulke said. No significant injuries were reported to the occupants of the third vehicle that the police car was pushed into.
The alleged DUI driver suffered more serious injuries, including a broken leg. She was arrested at a hospital, where she was being treated. Her identity was not available.

– Staff and wire report

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Fatal crash forces freeway closures at 5, 710 interchange


A Dodge Magnum slammed into temporary supports holding up an in-progress overpass at the 5 and 710 freeways in Commerce early Saturday, killing the driver, injuring his passenger and forcing a closure of the northbound 5 Freeway that was expected to remain in effect throughout the day, authorities said.
All but one lane of the northbound 710 Freeway was also closed following the fatal solo-car crash took place at 2:02 a.m. on the northbound 5 Freeway, just south of the 710 Freeway, California Highway Patrol Officer Rommel Deguzman said in a written statement.
Jose Antonio Garcia, 34, of Compton died in the crash, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
His passenger, a 23-year-old Los Angeles man, was hospitalized with moderate injuries, Deguzman said.
The 2007 Dodge Magnum was traveling at an unknown speed approaching an ongoing construction project to expand the 710 Freeway over-crossing, according to the officer.
“For reasons currently under investigation, the driver left the roadway and proceeded through the raised gore point of the I-5 northbound to the I-710 northbound transition road. As a result, the vehicle collided with the temporary construction framing of the 710 over-crossing expansion project,” Deguzman said. “As a result of the impact, a combination of wood and metal framing material collapsed onto the vehicle, rendering it disabled.”
Paramedics pronounced the driver dead at the scene.
Northbound lanes of the 5 Freeway were shut down at Atlantic Boulevard as Caltrans contractors repaired the damage, along with the transition road connecting the southbound 710 Freeway to the southbound 5 Freeway, according to the CHP. All lanes of the northbound 710 Freeway were reopened about 4 p.m.
The closure was expected to remain in effect until at least 9 p.m.
Countless cars backed up for miles behind the closure Saturday afternoon.
Some drivers turned off their engines to save gasoline or prevent overheating as they sat for long periods without moving.
Alexis Sereg, 18, said she and her friends had spent about three hours on the northbound 5 Freeway en route to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and had moved “a couple miles.”
The traffic jam came at a particularly inopportune time for Farshad Kasiri, 18, of Anaheim and his family, who spend nearly three hours stuck in the gridlock as they tried to make their way to Downtown Los Angeles.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began Saturday, during which practicing Muslims traditionally refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours.
“We’re Muslim. We’re fasting. It’s really hot right now. We cant drink or eat anything,” Kasiri said with a smile.

PHOTO courtesy of Caltrans

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Woman crashes car through Azusa business

CrashAZUSA — A pregnant woman was taken to a hospital but expected to be OK after crashing her car through the front of a business Friday afternoon, police said.
The mishap took place about 2:15 p.m. at Mother’s Nutrition Center in the 400 block of South Azusa Avenue, Azusa police Sgt. Matt Egan said.
The woman apparently mistook the accelerator for the break when her Scion XB lurched forward, smashing through the business’ large front window, Egan said. No on inside was injured.
The driver appeared unharmed but was taken to a hospital for examination, Egan said.
City officials red-tagged the building at least until Monday, when it will be inspected further, he added.

PHOTO by Keith Birmingham

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Alhambra man pleads not guilty to pimping charges


ALHAMBRA — A man accused of operating a brothel out of his Alhambra condominium pleaded not guilty Friday to pimping charges, authorities said.
Zhi Wang, 56, was charged with two counts of pimping stemming from his arrest Tuesday at his home in the 100 block of South Marguerita Avenue, according to Los Angeles County district attorney’s officials and Alhambra police. He entered his not guilty pleas in Alhambra Superior Court.
Wang’s bail was increased from $25,000 to $50,000 at the hearing, and a bail review hearing was scheduled for July 3 in Alhambra Superior Court, Los Angeles County district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Police arrested Zhi shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday while investigating reports that he was operating a house of prostitution, Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson said.
Wang admitted using the home for prostitution, and officers encountered two women believed to be working as prostitutes at his home.
If convicted as charged, Wang could face up to seven years and four months in prison.

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Loved ones mark anniversary of fatal La Puente deputy-involved shooting

LA PUENTE >> More than three-dozen family members and friends gathered with candles last weekend to mark the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of a La Puente man who officials said fled from a traffic stop while armed with a handgun.
Ceaser Joe Mendoza, 24, died at a hospital soon after he was shot and wounded by a sheriff’s deputy about 9:50 p.m. June 22 along Loukelton Street just west of Ballista Avenue, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
0628_NWS_SGT-L-MENDOZA3“Even several weeks after he was gone, I kept walking around thinking I’d seen him,” sister-in-law Joeie Martinez said.
“He was the happiest person ever. He would always make the best of any situation,” she said. “He was so giving. If you needed something, he’d find a way to give it to you.”
Mendoza was a passenger in a car with two other men when it was pulled over by a sheriff’s patrol car for running a stop sign, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials. One deputy remained with the two men in the stopped car, while Deputy Chad Sessman chased after Mendoza.
Authorities allege he reached for a 9mm handgun that was tucked into his waistband while fleeing, Sessman to open fire.
Shortly after the shooting, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement that Mendoza twice faced Sessman and reached for the handgun while running, though detectives said he never fully removed it from his pants.
Family members conceded that Mendoza was armed and that he ran from deputies, but have said they don’t believe he assaulted a deputy, or intended to. And the autopsy report confirmed the family’s assertion that Mendoza had been shot in the back.
Officials at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office ultimately determined the deputy-involved shooting was lawful self-defense.
0628_NWS_SGT-L-MENDOZA2Another passenger of the Nissan Altima told investigators that Mendoza became “extremely nervous” when the car was pulled over by deputies, and said that he had a gun on him and needed to run, according to the district attorney’s office report on the shooting.
“As Mendoza ran from Sessman, he tripped and fell onto the ground landing on his buttocks facing Sessman,” according to the report. “Sessman saw that Mendoza had a chrome handgun in his waistband. Mendoza looked directly at Mendoza, reached for his waistband and grabbed the handgun with both hands. Believing Mendoza was preparing to draw the firearm and shoot him, Sessman drew his service weapon and fired at Mendoza.”
Mendoza returned to his feet and continued running west on Loukelton Street, officials said.
“As Mendoza ran, he kept his arms in front of him near his waist. Mendoza was moving his hands near his waist and periodically looking over his left shoulder toward Sessman,” the district attorney’s report said. “Sessman moved into position behind a concrete fence post and fired a second salvo at Mendoza.”
“Sessman believed Mendoza was attempting to draw his firearm from its holster and scanning over his left shoulder for Sessman. Believing that Mendoza was preparing to shoot him, Sessman fired his weapon again to end what he perceived to be a deadly threat,” according to the district attorney’s report.
The district attorney’s report differed from the initial statement released by the sheriff’s department, which stated that Mendoza, “turned around a second time reaching for his waistband.”
Mendoza fell wounded and was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries less than an hour later, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Sessman fired five shots, according to the district attorney’s office.
Mendoza was struck by three .45-caliber bullets, according to the coroner’s autopsy report. The fatal wound was to the center of his back. Another bullet struck him struck him on the left, rear side of his up, and third penetrated through the back of his right arm.
The district attorney’s investigation into the shooting was completed on April, concluding that , “LASD Deputy Chad Sessman acted lawfully in self-defense. We are closing out file and will take no further action in this matter.”

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Gang member sentenced for shotgun slaying of Covina man

0628_NWS_SGT-L-NAVARETTEA judge sentenced a gang member to 80 years to life in prison this week for the shotgun slaying of a Covina man in October of 2012.
Fred Navarette, 31, of Covina was on a mission to gun down rival gang members when he came upon a group of five people gathered on a sidewalk in the 300 block of North Vecino Avenue in Covina about 3:30 a.m. on October 28, 2012, according to investigators and prosecutors.
Navarette was armed with a shotgun and driving a pickup truck he had stolen earlier in the day, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Robert Serna said.
“He went into a known gang area with the shotgun and the stolen truck, pulled up to a group of people on the sidewalk, racked the shotgun, yelled out, ‘West Covina,’ and fired one shot at the group,” Serna said.
The shotgun blast fatally wounded Thomas Fernandez, the 23-year-old father of a then-22-month-old son who lived nearby, officials said. Fernandez ran into the carport area of an apartment complex a block to the south where he collapsed and died. No one else in the group was wounded.
Navarette received a term of 80 years to life in state prison Wednesday in the courtroom of Pomona Superior Court Judge Bruce Marrs, officials said.
A jury convicted him earlier this month of murder, along with the special allegations that the killing was gang-related and that Navarette personally used a firearm in the slaying, Serna said. He was also convicted of auto theft, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a short-barrelled shotgun.
The conviction comes as Navarette’s second strike, as he has a prior conviction for assault with intent to cause great bodily injury, also with the special allegation that the crime was gang-related, Serna said.
Covina police arrested Navarette two days after the fatal shooting, Marquez said.
He was first charged only with auto theft as detectives continues gathering evidence, police said. Prosecutors charged Navaratte with Fernandez’s murder in March of 2013,
A passenger who was in the pickup truck with Navarette at the time of the shooting testified against him, and Navarette’s DNA was found on the shotgun used in the shooting, as well as the driver-side of the pickup truck used in the killing, Serna said.
Officials described Navarette as member of the West Covina 13 street gang.
During his trial, he grew hair over tattoos on his head, including a set of horns, Serna said.
Authorities described Fernandez and as an affiliate of the El Monte Flores gang.
His girlfriend, Jessica Martinez, said at the time of the shooting that although Fernandez had associated with the gang in the past and had friends who were involved with it, Fernandez was not a gang member.
Martinez described Fernandez as a good father and a kind man who loved music and dreamed of becoming a rapper.

TOP: Fred Navarette, 31, of Covina, was sentenced to 80 years to life in prison Wednesday, June 25, 2014, for the Oct. 28, 2012, shotgun slaying of Thomas Fernandez, 23, of Covina, in the 300 block of North Vecino Avenue in Covina. (Courtesy of the Covina Police Department)
BELOW: Mourners gather at the scene where 23-year-old Thomas Fernandez of Covina died after being wounded in a shooting on October 28, 2012. Fred Navarette, 31, of Covina, has since been convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the killing and sentenced to 80 years to life in prison.
(Staff photo by Brian Day)

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Sheriff’s checkpoint planned Friday in Pico Rivera

PICO RIVERA — Officials are planning to check drivers for both sobriety and valid licensed during a checkpoint late Friday in Pico Rivera, authorities said.
The checkpoint will take place from 7 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within the city, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Funding for the checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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