Baldwin Park attorney, activist arrested during park concert

BALDWIN PARK >> Police arrested an attorney who has filed a lawsuit against the city seeking the release of several public documents, according to booking records obtained Friday.
Paul Cook, 32, of Baldwin Park was booked at the Baldwin Park Police Department’s jail on suspicion of disturbing an assembly during Thursday’s summer concert at Morgan Park, according to Cook and Los Angeles County booking records. He was released from custody with a misdemeanor citation within three hours of his booking at the Baldwin Park Police Department.
Baldwin Park police officials could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Cook said he believed the arrest was retaliation for his activism.
“It’s all political,” he said.
Cook said he was handing out leaflets critical of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation to the crowd when Director Manuel Carrillo Jr. took the stage to speak.
“I only said ‘boo’ twice. I said you steal money from the community,” Cook said. “At that point, five police officers came. They said you can’t be speaking.
Two lawsuits filed by Cook last year and this year seek the release of city documents and accuse Carrillo of misappropriating funds of a charity Carrillo heads.
City Attorney Robert Tafoya said some of documents sought in Cook’s lawsuits do not exist.
“I think it’s a frivolous lawsuit. It’s a lawsuit that never should have been filed,” Carrillo said of the most recent lawsuit.
Cook said two officers grabbed him and escorted him from the park, and told him to leave.
Cook said he maintained he had a First Amendment right to speak at the park, and refused to leave. He was then arrested.
Cook said police rewrote his citation three times before ultimately citing him for disturbing an assembly.

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UPDATED: 5 Freeway shut down in East Los Angeles due to possible jumper

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EAST LOS ANGELES >> A possibly suicidal person on an overpass today caused the complete shutdown of the 5 Freeway in East Los Angeles during rush hour Friday, wreaking havoc on the afternoon commute for nearly four hours, authorities said.
The individual, described only as male, was seen about 3:40 p.m. on a freeway traffic camera grasping a sign attached to the Downey Road overpass, just west of 710 Freeway transition, according to California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Count sheriff’s officials.
Deputies were treating the situation as a possible suicide attempt, and crisis negotiators responded to speak with the man, Sgt. R. Laflin of the sheriff’s East Los Angeles Station said.
“Our crisis negotiation team has made contact with him,” the sergeant said. No details were available regarding what the man was saying to officials.
Northbound Santa Ana Freeway traffic was being diverted onto the northbound 710 Freeway and southbound vehicles were being diverted onto Dittman Avenue, according to the California Highway Patrol. The transition road from the northbound Long Beach Freeway to the northbound Santa Ana Freeway was also closed.
Traffic backed up significantly on the 5 Freeway, as well as on the 710, as officials continued dealing with the situation three hours later. An air bag was placed on the freeway below the overpass as a precaution.
The man was safely brought down from the overpass shortly before 7:30 p.m., however further details were not available, Laflin said.
The sergeant could not confirm reports that the man may have been scrawling graffiti when first encountered by officials, and it was unclear if the man was to be arrested or taken for psychological evaluation.
The Sig Alert for the 5 Freeway was cancelled about 7:30 p.m.

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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‘Quad Bandit’ sought for bank robberies in Los Angeles, Orange counties

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The FBI is seeking a serial bank robbery they’ve dubbed the “Quad Bandit,” whose robbed or attempted to rob nine banks in Orange and Los Angeles counties since April, officials said Friday.
The bandit earned his moniker at the outset of his spree when he struck four Buena Park banks on March 22, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. Three of the crimes at Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase branches failed, while one at a Chase bank was successful.
The robber then showed up in Cerritos March 16, where he tried unsuccessfully to rob a Wells Fargo before successfully robbing a Chase bank later the same day, officials said.
The Quad Bandit robbed a La Habra U.S. Bank branch July 3, followed by an Opus Bank branch in Anaheim on July 15 and a Union Bank branch in Anaheim Hills on Wednesday.
“During the robberies, the suspect known as the Quad Bandit typically passes a note and makes a verbal demand for cash,” Eimilller said. “In some of the robberies, the Quad Bandit has threatened a weapon, or has appeared to have gestured toward what might be a weapon, according to victims.”
0726_NWS_WDN-L-WUADBANDIT2In a bank surveillance photo released by the FBI from a Buena Park crime, the bandit is seen holding up a piece of paper toward the teller’s window with the words, “bank robbery,” written on it.
The FBI described the bandit as white, 40 to 50 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall, 150 to 160 grounds. he had dirty blond hair, a goatee and stubble during the crimes, during which he wore sunglasses and baseball caps.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles office at 888-226-8443.

PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI

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Rosemead sexual predator sentenced for threatening woman in Alhambra

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A 65-year-old sexual predator who cut off his GPS ankle bracelet before luring a church acquaintance to a coffee shop and pulling a gun on her last year will likely die in prison.
Frank Hernandez of Rosemead received a sentence of 40 years to life in prison Friday for making criminal threats against the young woman, who had refused his romantic advances, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Arvazian said.
Hernandez already had a lifelong criminal history which included two rape convictions and bank robbery when he met with his latest victim on Sept. 12, 2013, Ayvazian said.
“He’s a true predator,” the prosecutor said. “He is a very dangerous person.”
Hernandez’s sentence is effectively a life sentence, Ayvazian said. Hernandez will be required to serve all 40 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole, at which time he will be 105 years old, Ayvazian said.
The jury failed to reach a verdict on two additional charges of attempted kidnapping and attempted carjacking. Ayvazian said he did not pursue those counts further, as they would not have added any additional prison time to Hernandez’s sentence.
Hernandez had met a 23-year-old victim through his church and had tried to pursue a romantic relationship with her, the prosecutor said. But the woman was not interested. She was unaware of Hernandez criminal history or his status as a registered sex offender.
Ayvazian said Hernandez persuaded the woman to meet him at a Starbucks coffee shop on Fremont Avenue in Alhambra about 9:30 a.m. Sept. 12, Alhambra police Sgt. Edward Rodriguez said at the time.
But first, he removed his court-ordered GPS tracking device, Ayvazian said.
“He cut it off that morning and hid it in a supermarket by his house. It was all pre-planned.” Ayvazian said.
As soon as the woman arrived in her car, Hernandez approached her and pulled a gun.
Hernandez tried to force his way into the woman’s car while ordering her to be quiet and threatening to kill her, Ayvazian said. He also struck her with the gun.
The crime was interrupted to by good Samaritans. One woman confronted Hernandez and told him to leave the woman alone, despite hearing the terrified victim scream that he had a gun. Hernandez abandoned the crime and fled.
A second woman obtained a photograph of Hernandez’s license plate as he drove away, helping police to quickly identify him as a suspect in the crime, according to Alhambra police Sgt. Joe Flannagan.
“They’re wonderful,” Ayvazian said of the two good Samaritans. “They were amazing.”
Police arrested Hernandez at his home within a few hours.
Hernandez was paroled from prison in 2011 following a 1990 rape conviction, according to Ayvazian and court records. He was also previously convicted of rape in 1984.
Hernandez served prison time in the 1970 for bank robbery, and has other robbery convicted dating back to his youth in the 1960s, Ayvazian said.
All of Hernandez previous convictions took place prior to California’s three strikes law was enacted in 1994.

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UPDATED: USC graduate student found dead in apartment after beating

LOS ANGELES >> A 24-year-old USC engineering graduate student from China was found dead in his apartment after he was beaten while walking home from a study group early Thursday, police said.
LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said the student, identified by USC officials as electrical engineering student Xinran Ji, was attacked about 12:45 a.m. out on the street along 29th Street, near Orchard Avenue.
“The victim was somehow able to get back to his residence, where he was discovered this morning,” Neiman said.
A trail of blood was visible leading up the street and into the City Park Apartments in the 1200 block of 30th Street, where the young man lived. “It’s safe to assume it’s the student’s (blood trail),” Neiman said.
Ji was pronounced dead at the scene.
While a specific suspect description was not available, “we do have information that leads us to believe that at least three subjects were involved in this assault,” Neiman said. A dark-colored vehicle was also possibly connected to the crime.
“It’s believed a blunt force object was used. It’s not known what that object was,” Neiman said.
The motive in the attack was unknown. It was not clear if anything of Ji’s had been stolen.
He was apparently involved in a study group and had just walked home a friend,” Neiman said.

…FULL STORY

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Ex-Baldwin Park police officer pleads ‘no contest’ to filing false police report during drug arrest

A former Baldwin Park police officer pleaded “no contest” Thursday to an accusation of filing a false police report in connection with a 20013 drug arrest.
Matthew DeHoog, 29, entered the plea in Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Judge Rand S. Rubin immediately sentenced the former police officer to three years of formal probation and 300 hours of community service, Robison said.
The plea came just as a jury trial in DeHoog’s case was scheduled to begin, she said.
If convicted by a jury, DeHoog could have faced up to three years in state prison.
The false police report was related to a July 31, 2013, arrest the officer made for the alleged crime of possessing methamphetamine, authorities said.
Police and prosecutors released few details were released about the accusation against DeHoog prior to his trial, and the handling prosecutor could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
DeHoog’s employment with the Baldwin Park Police Department ended in January of 2014, about a month before he was formally charged.
Baldwin Park Police Chief Mike Taylor declined to say whether DeHoog resigned or was terminated, citing privacy laws.
The chief could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
DeHoog remained free on his own recognizance leading up to his trial date,

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Covina police raid marijuana grow inside South El Monte commercial building

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SOUTH EL MONTE >> Officers arrested two people and discovered more than 700 marijuana plants growing in a vacant business on Thursday.
Covina Police Sgt. Jim McDonough said officers served a search warrant about 1 p.m. at the secluded, seemingly vacant business in 2600 block of Chico Avenue in South El Monte.
0725_NWS_SGT-L-POT1George Almaguer, 26, Pico Rivera and Jenny Ly, 31, of Rosemead were arrested at the scene, he said. They were booked on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and theft of electricity, as the sophisticated hydroponic grow operation was wired to bypass the electrical meter and steal its power directly from the Southern California Edison grid, the sergeant said.
Police estimated the grow operation had stolen at least $10,000 worth of electricity from the utility over the past year.
“There were three different rooms, each for different stages of growth,” the sergeant said. In all, police seized 733 pot plants from the buidling.
Investigators seized about $2,000 in suspected drug money that Almaguer was carrying, McDonough added.
0725_NWS_SGT-L-POT2The building where the pot grow was uprooted Thursday was situated at the rear of a lot that was secured with a padlocked gate, McDonough said.
Thursday’s bust was related to another investigation where a grow house was found in Covina on May 26, police said.
In the May incident, officers responding to call of several downed power lines smelled marijuana coming from a house in the 200 block of North Larkin Drive. More than 200 marijuana plants were found on the Larkin Drive residence.
That investigation led to Thursday’s search and arrests in South El Monte, though McDonough declined to say exactly how detectives identified the South El Monte address as a suspected grow operation. The investigation was ongoing.
A suspect has been identified in connection with the Larkin Drive grow house, however no arrests have been made, McDonough said.

- By Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

PHOTOS courtesy of the Covina Police Department

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Police plan checkpoint in Whittier

WHITTIER — Police plan to check drivers for sobriety and valid drivers’ licenses during a checkpoint late Friday in Whittier, authorities said.
The checkpoint will be held from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 2:30 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within the city, Whittier police Sgt. Rob Hanson said in a written statement.
“Over the course of the past three years in the cities of Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, DUI collisions have claimed 4 lives and resulted in 119 injury crashes harming 167 of our friends and neighbors,” Hanson said.
Checkpoints have been shown to be effective in deterring DUI, he added.
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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Man wounded in Duarte stabbing

DUARTE — A man showed up at a hospital emergency room Wednesday after he was wounded in a stabbing in Duarte, officials said.
Arcadia police first responded to the Methodist Hospital in Arcadia about 6:30 p.m. after being notified a man had arrived there with stab wounds, Arcadia police Sgt. John Bonomo said.
But it was soon determined the stabbing took place in Duarte, and the investigation was turned over to deputies from the sheriff’s Temple Station, which patrols that area, according to Arcadia police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Little information was initially available, however investigators believed the stabbing took place in the 1900 block of Mountain Avenue in Duarte, sheriff’s Lt. William Wicker said.
The wounded man was taken by private car to Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, the lieutenant said. Staff at the hospital transferred the wounded man to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, where he underwent surgery late Wednesday. An update on his condition was not available.
Investigators continued trying to piece together the circumstances of the stabbing Wednesday night, and no suspect description was available.

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Chino man convicted of follow-home robbery spree targeting women in the western San Gabriel Valley

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ALHAMBRA >> A Chino man is expected to face more than two-and-a-half centuries in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of a string of robberies targeting women arriving home throughout the western San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
An Alhambra Superior Court jury found Jose Lewis Avila, 32, guilty of all counts he was charged with, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
They included nine counts of robbery, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of dissuading a witness and one count of child abuse, Ardalani said. The jury also found true the special allegations that Avila used a dangerous weapon during the crimes, which was ultimately determined to be a BB gun following Avila’s arrest, and that one of his victims, an Arcadia woman was shot with the BB gun, suffered great bodily injury. An Alhambra woman was pistol whipped during one of the robberies.
The robbery spree took place in March and April of 2011 in Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park and Arcadia, Ayvazian said.
“All of these are basically follow home robberies,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy District Attorney Gabriel Kim.
He targeted women outside their homes as they arrived home alone, investigators said. In the first robbery in Alhambra, a husband and wife were robbed as they arrived home together.
All of the victims targeted by Avila were Asian, Ayvazian said.
Avila was ordered back to court Sept. 26 for sentencing, Ardalani said.
Prior to receiving his sentenced, a judge will review Avila’s criminal history to confirm his status ass a third-strike offender, Ayvazian said.
He’s expected to receive a minimum sentence of 250 years to life in state prison, officials said. The maximum sentence Avila faces is 259 years behind bars.
The 12 charges stemmed from eight incidents, the prosecutor explained. Three robberies, one which involved two victims, occurred in Alhambra. Another three took place in San Gabriel, while one occurred in Arcadia and one took place in Monterey Park.
One of his victims was holding a child in her arms when robbed, resulting in the child abuse charge, officials said.
Avila threatened another of his victims and told her not to contact the police, resulting in a charge of dissuading a witness, Ayvazian said.
The assault with a deadly weapon charge stemmed from the Arcadia robbery, Ayvazian said. When the victim’s daughter overheard the commotion and came out so check on her mother, Avila shot her with the BB gun.
0724_NWS_PSN-L-AVILA2As the spree was ongoing, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park police banded together and formed a task force to identify and capture the serial robber.
He was arrested April 20, 2011, after an officer spotted a man and vehicle matching the suspect description driving on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and stopped it for a broken tail light, Ayvazian said. After learning the driver, later identified as Avila, was on parole, officers searched his car.
Investigators found a realistic-looking BB gun, bandanas, latex gloves and other items that indicated he was searching for new victims when stopped by police, Ayvazian said. A wealth of evidence including eyewitness statement, credit card records, cell phone records and surveillance camera footage also linked Avila to the crimes, officials said.
Additionally, even though Avila covered his face during his crimes, several witness were able to identify him due to his “very unique” eyes and eyebrows, Ayvazian said.
At the time of his arrest, Avila was already on parole in connection with a similar robbery spree that took place in the same area in 2005, Ayvazian said.
He had been arrested and charged with 19 criminal counts, but ultimately admitted two of the robberies under a plea agreement, the prosecutor said. As in the more recent case, some victims identified the masked robber based on his eyes and eyebrows.
While Avila was charged with robbing nine people in the 2011 spree, the police task force assembled to investigate the case capture the serial robber had also looked at Avila in connection with more than ten additional robberies, reaching into Pasadena and South Pasadena, officials said shortly after Avila’s arrest. No charges have been filed in connection with those robberies.
The prosecution presented 22 witness during Avila’s three-and-a-half-day trial, Ayvazian said.
Jurors deliberated for less than four hours before finding Avila guilty an all charges.
“The evidence was on out side,” Ayvazian said. “The jury obviously, in our opinion, did the right thing by bringing justice for our community.

PHOTOS:(Above)  Photo of Jose Avila courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department. (Below) Sketch of serial robber released to the public prior to Avila’s arrest in connection with a follow-home robbery spree continued in the western San Gabriel Valley in April of 2011, courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.

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