PASADENA >> Police arrested an Oregon man late Saturday after he allegedly climbed into a hotel hot tub with a 10-year-old girl and made lewd comments to her, officials said.
Andrew Le, 21, of Portland, Oregon, is suspected of contacting or communicating with a minor for the purpose of committing a sex crime, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
The incident was reported about 9:30 p.m. at the Langham Huntington, 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.. he said.
A 10-year-old girl was sitting in a hot tub, with her nanny supervising from the nearby deck, when Le climbed into the hot tub next to the girl and began making lewd comments, the lieutenant said. Hotel security called police and detained the suspect as they awaited police arrival.
Officers took custody of Le.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Le was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
ALTADENA >> A 49-year-old Torrance man reported missing while mountain biking in the Angeles National Forest north of Altadena was found dead from an apparent fall Saturday following a 13-hour search, authorities said.
The man’s name was not released Sunday pending notification of his family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
Search and rescue teams searching for the missing man found about 10:30 a.m. Saturday along the Brown Mountain Truck Trail, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Kim Shelton said.
The body was discovered a short distance from the man’s bicycle, and showed signs of trauma consistent with taking a fall from his bike, she said. No crime was initially suspected.
Sheriff’s officials received notification from Torrance police about 9 p.m. Friday that the cell phone of a missing Torrance man had been traces to a popular hiking trailhead north of Altadena, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The missing man’s SUV was found in the parking lot of the Millard Canyon Campground, Shelton said.
Officials from the Altadena, Montrose, Sierra Madre, San Dimas, Santa Clarita and Malibu search-and-rescue teams joined in the search, along with Sheriff’s Department helicopters, according to the statement. Additional resources from the California Air National Guard were requested, however the search concluded before they joined the search.
Investigators determined the missing man had started out for a mountain bike ride Friday morning.
Although the missing person was an experienced mountain biker, he was reported to have limited supplies with him, a storm was predicted to come in and there is over 30 miles of trail to search,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
Searchers handed out fliers with pictures of the missing man and his bicycle, Shelton said.
A hiker told authorities about 10 a.m. that he had seen the bicycle pictured on the flier in a remote area about three miles up the trail, officials said.
Officials quickly located the bike.
“After further searching, a body of a male was discovered,” according to the statement. “Sheriff’s Air Rescue 5 lowered a paramedic and the person was pronounced deceased at approximately 10:30 a.m.”
The investigation is ongoing.
WEST COVINA >> West Covina police arrested an El Monte gang member who led them on a short chase in a stolen car before ditching the vehicle, as well as a loaded handgun, and trying to escape on foot, officials said.
Parolee Andrew Cuevas, 23, is accused of being a felon in possession of firearm, auto theft, evading police and violating parole, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
Officers encountered Cuevas about 7:20 a.m. when they tried to pull over the car he was driving for a traffic violation, the lieutenant said.
Cuevas sped away instead, leading police on a brief pursuit before abandoning the car and running at Pacific and Puente avenues, just across the city border in Baldwin Park, he said.
“(Cuevas) proceeded to run from vehicle, making continuous furtive gestures in area of his waistband,” Patton said. Refusing repeated orders stop, “He pulled out a weapon — a handgun, loaded semi-auto — and tossed it into an adjacent yard.”
Officers then captured Cuevas without a struggle, Patton said.
The car Cuevas had been driving was found to have been taken earlier in the morning in West Covina, but not yet reported to police as stolen.
Cuevas was taken to a hospital for examination prior to booking due to a pre-existing medical condition, officials said. He was expected to be held without bail pending his initial court appearance.
PASADENA >> Police jailed a convicted felon late Friday after he ran from officers with a loaded gun in-hand, officials said.
Francisco Flores, 21, of Pasadena was booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm following his 9:25 p.m. arrest in the area of Garfield Avenue and Parke Street, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
Special Enforcement officers patrolling in the area saw a car make an illegal U-turn at Parke Street and Marengo Avenue, Mercado said. They tried to pull the car over.
As the car headed east on Parke Street, a passenger — later identified as Flores — got out holding a handgun, the lieutenant said.
He ran for a short distance, throwing the gun on the roof of a building as he fled, Mercado said. Officers quickly chased him down and captured him.
Mercado said in addition to the loaded 9mm handgun police recovered from the roof, officers found Flores in possession of methamphetamine.
The car officers initially tried to pull over drove away as police chased after the gunman, Mercado said. It was not found.
According to county booking records, Flores was released from jail Saturday morning pending a court appearance after posting $50,000 bail.
INDUSTRY >> Three men were hospitalized Saturday — one of them in “extremely critical condition” — after a group of assailants opened fire on their car along an onramp to the 60 Freeway in Industry, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 11:50 p.m. Friday on the Azusa Avenue onramp to the westbound 60 Freeway, according to Deputy Lisa Jansen of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Four men in their early 20s had just left a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant at the Puente Hills Mall when the attackers approached in an SUV, Lt. John Corina of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“As they were traveling on the onramp, a white Range rover pulled up alongside of them and started shooting into the car,” the lieutenant said. The victims’ car continued onto the freeway and drifted across traffic lanes before crashing into the center divider.
The Range Rover continued west on the 60 Freeway, officials said.
The driver of the victims’ car, a 23-year-old El Monte man, suffered severe wounds and was hospitalized in “extremely critical condition,” sheriff’s officials said.
Two of his passengers, both 24, also suffered gunshot wounds but were expected to survive, Corina said. A third passenger escaped injury.
A handgun was believed to have been used in the shooting, Corina said. No further description of the attackers or their vehicle was not available Sunday.
The motive in the attack remained under investigation, he said. There were no initial indications of any dispute preceding the gunfire. The victims were not believed to have gang ties.
All lanes of the westbound 60 Freeway were closed until about 7:30 a.m. as a result of the shooting and subsequent investigation, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
BALDWIN PARK >> A jury Friday convicted a West Covina man of the murder of a 26-year-old transgender woman who was ound beaten to death in a Baldwin Park motel in 2013.
A Pomona Superior Court Jury found Stephen Gonzales, 30, guilty of the first-degree murder of the victim known to loved ones as Melony Smith. She was listed by coroner’s officials under birth name, Vanhxay Inthichack.
Smith’s body was found about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, 2013, inside her room at a motel in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials.
The jury found Gonzales not guilty of robbing Smith, though they did convict Gonzales of the lesser offense of petty theft, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The jury also did not find true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of robbery, which would have made Gonzales eligible for capital punishment.
Despite the jury’s decision not to convict Gonzales of robbery, prosecutors believe that was motive in the killing, Ardalani said.
“Our office believes Gonzales wanted to rob the victim of her property,” Ardalani said.
Leticia Alvarado, who worked at the motel where Smith was staying on-and-off for about a year, said she became close friends with the “funny and outgoing” Smith, who she called, “sister.”
Smith, who moved away from home at age 16 because her family disapproved of her lifestyle, graduated Sierra Vista High School and worked for security company, Alvarado said shortly after the slaying.
Another friend of Smith’s, Misty Vale, said her friend had been saving up money to buy a car and planned to return to school to become a dental hygienist.
Gonzales faces a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing Feb. 11, Ardalani said.
PHOTO: Melony Smith, 26. (Courtesy)
TEMPLE CITY >> A man received a sentence of more than 15 years in prison Friday for a car crash following a police pursuit in Temple City that killed his passenger, officials said.
Richard John Villareal Jr., 28, pleaded “no contest” in Pasadena Superior Court to one count of gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of evading a police officer, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
Under a negotiated plea arrangement in Pasadena Superior Court, charges of murder, fleeing a police officer causing death, possession of methamphetamine, and driving without a valid license were dismissed, Santiago said.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin immediately sentenced Villareal to 15 years and 8 months in state prison.
Killed in the June 2 crash at Lower Azusa Road and Arden Drive in Temple City was Villareal’s 38-year-old friend, Michael Sandoval Jr.
“The defendant led Arcadia police officers on a high-speed pursuit after they attempted to pull him over for driving a stolen car near Workman and Baldwin avenues,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Arcadia police called off the chase, but Villareal continued speeding away in the 2001 Honda Accord.
“Following the pursuit, Villareal sped through a red light at the intersection of Lower Azusa Road and Arden Drive and was struck by another vehicle,” according to the statement. Following the initial impact with a Toyota Avalon, the Honda subsequently struck two minivans, officials said.
Sandoval died at the scene of the crash, while Villareal suffered moderate injuries and one driver of one of the other involved vehicles suffered minor injuries, officials said.
The car the two men were fleeing from police in had been reported stolen two days earlier in Monterey Park.
PHOTO by Walt Mancini
COVINA >> A burglar or burglars broke into two classrooms at a Covina middle school overnight, making off with a drum belonging to the band and video equipment, police said Friday.
The break-in at Royal Oak Middle School, 303 S. Glendora Ave., took place sometime between 11 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday, when staff discovered the damage and and theft, Covina police Sgt. Tom Tardiff said.
“Two classrooms on the north side of the campus were broken into. Windows were smashed near the doors,” Tardiff said.
Missing were a video camera and other pieces of video equipment, along with a snare drum, the sergeant said.
Some of the stolen video equipment was found discarded on the campus of nearby Quest Academy, he added.
No information regarding the intruder or intruders was available.
NORWALK >> A judge sentenced a Montebello man to death three times over Friday for a 2010 AK-47 attack on his ex-girlfriend’s family in Hawaiian Gardens, leaving three people dead and another seriously wounded.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Raul Sahagun ordered Joseph Mercado, 32, to death row for the early-morning May 6, 2010 triple-slaying that claimed the lives of his ex-girlfriend Serena Tarin, 23, her brother Alfredo Tarin Jr., 19, and her father Alfredo Tarin Sr., 54, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Also critically wounded in the rampage at the family’s home in the 21900 block of Devlin Avenue was Serena Tarin’s mother, who survived. Six additional family members fled from the home, some of them hiding on the roof of the home, which Mercado had doused with gasoline and set afire before breaking in through the back of the home and opening fire with an AK-47 assault rifle, authorities said.
A Norwalk jury convicted Mercado in November of 10 felony counts. They included three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder, first degree burglary, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, arson of an inhabited structure and child abuse.
The jury also found true the special circumstances of multiple murders, lying in wait and engaging in arson — each one making him eligible for the death penalty. The jury also found true the special allegations that Mercado personally used a firearm in the crimes and personally inflicted great bodily injury.
He was acquitted of a single count of assault with a deadly weapon.
The jury recommended Mercado be put to death for his crimes during the penatty phase of the trial, Ardalani said.
Following the shooting, Mercado was arrested after being shot by a sheriff’s deputy after exiting the home with his rifle still-in hand, officials said.
Mercado and Serena Tarin had an infant son together, sheriff’s investigators said. The 9-month-old child was unharmed in the incident.
Authorities said the shooting took place amid a custody dispute between Mercado and Tarin, who had been separated for several months.
BASSETT >> A drive-by shooting in residential neighborhood in Bassett late Thursday left two men and a woman wounded, officials said.
Deputies sought three suspects in connection with the 7:30 p.m. shooting in the 13600 block of Moccasin Street, in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Tubbs said.
The victims, a man in his 20s, a woman in her 20s and a man in his 30s, were all hospitalized with stable vital signs, the lieutenant said.
Three men were inside a passing older-model, black, four-door Nissan Maxima with tinted windows when one of the occupants opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun fitted with a laser sight, officials said.
Initial reports from the scene indicated the shooter was a Latino man of about 30 years old, wearing a black mask and a black shirt.
Tubbs said the victims were standing in front of a home when shot, Tubbs said.
The investigation remained in its early stages Thursday night, however the shooting appeared to be gang-related, Tubbs said.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.