LA MIRADA >> Authorities have formally identified a 48-year-old woman found shot to death outside the La Mirada In-N-Out Burger where she worked early Friday morning.
Josefina Alcocer Estrada of Buena Park was pronounced dead after she was found lying wounded shortly before 5 a.m. in the parking lot of the restaurant where she worked at 14341 Firestone Blvd., Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator B. Kim said.
In-N-Out representatives previously identified the victim, an employee since 1996, as Josefina Alcocer.
The woman, who was wearing her In-N-Out uniform, died at the scene, officials said.
No suspect description was available, and the motive had not been determined, Lt. Steve Jauch of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
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.
PHOTO by Keith Durflinger
WHITTIER >> What began as a routine traffic accident investigation earlier this week ended with police arresting of the involved drivers, a convicted felon, after finding an AK-47-style rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, a handgun and drugs in his car, authorities said.
Joshua David Fink, 38, was booked on suspicion of being convicted felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, possession of illegal weapons, possession of drugs while armed and existing warrants following his Wednesday morning arrest, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Police responded to a two-car crash shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday in the 15400 block of Whittier Boulevard, Whittier police Lt. Mike Przybyl said. Further details were not available regarding the collision itself, but it was not believed to involved any major injuries.
“As paramedics were treating one of the drivers, they noticed a handgun hidden in the car,” police said in a written statement. “Officers conducted a field investigation and recovered a handgun, assault rifle, sawed-off shotgun, ammunition and drugs from the vehicle.”
Fink appeared in Bellflower Superior Court Friday, where he was charged with seven gun- and drug-related crimes, court documents show. His arraignment hearing was postponed until Monday, officials said.
PHOTO courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.
BALDWIN PARK >> A judge sentenced a West Covina man to more than a quarter-century in prison Thursday for the 2013 murder a transgender woman at a Baldwin Park motel, officials said.
A Pomona Superior Court jury convicted Stephen Gonzales, 30, of first-degree murder in January of the Sept. 9, 2013, beating death of 26-year-old Melody Smith at a motel in Baldwin Park where she had been staying. The victim was listed in coroner’s records under birth name of Vanhxay Inthichack.
At his sentencing Thursday, Pomona Superior Court Judge Robert Martinez sentenced Gonzales to 26 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors alleged Gonzales killed Smith during a robbery, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
But the jury acquitted Gonzales of a robbery charge, and also found untrue the special circumstance allegation of murder during the coarse of a robbery, officials said. Gonzales was convicted of an additional count of petty theft.
PHOTO: Melody Smith (Courtesy)
PASADENA >> A man with a handgun held up the clerk at a Pasadena liquor store late Thursday, officials said.
The robber brandished a pistol when he walked into Sunshine Liquor, at Colorado Boulevard and Madre Street, about 8:20 p.m., Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
He confronted the clerk, a man in his late-50s, and demanded money from the cash register, Luna said. The clerk complied, and the gunman ran off.
A detailed suspect description was not available.
EL MONTE >> A knife-wielding man tried, but failed, to rob one El Monte market Thursday before successfully robbing a second store 10 minutes later, police said.
The first crime took place about 1:10 p.m. at Superior Grocers, 10683 Valley Blvd., El Monte police Lt. Ben Lowey said.
The robber brandished a knife as he tried to hold up the store but ultimately fled empty-handed, the lieutenant said.
About 10 minutes later, a second crime was reported about two miles away at a Circle K, 12004 Ramona Blvd., Lowry said. In that case, the robber obtained an unknown amount of cash.
In both incidents, the robber was described as a man wearing a black hat and a bandana covering his face, driving a gray minivan, Lowry said.
The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information can reach El Monte police at 626-580-2100. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
WEST COVINA >> A La Puente man pleaded not guilty this week to an allegation that he groped an 8-year-old girl who became separated from her mother at a West Covina pharmacy, authorities said.
Cresencio Flores Cardenas, 47, denied a felony charge of committing a lewd act on a child Tuesday during an arraignment hearing in Pomona Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
The charge stems from an incident that took place about 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at a CVS store at 3670 S. Nogales Street, according to West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez.
“The suspect, who was inside the store, approached the victim who at the time was separated from her mother,” Lopez said in a written statement. “The suspect then touched the victim inappropriately below the waist from behind and then walked away.”
The girl told her mother, who contacted police.
The victim quickly notified her mother who then called West Covina police. Officers soon found the suspect — later identified as Cardenas — several blocks away.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Cardenas was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his next court appearance, scheduled March 23 in Pomona Superior Court.
PHOTO of suspect Cresencio Cardenas courtesy of the West Covina Police Department
COVINA >> A 21-year-old Covina man died Thursday after his motorcycle collided with a Covina Department of Public Works pickup truck, authorities said.
The crash took place at 2:04 p.m. on San Bernardino Road at Prospero Drive, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
Paramedics pronounced the motorcyclist dead at the scene, he said. His name was not available.
California Highway Patrol officers were summoned to handle the investigation to avoid any perceived conflict of interest, since the fatal collision involved a city-owned truck and city employee, Peterson explained.
The motorcyclist was heading east on San Bernardino Road at an “undetermined speed” in the left-hand lane on a 2011 Harley-Davidson Sportster just prior to the crash, CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said. A 2014 Ford F-250 truck being driven by a 54-year-old Covina man and city employee was heading north on Prospero Drive, approaching San Bernardino Road, at 5 to 10 miles per hour, Jimenez said in a written statement.
“The public works truck entered the intersection, directly in the path of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle,” the officer said. “The Harley-Davidson motorcycle collided with the left side of the truck, causing the rider to be thrown off the motorcycle.”
The cause of the crash remained under investigation, though intoxicated driving did not initially appear to be a factor, Jimenez said.
The driver of the truck was unhurt and cooperated with investigators, Peterson said.
Officials shut down both directions of San Bernardino Road between Grand and Barranca Avenues for several hours as they carried out their investigation Thursday afternoon.
PHOTO courtesy of the Covina Police Department
INDUSTRY >> A man pulled a gun on a security guard while stealing a pair of work boots from a store at the Puente Hills Mall in Industry Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
The incident unfolded about 1:30 p.m. when a female loss prevention officer noticed a man leaving a Sears store at the mall, 1600 S. Azusa Ave., with a pair of work boots he had not paid for, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Gina Eguia said.
The security guard confronted the thief, Eguia said. He pulled out a handgun, pointed at her, pulled back the hammer and ordered the woman to get away.
The robber, a man of about 40, fled the area in an older-model, black Nissan Maxima, Eguia said.
CERRITOS >> Deputies fatally shot a man after he struck a sheriff’s deputy with a car at a Cerritos intersection Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The suspect, described only as a man, died at a hospital following the 5:14 p.m. deputy-involved shooting at Alondra Boulevard and Studebaker Road, just outside of Cerritos College, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The deputy, assigned to the sheriff’s Cerritos Station, was patrolling through the parking lot of a 7-Eleven when he saw a white Acura Integra parked near a gas pump and checked the car’s license plate, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. The car had been reported stolen in Whittier.
As the deputy approached the car, with the suspect sitting behind the wheel, he heard the engine start, officials said.
“At some point, the vehicle accelerated, struck the deputy, at which time, a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
The deputy was released from the hospital later in the day, officials said. The suspect, who succumbed to his injuries at a hospital, was not identified Wednesday.
Peter Serna, a student at nearby Cerritos College, said it appeared the deputy had the suspect pulled over before the shooting occurred. The deputy ordered the driver to get out of his car when the vehicle lunged forward.
“The man tried to strike the police officer with his car,” Serna said. “The officer fired five shots and then they tried performing CPR on the man.”
It appeared the suspect’s car struck the deputy’s hip or leg, Serna said.
California Highway Patrol officials shut down the Alondra Boulevard offramps from the 605 Freeway, as well as the westbound 91 Freeway connector road to the northbound 605 Freeway, as deputies continued their investigation Wednesday evening.
The fatal deputy-involved shooting took place one day after a man was shot to death in a suspected gang-related shooting at a 7-Eleven store at the same intersection, but across the city border in Norwalk, Lt. Victor Lewandowski of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The identity of Tuesday afternoon’s shooting victim was not released Wednesday.
Investigators described the killers as two Latino men in their late-teens to early-20s. Lewandowski said a dark-colored Chevrolet sedan and a white SUV-type vehicle were seen leaving the area following the gunfire.
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.
MONTEBELLO >> Police seized more than 1,200 marijuana plants valued at more than half-a-million dollars Tuesday and arrested two men after raiding two commercial properties neighboring a Montebello school, authorities said.
Police arrested Nicholas Stone, 23, off North Hills and Artin Khudanyan, 32, of Glendale on suspicion of cultivating marijuana following the busts, which took place Tuesday afternoon and evening at two commercial units in the 3300 block of West Beverly Boulevard, Montebello police officials said in a written statement.
The illicit indoor farm was separated only by an alley from Eastmont Intermediate School, which had already let out for the day when police carried out the raid.
• VIDEO: A look at the pot farm in the Montebello building
An anonymous tip spawned the rapidly-developing investigation, Montebello police Lt. Andy Vuncanon said. Police then began a stake-out outside one of the two adjacent, unmarked business units.
“During the surveillance, we saw the suspects in or about the business complex,” the lieutenant said.
Officers stopped a car occupied by Stone and Khudanyan nearby shortly after 3 p.m. and detained them pending further investigation, Vuncanon said.
Investigators then obtained a search warrant for the first business.
“Once inside the commercial property, investigators identified a fully operational marijuana grow equipped with artificial lighting, ventilating fans/temperature control, an odor control system and soil/nutrients for the plants,” according to the police statement.
The rear portion of the business, where the marijuana was growing, was separated from the front by a metal security door, Vuncanon said.
But the investigators were not finished. The investigation led detectives to obtain a warrant to search the business next door as well, where officers uprooted another 500 to 700 marijuana plants, officials said.
“Once inside the (second) commercial property, investigators once again identified a fully operational marijuana grow equipped with same type of operation and set up as next door,” the police statement said.
Vuncanon described the setup as a “very sophisticated, very clean operation.”
According to Los Angeles County booking record, Stone and Khudanyan were both released from custody Wednesday pending their initial court appearances after posting $50,000 bail each.
PHOTOS: Nicholas Stone, 23, of North Hills [MIDDLE] and Artin Khudanyan, 32, of Glendale [BELOW] were arrested on suspicion of cultivating more than 1,200 marijuana plants in two commercial buildings in the 3300 block of West Beverly Boulevard in Montebello on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (Courtesy, Montebello Police Department)
(Courtesy – Montebello Police Department)