Bicycle stop in Pasadena leads to arrest of alleged meth dealer

PASADENA >> Pasadena police arrested a suspected gang member and recovered 18 grams of methamphetamine, along with replica handgun, Friday afternoon, officials said.
Victor Aguilar Mendoza, 21, was booked on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine for sales, according to Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The arrest came after an officer tried to stop Mendoza for committing a traffic violation while riding a bicycle about 5 p.m. in the 500 block of N. Marengo Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
Police chased the suspect as he fled into a nearby apartment, the lieutenant said. He obeyed commands to come out about five minutes later.
Mendoza consented to a search of his apartment, during which police found 18 grams of methamphetamine and a pistol only capable of firing “blanks,” Luna said.
Mendoza was being held in lieu of $70,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to booking records.

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UPDATED: Pedestrian injured in West Covina hit-and-run

WEST COVINA >> An unidentified man remained hospitalized with major injuries Saturday as West Covina police continued seeking the hit-and-run driver who fled the scene after striking him late Friday, officials said.
0125_NWS_SGT-L-HITANDRUNThe light-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee that struck the man about 8:10 as he pushed a bicycle across Francisquito Avenue, just east of California Avenue, West Covina police Lt. Pat Cirrito said.
Paramedics took the injured man, who was estimated to be in his 50s, to a hospital with serious injuries including head trauma, West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez said. He had no identification with him, and his identity remained a mystery Saturday.
The man was crossing mid-block when he was struck by the westbound SUV, police said.
After striking the pedestrian, Lopez said the hit-and-run SUV continued west on Francisquito and drove through the parking lot of DD’s Discounts, 1200 West Francisquito Ave., before heading south on Sunset Avenue and out of sight.
The SUV had a sunroof and a top luggage rack, Lopez said. It may have damage to the front end on the driver’s side.
Police asked anyone with information to contact West Covina police at 626-939-8500, or the department’s 24-hour tip hotline at 626-939-8688.

PHOTO: West Covina police are seeking the Jeep Grand Cherokee pictured in this surveillance photo after it struck a pedestrian on Francisquito Avenue just west of California Avenue and fled the scene on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015.
(Courtesy of the West Covina Police Department)

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Man wounded in Duarte stabbing

DUARTE >> Deputies are investigating the stabbing of a man in a residential Duarte neighborhood late Friday.
The crime was reported about 8:15 p.m. in the 1400 block of Crestfield Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Oscar Lopez said.
Deputies responding to a report of an injured person found the victim, a man in his early-20s, out on the street suffering from a stab wound to his abdomen, the sergeant said. The injury was not believed to be life threatening.
No information regarding the circumstances of the attack or a possible suspect was available.

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CHP: Alhambra fire engine at fault in collision with Monterey Park fire engine last year


MONTEREY PARK >> A California Highway Patrol investigation into a crash between Alhambra and Monterey Park fire trucks last year that sent one of the engines careening into a dim sum restaurant, resulting in 15 injuries, has determined the Alhambra Fire Department truck was at fault for the collision.
The crash occurred shortly after 3 p.m. on April 16 at Garfield and Emerson avenues. Both trucks were responding to a report of a house fire in Monterey Park with emergency lights and sirens activated, officials said. The agencies often cooperate with each other in responding to emergencies.
The large truck’s collided in the intersection, sending the Monterey Park engine hurtling into the Lu Dumpling House. Four pedestrians who were walking in front of the restaurant were injured, one of them critically, authorities said. Six people inside the restaurant were also hurt, along with six firefighters.
A summary of the investigative findings released by the CHP Thursday states that the Alhambra fire engine’s driver drove unsafely just prior to the collision.
The Alhambra engine was southbound on Garfield Avenue at about 15 mph when it entered the intersection through a red light about the same time as the Monterey Park engine entered the intersection through a green light while heading east on Emerson Avenue at about 25 mph, according the CHP statement.
“The Alhambra fire engine failed to ensure the intersection was safe to enter against the red signal light,” according to the statement. “ Due to Alhambra fire engine’s unsafe operation, the front of Alhambra’s fire engine collided into the front of Monterey Park’s fire engine.”
No charges were to be filed in connection with the crash, CHP officials said.
The Alhambra engine was driven by 46-year-old Alhambra Fire Department Firefighter Bryan Butler. Monterey Park Fire Department Firefighter Nicholas Lima, 31, was at the wheel of the Monterey Park fire engine, according to the CHP.
Alhambra City Attorney Joseph Montes said 22 civil claims have been filed in connection with the crash. He declined to comment on the CHP findings.
“We’ve received the report. We’re in the process of analyzing and reviewing it,” Montes said. “We have pending litigation and in light of all that we are not in a position to make any further comment at this time.”
— Staff Writer Stephanie Baer contributed to this report.

PHOTO by Walt Mancini

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Woman guilty of murder in husband’s 2007 shooting death in South Whittier

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Nearly seven years after a woman claimed she accidentally shot her husband to death at their Whittier home, a jury convicted her of murder Friday following her second trial.
The Norwalk Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days before finding Linda Gwozdz, 57, guilty of second-degree murder for the April 26, 2007, slaying of then-husband Patrick Duffey, 50, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Robert Villa said. The jury also found true the special allegation that she personally discharged a firearm during the crime, resulting in death.
Duffey was shot twice in the head, officials said.
Even following conviction, however, some key questions remain unanswered.
“She never expressed what the motive was,” Villa said. “She said he was her best friend.”
Duffey’s life was insured for $300,000, but through a judge’s ruling, the money went to the couple’s two sons, even though Gwodz was listed as the primary beneficiary, the Clarion Ledger in Mississippi reported. A death certificate provided to the insurance company listed Duffey’s cause of death as homicide due to multiple gunshots wounds.
Gwozdz faces up to 40 years to life in prison when she returns to court for sentencing March 9, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
A previous murder trial ended in a mistrial January after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, Villa said.
The fatal shooting took place about 2:50 p.m. at the couple’s home in the 15800 block of Sharon Hill Drive, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, officials said. The couple’s two children were at school at the time.
Gwozdz herself called 9-1-1 to report the shooting.
“In the 9-1-1 call, she says he was teacher her how to shoot a gun, and the gun accidentally went off,” Villa said.
“But the evidence doesn’t really support that that’s what happened,” the prosecutor said. “It looked like he was sleeping on the couch.”
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau interviewed Gwozdz the day of the shooting, and several times after in the years that followed, Villa said. In the meantime, she moved to Mississippi and re-married.
There was no documented history of domestic violence between Gwozdz and Duffey, Villa said.
Gwozdz story changed each time she was interviewed, Villa said. She first stated her husband was lying on the couch when the gun went off. She later said he had been sitting on the couch and lied down just as she aimed the .38-caliber revolver at the couch and inadvertently fired.
After several years of persistent investigation, detectives presented their findings to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, resulting in the filing of a murder case in May of 2012.
Authorities extradited Gwozdz back to Los Angeles County from Mississippi shortly after the case was filed, Ardalani said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested her June 7, 2012, according to county booking records. She was held in lieu of $2 million bail prior to her conviction.
— Staff Writer Stephanie Baer contributed to this report.
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Gunman sought in back-to-back Glendora restaurant robberies

GLENDORA >> Police are seeking a masked gunman responsible for two back-to-back restaurant robberies in Glendora late Thursday.
The robber struck just after 7:20 p.m. at Sushi UMI, 423 E. Arrow Highway, then immediately after at a neighboring Subway sandwich shop, 419 E. Arrow Highway, Glendora police Lt. Matt Egan said.
The gunman entered the sushi restaurant and brandished a black revolver before demanding cash from the clerk, the lieutenant said. An employee opened the register and the robber snatched an estimated $400, Egan said.
But he wasn’t satisfied.
The armed robber then went across a breezeway to the sandwich shop and held up the clerk at gunpoint as well, Egan said. He obtained less than $100 in the second heist.
Police described the gunman as a white man in his 20s, tall and thin, wearing a black hooded sweat shirt, blue jeans and a black bandana over his face.
No injuries were reported in either robbery.

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UPDATED: Driver rescued from electrified minivan after crashing into utility pole in Montebello

MONTEBELLO >> Rescuers freed a 68-year-old man from his minivan Thursday after he became trapped by high-voltage power lines when his vehicle struck a utility pole, authorities said.
The incident, which began with the crash about 7 p.m. on Beverly Boulevard, just east of Poplar Avenue, resulted in no injuries, Montebello Fire Department Capt. Fernando Pelaez said. With 16,000-volt power lines sparking and arcing all over the crash scene, the situation could have been much worse, he said.
The solo-vehicle crash sent power lines down onto the street and over the minivan, the captain said.
Firefighters arrived on scene and warned passers-by to stay away from the lines, as well as metallic items such as fences and lampposts that were electrified by them.
They also told the driver of the minivan to stay inside until Southern California Edison officials could shut down the power, which took about 45 minutes, Pelaez said. Had he stepped out prior, “He definitely would have gotten electrocuted.”
The sheared power pole also supported an electrical transformer, officials said.
Rescuers tried to keep the driver calm until the power was ultimately cut off to the wires, officials said. Firefighters then managed to free him from the crashed minivan.
The driver, a doctor, did not appear injured and declined to be taken to a hospital, Pelaez said.
The intersection of Beverly Boulevard and Poplar Avenue was expected to remain closed into Friday morning as utility crews repaired the damage.
About 5,000 SCE customers initially lost power as a result of the crash, Montebello police Lt. Kelly Gordon said. By 10:45 p.m., about 500 SCE customer remained without electrical service.
No crime was initially suspected in connection with the crash, which was being investigated as an accident, Gordon said.

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Indoor marijuana grows found in two Arcadia homes, three arrested


ARCADIA >> Police seized about 1,250 marijuana plants, arrested three people and took two infants into protective custody early Thursday after dismantling indoor marijuana-growing operations inside two Arcadia homes, police said.
As part of an ongoing investigation, detectives and SWAT team members served two search warrants in the 300 block of West Woodruff Avenue and the 1800 block of South Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement.
“Both warrants were served without incident, and indoor marijuana grows were found at each location,” Flores said.
Police uprooted about 750 marijuana plants from the Baldwin Avenue home, and another 500 from the Woodruff Avenue home, police said.
The complex indoor pot grows appeared to be bypassing electrical meters to steal electricity from the grid, Flores said.
Just before serving the search warrants, police arrested a man seen leaving from the Woodruff Avenue home in a vehicle, Flores said. Police also arrested a man who showed up at the home during the operation and a woman found inside with two infant boys, Flores said. The children were taken into the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
Arrested were Ming Gao, 46, of Arcadia, Jia Hui Shen, 27, of El Monte, and Lan Lau, 34, of Arcadia, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
“No evidence was found at the location to indicate a medical marijuana grow operation,” Flores added.
Detectives had not yet determined who owns and is responsible for the homes, police said. Authorities were looking into the possibility of adding additional charges, such as utility theft and child endangerment.
All three were accused of cultivating marijuana and were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances.

PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.

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UPDATED: 18-year-old Whittier man killed in fiery freeway crash in Industry mourned


INDUSTRY >> Coroner’s officials have identified an 18-year-old college student from Whittier who died in a fiery crash on the 60 Freeway in Industry last week after his disabled car was rear-ended by a cargo van
Johnny Gonzalez Jr. died Jan. 13 following the 10:36 p.m. crash on the westbound 60 Freeway, just east of Fairway Drive, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Coroner’s reports indicated Gonzalez called his father and said his car had suddenly died, Winter said.
“He told his father he couldn’t get his car to the right. The call suddenly ended,” Winter said.
A 2013 Chevrolet Express van travelling at about 70 mph slammed into Gonzalez’s disabled 1996 Toyota Corolla, which was stalled in the left-hand lane, California Highway Patrol Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said.
The force of the impact pushed both vehicles across the westbound traffic lanes of the freeway, and caused both to catch fire, the officer said.
Paramedics pronounced Gonzalez dead at the scene, officials said. He would have turned 19 two days later.
The driver of the van, a 36-year-old Menifee man, suffered an apparently minor injury and declined to be taken to a hospital.
The crash remained under investigation by the Baldwin Park office of the CHP, however Jimenez said intoxicated driving was not initially suspected.
An autopsy determined Gonzalez died from “traumatic injuries,” and not as a result of the fire, Winter said. The death was ruled accidental.
The young man’s sudden loss hit family and friends hard, Gonzalez’s father Johnny Gonzalez Sr. said.
The young Gonzales grew up in Los Angeles before moving to Whittier about 10 years ago, his father said. He graduated from California High School in Whittier last year and was studying at Rio Hondo College.
“Johnny can make anybody smile,” Gonzalez Sr. said. “Johnny could make friends with anyone. He has a big heart.”
Gonzalez Sr. said he was amazed to see how many people paid respects to his son at a candlelight memorial at California High School last week.
Gonzalez Jr. enjoyed baseball, basketball and took part in his high school’s golf team during his senior year, his father said. He grew up playing travel baseball and basketball.
He collected miniature skateboards, which he constantly fidgeted with, Gonzalez said.
An online fund to help the family with burial costs has been set up at
Gonzalez Jr. was to be buried in a private ceremony.

PHOTO of Johnny Gonzalez Jr., 18, of Whittier (Courtesy)

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Two wounded in shooting at Washington Park in Pasadena

PASADENA >> Two men suffered serious injuries in a shooting at Washington Park in Pasadena Wednesday, officials said.
The shots rang out shortly after 6 p.m. at the park, in the 700 block of East Washington Boulevard, Pasadena police Lt. Tracey Ibarra said.
Officers on patrol nearby heard gunshots coming from the area about the same time someone called police to a report some sort of disturbance involving a large group of people at the park, the lieutenant said.
The officers encountered many people leaving the park on foot and in cars when they arrived, Ibarra said.
The two wounded men were soon found in the park, she said. They were taken to an area hospital for treatment. An update on their conditions was not available. The victims were initially described as men in their late-20s or early-30s.
No information regarding the circumstances of the shooting or a description of the shooter or shooters was available as detectives continued their investigation late Wednesday, Ibarra said.
Traffic on Washington Boulevard was expected to remain shut down between El Molino and Hudson avenue well into the night Wednesday as officials gathered clues at the scene, she said.
Police believed the shooting was witnessed by many people, and asked anyone with information to contact Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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