AZUSA >> Police arrested two teenage boys on suspicion of scrawling graffiti along the street and at a park Thursday after the young vandals were literally caught red-handed, officials said.
A witness called police about 7:15 p.m. to report seeing the teens using spraypaint to vandalize walls and sidewalks in the 400 block of South Pasadena Avenue, Azusa police officials said in a written statement.
Officers responded and encountered two Azusa boys, ages 14 and 15.
“As the police officers approached the juveniles, they saw one of them was holding a spray paint can in his hand, and both juveniles had the same color paint on their hands,” according to the police statement.
“A search of the area led officers to find fresh ‘tagging-style’ graffiti in red paint on a block wall and sidewalk in the 400 block S. Pasadena Ave.,” the statement continued. “Similar graffiti was also found at Gladstone Park.”
The teens admitted to the vandalism. and both were arrested and released to their parents with a written promise to appear in court, police added.
Officials encouraged anyone who witnesses vandalism to call the police. The city seeks restitution from convicted graffiti vandals and their parents to recoup the cost of the damage.
PASADENA >> A Pasadena pet groomer and former reality television show star pleaded guilty Thursday to arson for torching a carport in 2012, authorities said.
Artis Willie Knox, 32, pleaded guilty to arson of an inhabited structure and identity theft charges in the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
He was expected to receive a prison sentence of 5 years and 8 months at an April 23 sentencing, Santiago added. Knox will also be required to register as a convicted arsonist on a statewide database.
Knox was named the 2008 “Groomer of the Year” on Animal Planet’s “Groomer Has It” TV show, and subsequently had his own Animal Planet show titled, “Beverly Hills Groomer.”
He set fire to a carport containing five cars that was attached to an apartment building where he was living in the 600 block of South Marengo Avenue on Sept. 8, 2012, according to Pasadena Fire Department officials and prosecutors.
The blaze caused an estimated $200,000 worth of damage to the carport, which was attached to an occupied apartment building, as well as five vehicles inside, according to Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. Two of the vehicles were destroyed, while the other three were damaged.
Knox was initially charged with six counts of arson: one for the carport and one for each of the scorched cars.
Though he pleaded guilty to a single count of arson, he was ordered to pay restitution for the burned vehicles as well, Santiago said.
Knox ignited the arson fire because he could not afford his rent and hoped the fire would allow him to stay longer, Santiago said.
And Knox had several other suspicious fires in his past, officials said.
“He was previously investigated (for arsons), but had never been charged until now,” Santiago said.
Authorities noted suspicious fired in connection with several homes, businesses and cars, “for which he was in arrears,” Santiago said.
After winning a $50,000 and a grooming truck in the 2008 reality TV contest, Knox opened a pet grooming business in Los Angeles.
But the business closed in 2009 after experiencing a fire. No charges were filed in connection with the grooming shop fire.
In addition to the arson, Knox also pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of identity theft Thursday, officials said.
That charge stemmed from the theft of money from a woman who lived in his Marengo Avenue apartment before he moved in, Santiago explained.
The woman had made a deposit to rent a hall for a wedding, but was ultimately issued a refund by the company, Santiago said.
The check arrived in the mail after the woman had moved out and Knox had moved in, Santiago said. He cashed it.
The amount of money stolen was not available Friday.
Santiago said the handling prosecutor declined to comment on the case pending the sentencing.
— PHOTO courtesy of Jamie Nicholson/Pasadena Fire Department
EL MONTE >> A SWAT team stormed an El Monte home Friday afternoon where a shooting suspect was holed-up and discovered him dead of a gunshot wound.
El Monte Police stopped short of calling the death a suicide, but said the suspect, described as a man in his 50s, was believed to be alone in a room when shot. No additional suspects were being sought.
The suspect allegedly shot another man at 7:27 a.m. in the 11400 block of Elmcrest Street.
The victim, also a man in his 50s, was hospitalized at a trauma center in critical condition, according to El Monte Police Lt. Chris Williams.
Police provided no details of what prompted the shooting but had described the confrontation as a neighborhood dispute.
Williams said the incident began with a report of “shots fired” and a “person hit”.
“Initial information was that a subject was shot, and a suspect was seen going into a neighboring house,” he said.
Officers found a man at the scene suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, Williams said. It was not clear how many times the man had been shot.
Officers placed the wounded man into a police car and rushed him down the street to paramedics, who were standing by near the crime scene as police searched for the shooter.
Police ordered anyone inside the home where the suspect was seen entering to come out, Williams said.
Two people exited, but neither was the suspect.
“One person told officers they heard a single gunshot in the room where the suspect was,” Williams said.
The relationship between the witnesses and the suspect was not immediately available.
Believing the armed shooting suspect may be barricaded inside the home, police summoned a SWAT team to the scene.
Six homes in the area were evacuated and Frank Wright School at 11317 McGirk Ave. was placed on lockdown as a precaution, officials said.
For five hours, officials tried unsuccessfully to speak with the suspect, including tossing a telephone into the home shortly after noon.
“After all attempts at communication failed, (SWAT) officers entered the residence a little after 1:30 p.m.,” Williams said. They then discovered the suspect fatally shot.
Family members of the dead man gathered at the scene but declined to comment.
Neighbor Daniel Chou, 29, said he did not hear the shooting and first learned something was going on when police swarmed the neighborhood.
At 9 a.m., Chou said police told him to stay in his home. A half-hour later, they returned and told him it was time to evacuate.
The school lockdown was lifted shortly before 2 p.m., and evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes just after 2 p.m. as police continued investigating the shooting scene.
MONROVIA — Two apparent gang members stabbed and wounded a young man after he exited a bus Thursday afternoon, police said.
The victim, a 19-year-old black man, got off a bus at Foothill Boulevard and Magnolia Street about 6:25 p.m., Monrovia police Sgt. Glen Coleman said.
He was approached my two men who seemingly mistook the victim for a gang member, the sergeant said.
One of the assailants shouted “(expletive) Duroc” as he stabbed the victim in the chest, Coleman said. The stab wound was not considered to be life-threatening.
“Duroc” refers to the Duroc Crips street gang, which populates the Duarte and Monrovia area.
But the wounded man did not appear to be associated with the gang, Coleman said.
The attackers were described only as Latino men of about the same age as the victim. They were last seen running from the scene of the stabbing.
EL MONTE — The community is invited to mingle with the El Monte Police Department’s four-legged officers and their handlers Saturday during the Soggy Dog Dinner and Dance to raise funds for the El Monte Police K-9 Association.
Dinner will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the El Monte Moose Lodge, 4249 N. Peck Road, followed by a dance from 8 p.m. to midnight, organizers said in a written statement.
Steak and chicken dinners will be served for $13, however the cutoff date to select a chicken dinner has passed.
The event will include raffles.
For more information, the lodge can be reached at 626-442-1025.
Police are planning checkpoints this month in El Monte and Pasadena.
El Monte police will conduct a sobriety and driver’s license checkpoint from 6 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday at an undisclosed location within the city, El Monte police Officer Nick Stratis said in a written statement.
In Pasadena, police will screen drivers for sobriety and valid licenses from 8 p.m. March 14 to 3 a.m. the following morning, police officials said.
Both checkpoints are being funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
WHITTIER >> Officials cautioned the public Thursday about two strikingly similar incidents this week in which two teenage girls were approached by a man who exposed himself to them.
The indecent exposures took place minutes apart early Tuesday near Richard L. Graves Middle School in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, as well Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs, according to Whittier police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
The first encounter took place about 8:30 a.m. at Telegraph Road and Laurel Avenue, around the corner from Graves Middle School, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Navares said.
A 14-year-old girl was walking when a man began following her, he said.
“He exposed himself and was masturbating as she was walking,” Navares said.
When the girl took notice of what was happening, the man fled.
Navares said the girl reported the incident to school police. Officials found a man matching the description, but he bolted from officials and was not found.
About 15 minutes later, police in Santa Fe Springs were notified of a similar encounter two miles away as a female Santa Fe High School student was walking at Florence Avenue and Pioneer Boulevard in Santa Fe Springs, less than a mile from the campus, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“A Santa Fe High student reported to the Whittier (Police Department) school resource officer that a male had exposed himself to her while walking to school,” according to the statement.
The suspect descriptions in the two incidents were consistent, however officials had not yet determined whether both were committed by the same man, Sgt. Jose Navares of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said.
In both cases, the girls described the man as in his late-20s or 30s, about 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall, with black wavy hair, wearing a white zip-up jacket and blue jeans.
The suspect in the Santa Fe Springs case was described as Latino, while the man involved in the South Whittier case was described by investigators as having a dark complexion.
Detectives from the Whittier Police Department and the sheriff’s Norwalk Station were working together on the case and trying to develop a sketch of the suspect or suspects.
Parents were notified of the situation by the school district officials, authorities said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Whittier Police Department or the sheriff’s Norwalk Station.
WHITTIER >> A 70-year-old Whittier man suffered major injuries Thursday when he was struck and dragged by a pickup truck along Lambert Road, officials said.
Paramedics took the man to Los Angeles County USC-Medical Center, where he was rushed into surgery following the collision, which took place about 1:30 p.m. on Lambert Road, just south of Washington Boulevard, Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
A Whittier man in his 60s drove a Honda Ridgline out of a Home Depot parking lot and made a right turn when his car collided with the cyclist, police said.
But the driver did not immediately realize he had struck anyone, White said. He continued driving an unknown number of yards before hearing a “grinding sound” — later found to be the dragging bicycle — emanating from beneath his truck and stopping.
The bicyclist was believed to have been dragged by the vehicle for some distance, though it was unclear how far, White said. “He has some severe trauma.”
The bicycle ended up crumpled, dozens of yards away from the driveway where the collision took place.
White said the bicyclist was traveling against the direction of traffic when struck.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. David Gonzalez said the cyclist was conscious when taken to the hospital. His vital signs were stable.
The injured cyclist appeared to have been heading to work along with a coworker, who was not injured in the incident, Gonzalez added.
The driver appeared distraught and “shaken up” at the collision scene, the captain said.
He told officials he initially believed he had simply struck the curb, Gonzalez added.
PHOTO by Keith Durflinger
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Authorities Wednesday continued investigating a two-vehicle crash that claimed the lives of a Norwalk man and woman early Saturday.-
The collision took place about 12:09 a.m. Saturday along Norwalk Boulevard at Smith Avenue, Whittier police Officer Brad White said.
Killed were Daniel Mata, 23, and Jazmin Gomez, 19, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Elissa Sleak said. Autopsies determined both died as a result of “multiple blunt traumatic injuries,” and both deaths were ruled accidental.
Mata was at the wheel of a Nissan Sentra that collided with a Jeep Laredo, according to coroner’s and Whittier police officials. Gomez was riding as the front passenger.
A Whittier woman in her late-teens who was riding in the rear of the Nissan Sentra was thrown from the car from the crash. She was taken to a trauma center in critical condition.
Preliminary investigation determined the Sentra was south on Norwalk Boulevard when, for an unknown reason, the car veered toward the right, White said.
The Sentra struck the west curb, “causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle and cross into northbound traveling lanes,” he said.
“It was broad-sided by a Jeep Laredo, travelling northbound, who was unable to avoid the Nissan,” White said.
Mata and Gomez were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, White said.
Two people riding inside the Jeep Laredo suffered minor injuries in the crash, he said.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation, however no arrests or citations were initially made, the officer said.
The incident was the second fatal car crash on the same stretch of road in less than three weeks.
Manuel Diaz Campos, 26, of Whittier died in the early-morning hours of Feb. 13 after the Scion he was driving at a high rate of speed crashed into a traffic signal, shearing the vehicle in half, Whittier police and coroner’s officials said.
The Feb. 13 crash remained under investigation.
BALDWIN PARK — A police officer shot a dog, wounding it the foot, after it charged toward a fellow officer late Tuesday, officials said.
The incident unfolded about 11 p.m. as two officers were responding to an unrelated report of a disturbance in the 13200 block of Francisquito Avenue, just west of Frazier Street, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Darryl Kosaka said.
“A dog came after one of the officers,” he said. “A second officer, to prevent the dog from biting the one officer, fired two shots. One hit (the dog) in the foot.”
No officers were hurt.
Police found the dog’s owners and turned the animal over to them for any veterinary treatment, Kosaka said.
Police described the animal as a “large dog,” however the breed was not available Wednesday afternoon.