Man accused of series of arson fires in Whittier, Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A homeless man accused of setting at least four fires in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs over the weekend
pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four counts of arson, authorities said.
Police arrested Jesse Jesus Provencio, 27, Monday in connection with an arson fire reported the previous day in front of a Santa Fe Springs business, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. He was described as a transient known to frequent the Santa Fe Springs area.
He’s accused with igniting four arson fires in all Sunday, scorching trees and brush but no structures, according to police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
Police and firefighters responded shortly before 11:15 a.m. Sunday to a report of a palm tree on fire in the 11900 block of Burke Street, Whittier police said in a written statement.
“Upon arrival, officers found a palm tree to the front of a local business fully engulfed in flames,” according to the police statement. Santa Fe Springs firefighters quickly doused the flames.
“The business was closed at the time and there were no injuries reported,” according to the statement. The fire caused an estimated $300 worth of damage.
The suspect was gone when officials arrived, police said. But detectives obtained surveillance camera footage which had captured the image of the alleged arsonist. The description was distributed to patrol officers.
Officers spotted a man matching the description near the scene of the Burke Street fire just before 11 a.m. Monday and arrested him, police said. The suspect, later identified as Provencio, was arrested on suspicion of arson.
Investigators soon linked Provencio to at least three additional fires that occurred the same day.
In addition to the fire in the 11900 block of Burke Avenue, prosecutors also charged Provencio with lighting another small arson fire in the 11800 block of Burke Street in Santa Fe Springs, and two in the 11800 block of Grande Vista Avenue in Whittier, according to a felony complaint filed against him.
Investigators continued working to try to connect Provencio to other recent suspected arson fired, including one Saturday in the 11800 block of Washington Boulevard, near the 605 Freeway, in which eight palm trees were scorches, Scoggins said.
The officer added that is was fortunate the suspect was captured before the series of fires resulted in more serious property damage or injury.
While a motive for the alleged arsons was unclear, Scoggins said there was no indication Provencio harbored an particular animosity toward the business in front of which he lit the fire.
According to county booking records, Provencio was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail. He was scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court Feb. 4 for a preliminary hearing setting, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.

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Teenage vandalism suspect falls from billboard in Industry

INDUSTRY >> Deputies jailed two alleged teenage vandals late Tuesday after one of them fell from a billboard they had been scrawling graffiti on, officials said.
An off-duty deputy spotted to teens tagging on a billboard about 9:45 p.m. at Valley Boulevard and Trafalger Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Raymond Enriquez said.
A uniformed deputy arrived to find one of the alleged vandals climbing down a ladder from the billboard, Enriquez said.
While the deputy was taking the first teen into custody, but did initially see the second boy lying on the ground nearby, the lieutenant said.
The second teen stood up and ran, but was quickly apprehended, he said.
The teens, both 16 years old, were taken into custody on suspicion of vandalism, Enriquez said. The teen who fell from the billboard was taken to a hospital for treatment of what appeared to be only bumps and bruises.

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Chino Hills man fatally shot in Whittier identified

WHITTIER >> Coroner’s officials have released the name of a 26-year-old Chino Hills man killed in a shooting at Broadway Park Whittier last week.
Jesus David Molina, 26, died at a hospital shortly after he was shot about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday at Broadway Park, 12816 Broadway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Kristy McCracken said.
Two male attackers approached Molina as he was sitting in the park, according to Whittier police Officer John Scroggins.
After a brief exchange of words, one of the two attackers shot Molina and fled, he said. Officers responding to reports of a shooting found Molina suffering from gunshot wounds to his chest.
No further details were available.

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Stolen SUV found abandoned, perched on edge of 605 Freeway overpass in Irwindale


IRWINDALE >> Police are seeking four people seen fleeing from a reportedly stolen SUV that was found crashed and abandoned, teetering over the side of the Lower Azusa Road overpass of the 605 Freeway early Sunday, officials said.
The crash took place about 12:30 a.m. on Lower Azusa Road, just west of the onramp to the northbound 605 Freeway, Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto said.
Witnesses reported seeing four people fleeing from the 2010 Chevrolet Suburban immediately after the solo-vehicle crash, the sergeant said. Two of them got into a white Lexus, which fled the scene. None of the people who ran from the SUV were found.
The SUV went over a concrete retaining wall along the north side of the road and smashed through metal fencing that lines the top of it, Gatto said. Pieces of fence fell onto the freeway below, causing damage to at least two vehicles that subsequently struck the debris.
The SUV came to a rest with its back section hung up on the retaining wall, and its front wheels against a steep grass embankment along the 605 Freeway.
California Highway Patrol officers briefly shut down the northbound lanes of the freeway as the crashed SUV and the debris were cleared, he added.
After determining the SUV was registered to an El Monte resident, El Monte police paid a visit to the owner, who told them the SUV had been stolen from his home, Gatto said. El Monte police took a vehicle theft report.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Irwindale police detectives at 626-430-2245.

PHOTO courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department

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Police use pepper spray to break up fight outside Pasadena bar; 3 arrested

PASADENA >> Police pepper-sprayed and arrested three men early Sunday as they fought with a bouncer outside Barney’s Beanery in Pasadena, authorities said.
Gilberto Zaragoza, 44, of Pacoima, Victor Rivera, 38, of Sylmar, and Byron Reyes, 40, whose city of residence was unclear, were booked on suspicion of battery following the 1:23 melee outside the restaurant and bar, 99 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
“The suspects had been escorted out of the bar,” Luna said.
When they reached the sidewalk, Zaragoza began fighting with the 26-year-old bouncer, and the other two suspect joined in, the lieutenant said.
The fight continued when officers arrived, he said. Officers sprayed the suspects with pepper spray to break up the fight and take them into custody, Luna said.
Police said the bouncer suffered bruising to his face but declined to be taken to a hospital. Paramedics treated the suspects for pepper spray exposure before were taken to jail.
Zaragoza, Rivera and Reyes were released from custody later Sunday morning pending their initial court dates after posting $20,000 bail each, records show.

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Police: Gang member found with loaded, stolen gun in Azusa


AZUSA >> A gang member with a lengthy criminal record who was released from earlier this month under AB 109 guidelines was back behind bars Sunday after being caught with a stolen and loaded handgun, police said.
Officers chased down and arrested Anthony Joseph Zepeda, 23, of West Covina about 11:30 p.m. Friday after he ran from officers and discarded a handgun in the 700 block of South Donna Beth Avenue, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Two officers noticed two “suspicious” men standing near a parked car, Sgt. Andy Sutcliffe said in a written statement.
“When the officers began investigating, the men split up and ran in different directions,” Sutcliffe said.
Zepeda jumped residential fences and ran through backyards before officers captured him, the sergeant said.
“Officers learned while running from them, he through a 9mm handgun on the roof of a residence,” he said. The gun, which was loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition, had been reported stolen in Glendora.
The second man who also fled from police was not found.
According to police and booking records, Zepeda was released from county jail Jan. 13 under the guidelines of AB 109, also known as California’s 2011 Public Safety Realignment. The legislation shifts custody and post-release supervision of convicted felons from state prisons and parole agents to county jails and probation departments.
He was released after serving less than three months of a six-month sentence he received in October of 2014 for violating his probation, records show.
Zepeda, who wears the name of area street gang “KHA” or “Kings Have Arrived” tattooed on his chin, has an extensive criminal history dating back to 2010, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.
KHA began as a tagging crew, officials said. The group was declared a criminal street gang by prosecutors in 2008 after two of it’s members were linked to the fatal 2007 shooting of a 14-year-old boy and his father in front of their Baldwin Park home.
Zepeda’s previous convictions include drug possession in 2010 and 2014; possession of drug paraphernalia in 2010 and 2012; being under the influence of drugs in 2011; fleeing police in a vehicle in 2011; and domestic battery in 2011 and 2014, court records show.
Zepeda was being held without bail pending a scheduled appearance Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

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Big rig mishap in Montebello shears fire hydrant, knocks down power pole


MONTEBELLO >> An improperly secured cargo container slipped from a big rig Saturday, knocking down a power pole and shearing a fire hydrant on Telegraph Road in Montebello, authorities said.
The mishap occurred about 4:30 p.m. on Telegraph Road, just west of Gage Road, Montebello police officials said.
A big rig had just pulled out of a nearby business when the metal cargo container loaded on the back slipped, Lt. Julio Calleros said.
“The load was improperly secured,” he said. “The load fell from the truck, striking the telephone pole and the fire hydrant.”
The driver was unhurt, he said.
A geyser erupted from the damaged fire hydrants, and power lines fell to the street, he said.
The accident knocked out power to the nearby Quality Inn & Suites, trapping several people inside elevators, but the electricity was restored within minutes, Calleros said.
The eastbound lanes of Telegraph Road remained shut down early Saturday evening, though the westbound lanes were closed as workers repaired the damage, police said.

PHOTO courtesy of the Montebello Police Department.


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Stolen truck recovered, woman arrested in Irwindale

IRWINDALE >> Police in Irwindale recovered a stolen pickup truck and arrested a woman on suspicion of stealing it early Saturday, officials said.
Monique Lanette Delgado, 33, of El Monte is accused of auto theft, Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said in a written statement. She was also being held on an outstanding warrant related to a petty theft case.
A witness called police about 8:15 a.m. to report seeing a suspicious person loitering in the employee parking lot of a business in the 4900 block of Rivergrade Road, Zendejas said. Officers spotted the suspicious woman driving as she was trying to drive away in a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck.
Police soon discovered the truck had been reported stolen in El Monte about two hours earlier.
The owner had left the truck running in his driveway as he briefly walked into his home, Zendejas said. When he returned, the truck was gone.
Zendejas cautioned the public to be mindful of opportunistic auto thieves.
“Car thieves look for moment of opportunity and will not hesitate to steal your car if you leave the keys inside,” he said.
According to county booking records, Delgado was being held in lieu of $40,000 bail pending a scheduled appearance Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

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UPDATED: Missing elderly Whittier man found safe

WHITTIER >> A 72-year-old Whittier man who went missing Friday during his usual walk on the Greenway Trail turned up safe and sound Sunday at a relative’s home, police said.
Roger Metzler disappeared after going got his routine walk on the Greenway Trail, Whittier police officials said in a written statement. He suffers from dementia and other medical problems and did not have his medication with him.
Concerned family members reported the man missing, officials said.
Metzler was found unharmed at a relative’s home Sunday, police said.

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Ex-Alhambra High School administrator admits molesting former students in Riverside, Perris


RIVERSIDE >> A former Alhambra High School assistant principal who was accused of molesting a two former students, including one who confronted her in a phone call and posted the conversation online, pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of child molestation involving two victims, authorities said.
Andrea Michelle Cardosa, 41, reportedly pleaded guilty to three counts of committing lewd acts on a child under 14 in Riverside Superior court. The charges stemmed from the molestation of two female students at middle schools in Riverside and Perris. The alleged Riverside crimes took place between 1997 and and 2001, and the alleged Perris crimes took place in 2009 or 2010.
She faces up to maximum sentence of 10 years, eight months in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 9.
She was initially charged with 16 felony counts related to child molestation and could have faced life in prison if she had been convicted as charged, prosecutors said.
Cardosa resigned from her position as an administrator at Alhambra High School shortly after her first victim posted the telephone confrontation on YouTube in January of 2014, but before her arrest in early February of 2014, officials said.
The video confrontation, in which Cardosa apparently incriminates herself, went viral after it was first posted by a 28-year-old woman who alleged she was molested by the Cardosa for six years, beginning when she was a 12-year-old student at Chemawa Middle School in Riverside.
Following the release of the video, a second woman, 18, came forward and alleged she also had been molested by Cardosa in 2009 and 2010 while a student at Tomas Rivera Middle School in Perris.
Prior to entering her plea Friday, Cardosa was being held in lieu of $5 million bail.

- From staff and wire reports.

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