Gang member sentenced for shotgun slaying of Covina man

0628_NWS_SGT-L-NAVARETTEA judge sentenced a gang member to 80 years to life in prison this week for the shotgun slaying of a Covina man in October of 2012.
Fred Navarette, 31, of Covina was on a mission to gun down rival gang members when he came upon a group of five people gathered on a sidewalk in the 300 block of North Vecino Avenue in Covina about 3:30 a.m. on October 28, 2012, according to investigators and prosecutors.
Navarette was armed with a shotgun and driving a pickup truck he had stolen earlier in the day, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Robert Serna said.
“He went into a known gang area with the shotgun and the stolen truck, pulled up to a group of people on the sidewalk, racked the shotgun, yelled out, ‘West Covina,’ and fired one shot at the group,” Serna said.
The shotgun blast fatally wounded Thomas Fernandez, the 23-year-old father of a then-22-month-old son who lived nearby, officials said. Fernandez ran into the carport area of an apartment complex a block to the south where he collapsed and died. No one else in the group was wounded.
Navarette received a term of 80 years to life in state prison Wednesday in the courtroom of Pomona Superior Court Judge Bruce Marrs, officials said.
A jury convicted him earlier this month of murder, along with the special allegations that the killing was gang-related and that Navarette personally used a firearm in the slaying, Serna said. He was also convicted of auto theft, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a short-barrelled shotgun.
The conviction comes as Navarette’s second strike, as he has a prior conviction for assault with intent to cause great bodily injury, also with the special allegation that the crime was gang-related, Serna said.
Covina police arrested Navarette two days after the fatal shooting, Marquez said.
He was first charged only with auto theft as detectives continues gathering evidence, police said. Prosecutors charged Navaratte with Fernandez’s murder in March of 2013,
A passenger who was in the pickup truck with Navarette at the time of the shooting testified against him, and Navarette’s DNA was found on the shotgun used in the shooting, as well as the driver-side of the pickup truck used in the killing, Serna said.
Officials described Navarette as member of the West Covina 13 street gang.
During his trial, he grew hair over tattoos on his head, including a set of horns, Serna said.
Authorities described Fernandez and as an affiliate of the El Monte Flores gang.
His girlfriend, Jessica Martinez, said at the time of the shooting that although Fernandez had associated with the gang in the past and had friends who were involved with it, Fernandez was not a gang member.
Martinez described Fernandez as a good father and a kind man who loved music and dreamed of becoming a rapper.

TOP: Fred Navarette, 31, of Covina, was sentenced to 80 years to life in prison Wednesday, June 25, 2014, for the Oct. 28, 2012, shotgun slaying of Thomas Fernandez, 23, of Covina, in the 300 block of North Vecino Avenue in Covina. (Courtesy of the Covina Police Department)
BELOW: Mourners gather at the scene where 23-year-old Thomas Fernandez of Covina died after being wounded in a shooting on October 28, 2012. Fred Navarette, 31, of Covina, has since been convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the killing and sentenced to 80 years to life in prison.
(Staff photo by Brian Day)

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UPDATED: Man fatally stabbed outside South Whittier market

SOUTH WHITTIER — A 29-year-old man died following a stabbing outside a meat market in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier late Friday, authorities said.
Israel Lopez of Whittier died at UCI Medical Center at 7:56 p.m. according to Orange County coroner’s officials.
The fatal stabbing took place shortly after 7 p.m. in front of a meat market in the 11800 block of Carmenita Road, just south of Meyer Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“Detectives have learned deputies from the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station responded to the location regarding an assault with a deadly weapon call. Upon their arrival, they found the victim lying on the curb suffering from stab wounds,” deputies from the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
Lopez taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana.
No information regarding a suspect was available, and no further details were released.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man sentenced for Monterey Park double-slaying

A judge sentenced a man to spend the rest of his life in prison Thursday for the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend in Monterey Park in early 2010, authorities said.
Richard Tauch, 49, of Corona received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in Pasadena Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
A jury convicted him in November of two counts of first-degree murder for the Jan. 19, 2010, shooting deaths of Jenny Sor, 40, of Los Angeles and Wenwa Chao, 53, of Alhambra. The jury also found true the special allegations of multiple murder and lying in wait.
Officials described Tauch as a casino security guard who was obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Sor.
“Tauch and Sor were in a relationship for a year before she broke up with him in December 2009 and started dating Chao,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
On the day of the killings, Tauch went to Sor’s workplace at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood and hid himself in her car, investigators said. He remained concealed in her car as she drove to an assisted living facility in the 200 block of Northj Chandler Avenue in Monterey Park, where Chao was visiting his father.
“When Sor arrived at the care home, she went inside and Tauch followed,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “The defendant then accosted Sor and Chao and shot them multiple times. The victims died at the scene.”
Tauch fled the scene following the double-slaying, but detectives arrested him the following day.

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West Covina man guilty of murder in wife’s slaying


A West Covina man is guilty of fatally beating and stabbing his wife before leaving her body in the trunk of her car in the parking lot of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, a jury found Wednesday.
Tomas Infante, 62, killed his wife 57-year-old Charito Tolentino of West Covina Jan. 11, 2013, after a woman with whom he had been having an affair on his wife with learned he was married, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The Pomona Superior Court jury deliberated for about two hours before convicting Infante of first-degree murder, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
“During the trial, the defendant’s son testified that his father that his father told him he had killed his stepmother,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Additionally, surveillance video at the casino, cell phone records and blood evidence at the home linked Infante to the crime.”
Prosecutors said Infante killed his wife the day after the woman he had been seeing learned he was already married and broke up with him.
“A day after the breakup, Tolentino went missing,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Infante reported his wife missing Jan. 12, telling authorities she had never returned home from work, according to Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Worried family members began searching for Tolentino, and with help from her cell phone provider, was able to find her SUV in the parking lot of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, the lieutenant said. The family notified sheriff’s deputies, who then found Tolentino’s body in the trunk of her vehicle.
An autopsy determined Tolentino had suffered three stab wounds to her neck and chest area, five lacerations on her head and multiple bruises on her head, face, hands and right forearm, face and he
Detectives arrested Infante Jan. 14, after carrying out a search of the West Covina home he shared with his wife and their 17-year-old daughter.
Investigators found blood inside the attached garage of the home, amid other evidence, Ardalani said.
Infante faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison when he returns to Pomona Superior Court to be sentenced by Judge Mike Camacho July 8.

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Man fatally shot while driving in Montebello identified

Coroner’s officials have released the name of a Perris man who was shot to death while driving through Montebello last week.
Justin Scott Verano, 38, died at the scene of Wednesday’s 4:40 p.m. shooting on Sycamore Street, near Montebello Boulevard, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
He was driving west on Sycamore Street when he was shot by an unknown assailant near Cedar Street, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
His car continued for about three blocks before crashing into a stop sign and a utility pole at Spruce Street, where it came to rest, the Hernandez said.
An autopsy determined Verano died from a gunshot wound to the head, and the death was ruled a homicide, Corral said.
A second vehicle was seen in the area at the time of the shooting, however detectives were looking into whether it was related to the shooting. A description of the vehicle was not available.
Anyone with information was 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.

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Man fatally shot while driving car in Montebello


MONTEBELLO >> A man died Wednesday afternoon after he was shot while driving a car in Montebello, authorities said.
The fatal shooting took place just after 4:40 p.m. on Sycamore Street at Spruce Street, Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said.
The victim was initially described as a man in his mid 20s, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The shooting victim was believed to have been wounded near Sycamore Street and Cedar Street before crashing his car into a utility pole several blocks to the west at Sycamore Street and Spruce Street.
“Neighbors heard two or three gunshots in the area of Sycamore and Cedar,” Hernandez said. “After hearing the gunshots they saw the victim’s vehicle, a red sedan, driving west on Sycamore Street somewhat eratically.”
The four-door sedan struck a stop sign at Spruce Street before coming to rest against a utility pole, Hernandez said. The victim appeared to have suffered both gunshot wounds and injuries from the crash.
The driver was the only person inside the car when police arrived, Hernandez said.
The motive in the slaying remained under investigation, officials said.
A second vehicle was seen in the area at the time of the shooting, however a description was not available and detectives were still looking into whether it was involved, Hernandez said.
Anyone with information was asked to call 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.

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Officials identify 16-year-old Norwalk boy killed in stabbing

NORWALK >> Authorities Saturday released the name of a 16-year-old Norwalk boy who died following a stabbing earlier in the week.
Micah Maurice Hatten, 16, died at St. Francis Medical Center shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday, according to Los Angeles County coroner and sheriff’s officials. He was fatally wounded about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in a stabbing near Leffingwell Road and Gard Avenue.
An attacker or attackers arrived in a vehicle before the deadly confrontation, sheriff’s Lt. Jason Skeen said. No suspect description was available, and no suspects were in custody.
The wounded teen clung to life at the hospital, and was revived by doctors multiple times after losing vital signs, before ultimately succumbing to his injuries early the following morning, officials said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.

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Officials identify Glendora man killed in shooting at Covina mobile home park


COVINA >> Authorities have identified a Glendora man found fatally shot outside a mobile home in an unincorporated county area near Covina Friday.
Richard Alan Wurtz, 37, died at the scene of the shooting, which was reported shortly after 11 a.m. at the Royal Palms Mobile Homes Park, 21210 E. Arrow Highway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Two men were detained for questioning at the scene as deputies responded to reports of gunfire, however neither had been arrested Saturday morning, officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said Saturday in a written statement.
“Deputies detained two adults from the location in order to investigate their connection, if any, to the shooting,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “No arrests have been made at this time and the motive for the shooting remains under investigation.”
The names of the two men detained by deputies were not released.
Deputies investigating reports of gunshots encountered a man lying wounded outside a mobile home, and a second man leaving, sheriff’s Sgt. Nicole Davis said.
The wounded man was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other man was detained for questioning, officials said. A second man found nearby was also detained by investigators in the wake of the fatal shooting.
Neighbors said one of the men taken into custody by deputies at the shooting scene was a 32-year-old resident of the mobile home. They did not know the identity of the second person detained by deputies.
A family member of Wurtz reached by telephone Saturday did not wish to comment.
The ongoing investigating was being handled by detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.

PHOTO by Watchara Phomicinda

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1 killed, 2 detained in Covina mobile home park shooting

COVINA >> A man was killed and two men were detained Friday following a shooting at a mobile home park.
Sheriff’s detectives haven’t released the name of the dead man or the two people in custody.
The shooting took place shortly after 11 a.m. at Royal Palms, 21210 E. Arrow Highway, which is in the unincorporated county area near Covina.
Deputies responded to a call of shots fired at the mobile home park, said Sgt. Nicole Davis of the sheriff’s San Dimas station. She said six to eight shots were heard.
“As the units were on the way, someone was running from the location and there was a deceased person outside the mobile home,” Davis said.
Deputies took a resident of the mobile home park as well as a second man into custody, according to sheriff’s officials and other residents.
Paramedics pronounced the shooting victim dead at the scene. Davis believes the dead man didn’t live at the mobile home park.
Sheriff’s homicide detectives were at the mobile home park by Friday afternoon. No further details about the shooting were released.
Full story by Ruby Gonzales…

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UPDATED — Manifesto: Mass murder suspect feared deputies would stop his planned attacks during April 30 visit

Santa Barbara mass shooting suspect Elliot Rodger wrote that he feared his violent plans were unraveling when he was visited by sheriff’s deputies less than a month before the attacks in the college community of Isla Vista, and was relieved when the officials left without discovering his weaponry and writings outlining his planned rampage.
Santa Barbara sheriff’s deputies visited Rodger at his home April 30 in response to concerns over his mental health, but left without taking further action after interviewing him, officials said.
Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown said during a Saturday press conference that the visit was not the result of any threat believed to be posed by Rodger to others, but rather was a “check on the welfare call, to check on his welfare, to see how he was doing out of concern for him.”
“The deputies contacted him directly at his residence, and they determined he did not meet the criteria for an involuntary mental health hold,” the sheriff’ said. “He was, as I said, courteous and polite. He appeared timid and shy.”
“Rodger down-played the concerns for his welfare, and the deputies cleared the call,” Brown said.
Under California law, a peace officer may bring a person to a psychiatric facility to be held for evaluation and treatment for a 72-hour period, “When a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled.”
Though Rodger mentioned difficulties with his social life and told the deputies he may be quitting school when deputies encountered him in late-April, “He did not meet the criteria for 5150 of the welfare and institutions code which is what would authorize him being held temporarily for an examination,” Brown said.
In hindsight, however, having reviewed Rodger’s 141-page writing and the “particularly chilling” video posted just before the attack in which he described his deadly plans, “It’s very apparent of the severe extent of how disturbed Mr. Rodger was,” Brown said. “It’s very, very apparent that he was severely mentally disturbed.”
Taking a person’s freedom by placing them on an involuntary hold for psychiatric evaluation is not an issue officials take lightly, Santa Barbara Department of Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services Medical Director Dr. Ole Behrendtsen said.
“The law pretty much had to walk this fine line between civil liberty and public safety,” he said. “Courts often will favor civil liberty.”
“The law is pretty strict, actually, in its definition,” he said.
For a person to be held against their will due to suspected psychiatric problems, it must be believed, from the perspective of an ordinary person, “that a mental disorder is responsible for a potential to harm themselves, or to harm another, or to prompt an inability to provide food, clothing or shelter,” Behrendtsen explained.
“This is something that has to be wrestled with every time we right a 5150,” he said.
The seven-minute Youtube video posted by Rodger just before the attack describing his plans would have provided cause for a psychiatric hold, Behrendtsen said.
But in the previous videos he posted before May 24, though Rodger spoke of being lonely and sad, did not mention violence or threats.
“The deputies who visited him that day did not have the contents of that manifesto,” Behrendtsen added.
In the rambling, autobiographical writing filled with fantasies of violence against women, Rodger wrote he had been terrified that his planned massacre was about to be thwarted when deputies showed up at his door April 30.
Videos posted on Youtube by Rodger in which he expressed his feelings of rejection, but did not outline his planned rampage, had garnered concern from at least one family member, according to sheriff’s officials and Rodger’s own writings.
“After only a week had passed since I uploaded those videos on Youtube, I heard a knock on my apartment door. I opened it to see about seven police officers asking for me,” Rodger wrote. “As soon as I saw those cops, the biggest fear I had ever felt in my life came over me. I had the striking and devastating fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do, and reported me for it. If that was the case, the police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can’t imagine a hell darker than that. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but it was so close.”
“The police told me it was my mother who called them, but my mother told me it was the health agency. My mother had watched the videos and was very disturbed by them. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know the full truth of who called the police on me,” Rodger wrote.
“The police interrogated me outside for a few minutes, asking me if I had suicidal thoughts. I tactfully told them it was all a misunderstanding, and they finally left. If they had demanded to search my room… That would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds, I thought it was all over. When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me. It was so scary.”
The initial evaluation to determine whether to hold someone for psychological evaluation or treatment stems from both observations by the peace officer or mental health professional interviewing the person, as well as a review of the “historical course of the person’s mental disorder,” according to state law. Information provided by family members are, among other factors, must be taken into account.
Rodger noted in his writings that the encounter with deputies had persuaded him to be more careful about concealing his plans.
“All it takes is for one person to call the police and tell them that they think I’m going to perpetrate a shooting, and the police will be coming to by door again, demanding to search my room,” Rodger wrote. “For the next few days, I felt extremely fearful that they could show up anytime.
“I kept one of my handguns with a few loaded magazines near me just in case such a thing did happen. If they showed up, I would have to try to quickly shoot them all and escape out of the back window. I would then have to perform a hasty mockery of my plans, with the police on my tail. That will ruin everything. Thankfully, all suspicion of me was dropped after I took down the videos from Youtube, and the police never came back.”
Ron Honberg, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs for the National Alliance on Mental Health, cautioned against “knee-jerk” reactions in the wake of the tragedy.
“There’s going to be a desire to come up with easy solutions,” he said. “It’s important not to just adopt knee-jerk solutions, but to really look at the circumstances and understand as best we can what was happening.”
Mental health services are in short supply throughout the nation, Honberg said. Additionally, the mental health services system tends to be “crisis-centered,” he said. “Mental health services are often not available until it’s too late. It’s a system that doesn’t really focus on preventative care.”
Regarding the deputies encounter with Rodger on April 30, Honberg said, “Hindsight is 20/20. It is sometimes very difficult to accurately assess someone in a five-minute meeting.”
“Frankly, we’re asking far too much of our police,” he said, but added he was not suggesting the outcome would have been altered even if he had been visited by mental health professionals instead of law enforcement officers.
It can be especially difficult to recognize mental issues when the prospective patient wishes to hide their true thoughts and intentions, as Rodger stated in his writings was his goal.
“This is not an uncommon phenomenon,” Honberg said. Concerned family members often lament that they can clearly see their loved one’s mental illness, but the person is able to hide their symptoms from mental health professionals or judges.
Honberg pointed out that while violent acts committed by the mentally ill garner major attention, “The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness are not violent.”
“Although these seem to be occurring with greater frequency, they’re still uncommon and unusual,” he said.
Of those suffering from mental illness, however, there is one subset of patients more likely to pose a greater risk of violent behavior than others. “Those would be young males, often when their (psychotic or delusional) symptoms are first emerging, not getting treatment, combining that with the use of illegal drugs or alcohol.”
It was not clear whether Rodger used alcohol or drugs.
In addition to highlighting the issues faced by peace officers and mental health professionals encounter with regard to involuntary psychiatric holds, Behrendtsen said Friday’s mass shooting, “Is an illustration of how humans can suffer so deeply without coming to attention.
“It’s an illustration of how much mental illness there is that foes untreated, for many reason,” he said. The reasons can include stigma, economics or lack of recognition of a problem.
An estimated two-thirds of all mental illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated, he said.
“There’s thousands of reasons these things don’t come to light,” Behrendtsen said. “Reduction of stigma is, and will be, an important mechanism for reducing suffering in our society.”

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