Vigil planned for sheriff’s Explorer slain in South Whittier drive-by shooting

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SOUTH WHITTIER >> Family members and loved ones of a 19-year-old Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Explorer Scout plan to gather for a vigil Thursday to mark the third anniversary of his unsolved slaying.
Cesar Rodriguez, a lifelong Whittier resident who had spent his last four years volunteering as an Explorer at the sheriff’s Norwalk Station, was gunned down along with friend Larry Villegas, 24, in the early-morning hours of Aug. 28, 2011 in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue, according to sheriff’s investigators and family members.
He’s survived his parents Jorge and Lupe Rodriguez, as well as older brothers George and Hector Rodriguez.
“We’re trying to stay strong,” George Rodriguez said.
Thursday’s vigil will be held at 7 p.m. at Laurel and Beaty avenues, near the shooting scene in South Whittier.
Community support has continued to grow in the three years since Cesar Rodriguez’s
At a march held last year on the second anniversary of the shooting, nearly 300 people attended, he said. About 150 people marched in a similar gathering in 2012.
Cesar Rodriguez and Villegas were shot as they left a party, sheriff’s officials said. The shots were believed to have been fired from a passing vehicle, though no specific description was available.
A white Scion initially described by investigators as a suspect vehicle has been found and determined not to have been the killer’s car, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
Rodriguez and Villegas died at the scene.
Patrick Maxwell, who served as captain of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station while Rodriguez volunteered there and has since been promoted to the rank of commander, described Rodriguez as a selfless and eager young man who was always polite and respectful. he has a lifelong dream of becoming a sheriff’s deputy, Maxwell said, and had turned in his application to join the sheriff’s department as a deputy a week before his killing.
At Rodriguez’s funeral, then-sheriff Lee Baca said Rodriguez was an exemplary Explorer Scout and a leader who was on a “noble path.”
Rodriguez was buried in his Explorer uniform.
The search for the killer or killers of Rodriguez and Villegas continues, and detectives have followed up on new clues in the case in recent months, Corina said.
A motive was not known with certainty, however Corina said investigators suspected the killings stemmed from a gang shooting.
George Rodriguez said the family remained hopeful the case would be solved, and Cesar Rodriguez’s killer or killers will be brought to justice.
Former sheriff Baca had promised the family the investigation would be a top priority of the sheriff’s department, George Rodriguez said. The brother said he hoped that would remain true under the department’s new leadership following the November runoff election for sheriff between Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.
Anyone with information on the double-fatal shooting is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

PHOTO of Cesar Rodriguez courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Las Vegas man found dead following possible stabbing near Azusa

AZUSA >> Authorities on Wednesday identified the man found dead from a mysterious apparent stabbing in a residential neighborhood as a 19-year-old Las Vegas man.
Jessey Chavira died after he was found badly wounded lying in a pool of blood about 3:30 p.m. outside a home in the 5500 block of Orangeglen Street, in an unincorporated county area just outside of Azusa, Los Angeles County coroner’s and sheriff’s officials said.
“He was discovered by his mother, lying in the driveway covered in blood,” Lt. Ed Hernandez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The mother immediately called for help and paramedics treated Chavira, but succumbed to his injuries at the scene, officials said.
“His injuries appear to be consistent with some type of an assault,” Hernandez said. Detectives were awaiting an autopsy to determine the “extent and nature of the injuries,” and exactly how Chavira died. The injuries were initially described as possible stab wounds.
“We’re investigating it as a suspicious death,” the lieutenant said.
Hernandez said Chavira had last been seen alive inside the house about noon, a little more than three hours before he was found bleeding in the driveway. He was dressed in basketball shorts and other casual attire.
Initial rumors that Chavira was stabbed as he exited a car were determined to be unfounded, Hernandez said. But investigators were left with few clues into what did unfold Tuesday afternoon on Orangeglen Street.
No one reported hearing or seeing anything unusual before Chavira was found wounded, Hernandez said.
Several people inside the involved home voluntarily went to the sheriff’s San Dimas Station to give statements to investigators, though the interviews shed little light on what happened to Chavira, Hernandez said.
Neighbors also were unable to provide useful clues.
“Nobody could give us even a brief suspect description,” Hernandez said. “It’s very bizarre.”
Detectives continued canvassing the neighborhood looking for witnesses Wednesday, Hernandez said. Detectives were also looking into Chavira’s background and what he was doing in Southern California.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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UPDATED: Pico Rivera man mistakenly shot and killed by sheriff’s deputy during gun battle with fleeing parolee

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PICO RIVERA >> A sheriff’s deputy was believed to have accidentally shot a Pico Rivera man Friday during a gun battle with a fleeing parolee who had broken into his home, authorities said Saturday.
A  SWAT team ultimately shot and killed the gunman after he held the homeowner’s wife hostage for eight hours, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Division Chief William McSweeney. The hostage was rescued unharmed.
Coroner’s officials did not officially identify the slain homeowner Saturday, however family members identified him as Frank Mendoza. The rescued hostage was his wife, 60-year-old Lorraine Munoz, family members said.
Parolee Cedric Ramirez, 24, of Pico Rivera was killed about 1:30 a.m. as SWAT deputies forced their way into the home in the 9000 block of Rosehedge Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The incident began about eight hours earlier when Ramirez fled from officials and ran into the home, engaging deputies in a shootout, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
0803_NWS_WDN-L-STANDOFF2The deadly encounter began about 5:30 p.m. Friday when sheriff’s gang deputies spotted Ramirez, a wanted parolee with two felony warrants, in the 9000 block of Reichling Lane.
“He entered the backyard of the victims’ residence where he exchanged gunfire with the deputies,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “Ramirez then broke into the victims’ home through a window.”
Pursuing deputies, fearful the occupants would be harmed, went to the home’s front door and began evacuating the residents from the house. An adult and two children were rushed from the house when Ramirez appeared in an interior hallway and began shooting at the Deputies. The Deputies returned fire and then retreated to the front yard, seeking cover,” McSweeney said.
“Within seconds of their exit, an adult male suddenly appeared in the front doorway,” the chief said. “Believing the man was Ramirez, a deputy fired two shots at the man.  The man dropped unconscious in the doorway and was subsequently recognized to be one of the residents. Preliminary information indicates those shots likely struck Mr. Frank Mendoza.”
Paramedics pronounced Mendoza dead at the scene.
Officials said Ramirez then fled into the home, taking the 60-year-old woman hostage. Nishida said. A SWAT team surrounded the home as a crisis negotiator spoke with Ramirez by telephone and tried to persuade him to surrender peacefully.
After eight hours, the SWAT team moved in.
“After an extended standoff, a Special Enforcement Bureau, special weapons team, entered the location which ended with the fatal shooting of the suspect,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. Deputies rescued the woman, and Ramirez died at the scene.
Family members of the victims and neighbors described a harrowing ordeal.
Frank Mendoza lived at the Rosehedge Drive home with his wife, four sons, and young grandchildren, daughter-in-law Tanya Mendoza said.
When the shooting began and Frank Mendoza was mortally wounded, one of his sons who was home at the time gathered his two young children and rushed them out of the home, family members said.
Deputies rushed them to cover behind a parked car, said Sandra Monge, whose 83-year-old mother and brother live next door to the involved home. They were trapped for about two hours before being evacuated by deputies through their back yard.
While continuing to trade gunfire with Ramirez, deputies pulled Frank Mendoza around the corner and out of the line of fire, neighbors said. It was there, at the corner of Lindsey Avenue and Reichling Drive, that the wounded man was pronounced dead.
Lorraine Munoz, who walks with difficulty and uses a wheelchair or cane, was not able to get out of the home.
Family members did not know Ramirez, Tanya Mendoza said, adding that it appeared he broke into a random house while fleeing deputies.
“This incident was beyond tragic, and all of law enforcement grieves with the Mendoza family,” McSweeney said. “We have made personal contact with the family, and have expressed our regret and sadness over these events.
“This investigation continues, and every aspect of this incident will be assessed for compliance with the law and Department policy,” McSweeney said.
Ramirez was in violation of his parole and being sought on warrants for being an convicted felon in possession of a firearm and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent when deputies encountered him Friday, officials said.
Los Angeles County court records show Ramirez was convicted in of possessing a loaded firearm along with narcotics in 2013, vandalism in 2008 and carrying a loaded gun in 2007.
Heartbroken family members described Frank Mendoza as a light-spirited and dedicated family man who had lived at the same home on Rosehedge Drive for 32 years.
“He was just a great guy,” sister Kathy Mendoza said.
“He was hard-working man,” she said, adding that her brother was three months away from retiring from his job working on machines for a grocery company, where he had worked since he was a young man.
In addition to his wife, he’s survived by four sons, one daughter, two step-sons and one step-daughter, Tanya Mendoza said. He had 12 grandchildren and two more on the way, and two great grandchildren.
“He was a joker. He was always willing to help,” Kathy Mendoza said.
“He was always the life of the party,” son Jeremy Mendoza said.
Tanya Mendoza thanked the community for its support following Friday’s tragedy.
The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is spearheading the investigation. As is common procedure in Los Angeles County deputy-involved shootings, the incident is also being investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review.

PHOTOS: (TOP) Family members of a slain homeowner and Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators congregate in front of the home where a wanted parolee allegedly engaged deputies in a shoot-out, killing 54-year-old Frank Mendoza. Ramirez then allegedly took Mendoza’s 60-year-old wife hostage for about eight hours before he was shot and killed by a SWAT team in the 9000 block of Rosehedge Drive in Pico Rivera in the early morning hours of Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. (Staff photo by Brian Day) BELOW: Frank Mendoza, 54, of Pico Rivera (right), pictured with wife Lorraine Munoz, 60. Mendoza died during a shoot-out between sheriff’s deputies and a fleeing parolee as the suspect forced his way into the couple’s home. Munoz was held hostage by the suspect for more than eight hours before a SWAT team killed him and rescued her in the 9000 block of Rosehedge Drive in Pico Rivera in the early morning hours on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014.
(Courtesy of the Mendoza family)

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El Monte Flores gang members indicted on conspiracy, drug trafficking, other charges

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities Wednesday arrested 18 El Monte Flores gang members and associates who used the former offices of the Boys & Girls Club as their hangout.
The 18 were among 41 people indicted by a federal grand jury last week on charges that include conspiracy, murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons violations.
Federal officials said the gang conducted illegal activities out of the Boys & Girls Club of America/San Gabriel Valley Club facilities on Mountain View Road.
“They used the club as a place where they would openly sell drugs and collect taxes,” said Vijay Rathi, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The gang also used the club, which recently held community meetings and hosted a car wash fundraiser for a Flores member who was murdered.
“It is very disturbing that a facility that is supposed to give boys and girls protection and a safe place could be used for that,” Mayor Andrew Quintero said.
.. FULL STORY

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UPDATED: USC graduate student found dead in apartment after beating

LOS ANGELES >> A 24-year-old USC engineering graduate student from China was found dead in his apartment after he was beaten while walking home from a study group early Thursday, police said.
LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said the student, identified by USC officials as electrical engineering student Xinran Ji, was attacked about 12:45 a.m. out on the street along 29th Street, near Orchard Avenue.
“The victim was somehow able to get back to his residence, where he was discovered this morning,” Neiman said.
A trail of blood was visible leading up the street and into the City Park Apartments in the 1200 block of 30th Street, where the young man lived. “It’s safe to assume it’s the student’s (blood trail),” Neiman said.
Ji was pronounced dead at the scene.
While a specific suspect description was not available, “we do have information that leads us to believe that at least three subjects were involved in this assault,” Neiman said. A dark-colored vehicle was also possibly connected to the crime.
“It’s believed a blunt force object was used. It’s not known what that object was,” Neiman said.
The motive in the attack was unknown. It was not clear if anything of Ji’s had been stolen.
He was apparently involved in a study group and had just walked home a friend,” Neiman said.

…FULL STORY

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La Puente man, Panorama City man killed in Panorama City 7-Eleven shooting

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Two men who were fatally shot outside a Panorama City 7-Eleven on Thursday have been identified by coroners’ officials as police continued Sunday to hunt two suspects still at large.
The victims were identified as Maron States, 26, of La Puente and Miles DeShawn, 19, of Panorama City, said Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s Investigations Unit. The precise cause of death was still pending Sunday morning.
A third man, who was also standing outside the store, was shot in the leg and was taken to a local hospital for treatment, officials said.
A radio call went out at 5:55 a.m. Thursday of an assault with a deadly weapon and shots fired outside the 7-Eleven at 8243 N. Sepulveda Boulevard, said Sgt. S. Carlsen, a watch commander with LAPD’s Mission Station.

… FULL STORY by Brenda Gazzar

PHOTO by Gene Blevins

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Pasadena family describes terror of shooting that killed three

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PASADENA >> A terrified family of six found themselves in the midst of a hail of bullets Saturday afternoon when they arrived home just as a shooting rampage began that left three people dead and two others wounded.
Sandra Barraza, 37, her husband, Alfredo Garcia, 41, and their four children had just returned from the store when they noticed a police SUV and a patrol car parked in front of their house, Garcia said.
They did not see the body of a woman who had been fatally shot lying behind a tree across the street, or the body of a man who also had been shot to death just up the street.
Suddenly, a group of police officers carrying rifles yelled to the family to get inside.
“We took two steps, and the shooting started,” said the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Melissa Perez. Also in the driveway were Perez’s 12- and 15-year-old brothers and her 16-year-old sister.
An officer fled to cover behind the police SUV as the gunman, later identified by police as 44-year-old John Izeal Smith of Pasadena, continued shooting, riddling the vehicle with bullets. The family stood directly behind the SUV when the gunfire began.
Bullets flew on both sides of the family’s driveway as they ran for their home, Sandra Barraza said. Her husband added that he could see smoke rising from the AK-47-type rifle wielded by the gunman as he fired from the front lawn of the home across the street.
“It was horrible. Like a movie scene,” Barraza said. “I was so scared. He was right in front of us.”

…FULL STORY

Photo by James Carbone

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Victim of Pasadena shooting rampage identified

PASADENA — Coroner’s officials Sunday released the name of one of three people killed in a mass shooting on a residential Pasadena street that also left two others wounded.
Maria Teresa Aguiar, 59, died along with two men at the scene of Saturday’s deadly rampage in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
Her city of residence was not yet listed at the coroner’s office Sunday morning, however public records indicated Aguiar lived on the street where the shooting took place. A phone number listed as belonging to Aguiar was not working.
The identities of the two men killed in the attack have not been released.
A man and woman were also shot by suspect John Izeal Smith of Pasadena, who eventually surrendered to police after firing on an officer with a semi-automatic rifle and engaging in a brief stand-off, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said.
“We’re talking upwards of 40 rounds that were fired,” the chief said. Police did not return fire.

…FULL STORY

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Three killed in Pasadena shooting; suspect in custody


PASADENA >> A man armed with a rifle allegedly shot and killed three people, wounded two more and opened fire on a police officer before ultimately surrendering Saturday afternoon.
The 4:20 p.m. shooting in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue was believed to have stemmed from a dispute between a landlord and tenant, though the details were not yet clear, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said.
The shooter was identified as 35-year-old John Izeal Smith of Pasadena.

…FULL STORY

Photo by James Carbone

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Suspect jailed in connection with fatal Montebello shooting

A suspect is behind bars in connection with the fatal shooting of a Montebello man earlier this month, authorities said.
Montebello police investigators arrested Michael Joseph Fimbres, 44, of Montebello Wednesday in Pomona, according to Montebello police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
He was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail on a lesser felony charge Friday at the Montebello Police Department’s jail pending an expected murder charge, officials said. The date of his next court date was not available late Friday.
He’s accused of the July 1 fatal shooting of 35-year-old Frank Burnell Taylor of Montebello, who was found mortally wounded in the 500 block of Maple Street about 7:15 p.m., police and Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s officials said. Taylor was pronounced dead at the scene.
Detectives began seeking Fimbres after identifying early in the investigation as a suspect in Taylor’s slaying, Montebello police Sgt. Julio Calleros said. They had been keeping Fimbres under surveillance when they stopped a car he was in and arrested without incident about noon Wednesday on Fairplex Drive near the 10 Freeway in Pomona.
The suspect and victim were not strangers to one another, though the nature of their relationship was not certain, Calleros said.
“They were acquainted. They knew each other,” he said.
Calleros said the fatal shooting was believed to have been motivated by a “personal dispute.” He declined to discuss the dispute between the men in further detail.
Taylor was walking along Maple Street when an attacker, later identified as Fimbres, approached in small pickup truck, Lt. Andy Vuncanon said.
Fimbres exited the truck, approached Taylor, pulled a handgun and shot the victim once in the chest, the lieutenant said.

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