Suspect in deadly Whittier police shootout still in ICU, surviving officer released from hospital

Members of the community place flowers in memory of slain Whittier Police officer Keith Boyer at the Whittier Police Department’s Police Officer Memorial in Whittier, Calif. on Tuesday February 21, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)

WHITTIER >> The gang member accused of killing a Whittier police officer and another man on Monday, as well as wounding another police officer, remained hospitalized in a intensive care unit Wednesday as detectives continued gathering evidence and the community continued mourning and seeking answers.
Investigators were yet to interview Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles, as he continued receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the back sustained in Monday morning’s gunfight with the Whittier, Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau said. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
The tight-knit Whittier community has rallied around the family of Officer Keith Boyer, a 53-year-old Whittier resident, 28-year lawman, father, grandfather and classic rock drummer.
Officer Patrick Hazell, who was wounded in the abdomen in the shootout, was released from the hospital and continuing his recovery at home, Corina said. His father said the wounded officer did not wish to comment at this time.
Mejia, a documented gang member who was on felony probation, or “Post-Release Community Supervision,” under the terms of AB 109, is also accused of gunning down his cousin about 5:30 a.m. in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in East Los Angeles, less than three hours before the violent encounter with police in Whittier.
Family members said Mejia showed up the Torres home and confronted Torres inside the converted garage the victim used as his bedroom.
The men possibly became involved in an argument prior to the shooting, relatives said. Following the shooting, Mejia allegedly fled in Torres car, which he soon crashed in Whittier.
An autopsy determined Torres died from a single gunshot wound to the head, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. The death was ruled a homicide.
No further details of the East Los Angeles slaying, including a motive, have not been released.Mejia was driving a stolen car when became involved in a minor crash with two other vehicles at Colima Road and Mar Vista Avenue about 8 a.m., Corina said.
Police arrive at the scene after the other drivers had helped Mejia push the car he was driving to the side of the road.
“They asked him to get out of the car. That’s when the shooting occurred,” Corina said.
Mejia suddenly drew a semi-automatic handgun and opened fire, striking both officers.
One of the officer managed to return fire and wound Mejia, who was taken into custody at the scene by fellow officers, officials said.
It was unclear which of the officers wounded the suspect. Corina declined to discuss whether one, or both, of the officers fired their weapons.
Mejia’s gun was recovered at the scene, Corina said.
The involved officers were not wearing body camera, and Corina said he was not aware of any video recordings of the deadly encounter between Mejia and Whittier police.
Mejia was expected to be charged in connection with the case once he’s out of the hospital, the lieutenant said.
Mejia had prior convictions for robbery, and most recently, auto theft, officials said.
He as been re-arrested for probation violations five times since being released from prison for the auto theft conviction, each time resulting in 9- or 10-day “flash incarcerations,” under the terms of AB 109, also known as the “California Public Safety Realignment” of 2011, records show.
Details regarding the circumstances of each arrest were not available, however none resulted in the filing of a new criminal case.
At least one of the arrests was for possession of methamphetamine, Corina said.
Possession of methamphetamine had traditionally been a felony in California, punishable by a year or more in prison, but was reduced to a misdemeanor by Proposition 47, passed by California voters in 2014.
Mejia’s criminal record has raised concerns of law enforcement officers, politicians and others, who are questioning whether Mejia should have been behind bars, rather than out on the street, on Monday.
A documented gang member, and an apparently proud one, Mejia bears the letters “W” and “G” tattooed prominently across his face in capital letters. The same abbreviation, which stands for an East Los Angeles street gang, is also tattooed on Mejia’s neck in lower-case letters.
Services for Boyer have not been announced.
The Whittier Police Department is accepting donations to benefit Boyer’s family. He’s survived by a fiancee, four children and two grandchildren.
Checks can be made out to “WPOA Benevolent Fund,” and reference account No. 488879. Contributions can be dropped off in person at the Whittier Police Department, 13200 Penn Street, in person at the Credit Union of Southern California at 8028 Greenleaf Ave. or mailed to the Credit Union of Southern California, WPOA Benevolent Fund, attention David Valencia, PO Box 200, Whittier, CA 90608.
Any witnesses, or anyone with information, regarding Monday’s incident is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

PHOTO of Michael C. Mejia courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departement

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UPDATED: Man fatally stabbed in El Monte

EL MONTE >> A man died in a stabbing outside a liquor store in El Monte on Sunday, authorities said.
The deadly stabbing was reported just before 11:45 a.m. in the 4200 block of Peck Road, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Information Bureau.
“The victim and his cousin were walking south on Peck Road when a vehicle headed northbound on Peck Road pulled alongside them,” Navarro-Suarez said in a written statement.
A man exited the front passenger seat of the car and confronted the two men, she said.
“The suspect produced a knife and stabbed the victim in the chest,” according to Navarro-Suarez. “The suspect then re-entered the vehicle and fled away north and out of view.”
The wounded man and his cousin ran north along Peck Road before the stabbing victim collapsed, officials said. Paramedics took him to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, officials said. The cousin was not hurt.
The motive in the stabbing was unclear, and no further descriptions of the attacker or the getaway driver were available.
Investigators had yet to determine the motive in the fatal attack, and no further details were available.
The sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is helping the El Monte Police Department with the investigation.
Anyone with information is 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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UPDATED: Two women killed, toddler wounded in Covina shooting; parolee jailed

COVINA >> A parolee is suspected of killing two women and seriously wounding a toddler in a shooting at a Covina home early Sunday, authorities said.
The incident was first reported just after midnight, when Lucas Doi Fick, 36, of Covina knocked on a door of a home in the 700 block of Rancho Sinaloa Drive, Covina police Lt. Ric Walczak said. He had an injured 2-year-old boy with him.
“(He) said that ‘something bad’ had happened, and to call the police,” the lieutenant said.
“Responding officers went into residence and discovered two adult females decease from apparent gunshot wounds,” Walczak said. Their identities were not available.
Officials also discovered that the young boy had been shot in the back, he said.
“The child underwent emergency surgery,” Walczak said. His injuries were serious, but he was expected to survive.
Police recovered several guns from the scene, he said.
Fick, a parolee fitted with a GPS ankle monitor due to a lengthy prior criminal record, was taken into custody, police said.
He was initially booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of firearms and violating his parole as the investigation continued, Walczak said. But investigators considered him a suspect in the double-slaying of the two women and the attempted murder of the boy.
No further details, including the relationships between the suspect and victims and the motive, were available Sunday afternoon.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Fick was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Wednesday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Los Angeles County Superior Court records show Fick’s extensive rap sheet includes convictions for attempted possession of ammunition by a felon in 2016; burglary and resisting or obstructing police in 2015; possession of a gun by felon, possession of ammunition by a felon and theft in 2014; theft in 2013; dissuading a witness in 2012; possession of drugs for sales in 2009; drug possession in 2008; possession of methamphetamine in 2007; assault with a deadly weapon in 2004; possession of an illegal knife on a college campus in 2002; and criminal threats in 2001.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Covina Police Department Detective Bureau at 626-384-5612. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO of Lucas Fick courtesy of the Covina Police Department

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UPDATED: Duarte man gunned down in front of home

DUARTE >> A man died after he was shot as he arrived home with his wife and children in Duarte on Saturday night, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 8:20 p.m. in the 2300 block of Bashor Street, according to Deputy Kelvin Moody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Information Bureau.
Kirinda Lavar Morehead died at the scene of the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
“Detectives have learned that the victim, a 39-year-old man, parked his car behind his wife’s car at the location. The victim and his wife exited their cars and were preparing to walk to their residence on Mount Olive Drive,” Moody said in a written statement.
“A white vehicle driving westbound on Bashor Street pulled up alongside the victim,” the deputy said. “An occupant opened fire striking the victim multiple times. The victim’s wife was uninjured.”
The car was last seen heading north on Mount Olive Drive, officials said.
Paramedics pronounced Morehead dead at the scene.
No further details, including a description of the attacker or attackers, were available.
A neighbor, who asked that his name be withheld, said he was inside his home with his mother and teenage sister when eight to nine shots rang out in rapid succession.
“We hurried into the back room of our house,” he said.
He said he then heard the sound of a woman’s anguished voice calling out for help.
“Call 911,” she exclaimed, according to the neighbor. “My baby. I can’t live without him. His two kids need him.”
The neighbor said he emerged to look around after he could hear that police had arrived in the neighborhood.
He saw the victim lying next to his truck, which was parked on the street and pierced with at least three bullet holes.
The two children, who were with their mother only yards away when the shooting occurred, were asking where their father was, he said.
The motive in the fatal attack was not yet clear.
Anyone with information is urged 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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Woman gets 16 year prison sentence for stabbing mother to death at Covina senior living facility

COVINA >> A Los Angeles woman was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in prison after admitting to fatally stabbing her 61-year-old mother at a senior living facility in Covina two years ago.
Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said 44-year-old Athina Sumi Rivera pleaded guilty on Thursday to the second-degree murder of Margaret Yamaguchi.
Ardalani said Rivera also admitted a special allegation that she personally used a deadly weapon, a knife, during the crime.
The fatal stabbing occurred Sept. 7, 2015 at Atria Covina in the 800 block of West San Bernardino Road.
Rivera, who lived in Los Angeles, was staying at her mother’s home for the night, according to Deputy District Attorney Lauren Guber, who prosecuted the case.
Rivera woke up in the middle of the night, retrieved a kitchen knife that she had previously taken from within her mother’s home and hidden and stabbed the victim several times, Guber said.
Yamaguchi was believed to be asleep, “or at least in bed,” when the attack began, she said.
The mother managed to activate a body-worn safety alar she was wearing during the stabbing, drawing facility staff to the room, Guber said.
The staff found Yamaguchi bleeding from multiple stab wounds, and her daughter still in the room. Paramedics pronounced Yamaguchi dead at the scene.
Guber said Rivera, who has a history of mental illness, made no attempt to flee and freely admitted that she had stabbed her mother. The small kitchen knife used in the slaying was found at the scene.
The killer mentioned to specific motive for the killing, but rather a general anger at her mother.
“She indicated when she was interviewed by police after she was arrested that she felt that her mother caused her a lot of pain in her life, and she wanted to cause (her mother) as much pain to her as she had caused,” the prosecutor said.
An autopsy determined Yamaguchi died from “multiple sharp force injuries,” according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Despite a history of mental illness, Guber said there was no doubt she was aware of her actions and the ramifications.
“She was definitely lucid,” Guber said.
Rivera could have faced more than 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, as initially charged.
In considering the totality of the circumstances of the case, however, prosecutors decided to accept a second-degree murder plea proffered by the defense.
The Covina Police Department investigated the slaying.

— Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

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Killer in triple-fatal Pasadena AK-47 rampage sentenced to 181 years behind bars


PASADENA >> A Pasadena man who fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, her father and a neighbor who tried to help, then opened fire on a responding police officer, during a 2014 assault weapon rampage will spend the rest of his life in prison after receiving a sentence of nearly two centuries in state prison on Wednesday, authorities said.
John Izeal Smith, 46, received a sentence of 181 years to life in state prison in the Burbank branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, in connection with the Jan. 12, 2014, triple-murder in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
The sentence was agreed upon under a plea arrangement reached in December, when Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second degree murder, as well as charges of attempted murder and assault with an assault weapon on a police officer.
Killed in the AK-47 shooting spree were Smith’s ex-girlfriend, 59-year-old Maria Aguiar, with whom he still lived; her 91-year-old father Luis Aguiar; and 31-year-old neighbor 31-year-old Jose Hernandez Iribe, according to Los Angeles County coroner and Pasadena police officials.
“Smith got into a domestic altercation with (Aguiar), grabbed an assault rifle and opened fire,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “Aguiar was killed along with her elderly father.”
Smith then fatally shot Iribe as he rushed toward the gunfire to help Maria Aguiar as she lied wounded in the sidewalk, according to Pasadena police.
Smith then barricaded himself inside the home and called 911 to report the shooting.
He opened fire on the first officer to arrive at the scene, Officer John Woo, who took cover behind his patrol SUV to escape the barrage of gunfire, officials said. Fellow officers used an armored vehicle to rescue Woo from the line of fire.
More than 40 rounds were fired by Smith during the rampage.
Two other people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries following the incident, officials said.
The special circumstance of multiple murders could have made Smith eligible for the death penalty, however prosecutors chose not to seek capital punishment for the crimes.

PHOTO: Johh Izeal Smith, 46, of Pasadena. (file)

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Man arrested in Rosemead in connection with Chinatown double-fatal stabbing


ROSEMEAD >> Police arrested a suspect in Rosemead on Friday in connection with the fatal stabbing of two senior citizens at a Chinatown social club on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Detectives tracked down and arrested double-murder suspect Vinh Quok Dao, 37, about 4:30 p.m. in Rosemead, Los Angeles police officials said in a written statement.
The deadly attack took place about 2:40 p.m. on Thursday at the Hop Sing Tong Benevolent Association club at 428 Gin Ling Way, between Broadway Avenue and Hill Street,
Dao had previously been a member of the club, but had just returned to Los Angeles after being estranged for several years, officials said. He entered the club Thursday afternoon and demanded that one of the members, whom he knew, give him $400 to pay for vehicle impound fees.
“When the member refused to cooperate, Dao exhibited a 6-inch, Buck-style knife and attacked him,” according to the statement. “Another member tried to come to the victim’s aid, but Dao also attacked that person.”
Both victims died from their wounds at the scene.
The attacker fled the scene, initiating a manhunt. A bloodhound was brought into join in the search, but the suspect was not found on Thursday.
The attacker left behind a trail of blood, investigators said. It was not initially clear if the suspect himself was wounded, or if the blood was that of the victims.
“Central Homicide Detectives, along with the support of a joint apprehension task force, located Dao in Rosemead, California, around 4:30 p.m. (Friday) afternoon,” the statement said. “He was taken into custody without incident.”
Further details regarding Dao’s apprehension were not available late Friday.
Dao was expected to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court for an arraignment hearing on Tuesday.
The identities of the two victims, both described as club members in their 60s, were not released Friday pending positive identification and notification of their families, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
“The victims are both of Chinese descent and longtime members of the club,” according to the LAPD statement. “They spent most of their days at the club playing mahjong and visiting with friends.”
Anyone with information can reach LAPD Detective Tricia Hauck at 213-996-1878, or the LAPD’s 24-hour tip line at 877-527-3247. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

PHOTO via the Associated Press

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UPDATED: Man killed, another wounded in Azusa shooting

AZUSA >> One man died and another was wounded after they were shot inside a car in Azusa early Sunday morning, authorities said.
Killed was Alexander Salazar, 21, of Azusa, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
The shooting was reported at 1:22 a.m. in a residential neighborhood in the 600 block of North Alameda Avenue, according to Deputy Lisa Jansen of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Following reports of gunfire heard in the area, deputies found a four-door Lexus sedan had crashed into a parked car, Lt. John Corina of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
Salazar, a documented member of the Azusa 13 street gang, was shot in the head, he said. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
The passenger, a 20-year-old Fontana man, was treated for a gunshot wound to his hand.
Further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting, including a suspect description, remained unknown Sunday afternoon, according to the lieutenant. The surviving victim did not appear to be fully cooperating with investigators, and no other eyewitnesses had been found, he added.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is assisting Azusa police in the investigation, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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$20K reward renewed in 2013 slaying of Azusa man on Altadena horse trail

ALTADENA >> The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday renewed a $20,000 reward in the case of a West Covina man whose body was found four years ago on an Altadena horse trail.
Marcus Anthony Nieto, 26, was pronounced dead at the scene by coroner’s officials on February 16, 2013 after he was discovered unresponsive by two riders near the 3800 block of Canon Boulevard, officials said in a written statement.
He died of “multiple blunt trauma to the head” and the death was ruled a homicide, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Investigators said Nieto left his home to visit an acquaintance in Pomona, but may have returned to the Covina/Azusa area at some point before he went missing.
The reward, originally approved by the board in April of 2014, had expired before Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s motion reestablishing it for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of a suspect or suspects responsible for the murder.
Anyone with information is 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.

— Sandra Molina and Brian Day

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Temple City man charged with murder, other crimes in alleged crime spree culminating in samurai sword slaying


TEMPLE CITY >> Prosecutors filed murder and other charges against a Temple City man accused of killing a woman with a Samurai sword and stabbing two other people amid a violent crime spree on Wednesday.
John Ralph Perales, 44, is accused of murder, three counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the series of alleged attacks, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. He’s also accused of the special allegation of personal use of weapons during the crimes.
He showed up at the home of 44-year-old neighbor Diane Christine Alarcon in the 6000 block of Temple City Boulevard about noon, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said. A 42-year-old San Gabriel man, described as a friend of Alarcon’s, was also visiting.
“While spending some time there with Alarcon and another male guest, an argument ensued and Perales allegedly struck both Alarcon and the male with a wrench,” according to Ardalani.
Perales then grabbed an ornamental samurai-style sword hanging on the wall at the victim’s home and stabbed both Alarcon and her visitor with it, Corina said. Alarcon died at the scene. The wounded man was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Alarcon’s 10-year-old son was home at the time of the attack, but was unhurt, Corina said.
Perales surrendered to deputies as deputies were searching the neighborhood for him, officials said.
Hours earlier, detectives and prosecutors allege Perales stabbed his ex-girlfriend and her adult son at their home in the 3400 block of Whistler Avenue in El Monte.
He arrived there about 2 a.m., El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said.
“After spending some time there, Perales allegedly crawled on top of his ex-girlfriend as she was sleeping, woke her up and then stabbed her,” Ardalani said. The woman’s 22-year-old son tried to intervene and was also stabbed and injured. An update on the conditions of the mother and son was not available Friday.
Detectives were also investigating Perales in connection with a Rosemead carjacking that occurred in between the two stabbing incidents, however charges had not been filed for that alleged crime.
Perales has a lengthy criminal record including convictions for false imprisonment by violence in 2014; carrying a concealed dirk or dagger in 2011; being a prisoner in possession of a weapon and auto theft in 2001; attempted burglary in 1996; burglary in 1992; and acting as an accessory to a crime after the fact in 1991.
He entered no plea in court on Friday. His arraignment hearing was postponed to Feb. 2 in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Ardalani said. In the meantime, bail has been set at $6.21 million.
If convicted as charged, Perales could face a sentence of life in prison.

PHOTO by Walt Mancini

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