Whittier serial robbery suspect arrested in Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A tipster helped police capture a man in Santa Fe Springs on Thursday who they have been seeking in connection with two robberies at the same Whittier convenience store, as well as a failed robbery at a Whittier jewelry store last month, officials said.
Officers found and arrested Esteban Manuel Garcia, 23, about 4:45 p.m. at a Starbucks coffee shop, 13248 Imperial Highway, Whittier police Lt. Steve Dean said.
Police were tipped off by a witness who recognized the suspect from surveillance camera images from the crimes released by police and circulate in the media, according to the lieutenant.
Though they didn’t know his name until Thursday, deputies had been seeking Garcia for a month.
He is suspected of holding up employees of a Whittier ampm store at Lambert Road and Greeneleaf Avenue on May 24.
The robber pulled a gun on the clerk and fled with about $200, Dean said.
The same tattoo-faced robber then reappeared exactly one week later on May 31, Dean said. He displayed a handgun and demanded money from a worker at a jewelry store in the 13500 block of Whittier Blvd.
But the worker refused, and the robber fled empty-handed.
The same armed man then returned to the ampm store robbed a week before about two hours after the failed jewelry store heist and held it up once more, Dean said. He escaped with about $250.
Garcia was taken into custody without a struggle, Dean said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Garcia was being held in lieu of $105,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

SURVEILLANCE PHOTO: Courtesy, Whittier Police Department.

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Gunman sought in robbery at Pasadena In-N-Out Burger


PASADENA >> A man with a handgun carried out a robbery at an In-N-Out Burger on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The crime took place just after 1:30 p.m. at the restaurant at 2114 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena police Lt. William Grisafe said.
The robber approached a worker while brandishing a handgun tucked into his waistband, according to the lieutenant. He demanded cash, which the employee handed over.
Grisafe said the bandit was last seen running east toward Craig Avenue. No getaway car was seen.
Police described the gunman as a Latino man, between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, of medium build. He wore a baseball cap and a bandana.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man robbed as he arrives home in San Marino; robbers force way into house


SAN MARINO >> Three men confronted and robbed a San Marino man at gunpoint as he arrived home early Wednesday, then forced their way into his home, where a family members was sleeping inside, officials said.
The crime unfolded about 12:20 a.m. in the 2000 block of Melville Drive, according to San Marino police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts.
Three robbers confronted the victim as he pulled into his driveway, he said. One of them brandished a handgun.
“(The gunman) pointed the firearm at the victim and demanded his wallet, keys and watch,” the sergeant said in a written statement.
Once the man handed the items over to the robbers, they ordered him to stay in his car.
“The suspects then used the victim’s keys to enter his residence,” Tebbetts said. “The victim used his cellphone to call 911 to report the incident, and stated his adult son was asleep in an upstairs bedroom.”
Police arrived within a minute and set up a search perimeter around the involved home, with help from neighboring police agencies, he said.
San Marino firefighters brought a ladder to the scene, which police used to rescue the adult son through a second story window, Tebbetts said.
After safely removing the resident from the home, officers searched the home but did not find the robbers.
Police described all three robbers as black men of about 20 years old, between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall. One wore a gray hooded sweatshirt and carried a black, semi-automatic handgun. The other two wore black hooded sweatshirts.
No vehicle was seen or heard in connection with the crime.
Anyone with information is urged to contact San Marino police Detective Garcia at 626-300-0726. Tips may also be sumbmitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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‘Dual Valley Bandit’ suspect, linked to 11 bank robberies in San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, arrested in Pasadena

PASADENA >> A shotgun-toting robbery suspect arrested Saturday as he fled from a Pasadena bank is now believed to be a serial bandit known to the FBI as the “Dual Valley Bandit,” linked to as many as 11 recent bank robberies in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, authorities said Sunday.
Shownee Shon Smith, 41, of Pasadena was jailed Saturday afternoon following a robbery at a Pasadena Wells Fargo branch at 3701 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena police said in a written statement.
He’s believed to be linked to as many as 11 bank robberies since May 15, according to police and FBI officials. He’s been dubbed “The Dual Valley Bandit” due to his penchant to rob in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.
Smith’s alleged robbery spree came to an end about 4 p.m. Saturday when he ran out of the Pasadena bank and into the waiting arms of police responding to reports of an armed robbery in progress, Pasadena police Lt. William Grisafe said.
“Smith was in possession of a shotgun and a bag containing money,” Pasadena police said in a written statement.
He dropped his weapon and surrendered without a struggle once confronted by officers, Grisafe said.
It was soon determined that Smith matched the description of the prolific serial bandit, sought in heists in cities including South Pasadena, Burbank, Woodland Hills, North Hollywood and Tarzana.
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez commended the work of the involved officers.
“I am extremely proud of the first responders of the Pasadena Police Department who courageously faced a dangerous situation and were able to quickly take an armed robbery suspect, believed to be responsible for numerous bank robberies throughout Los Angeles County, safely into custody,” he said. “I am grateful no one was injured during this incident.”
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Smith was being held in lieu of $256,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

SURVEILLANCE IMAGES courtesy of the FBI

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Man arrested following armed robbery at Pasadena bank


PASADENA >> Police arrested a shotgun-wielding suspect accused of robbing a Pasadena bank branch onSaturday afternoon, officials said.
The heist took place about 3:50 p.m. at Wells Fargo, 3701 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena police Lt. Javier Aguilar said.
A bandit was armed with a shotgun when he entered the bank and demanded money from a teller, the lieutenant said.
But police arrived as the crime was still in progress, confronting the robber as he exited the bank, according to Aguilar.
Once confronted, the robber dropped his shotgun and surrendered, he said.
The suspect was described as a man in his 30s, Aguilar said. His identity was not immediately available.
The FBI responded to the scene to assist Pasadena police in the investigation, he added.
Anyone with information can reach the Pasadena Police Department at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Gunman in skeleton mask robs Monrovia motel


MONROVIA >> A gunman wearing a skeleton mask robbed a Monrovia motel late Thursday, police said.
The crime unfolded just after 9 p.m. at the Oak Tree Inn, 788 W. Huntington Drive, Monrovia police Lt. Robert Wilken said.
The robber entered the lobby of the hotel, brandished a pistol and demanded money from an employee, the lieutenant said.
He fled with several hundred dollars and was last seen getting into a light-colored sedan parked in front of the motel, which sped away noth on Encino Avenue toward Huntington Drive.
Police described the robber as a black man between 35 and 40 years old, about 6 feet 3 inches tall, 250 pounds, wearing a skeleton mask.
No injuries were reported.
Anyone with information can reach Monrovia police at 626-256-8000. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Pasadena man accused of armed robbery at 99 Cents Only Store


PASADENA >> Police jailed an AB 109 probationer from Pasadena on Saturday after he stole items from a 99 Cents Only Store, then tried to stab a security guard who confronted him about the theft, officials said.
Javeon Gregory Curtis, 25, who is already on Post-Release Community Supervision under the terms of AB 109 following a previous assault conviction, was booked on suspicion of robbery following the incident, which unfolded just before 4 p.m. at the discount store, 1720 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena police Lt. William Grisafe said.
A security guard noticed Curtis leaving the store without paying for items and approached him about the theft, Grisafe said.
“A fight ensued,” he said. During the fight, Curtis pulled a knife and tried to stab the security guard, but missed, before running off.
Responding police officers soon found a man matching the description nearby and detained him without a struggle, police said. He was arrested once the victim identified him as the robber.
Officers recovered a knife with a 7-inch-long blade from the suspect.
According to county booking records, Curtis was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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UPDATED: Woman fatally shot during attempted robbery at Alhambra motel

ALHAMBRA >> A manager at an Alhambra motel and mother of two died after she was shot during a botched robbery late Friday, authorities said.
The fatal shooting was reported shortly after 11 p.m. at the Ambassador Inn, 2720 Valley Blvd., according to Alhambra police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
A fellow worker at the motel first discovered the victim lying bleeding in the motel office and called for help, Alhambra police Sgt. Richard Aguayo said.
Police and paramedics responded and discovered the woman had been shot, officials said.
Paramedics pronounced Xiuxia Chen, 44, of Alhambra dead at the scene, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
“The victim was working as a clerk behind the counter of the local business when a male suspect attempted to rob her at gunpoint,” Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. “During the commission of the robbery, the suspect shot the victim in the torso at least one time.”
“The male suspect fled the location in an unknown direction. It is unknown at this time if there was any property taken,” Schrader said.
No description of the gunman was available. Detectives were checking numerous area surveillance cameras for clues.
Chen’s husband, Armando Escanbdor, said his wife leaves behind an 11-year-old daughter and a son who served in the U.S. Navy.
“This devastation, I don’t know how to explain it,” he said.
Escandor said he was waiting to learn more about what happened to his wife, known to many as “Michelle.”
“The only thing I know is my wife is gone,” he said.
Chen had been working at the motel for the past six years, and served as manager the past two, according to her husband. Her shifts generally end at 11:30 p.m., when he routinely picks her up.
“I didn’t expect this to happen to her. The past six years I would always pick her up… except for last night.”
Escandor said he arrived at the motel like usual and found police swarming around the place, and yellow crime scene tape quartering off the motel’s office. He went inside to see what had happened and saw the body of his wife.
“I’m trying to explain this to my daughter,” he said.
“We don’t have any family members here in America. All our relatives are in the Philippines abd China. It’s only the four of us. They took one.”
Escandor described his wife as a “lovely, very nice person who didn’t know how to fight even for her own safety,” he said.
He hoped someone would be able to help homicide detectives find the person responsible for Chen’s slaying.
“I’m really seeking for the public to help to solve this case,” he said. “I feel like my wife is beside me, telling me two do this. This is the least I can do for her right now,”
“All I want is justice,” he said.
Officers canvassing the motel found residents who said they heard a single gunshot earlier in the night, police said. But no one reported the gunfire.
One man staying at the hotel said he spoke with Chen, who brought him linens for his room, at about 11 p.m. He said he was shocked to learn the deadly shooting was believed to have taken place minutes later.
The man said he heard no gunshot, but added that his motel room was on the opposite end of the motel as the office, where the shooting took place.
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau joined Alhambra police in the investigation.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Funds to benefit Chen’s family are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/michelle-chens-memorial-service.


PHOTOS: [TOP] – Photo of Xiuxia Chen, 44, of Alhambra. (Courtesy) [MIDDLE] – Photo of Xiuxia Chen, 44, of Alhambra and her family. (Courtesy) [BELOW] Photo of Ambassador in, 2720 Valley Blvd. in Alhambra. (By Brian Day)

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FBI seeks ‘Dual Valley Bandit’ in string of bank robberies from Woodland Hills to South Pasadena

LOS ANGELES >> The FBI is seeking a serial bank robber they’ve dubbed “The Dual Valley Bandit” in connection with five robberies in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys in recent weeks.
The bandit, who earned his moniker due to he geography of his heists, is believed to be responsible for two bank robberies in Burbank and South Pasadena on May 15, and three more in North Hollywood, Woodland Hills and Tarzana on May 27, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
“During the robberies, the suspect passes a note demanding cash in several denominations and makes oral demands for cash as well,” Eimiller said in a written statement.
No weapon has been seen during the crimes, officials said.
The Dual Valley Bandit is described as a white man, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall, 170 to 180 pounds.
He had stubble during the robberies and was neatly dressed in casual clothing, including a baseball cap and Wayfarer-style sunglasses.
Anyone with information is urged to avoid direct contact with him and call 911 or the FBI’s 24-hour Los Angeles hotline at 888-226-8443. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

SURVEILLANCE PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI

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UDPATED: Teen charged with robbery, assault in connection with off-duty CBP officer-involved shooting in Arcadia

ARCADIA >> Prosecutors have filed charges against a teenagers accused of attacking and trying to rob an off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in Arcadia before the agent shot two of the suspects, killing one, authorities said Thursday.
The encounter took place about 8:15 p.m. on Friday in the area of First Street and Colorado Avenue, just after the off-duty officer and the three suspects all exited a Metro Gold Line train, according to Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Darrius Smith, 15, of Pasadena died at a hospital following the shooting, according to sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
He allegedly pointed what was later determined to be a “realistic-looking” replica handgun at the agent during the incident, Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. A 14-year-old suspect was wounded by the gunfire and taken into custody, and a second 15-year-old suspect was arrested in the area uninjured.
Prosecutors filed criminal charges of attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon against the 15-year-old suspect on Wednesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Charges had not been filed against the wounded 14-year-old suspect, who remained hospitalized on Thursday, despite a statement from the sheriff’s department reporting that he, too, had been charged.
Their identities have not been released due to their ages.
“Although charges have been filed, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detectives are continuing their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the officer-involved shooting,” Navarro-Suarez said.
The 15-year-old suspect appeared at an arraignment hearing Thursday and denied the charges, Risling said. He was scheduled to return to court for another hearing on June 15.
Sheriff’s officials announced that both surviving suspects had been charged, but Risling said that only the elder of the two teens had been charged.
As the investigation, spearheaded by the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, continued in the days that followed, investigators spoke with witnesses, the suspects and the alleged victim, as well as reviewed evidence collected at the scene and autopsy results, Navarro-Suarez said.
Sheriff’s investigators allege the three suspects came up from behind the agent before one of them began punching him in the head, Corina said.
The three teens surrounded the agent, the lieutenant said. Darrius Smith, 15, of Pasadena, allegedly pointed what was later determined to be a “realistic-looking” replica handgun at the agent and demanded his property, the lieutenant said.
Portions of the incident were recorded by area surveillance cameras, officials said. Sheriff’s officials declined to release any of the footage, but said on Thursday that it supported the account of an attempted robbery gone awry.
Surveillance video obtained from the Metro Gold Line shows the off-duty CBP officer and the three teens riding on a train.
“The victim exited the train at the Arcadia Station and walked north on First Avenue from the train station, followed by the subjects. Video shows the subjects running up on the victim where the robbery and shooting occurred,” Navarro-Suarez said.
“After the shooting, 15-year-old subject Smith is seen running away with another 15-year-old subject, north on First Avenue and then east on Colorado Boulevard,” according to the deputy. “Subject Smith is found a half a block away from the scene of the shooting by officers from the Arcadia Police Department. Subject Smith was suffering from two gunshot wounds to his upper body and two gunshot wounds to his buttocks.”
Smith was taken to an area hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
An autopsy carried out Wedbesday by the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner “documented and confirmed” Smith’s injuries, Navarro-Suarez said. But sheriff’s investigators placed a “security hold” on the case, preventing coroner’s officials from releasing information or documents related to the death.
The wounded 14-year-old suspect remained at the scene, Navarro-Suarez said. The off-duty CBP officer held him at gunpoint until local police arrived, took him into custody and took him to a hospital for treatment.
The off-duty officer was treated for “soft tissue damage” to the side of his head, Navarro-Suarez said. His identity has not been released.
An attorney representing Smith’s family and civil rights activists disputed the official account, alleging that Smith was first shot in the legs before standing over him and shooting him in the chest. It was also alleged that the officer chased after Smith at some point.
Sheriff’s officials said the video showed the off-duty officer did not chase after Smith.
“Surveillance footage shows that the officer never left the scene of the shooting, nor did he run after subject Smith onto Colorado Boulevard following the initial encounter and shooting,” Navarro-Suarez said.
And while the handgun allegedly brandished by Smith turned out not to be real, the deputy described it as, “a replica semi-automatic handgun which looks exactly like a real handgun.”
“The manufacturer of the gun boasts on its website that they are the masters of look-alike air guns and that their replica guns are realistic looking,” she added.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO of replica handgun courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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