MONTEREY PARK >> A California Highway Patrol investigation into a crash between Alhambra and Monterey Park fire trucks last year that sent one of the engines careening into a dim sum restaurant, resulting in 15 injuries, has determined the Alhambra Fire Department truck was at fault for the collision.
The crash occurred shortly after 3 p.m. on April 16 at Garfield and Emerson avenues. Both trucks were responding to a report of a house fire in Monterey Park with emergency lights and sirens activated, officials said. The agencies often cooperate with each other in responding to emergencies.
The large truck’s collided in the intersection, sending the Monterey Park engine hurtling into the Lu Dumpling House. Four pedestrians who were walking in front of the restaurant were injured, one of them critically, authorities said. Six people inside the restaurant were also hurt, along with six firefighters.
A summary of the investigative findings released by the CHP Thursday states that the Alhambra fire engine’s driver drove unsafely just prior to the collision.
The Alhambra engine was southbound on Garfield Avenue at about 15 mph when it entered the intersection through a red light about the same time as the Monterey Park engine entered the intersection through a green light while heading east on Emerson Avenue at about 25 mph, according the CHP statement.
“The Alhambra fire engine failed to ensure the intersection was safe to enter against the red signal light,” according to the statement. “ Due to Alhambra fire engine’s unsafe operation, the front of Alhambra’s fire engine collided into the front of Monterey Park’s fire engine.”
No charges were to be filed in connection with the crash, CHP officials said.
The Alhambra engine was driven by 46-year-old Alhambra Fire Department Firefighter Bryan Butler. Monterey Park Fire Department Firefighter Nicholas Lima, 31, was at the wheel of the Monterey Park fire engine, according to the CHP.
Alhambra City Attorney Joseph Montes said 22 civil claims have been filed in connection with the crash. He declined to comment on the CHP findings.
“We’ve received the report. We’re in the process of analyzing and reviewing it,” Montes said. “We have pending litigation and in light of all that we are not in a position to make any further comment at this time.”
— Staff Writer Stephanie Baer contributed to this report.
PHOTO by Walt Mancini
ALHAMBRA >> Police discovered a methamphetamine lab inside an Alhambra apartment Friday, officials said.
Officers checking up on an elderly man at the request of his landlord found the clandestine drug lab about 1:40 p.m. at an apartment in a complex at 110 N. Chapel Avenue, Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson said.
A landlord asked police to check on the apartment after not hearing from it’s elderly resident for several days, the sergeant said. “He was very concerned.”
Police went to the apartment and found “large pots filled with foul-smelling chemicals” throughout, Johnson said. No one was at the home, and the apartment did not appear as if anyone lived there.
Officials evacuated nine people from nearby apartments as they summoned a hazardous materials crew and a California Department of Justice team specializing in meth lab clean-up, Johnson said.
Preliminary testing confirmed the operation was a methamphetamine lab, he said.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the lab, or whether the elderly man police were initially sent to check on was involved, police said. The resident still had not been found Friday evening.
No suspects were in custody as the investigation continued, Johnson said.
The evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes about 6:30 p.m., Johnson said. The clean-up process continued Friday night.
ALHAMBRA >> A three-time convicted felon from Los Angeles pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges stemming from the stabbing of an Alhambra man during an argument over a woman earlier this month, officials said.
Isaias Casillas, 41, is charged with assault with a deadly weapon in for the alleged Dec. 4 attack at the victim’s home in the 2900 block of Montezuma Avenue, according to Alhambra police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
Casillas went to the victim’s home about 3 p.m. and the two men became involved in a fight, officials said.
“At this time motive appears to be disrespect of a girlfriend,” Alhambra police officials said in a written statement.
“While victim is in his front yard washing his car, suspect Casillas approaches victim with a gun in his hand pointing it at victim,” according to the police statement.
Casillas then began punching the victim in the head and face.
Casillas did not fire the gun, but pulled out a pocket knife and started stabbing the victim, police said.
The knife wounds , described as lacerations to the head area, were not considered to be life-threatening, Sgt. Jim Hammond said. The victim declined to be taken to a hospital by paramedics.
Police arrested Casillas in connection with the incident the following day.
Casillas and his alleged victim were acquainted with one another, Hammond said.
“ At this time motive appears to be disrespect of a girlfriend,” according to the police statement.
District attorney’s officials said Casillas was previously convicted of grand theft in 1996, possession of methamphetamine in 2000 and vehicular manslaughter in 2004.
Police also described Casillas as a gang member.
The vehicular manslaughter conviction stems from a crash in which Casillas struck a car in La Puente containing four teenagers heading home from Knott’s Berry Farm on Oct. 4, 2003. Nathaly Baustista, a 14-year-old West Covina High School freshman, died in the crash. A teenage boy suffered brain damage.
Casillas fled the scene and was arrested a short time later, prosecutors said.
Casillas pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, as well as felony hit-and-run, in January of 2004. He received a 7-year prison sentence.
If convicted as charged in the stabbing case, Casillas faces up to 16 years in state prison, district attorney’s officials said. He is scheduled to appear in Alhambra Superior Jan. 5 for a preliminary hearing setting. He was released from jail early Saturday after posting $110,000 bail, records show.
BOOKING photo of Isaias Casillas, 41, of Los Angeles courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.
ALHAMBRA >> A Rosemead man pleaded not guilty to murder Thursday following the fatal stabbing of a Monterey Park man last month, officials said.
Angel Octavion Garcia, 18, is accused of fatally stabbing Alhambra Parks and Recreation Department employee Edward Mendoza, 35, Oct. 14 in a parking lot in the 1700 block of Potrero Grande, near Arroyo Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
He entered his plea in Alhambra Superior Court, where he was ordered to return Jan. 9 for a preliminary hearing setting, Los Angeles County district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
“There are no indications the two men knew each other,” according to the statement. A motive for the slaying has not been released.
Mendoza called 9-1-1 to report he had been stabbed, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. Investigators have declined to release further details of the 9-1-1.
Paramedics rushed Mendoza to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.
“Soon after the incident, a person came forward to police and identified Garcia as the assailant,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Mendoza had worked a part-time recreation leader for the Alhambra Parks and Recreation Department since 2001, city officials said. Most recently, he served as a children’s football referee at Almansor Park in Alhambra.
Recently, Ray said Mendoza was refereeing football for the children at Almansor Park, 800 S. Almansor St. in Alhambra.
Sheriff’s investigators arrested Garcia Oct. 18, according to Los Angeles County booking records. He was being held in lieu of $1.025 million bail.
Loved ones have created a memorial video in tribute to Menoza at www.eddiemendoza.org.
ALHAMBRA >> A judge sentenced a Chino man to 374 years to life in prison Thursday for a spree of follow-home robberies targeting lone Asian women throughout the San Gabriel Valley in 2011, officials said.
An Alhambra Superior Court convicted Jose Lewis Avila, 33, of nine counts of robbery, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and one count of child abuse. The 12 charges stem from a eight incidents in March and April of 2011, investigators said.
Three robberies, one of which involved two victims, occurred in Alhambra, officials said. Three of he robberies occurred in San Gabriel, one occurred in Arcadia and one took place in Monterey Park.
“The defendant targeted women driving alone,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Once the victims arrived at their homes, Avila accosted them and demanded their money and property. During each robbery, the defendant used a BB gun and covered his face with a bandana or mask.
But detectives managed to identify Avila the culprit in the crimes through surveillance video and credit card charges, officials said.
Additionally, Avila’s “unique” and “pretty” eyes helped victims point him out as their attacker, said Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian, who prosecuted the case with Deputy District Attorney Gabriel Kim.
Avila was convicted of a similar string of crimes in 2005, Ayvazian said.
The assault with a deadly weapon charge was the result of Avila shooting one of his victims in the face with a BB gun during a robbery in Arcadia, officials said. He also threatened a witness not to contact the police, leading to the charge of dissuading a witness. And one of the robbery victims was holding a child in her arms during the crime, resulting in the charge of child abuse.
According to district attorney’s officials, the jury also found true special allegations that Avila used a deadly and dangerous weapon, the BB gun, in his crimes, and that he inflicted great bodily injury.
PHOTO of Jose Avila, 33, of Chino, courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.
ALHAMBRA >> A Pomona man pleaded “no contest” to a vehicular manslaughter charge Thursday for a drunken driving crash in Alhambra that claimed the life of one of his passengers, a 21-year-old female rapper from Los Angeles, authorities said.
Jacob G. Garcia Jr., 51, entered the plea in Alhambra Superior Court in connection with the Dec. 16, 2010, crash on the 10 Freeway in Alhambra, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Under a negotiated plea arrangement, Garcia pleaded “no contest” to a single count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, officials said. Charges of murder, DUI causing injury or death and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent were dismissed.
“Under the terms of the negotiated plea, Garcia is expected to be sentenced to 13 years in state prison,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Garcia was ordered back to court Feb. 5 for sentencing and a restitution hearing.
He was drunk when he got behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz C 250 with five passengers during a rainstorm, according to CHP officials.
Garcia’s car veered to the side of the road about 12:45 a.m. on the westbound 10 Freeway, just west of Fremont Avenue, in Alhambra, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Connie Guzman said at the time. The car slammed into a backhoe that was parked along the right shoulder in a construction zone.
Passenger and rapper Maria Faith Solomon died from injuries suffered in the crash, authorities said. Two teenage boys who were also riding as passengers suffered serious injuries in the crash as well. Garcia suffered minor injuries in the crash.
ALHAMBRA >> Police are seeking whoever vandalized the Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Alhambra Wednesday, just ahead of Veterans Day.
Park workers discovered sloppy lettering scrawled across the Veteran Memorial Wall about 8:30 a.m., Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson said.
The curved wall marred by the graffiti is inscribed with the Thomas Jefferson quote: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Bricks arranged in front of the wall bear the names of local service members who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
The painted message included two apparent monikers, along with the symbol of a local “tagging crew,” Johnson said.
“The fact that they would do it to a veterans’ memorial is appalling,” Johnson said. “There’s no question they knew exactly what they were doing.” Johnson served as a medic in the U.S. Army in the 1980s.
“Speaking as a veteran… I can see why it would really push some people’s buttons,” the sergeant said.
In addition to the graffiti on the memorial at the northwest corner of Alhambra Park, the workers also found similar markings elsewhere in the park, including on a nearby swimming pool facility, police said.
“They’re a group of teenage hooligans, if you will,” he said. “Many of them live in that general area.”
Investigators were working with school officials to identify the culprit or culprits, Johnson said.
“We’re hoping to get someone in custody soon,” he said.
Workers had cleared the graffiti from the memorial by Wednesday afternoon, Johnson said. “It looks like they were able to clean it off really well.”
A Facebook post from the Alhambra Police Department late Wednesday describing on the incident had received more than 200 “likes” and 150 comments by Thursday afternoon.
“That’s disgusting! And to think my son is in the military fighting for the freedom of these low lives!!” Stacey Calzada posted.
“This is a slap in the face to our veterans, and Alhambra won’t stand for it!” Joe Mojica posted. “I would like to see more patrols and more police presence around the park.”
The dollar-value estimate of the damage was still being calculated Thursday, but was expected to amount to nearly $1,000, Johnson said.
PHOTO courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department
ALHAMBRA >> Police arrested a father and son who brought a handgun and metal knuckles to a family dispute in Alhambra Sunday, officials said.
Stephen Diaz, 19, and his father Edward Diaz, 45, both of Los Angeles, had been involved in an argument with family members when they showed up about 10 a.m. at the home of their relatives on Midvale Place, near Concord Avenue, Alhambra police Sgt. Esther Rodriguez said. The relatives called police.
Officers searched the elder Diaz and found he was carrying a small-caliber handgun and two loaded magazines, police said. His son was carrying metal knuckles, which are illegal to possess, and a realistic-looking airsoft pistol, which shoots plastic BBs, Rodriguez said.
Both men were booked on suspicion of making criminal threats, conspiracy to commit a crime and attempted assault with a deadly weapon, Rodriguez said. Edward Diaz was additionally suspected of illegal gun possession, and his son was booked on suspicion of possessing of metal knuckles.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department
PASADENA >> A fist fight between two roommates in Old Pasadena early Saturday left one man on life support and another behind bars, police said.
Joseph Rafael, 31, of Alhambra, was not expected to survive the injuries he suffered in the 1 a.m. fight in the 100 block of South Raymond Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Art Chute said. He remained hospitalized on life support Saturday night with major head injuries.
Police arrested his roommate, 30-year-old Giorgio Inigo Bustamante, on suspicion of attempted murder.
The two men had just attended a birthday party when they became involved in a dispute on the sidewalk, Chute said.
“Mr. Rafael and Mr. Bustamante became involved in an argument with each other that escalated into a physical altercation.”
Rafael ended up on the sidewalk with a severe head injury, the lieutenant said. It was unclear if the injuries were the result of blows, or his head striking the ground.
No weapons were involved in the fight, Chute said. “Just fists.”
Police responding to a witnesses’ 9-1-1 call reporting a “person down” found Rafael pulseless, Chute said. Officers performed CPR until paramedics arrived to rush Rafael to the hospital.
Bustamante remained at the scene, Chute said. “He made no attempt to flee.”
According to county booking records, Bustamante was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance.
ALHAMBRA >> Police arrested two men with a stolen, loaded handgun Wednesday in an area of Alhambra hit hard by burglaries in recent weeks, officials said.
An officer was on patrol shortly before 1 p.m. in the southeast portion of the city, where authorities have noted a spike in burglaries lately, Alhambra police Sgt. Brandon Black said.
The officer pulled over a car for a traffic violation in the 1100 block of South Stoneman Avenue, Black said. The officer smelled marijuana, and a police K-9 confirmed the presence of marijuana residue inside a gym bag and a purse inside the car.
Further searching led police to discover a loaded revolver that had been reported stolen in a Monterey Park burglary, the sergeant said.
The two suspect — described as a Los Angeles man and a Lawndale man, both in their 20s — were booked on suspicion of burglary, conspiracy and possession of a stolen firearm as detectives continued working to link them to additional crimes, Black said. Police withheld their names Wednesday, citing and ongoing investigation.