ALTADENA >> Deputies and explosive-sniffing dogs searched the campus of an Altadena elementary school early Wednesday after someone phoned in a mob threat, but ultimately found nothing out of the ordinary, authorities said.
An unidentified male adult called the school shortly before 10 a.m. “and indicated he was going to blow up the school,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. The threat involved no further specifics.
Deputies responded to the campus, 593 W. Woodbury Road to investigate.
“The deputies conducted a search of the school, along with the assistance of four K-9 bomb detection units and school personnel who were familiar with the campus,” according to the statement. “No explosive devices, or foreign unfamiliar devices were detected. Additionally, there was no known motives and there was no suspect identified.”
The school resumed normal operations once deputies sounded the all-clear.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Altadena Station at 626-798-1131. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
PASADENA >> A man and woman accused of murder in connection with the fatal 1997 shooting of an 18-year-old man in Altadena are free after being acquitted by a jury on Tuesday, authorities said.
A Burbank Superior Court jury deliberated for six days before finding Darryl Johnson, also known as Darryl Lamont Callum, 42, of Pasadena and Dominique Raquel Evans, 44, of Pasadena not guilty of the murder of Johnis Jackson of Altadena at Fair Oaks Avenue and Harriet Street, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials and Superior Court records.
The two defendants, who were dating at the time of the killing, were arrested in May of 2013, more than a decade after the case had grown cold.
The current relationship between the acquitted defendants was not clear, though investigators have said they have children together.
Sheriff’s detectives and prosecutors alleged that Johnson was a member of the Bloods gang at the time of the deadly, Detective Michael Rodriguez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau Cold Case Unit said shortly after the arrests.
Johnson and Evans had been at a party at Loma Alta Park in Altadena when an argument broke out between one of Johnson’s gang affiliates and Evans, the detective said. Evans accused the other man of stealing CDS, and the man slapped her.
Evans was heard making threats and left the park, accompanied by several other women.
Less than half-an-hour later, Jackson, who had tried to calm down the situation and offered to buy Evans new CDs, was gunned down as he walked to his car. He was described by authorities as a member of the Crips gang.
Rodriguez said investigators long suspect the defendants were involved, but did develop sufficient evidence to support arrests and charges until new leads were developed in 2013, Rodriguez said. Deputies obtained arrest warrants for Johnson and Evans on May 21, 2013, during separate traffic stops in Pasadena.
Following their acquittals, Johnson and Evans were released from custody Tuesday afternoon, records show.
PASADENA >> A man who fatally shot another man in Pasadena in 2011, and then was mistakenly released from jail while awaiting trial before being recaptured in Nevada, received a sentence of more than seven decades in prison this week, officials said.
Steven Lawrence Wright, 38, began serving his 75-year-to-life state prison term Monday following his sentencing in the Burbank Branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago.
A jury convicted him in November of murder for the Jan 19, 2011, fatal shooting of Donnell Taylor of Pasadena in the 1700 block of Summit Avenue. He was also convicted of attempted murder in December of 2015 for another attack that took place on March 15, 2011, according to court records.
Co-defendant Vernon Fisher, 44, of Altadena, pleaded “no contest” in November to a manslaughter charge for Taylor’s slaying, court records show. He was subsequently sentenced to 82 years to life in state prison.
Police alleged both Wright and Fisher were members of the Altadena Blocc Crips, though Taylor was not believed to be a gang member.
Officials at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not return requests for information on the case.
As Wright was awaiting trial for Taylor’s murder when he was mistakenly set free on Jan. 30, 2016, due to a paperwork error, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and court officials.
After refusing to cooperate as a witness in another trial, a judge held Wright in contempt and sent him to jail for five days.
But paperwork submitted by the court indicated Wright was to be released outright once he’d served his time for contempt of court, sheriff’s Commander Keith Swensson said at the time. Sheriff’s officials failed to catch the error and released Wright from custody, despite the pending murder case.
He remained a fugitive for nine days until he was found and recaptured at a motel in Boulder City, Nevada, on Feb. 8, 2016.
Wright’s case was unusual, but not entirely unique.
Another killer was also mistakenly released from Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, administered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just over three years earlier.
Johnny Mata of El Monte was awaiting trial for the murder for the Christmas Eve 2010 fatal shooting of David Anthony Deanda, 34, of Baldwin Park, on Christmas Eve, 2010, as well as a second nonfatal shooting in Baldwin Park 2012, when he was mistakenly released from custody.
Mata was recaptured a little over a year later in Mexico. He has since been sentenced to life, plus 111 years, in state prison.
PHOTO: Steven L. Wright (Courtesy)
PASADENA >> Police arrested an Altadena man hours after they say he robbed a Pasadena video game store on Wednesday afternoon.
Luis Javier Gallegos, 19, was booked on suspicion of robbery following the 1:45 p.m. robbery at Game Stop, 3401 E. Foothill Blvd., according to Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
He entered the store and asked to see a PlayStation video game console, Pasadena police Lt. Pete Hettema said. Once the clerk returned with the item, Gallegos brandished what appeared to be a handgun and demanded it.
The robber also stole several hundred dollars from the store before fleeing the area in a car, Hettema said. But a witness managed to take down the fleeing vehicle’s license plate number.
Police, aided by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, made their way to the home where the getaway car was registered near Mariposa Street and Lake Avenue in Altadena, where they spotted the suspect’s car.
As officials took positions around the home in preparation to take the suspect into custody, he came out of his home and surrendered, the lieutenant said.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for the home and discovered the stolen video game console and cash, as well as a BB or airsoft pistol, he added. The victim identified Gallegos as the man who carried out the robbery.
Gallegos was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, record show.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> A mountain rescue team rescued a woman and her aviophobic dog after they became trapped at the base of 800-foot-deep ravine in the Angeles National Forest north of Altadena on Friday, authorities said.
Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Altadena Mountain Rescue Team responded to reports of a distressed hiker about 3:30 p.m., sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“Sheriff’s Air Rescue 5 located a female adult hiker just south of Mueller Tunnel, off Mt. Lowe Fire Road, approximately 800 feet over the side of the cliff,” according to the statement.
Rescuers hoisted the woman into the helicopter and took her to a hospital for treatment of hypothermia.
The woman had been hiking with her 40-pound pit bull mix, named Zeus. But the flight crew was not able to capture the dog and were forced to leave it behind as they tended to its owner.
Montrose Search & Rescue Team members joined in the endeavor, and two rescuers were lowered to the dog be helicopter.
“A second attempt was made to secure the dog in a harness to be flown out, however the dog was not cooperative and Air 5 left the area,” according to the statement.
The stubborn pet, “didn’t feel like a helicopter ride,” Deputy Dan Paige said via Twitter.
So officials used hundreds of feet of rope to hoist Zeus, and the rescuers, up to the roadway.
The dog, which appeared uninjured, was taken to an animal shelter in Baldwin Park.
A civilian volunteer working on the rescue was injured when a large rock fell about 40 feet, striking him in the head, shoulder, arm and hand, sheriff’s officials said.
“The rock had knocked his headlamp off his helmet and rendered his right hand completely numb,” according to the statement. “The injured rescue team member bandaged his hand and hiked out on his own.”
It was determined at the hospital that the rescuer suffered a fracture and an inch-long laceration to his finger.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
ALTADENA >> A man suffered burns to 40 percent of his body after an explosion and fire at an Altadena home being used to extract concentrated hash oil from marijuana, authorities said.
Deputies were first summoned to the 1800 block of E. Midwick Drive about 4:10 p.m. by reports of a person heard screaming, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“When they arrived they saw a male adult badly burned and flames coming from the rear of a house,” according to the statement.
After Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished the fire and treated the victim, deputies discovered a large number of “containers and equipment” which they recognized as part of a manufacturing lab used to extract THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, from plants, authorities said. “Several windows of the house were blown out, possibly from an explosion.”
The process to extract concentrated THC oil, also known as “honey oil,” from marijuana plants often involves highly flammable liquids.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials team, sheriff’s narcotics detectives and U.S. Department of Justice officials investigated and decontaminated the scene in a process that lasted through 6 a.m. Saturday morning, officials said.
The badly burned man was taken to a hospital with severe burns covering about 40 percent of his body.
The man, whose name was not available, may face several criminal charges in connection with the alleged honey oil lab.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
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
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> A mountain biker from Torrance found dead in the Angeles National Forest north of Altadena last year died of natural causes, and not as a result of a biking accident, an autopsy found.
Evan Bruce Sisson, 49, of Torrance, died from ischemic heart disease and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s records. Investigators also noted a medical history of hypertension and ruled the death natural.
His body was found Jan. 31 along the Brown Mountain Truck Trail amid a search for the cyclist, who was reported missing after failing to return from a ride the previous day, officials said.
Though deputies notes some injuries on the body consistent with a fall from his bike, a cause of death was not immediately apparent. Following the initial autopsy, Sisson’s cause of death was delayed pending further forensic testing.
ALTADENA >> A fire gutted a discount store in Altadena late Friday but resulted in no injuries, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 11:03 p.m. at Joon’s Discount, at Fair Oaks Avenue and Woodbury Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Los Angeles County firefighters encountered “heavy smoke and fire” inside the building when they arrived.
“Fire department units had to use cutting tools to gain access inside and after fighting the fire for several minutes they were able to search the inside of the store and, thankfully, no one was inside,” according to the statement.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, but there were no initial indications of suspicious circumstances, officials said.
“Most if not all of the contents of the store had been damaged by fire, smoke and water,” the statement continued.
A dollar-value estimate of the damage was not available.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
MARYLAND >> A 32-year-old Altadena man died over the weekend after being shot in a suspected hunting accident in Maryland, authorities said.
Vincent Cavallo died at the scene of the shooting, which took place about just before 9:30 a.m. on Saturday on a private piece of land in the Thurmont area, near Camp David, Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thompson said.
An autopsy was yet to be completed by coroner’s officials, but the initial investigation indicated Cavallo accidentally shot himself in the head with a .30-06 hunting rifle, she said.
It appeared he either tripped or dropped his rifle when the firearm discharged and struck him in the head, Thomson said.
He was on his first hunting trip with his uncle when the fatal mishap occurred, she said.
The two men had been separated for about half an hour as they searched for deer when the uncle heard a shot ring out, according to Thompson. The uncle initially thought his nephew had taken a shot at a deer.
But when the man sought out his nephew, he found him lying mortally wounded.
“It was his first hunt. He was excited,” Thompson said of Cavallo.
He had recently completed a hunter safety course in California, which his uncle insisted upon before taking him on the trip.
But “to all indications,” Cavallo was carrying the loaded rifle with the safety off, she said. Use of the rifle’s safety likely could have prevented the incident.
The suspected accidental discharge was not the only one reported Saturday, Thompson said. Another hunter suffered a gunshot wound to his leg in a similar incident.
Saturday marked the first day of Maryland’s two-week, modern firearms deer hunting season.