PASADENA >> A 19-year-old Altadena man has begun serving a sentence of more than four years in prison after pleading “no contest” last week to charges stemming from a Pasadena car crash blamed on drunken driving that killed one of his passengers and injured three others, authorities said.
Gerardo Garcia was immediately sentenced to four years and four months in state prison after pleading “no contest” Friday in Pasadena Superior Court to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving and driving with a blood-alcohol level greater than .08 percent, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
The 12:15 a.m. crash at Washington Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue claimed the life of 17-year-old Gabriel Cabral of Riverside, and injured two teenage girls also riding as passengers, according to Pasadena police and district attorney’s officials.
In addition to being drunk, police received reports from witnesses that Garcia was involved in a street race when his 2004 Nissan sedan went out of control and struck a freeway overpass, officials said. But criminal charges related to street racing were not filed.
PHOTO of fatal crash victim Gabriel Cabral, 17, of Riverside. (Courtesy)
ALTADENA >> Two attackers shot and wounded a man late Friday in a residential neighborhood in Altadena, officials said.
The victim was hospitalized in stable condition following the shooting, which took place shortly after 11:30 p.m. in the 100 block of West Las Flores Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Alan Chu said.
The two suspects, described only as male, fled on foot and were not found, Chu said.
Further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were not available.
PASADENA >> An Altadena man arrested following a police chase Wednesday is suspect of two robberies at Pasadena wireless stores this week, authorities said.
Police arrested Prince Bridges, 29, following a chase from Pasadena to Sherman Oaks following his latest alleged robbery, reported about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday at Go Wireless in the 3800 block of East Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena police Sgt. Mike Bugh said. More than 70 iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones stolen from the store were recovered, along with the suspect’s handgun, Bugh said.
Bridges is also suspected of a similar heist Friday afternoon at a T-Mobile store in the 100 block of South Lake Avenue, Bugh said.
In Wednesday’s robbery, the suspect first inquired about a job before pulling a gun on the lone employee.
“He displayed a handgun and directed salesperson to the rear of the store, where he ordered the salesperson to open the safe,” Lt. John Luna said. The robber stuffed more than 70 cell phones into a trash bag and fled.
Police spotted a car matching the description just after the robber and tried to pull it over, but the driver led officers on a chase along the 134 and 405 freeways, Luna said. The car exited the freeway in Sherman Oaks and crashed into another car, resulting in no injuries, before the suspect continued fleeing on foot.
Los Angeles police and California Highway Patrol officers helped Pasadena police capture the suspect nearby, Bugh said. Police found a the stolen cell phones and a loaded handgun in the suspect’s car.
In Friday’s robbery along Lake Avenue, Bugh said Bridges ordered four employees and a customer of the store into a rear room before fleeing with more than a dozen cell phones. No injuries were reported in either robbery.
Bridges was being held in lieu of $2 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Friday in Pasadena Superior Court, records show.
“Community members walked from Fountain of Life Church, to the Fair Oaks Burger, where Christopher Walker was killed on April 30, 2015. This marks the six-month anniversary of the murder of Christopher Walker. Christopher spent much of his short life affiliated with a gang, but he had put that behind him. At the time of his death, Walker turned his back on gang life and he had a family and a full-time job.This event is a call to action for the community of Altadena. Community leaders and members will come together to learn ways to curb gang affiliation and violence in the community and offer options to Altadena and Pasadenas at-risk youth. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)”
ALTADENA >> Loved ones and community members marched through Altadena Thursday to memorialize the life of a 26-year-old father of two who was gunned down in an unprovoked attack at a hamburger stand last year, as well as call on the community to work toward solutions to gang violence.
More than 100 people met at the Fountain of Life Church before heading to Fair Oaks Burger, where Christopher Walker was killed in an ambush on Oct. 30, 2014 as he sat on the outdoor patio of the restaurant.
“We want people to know who Christopher was, but we also want people to know it’s time to do something about the violence in out community,” Walker’s mother Ursula Walker said.
“All life matters. That is my main point today,” she said.
PHOTOS by Walt Mancini
ALTADENA >> Deputies are seeking an attacker or attackers who shot at two teenagers from a passing car late Thursday, officials said.
No injuries were reported in connection with the shooting, which took place shortly after 7 p.m. near Lincoln Avenue and Mendocino Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Cruz Solis said.
The victims, a girl of about 16 and a boy of about 18, were walking when someone opened fire from a passing vehicle, described only as a dark-colored car resembling a Dodge Charger, the lieutenant said.
Neither victim was believed to have gang ties, he said.
ALTADENA >> The specific cause of an explosive house fire that killed an elderly woman and her son earlier this month remains a mystery, though investigators were certain it was accidental, officials said.
Through X-ray comparison, officials Thursday confirmed the identities of Betty Kopp, 85, and her 58-year-old son Robert “Bob” Kopp, who died in the March 7 fire at the home they shared with three roommates in the 2400 block of Holliston Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said. They had previously been identified by a roommate, but their official identifications were delayed to to the conditions of their remains.
After a detailed analysis of the scene of the fatal fire, investigators were unable to determine exactly what sparked the fire, Detective Cynthia Valencia of the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said. The officials cause is listed as “undetermined.”
Investigators have determined the fire started in a bedroom toward the rear of the house where Betty Kopp, who was confined to bed and used oxygen tanks, Valencia said.
And it was clear that the fire was fueled by the oxygen, she said Two of at least eight tanks at the home exploded in the fire.
Nonetheless, “We don’t know exactly what ignited it,” Valencia said.
But the massive fire was so intense it scorched any evidence investigators may have been able to use to narrow down a more specific cause, the detective said.
“It is accidental. We know that,” Valencia said. “There wasn’t any malicious intent.”
Two of the Kopps’ roommates were treated for minor injuries following the fire, officials said.
ALTADENA >> A former teacher at an Arcadia private high school accused of falsely imprisoning three teenagers at knifepoint and demanding they drive him to a fast-food restaurant pleaded “no contest” Thursday to two felony charges, authorities said.
Under a negotiated plea arrangement, ex-John Edward Maust, 34, of Altadena pleaded no contest to two counts of false imprisonment by violence, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said. An additional count of false imprisonment, as well as a count of kidnapping and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon were dismissed.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu sentenced Maust to five years of formal probation, 180 days of community service and more than 50 Alcoholics Anonymous sessions, Santiago said.
The bizarre crime took place on Saturday, June 7, 2014, after three 17-year-old boys, two of whom were Maust’s students at Arroyo Pacific Academy in Arcadia, were driving around and saw Maust in his driveway, according to district attorney’s and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Maust appeared to have been drinking when jumped into the back of their car, brandished a knife and told the teen’s to drive, Santiago said. Two of the teens got out of the car and called for help.
“When the driver attempted to also exit, Maust placed him in a choke hold with the pocket knife up to him and demanded that he be taken to a fast food restaurant,” Santiago said.
After going to a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant, Maust ordered the driver stop and fled on foot after a sheriff’s helicopter arrived overhead, officials said. He was arrested the following day and released from custody on $300,000 bail, according to county records.
School officials placed Maust on administrative leave at the outset of the investigation, officials said. His employment has since ended, however further details were not available.
ALTADENA >> An elderly woman and her son lost their lives and two other people were hurt in a fire at their home late Saturday, authorities said.
The fire, which gutted the home, was first reported about 10:20 p.m. at the single-story home in the 2400 block of Holliston Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Randy Tuinstra said.
Sheriff’s officials described the victims as a 85-year-old woman and her 58-year-old son.
Neighbor identified them as Betty and Robert “Bob” Kopp.
Authorities did not release the victims’ names Sunday pending positive identification of the badly burned remains, coroner’s Investigator Dana Bee said.
Phillip Marin said he rented a room in the Kopp’s home, along with two other roommates.
Marin was standing in the backyard of the home when an explosion blew out a sliding glass door at the rear of the house.
The explosion was believed to have been caused by oxygen tanks used by the elderly woman, according to sheriff’s officials and neighbors.
The house was quickly engulfed in flames, Marin said.
“I tried to get in, but I couldn’t,” he said.
The two other renters managed to get out of the home, he said. But the woman and her son, who used a wheelchair, did not.
Flames and smoke poured out of most, if not all, of the homes’ windows, county fire Capt. Brian Jordan said. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze.
Once the fire was out, firefighters discovered the bodies, Tuinstra said.
The two renters who got out of the home were taken to a hospital with apparently minor injuries, the captain said.
The fifth resident of the home, Marin, suffered no injuries.
“There was smoke all the way down the street,” neighbor Ray Martin said.
“The fire department got here and just knocked it down in a hurry,” he added.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, investigators found nothing suspicious at the scene, sheriff’s officials said.
“Though it’s under investigation, it appears accidental,” Jordan said.
A scorched wheelchair, the handset from a wireless home telephone and eight oxygen canisters sat in the front yard of the home Sunday. One of the canisters had ruptured in half.
The fire was first reported by a neighbor, Jordan said. The home had no working smoke alarms and was equipped with security bars on its windows.
Marin said he’d known Bob Kopp for more than a decade.
Bob Kopp took care of his mother, Marin said. “He was a nice guy.”
Marin was caring for Bob Kopp’s pet cat and cockatiel until animal control officials could make permanent arrangements for the animals.
Fire officials estimated the fire caused $700,000 worth of damage.
The Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail was handling the investigation, and anyone with information was asked to contact investigators at 323-881-7500.
ALTADENA >> A man is accused making threats and firing a gun into the ceiling of an Altadena bar Saturday night, officials said.
Deputies arrested Freddy Flores, 51, on suspicion of making criminal threats, negligent discharge of a firearm and drunken driving following the shooting, which took place just before midnight at the Altadena Ale & Wine House, 2329 Fair Oaks Avenue, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
Flores hometown was not available, however he was believed to be something of a regular at the bar, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Randy Tuinstra said.
Flores made threats and pulled a revolver, firing three shots into the ceiling, the lieutenant said. He then left the bar and drove off.
It was unclear what precipitated the shooting.
Deputies responding to reports of the shooting found Flores driving nearby and pulled him over, Tuinstra said. “He appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.”
Deputies recovered a revolver from Flores with three fired shell casings still in the cylinder, he said.
According to county booking records, Flores was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court.
PASADENA >> Officials on Wednesday postponed the arraignment hearing for a man accused of stabbing and beating his grandmother at the family home in Altadena last week as the court examines whether the 22-year-old suspect is mentally competent to stand trial, officials said.
Alexander Touloudjian is accused of repeatedly stabbing his 77-year-old grandmother and striking her in the head with an ax handle late Friday at the home they share in the 1700 block of North Allen Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. The woman suffered major injuries but was expected to survive. A motive in the attack was not known.
Touloudjian appeared in Pasadena Superior Court Wednesday to answer to a charge of attempted murder, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. He is also accused of the special allegations that his victim suffered great bodily injury, and that he personally used a deadly weapon in the crime.
But the suspect entered no plea, court officials said. Instead, the defense declared there was a doubt as to Touloudjian’s mental competency to stand trial.
A mental competency hearing was scheduled for March 25 at the Mental Health Courthouse, officials said.
Initially held in lieu of $30,000 bail, Touloudjian’s bail was increased Wednesday to $1.07 million, according to court officials and county booking records.