San Gabriel Valley cops crack down on DUI over holiday weekend; Azusa police invite public along online

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LOS ANGELES COUNTY >> Police throughout the region will be cracking down on drunken and drugged drivers with checkpoints and extra enforcement this Labor Day weekend, with one inviting the public to tag along virtually online.
Whittier, Montebello, Arcadia and Azusa police are each planning checkpoints in their respective cities Friday night into early Saturday, according to the departments.
In Azusa, police will be broadcasting their anti-DUI efforts and answering questions from the public online via Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, Officer Mike Bires said.
Azusa’s “Tweet from the Beat” will take place from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, he said. Follow along at www.facebook.com/AzusaPD, www.twitter.com/azusapd or www.snapchat.com/add/azusapd.
“(Officers will) explain what happens during a traffic stop, share accident investigation information and highlight traffic safety concerns for the city of Azusa,” Azusa police said in a written statement. “In addition to this, the community will be able to ask questions live, while the officers are in the field.
The checkpoints are being funded by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Traffic Safety.

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Elderly man who went missing in Arcadia found safe

ARCADIA >> An elderly man from China who went missing in Arcadia while visiting family Thursday morning turned up safe Thursday night, police said.
Tong Huang, 78, was reported missing after he went for a walk in Arcadia and failed to return, Arcadia police officials said in a written statement. The senior, who speaks only Mandarin, was visiting family from China and had been in the U.S. for about a month.
But the search was called off after Huang was found safe and reunited with his family Thursday night, police said.
A good Samaritan spotted Huang at a Pasadena supermarket late Thursday and thought he appeared lost, Lt. Tom Cullen said.
The good Samaritan provided Huang with a ride home, he said. Once there, Huang’s family notified police that he had returned home safely.

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‘Baggy Eyes Bandit’ sought in 4-county bank robbery spree

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The FBI is seeking a possibly sleep deprived serial bank robber dubbed the “Baggy Eyes Bandit” in connection with a spate of six bank heists in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside counties dating back to late-February, officials said.
The bandit, who earned his nickname due to witnesses describing him as having “baggy eyes,” is linked to five bank robberies and one failed bank robbery, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
“The suspect known as the Baggy Eyes Bandit enters the bank branch and passes a note to the victim tellers demanding cash while threatening a weapon,” Eimiller said in a written statement. “No weapon has been seen by witnesses, however, the suspect should be considered potentially armed and dangerous.”
Each of the robberies took place at Citibank branches.
Eimiller said the serial robber has been linked to a robbery Wednesday at a Norco branch; an Aug. 4 robbery at a Chino Hills branch; a July 14 heist at a Rancho Cucamonga branch; a March 4 failed robbery in Arcadia; a March 4 robbery in Placentia and a Feb 29 robbery in Glendora.
In each case, the bandit was last seen fleeing on foot. No getaway car has been reported in connection with the crimes.
He’s described as a white man in hiss mid-20s, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, of thin build. He wears a dark baseball cap during the robberies, and some victims described him as having a Middle Eastern accent.
Anyone with information can reach the 24-hour tip line of the FBI’s Los Angeles office at 310-477-6565. Anyone who spots the bandit is urged to call 911.

PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI

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Elderly man visiting Arcadia from China reported missing

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ARCADIA >> Police are seeking a 78-year-old man visiting Arcadia from China who went for a walk and never returned Thursday morning.
Tong Huang was last seen about 7:30 a.m. on the area Huntington Drive and Sunset Boulevard, Arcadia police said in a written statement.
Huang, who is visiting family in Arcadia, has been in the U.S. for about a month and speaks only Mandarin, police said.
“Mr. Huang has been in the habit of taking a morning walk and did so this morning, however, did not return as usual,” according to the police statement. “He has no money, no phone, and no destination other than the Arcadia relatives. Mr. Huang is in good health.”
He’s described as Asian, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 140 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a white shirt, gray pants and black shoes.
Anyone who spots Huang is asked to contact local law enforcement, or Arcadia police at 626-574-5123.

PHOTO of Tong Huang courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.

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UPDATED: Mercedes-Benz driver sought in hit-and-run that left Arcadia man critically injured


ARCADIA >> Police are seeking the driver of a Mercedes-Benz who struck and critically injured a 72-year-old Arcadia man, then fled the scene early Thursday, officials said.
The hit-and-run took place about 7:20 a.m. in the 600 block of West Camino Real Avenue, just east of Baldwin Avenue, according to Arcadia police Sgt. Kollin Cieadlo.
Roop Garg of Arcadia was hospitalized in critical condition at the Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, the sergeant said.
“Preliminary investigation revealed the suspect vehicle was traveling westbound on Capture1Camino Real Avenue when it struck a pedestrian walking westbound in the street,” Cieadlo said in a written statement.
The driver briefly stopped his car near Camino Real and Baldwin avenues.
“The driver exited and walked around his vehicle, ultimately getting back into his vehicle and fleeing south on Baldwin Avenue,” Cieadlo said.
Witnesses described the car as a white, newer-model Mercedes-Benz with paper license plates, police said.
The driver was an Asian man of about 70 years old, with gray hair. He was clean-shaven and wore short-sleeve shirt and slacks.
Anyone with information was urged to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5156 regarding case 16-4233. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO of suspect vehicle courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.

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‘Palm Tree Bandits’ linked to violent bank takeover robberies in Arcadia, San Marino, Santa Monica

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Recent takeover robberies at banks in Arcadia, San Marino and Santa Monica have been linked to a pair of serial robbers the FBI has dubbed, “The Palm Tree Bandits,” authorities said Friday.
The robbers, who earned their moniker due to baseball caps emblazoned with palm tree logos they wore during the crimes, struck Thursday at a First Bank branch, 848 W. Duarte Road in Arcadia, as well as July 28 at a One West Bank at 900 Huntington Drive in San Marino, and July 18 at a Banc of California at 2635 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, FBI officials said in a written statement.
The FBI described the crimes as “violent takeover robberies.”
0806_NWS_PSN-L-BANDITS2“They are considered armed and dangerous,” according to the FBI statement. “At least one suspect brandishes a handgun during the robberies.”
In Thursday’s robbery in Arcadia, the robbers donned surgical masks, latex gloves and orange construction vests during the heist. In other robberies, the robbers’ faces were uncovered and recorded by bank surveillance cameras.
Both robbers were armed with handguns during the Arcadia crime, Lt. Tom Cullen said.
In the San Marino robbery, only one of the robbers was seen with a gun, San Marino police Detective Brian Wong said. The suspect fled the area in a red SUV.
0806_NWS_PSN-L-BANDITS4The FBI has teamed with Arcadia, San Marino and Santa Monica police in the investigation.
Officials described the bandits as two black men between 20 and 30 years old.
One is about 5 feet 9 inches tall and of thin build. The second robber is of heavy build.
Anyone with information is asked to contact local police, or the FBI’s 24-hour Los Angeles-area tip line at 310-477-6565.

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PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI

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Masked men rob Arcadia bank


ARCADIA >> Two men wearing surgical masks and orange construction vests robbed an Arcadia bank branch Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The heist took place about 1:15 p.m. at the First Bank, 848 W. Duarte Road, according to Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen.
Both robbers brandished handguns as they demanded cash from a teller and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash, the lieutenant said.
They were last seen running from the bank. No getaway car was seen.
Police described both robbers as black men, between 20 and 30 years old, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and of thin build. According to initial reports from the scene, they wore surgical style masks, latex gloves and orange construction-style vests.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Arcadia police at 626-674-5151 in reference to case 1604107. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Marine from Arcadia killed in Twentynine Palms jet fighter crash

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TWENTYNINE PALMS >> A jet fighter pilot killed in a crash during a training exercise in Twentynine Palms on Thursday has been identified as a 36-year-old Arcadia man, the U.S. Marines announced Saturday.
Third Marine Aircraft Wing pilot Maj. Richard “Stranger” Norton died in the F/A-18C Hornet crash, which took place about 10:30 a.m. Thursday near the Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, U.S. Marine Corps officials said in a written statement.
Norton was based out of Third Marine Aircraft Wing based in Miramar. He was a pilot in Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, Marine Aircraft Group 11.
Col. William Swan, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 11, offered his thoughts and prayers to Norton’s family.
“Losing Maj. Norton is a tremendous loss to the MAG-11 Team,” he said. “He was one of the best and brightest Hornet pilots our nation had to offer.”
Maj. Mark Wise, commanding general of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, also offered his condolences to the fallen Marine’s loved ones.
“Me heart goes out to our Marine’s family as we supported them through this difficult time,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Wise,
Norton had taken off from Miramar to conduct close air support as part of a pre-deployment training exercise when the crash occurred, according to the Marine Corps statement. The cause of the crash remained under investigation.
Norton was commissioned in the Marine Corps in March of 2005, officials said.
He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and he deployed multiple times to Japan, officials said.
He is a recipient of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, as well as the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star.

PHOTO of Maj. Richard Norton courtesy of the U.S. Marines.

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Suspect identified in slaying of San Dimas sandwich shop owner

"LASD Lieutenant David Coleman of the Homicide Bureau speaks during a press conference seeking the publicÕs assistance in locating the suspect involved in the murder of San Dimas Quiznos sandwich shop proprietor Pravin Patel that occurred on Tuesday, June 2 at 3:20 p.m. in the 1000 block of West Arrow Highway. Patel, was shot after being robbed at gunpoint in his restaurant. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune) "

“LASD Lieutenant David Coleman of the Homicide Bureau speaks during a press conference seeking the publicÕs assistance in locating the suspect involved in the murder of San Dimas Quiznos sandwich shop proprietor Pravin Patel that occurred on Tuesday, June 2 at 3:20 p.m. in the 1000 block of West Arrow Highway. Patel, was shot after being robbed at gunpoint in his restaurant. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

SAN DIMAS >> Homicide detectives have identified a man already in custody for a custody in connection with armored car robberies and the shooting of an armored car driver as the alleged gunman in the fatal shooting of a San Dimas sandwich shop owner in San Dimas last year, authorities announced Friday.
Sergey Gutsu, 24, is suspected in the June 2, 2015, slaying of Pravin “Peter” Patel during a robbery at the Quiznos shop Patel owned and operated at 1034 W. Arrow Highway in San Dimas, Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
He is already in custody in Sonoma County, where he and alleged accomplice Ivan Morales, 24, are accused of shooting an armored car driver during a robbery in Windsor on Tuesday, then fired shots at deputies during a chase that preceded their ultimate arrests, according to Sonoma and Los Angeles county sheriff’s officials.
“During the course of the investigation, “(Violent Crimes Investigation Unit) detectives developed information that Gutsu and Morales were likely involved in other crimes throughout the state,” Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said in a written statement.
“Although we cannot divulge specific details of the investigations, we are confident that one or both are responsible for an armored car robbery in Granada Hills and a robbery/homicide in San Dimas.”
Los Angeles County homicide detectives met with Gutsu in Santa Rosa on Wednesday, officials said.
“During the interview, the suspect admitted to being involved in the murder of victim Patel,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Morales had not been linked to the San Dimas slaying, Corina said.
Q2In the San Dimas case, Patel was working behind the counter when a gunman robbed the sandwich shop, Lt. David Coleman of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said at the time.
Patel turned over the money from the register, amounting to no more than a few hundred dollars, when the robber threatened to shoot two customers inside the store, officials said.
But once the robber left, Patel followed him outside and became involved in a struggle with the robber, Corina said. The gunman opened fire, mortally wounding Patel.
Patel, 62, described by Coleman as a “loving, kind man,” worked alongside his wife at the family restaurant.
Authorities released a composite sketch of the killer and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of Patel’s killer. But the gunman remained elusive, and unidentified, until he implicated himself in the slaying on Tuesday, Corina said.
A gun seized from Gutsu at the time of his arrest in Sonoma County is of the same caliber used in Patel’s killing, Corina said. Forensic testing was pending to determined whether the weapons were one and the same.
Gutsu grew up in Arcadia, and more recently split his time between southern and northern California, Corina said.
According to Sonoma County booking records, Gutsu remains in custody without bail on charges of robbery attempted murder, along with special allegations that he personally used a gun.
The investigation into his alleged crimes in Los Angeles County and elsewhere remained ongoing, officials said.
“We’re still working our case and putting it together,” Corina said.

PHOTO of victim Pravin Patel, below (courtesy)

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Elderly couple robbed in their Arcadia home


ARCADIA >> A burglary turned into a robbery late Tuesday after an elderly couple awoke to find three intruders in their bedroom demanding valuables, police said.
The crime took place about 10:55 p.m. in the 500 block of West Live Oak Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. Kirk Pedersen said in a written statement.
Two elderly victims were home sleeping when they awoke to three suspects in their bedroom,” Pederson said. “The suspects demanded cash and jewelry.”
No weapons were seen.
The intruders fled the home with an undetermined amount of money and jewelry, Lt. Colleen Flores said. It was determined they had entered the home through an unlocked rear sliding door.
The victims, who were in there 70s and 80s, suffered “minor injuries” during the incident, though it was not initially clear how they were hurt, officials added.
Police described the robbers as three men between 20 and 30 years old.
One had a dark complexion, stood about 5 feet 5 inches tall, was of thin build, and wore a hooded sweat shirt. The two additional robbers were further described as wearing dark clothing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Arcadia police as 626-574-5151 in reference to case 1603602. Tips may also be subm9itted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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