Community mourns slain South Pasadena boy at memorial in Arcadia

ARCADIA >> hundreds of community members rallied around the family of a 5-year-old South Pasadena boy found dead, allegedly at the hands of his father, after going missing for two months.
At a memorial at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden provided an outlet for the community to mourn Aramazd “Piqui” Andressian Jr. one day after the young boy’s funeral.
Concerned neighbors from near and far, many of whom had no personal connection to Andressian Jr. or his family, joined in the relentless multi-county search for “Piqui” as the days stretched into weeks, and eventually months, with no sign of the child. And news that the boy had been found dead not only devastated the family, but elicited both sorrow and anger from the community members who also remained hopeful that Andressian Jr. would be found safe.
“He touched the lives of so many people and became everybody’s child,” said his mother, Ana Estevez.“The outpouring of prayers, love kindness and support is awe-inspiring. The support received has brought my family and me great comfort, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving my son,” the mother said.
The body of Andressian Jr. was discovered June 30 near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County, where he was believed to have been taken by his father, 35-year-old Andressian Sr. The father, who was in the midst of a divorce with his son’s mother when they boy vanished under suspicious circumstances in late-April, has since been arrested in Las Vegas and pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Los Angeles County.
Andressian Sr. is scheduled to appear Aug. 1 in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for a hearing in his case, records show. He’s being held in lieu of $10 million bail pending trial.
“I think of my son often,” Estevez said. “Piqui is the love of my life, today, tomorrow and always,” she said. “I’m so proud and honored that I was chosen to be his mama.”
Many of those gathered to mourn Andressian Jr. on Wednesday had a personal connection with the family.
Ernie and Gloria Preciado of Alhambra came to the event to show their respects. Ernie Preciado is a co-worker of Andressian Jr.’s uncle.
“We have a 5-year-old grandson that reminds me a lot of (Andressian Jr.),” he said.
A large number mourners had never known the family personally, but were nonetheless compelled to take an interest in their struggle.
Among them was Irene Carrillo of Valencia, who had a 6-year-old son.
“He just reminds me a lot of my boy,” she said. I just fell in love with the little boy, and I don’t even know him.”
Carrillo said she normally tries not to get personally involved in local news stories, but couldn’t help becoming wrapped up in Andressian Jr.’s case.
She said she made a shrine of candles at her home to pray for the little boy and his family.
In addition to sympathizing with a horrific situation affecting a local family, the University of Southern California’s National Center for School Crisis Bereavement Director Dr. David Schonfeld said there are psychological factors at play that affect the communities in the wake of tragedy.
While grief is generally considered to be a personal experience felt by those directly impacted by a loss, the community at-large can also experience a “shared experience of loss,” he said.
One phenomenon at play is that of, “the loss of the assumptive world,” he explained.
People rely on assumptions about the way the world should work in order to get through daily life, Schonfeld said. They range from assuming that other drivers will remain on the correct side of the road, to assuming that children are safe at school or with their parents.
“When we hear that one of those assumptions has been violated, even if it’s someone we don’t know, it affects us,” the doctor said. “It makes us realize that could happen to someone we care about. It makes us feel vulnerable.”
Following a tragedy that seemingly upends accepted assumptions, there’s a natural urge for community members to want to learn as much as they can about what took place, he said.
“They want to understand exactly what happened,” he said. There is often a sense that, “If I understand it better, I can protect myself and those I care about.”
Additionally, while many community members may not personally know a family affected by tragedy, it’s natural for people to identify with the pain of loss they’ve experience in their own lives.
“There is comfort in coming together as a group and as a community,” Schonfeld said.
The NCSCB, which specializes in dealing with crisis affecting students and schools, has published information to help parents and teachers speak with children about crisis and loss online at www.schoolcrisiscenter.org.
During Wednesday’s memorial service, loved ones shared happy memories of how Piqui had changed their lives for the better.
Uncle Shaun Estevez recounted his birth, his first holidays and other milestones.
“You still make my eyes water with joy and excitement, because I was blessed to be your uncle,” he said.
“In five years, you left a lifetime of memories,” the uncle said through tears. “I ask you for one favor my baby boy,” the uncle said through tears. “Please watch over my baby sister, your mama.
Other family members, family friends and Andressian Jr.’s school teachers lined up to eulogize the boy.
In addition to remembering the good times with Piqui, Ana Estevez also spoke of justice.
“His legacy is worthwhile. My son is worthwhile,” she said. “His death will not be in vain. There will be justice and accountability for Piqui, not only for the evil that caused this atrocity, but for the system and the individuals within the system that permitted this tragedy to happen. That is my promise to my son.”
She asked the community to keep her son in their thoughts, and not forget the lessons he taught.
“Please continue to love my son as I do, and always remember that one person can make a difference,” Estevez said.. “My son, a 5-year-old, made a difference in the lives of thousands. So in the spirit of Piqui, see you soon, alligator.”

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Police: Two boys injured, one severely, while setting of fireworks at park in Arcadia


ARCADIA >> A teenage boy suffered “severe” injuries and a second boy suffered minor injuries while setting off a firework at a park in Arcadia on Friday night, police said.
The incident was first reported about 8:05 p.m. as an explosion at Bonita Park, at Bonita Street and 2nd Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. Dan Crowther said.
Officials arrived to find two boys, ages 14 and 17, who had been injured by a firework, he said.
The younger boy suffered “severe” injuries to one of his hands, according to the sergeant. The older boy’s injuries were described as minor.
Both were taken to a hospital for treatment, Crowther said. An update on the badly injured boy’s condition was not available.
It was not clear exactly what type of firework was involved in the incident.

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VIDEO: Women use stun guns during robberies in Temple City, Arcadia


Three women shocked one security guard and threatened another with stun guns after they were caught stealing from two stores — in Temple City and Arcadia — within an hour Thursday night, authorities said.
The crimes unfolded about 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Temple City and Arcadia, respectively, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and Arcadia police officials.
“At this point, it appears they’re related,” sheriff’s Lt. Ronald Daily said.
The three women were first spotted trying to shoplift items from CVS Pharmacy, 5585 Rosemead Blvd., according to sheriff’s Lt. Robert Leyba.
One of the women headed for the makeup section and began filling a bag with items, while the other two stuffed their bags with more than $1,000 worth of hygiene products, such as soap and deodorant, the detective said.
When a security guard confronted them about the theft, one of them pulled a stun gun threatened him with it, sparking the electroshock weapon at him, he said. The women got into a red, four-door car with paper license plates, possibly a Kia or a Ford Focus, and sped away, Daily said.
The security guard was checked out by paramedics but did not wish to be taken to a hospital, officials said. He managed to snap a picture of the women as they got into their car and fled.
The three women were seen during the second crime at Vons, 745 E. Naomi Ave., according to Arcadia police Sgt. John Bonomo.
Again, a security guard approached them as they were stealing items from the store, the sergeant said. And once more, one of the women pulled a stun gun and shocked him with it.
The women were last seen fleeing the area in a red car, he added. The grocery store security guard also declined to be taken to a hospital.
In both cases, the suspects were described as black women wearing dark or black clothing. In the Temple City robbery, one of the two women seen was described as heavyset, according to Daily. The three women seen in the Arcadia caper were all described as being in their 30s, Bonomo said.
And investigators were looking into the possibility that the same crew of robbers may be responsible for additional crimes in the area, Leyba said.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple City Station at 626-285-7171, or the Arcadia police Department at 626-574-5151. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO/VIDEO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Masked men sought in Arcadia home-invasion robbery


ARCADIA >> A group of masked men forced their way into an Arcadia home, tied up the residents and ransacked the house before fleeing with valuables late Thursday, police said.
The crime unfolded about 11 p.m. in the 1000 block of Singing Wood Drive, Arcadia police Lt. John Bonomo said.
“On arrival, contact was made with the resident of the home who stated three, possibly four, masked men entered the home and tied them up,” according to the sergeant. One of the robbers carried a gun.
The me then ransacked the home and fled with valuables, he said.
“One of the bound victims was able to free themselves after the suspects fled and called for help,” Bonomo said.
One of the victims suffered a minor injury during the incident, but did not require medical treatment, he said. The nature of the injury was unclear, as was the number of victims and their ages.
No further description of the robbers was available.
Anyone with information can reach Arcadia police at 626-574-5151. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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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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UPDATED: Teenage robbery suspects shot by off-duty customs and border protection agent in Arcadia


ARCADIA >> An off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent shot two teenagers, killing one, after the boys allegedly attacked and tried to rob him in Arcadia late Friday, officials said.
The shooting took place about 8:15 p.m. in the area of Colorado Boulevard and 1st Avenue, Deputy Caroline Rodriguez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
The off-duty federal agent was walking down the sidewalk when three teenage boys attacked him from behind, she said in a written statement issued Sunday morning.
“One of the subjects hit him in the head several times while another subject pointed a handgun at the victim and demanded his property,” according to the statement. “The victim thought the subjects were going to rob and shoot him so he retrieved his department issued handgun. The victim shot at the subjects in an effort to defend himself.”
The suspect brandishing the handgun, a 15-year-old boy, as well as a second 14-year-old suspect were struck, officials said. The third teen, 14, ran away.
Both wounded teens were taken to an area hospital.
The 15-year-old suspect succumbed to his injuries just after 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Deputy Guillermina Saldana said. His identity was not available.
The wounded 14-year-old remained hospitalized with injuries described as non-life-threatening, Saldana said.
“The victim had some bruising to his face which did not require medical treatment,” Rodriguez said.
Police soon found the third suspect at a nearby home. He was booked on suspicion of robbery at Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles.
“The subject’s handgun was recovered at the scene,” Rodriguez said.
Arcadia police Lt. Vaughn Whalen declined to discuss the incident.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.
No further details were released.
The investigation is being led by detectives from the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. Anyone with information is urged 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.

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12-year-old boy shocks another child with stun gun in San Marino; police investigating Arcadia store that sold the device

SAN MARINO >> Police are investigating after a 12-year-old boy bought a stun gun at an Arcadia store, then used it to shock another child at a San Marino school campus last weekend, officials said.
Police learned of the situation Saturday evening, when a parent reported that a 12-year-old boy had shocked another child with a stun gun about 2:30 p.m. Saturday near the lunch tables near the basketball courts at Henry E. Huntington Middle School in San Marino, San Marino police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts said in a written statement.
“Officers contacted the parents of all the involved juveniles,” Tebbetts said. “Officers learned the juvenile who possessed the stun gun used it on another juvenile in a joking manner with no threatening intent.”
Meanwhile, the father of the boy who had the stun gun called police in Arcadia the following day to report his son had been sold the self-defense device, which are illegal for juveniles to possess, at a business in Arcadia.
The stun gun was purchased at As Seen On TV Products in the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall, authorities said.
Police met with the store owner, who admitted selling stun gun, which was disguised as a cell phone, to the child,” according to Tebbetts. “However, she stated she stated she did not realize it was illegal to sell the stun gun to a minor.”
The investigation was ongoing, the sergeant said. “Appropriate charges, if any, against the juvenile and store owner will be determined after the case is reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office.”
Stun guns are generally legal for adults to possess in California, but prohibited for juveniles.

PHOTOS courtesy of the San Marino Police Department

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Arcadia man accused of DUI, hit-and-run following Pasadena crash


PASADENA >> An Arcadia man in a pickup truck blew through a red light while drunk, injuring a man and girl in a crash, then fled the scene late Thursday, authorities said.
Steve DiMartino, 46, was booked on suspicion of felony drunken driving and felony hit-and-run following the 11:05 p.m. crash at Green Street and Lake Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
DiMartino was at the wheel of a pickup truck that ran a red light on eastbound Green Street at Lake Avenue and collided with a Honda sedan, according to the lieutenant.
The driver of the Honda, a man in his 30s, and his passenger, a young girl, both suffered non-life-threatening injuries, he said. The man appeared to have suffered head injuries, and the girl’s injuries were included a bruised lung and lacerations to her face.
The pickup truck fled the scene of the crash, police said.
An off-duty police officer spotted the damaged car soon after, driving in the area of Washington Boulevard and Holliston Avenue, Mercado said. He thought the freshly damaged truck looked suspicious and reported the sighting to on-duty police.
“On-duty officers responded to the scene, stopped the car and found that he was intoxicated,” Mercado said.
According to county booking records, DiMartino was released from jail Friday afternoon pending his initial court appearance after posting $100,000 bail.

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Arcadia theft suspect arrested following pursuit

A La Mirada man stole a GPS-laden “bait package” in Arcadia before leading police on a lengthy pursuit in a stolen car, then trying to hide inside a South Gate movie theater before being taken into custody on Thursday, authorities said.
Christopher Cook, 27, was ultimately arrested on suspicion of grand theft, auto theft and evading police following the incident, which began about 6:40 p.m.
“Arcadia police officers were dispatched to the 1600 block of Holly Avenue on a GPS package theft activation,” Arcadia police Lt. Vaughn Whalen said in a written statement.
Arcadia police regularly set out packages and bicycles equipped with GPS trackers to bust opportunistic thieves.
Police tracked the package to a parking lot in Hacienda Heights, where the suspect fled from officers in a Hyundai Sonata which was later determined to have been reported stolen, Whalen said.
Arcadia police soon cancelled the pursuit due to safety concerns, officials said. The fleeing car was speeding through red lights, and at times on the wrong side of the road, according to police radio traffic.
But officials continued following the suspect via helicopter, and California Highway Patrol officers resumed the chase on the westbound 60 Freeway.
The pursuit headed down the 60, 710 and 5 freeways before the suspect ditched his car in a parking structure near Garfield Avenue and Firestone Boulevard in South Gate and ran into a nearby movie theater as television news cameras broadcast live.
“Arcadia officers arrived at that location and with the assistance of multiple agencies, took the suspect into custody without incident,” Whalen said.
Officers could be seen in helicopter news footage escorting Cook from the theater in handcuffs about 9 p.m.

BOOKING PHOTO of Christopher Cook, 27, of La Mirada courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.

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Police: Man grabs sword and attacks employees at Arcadia karate studio, subdued by the martial artists


ARCADIA >> Police jailed an Altadena man who punched one person, then grabbed a sword from a karate studio and attacked three employees before being subdued by the martial artists and some good Samaritans, authorities said.
There was no apparent motive for the bizarre and unprovoked rampage, which unfolded just before 8 p.m. in the area of Huntington Drive and 1st Avenue, Arcadia police Lt. Vaughn Whalen said.
“The suspect entered a business in the 100 block of East Huntington Drive and punched an employee,” according to the lieutenant. “The suspect then entered a karate dojo in the same block and armed himself with a sheathed samurai sword from a display.”
He struck three employees of the karate studio with the sword while it was still sheathed, Whalen said said.
“He removed the sheath and swung the sword at the employees,” Whalen said. “The suspect then fled into a rear alley where the three employees and a couple of citizens held him down until officers arrived and took custody of him.”
Richard Sanchez, 24, of Altadena was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
No significant injuries were reported in the incident.

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