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.
ARCADIA >> Police responded en mass to a report of a shooting inside an Arcadia apartment Friday, but ultimately forced their way into the home to find it empty, officials said.
The incident began about 1:20 p.m. when officials received a third-hand report of a shooting at an apartment in the 800 block of Arcadia Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. John Bonomo said.
A person called a television news station and said he had just shot his grandmother inside the apartment, the sergeant said. The TV station notified Pasadena police of the call, and Pasadena officials notified their counterparts in Arcadia.
Police surrounded the home and took tactical positions with rifles at the ready.
After a little more than two hours, police used a battering ram to force their way through the front door.
Officers found no one inside the home, which was secured with a burglar alarm when police entered.
“Officers were ultimately able to make contact with the people who lived there. This was determined to have been a falsely reported crime,” according to Lt. Tom Cullen.
Bonomo said the motive behind the call, which was believed to have been made from a pre-paid cell phone, remained under investigation, along with the identity of the caller.
ARCADIA >> A suspicious package caused a stir at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia Thursday afternoon before officials ultimately found to be harmless box of equipment left behind by an electrical contractor, authorities said.
The box was first reported to officials about 3:30 p.m. at the arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Avenue, Deputy Johnny Jones of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Parks Bureau said.
Officials cordoned off the area and shut down nearby roads, including Baldwin Avenue, with help from Arcadia police, Jones said.
Officials determined the item was a box with wires protruding from it that had been left behind by a contractor who recently made electrical repairs, Jones said.
Officials sounded the all-clear about 5:20 p.m.
ARCADIA >> A group of attackers beat up and robbed a skateboarder early Saturday in an Arcadia alley, police said.
The four robbers confronted a 19-year-old Monrovia man about 2 a.m. as he was riding a skateboard in an alley along the 100 block of East Huntington Drive, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said.
They punched the victim and stole a gold ring from him before fleeing, the lieutenant said.
The victim suffered injuries to his face and was taken to a hospital for treatment, he said. The injuries were not believed to be serious.
Police described on of the robbers as a Latino man between 30 and 35 years old, about 6 feet 3 inches tall, 230 pounds and wearing dark clothing. A detailed description of his three male accomplices was not available.
SAN MARINO >> A residential break-in turned into a home-invasion and kidnapping after a homeowner and a friend walked in on two burglars Wednesday, police said Sunday.
The series of crimes began about noon Wednesday when a resident arrived home and encountered two burglars who were already inside, San Marino police officials said in a written statement. Police declined to say where in the city the crime took place.
“The two men kept the resident at knife point as they continued to search the home for valuables,” according the police statement. Money was stolen.
When a friend of the victim arrived at the home a short time later, the robbers turned their attention to him, officials said.
“The two suspects kidnapped the family friend and forced him to take him to his house in Arcadia,” the police statement said.
The Arcadia home was in the 1000 block of South Sixth Street, according to Arcadia police Sgt. John Bonomo.
The robbers stole an undisclosed amount of cash before fleeing the Arcadia home, officials said.
No significant injuries were reported as a result of the crimes, police said.
A detailed suspect description was not available, and no further details were released.
ARCADIA >> Police jailed three allegedly impaired drivers during a checkpoint in Arcadia late Saturday, officials said.
The checkpoint was held on Santa Anita Avenue near St. Joseph Street, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, while another seven were cited for driving without licenses, and one was cited for driving with a suspended license, the lieutenant said.
Police stored three cars for one day, and one car was impounded for 30 days, he added.
Funding for the checkpoint was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
For the second time in two weeks, Arcadia residents found themselves face to face with armed robbers inside their homes.
Three robbers forced their way into a home in the 1000 block North First Avenue about noon Tuesday.
Home-invasion robbers barged into another home shortly before 11 p.m. Aug. 15 about three miles away in the 600 block of West Lemon Avenue. The frightened family members climbed out a second-floor window of their home and jumped from the roof to escape the robbers.
Three robbers were believed to be involved in both crimes, however their descriptions differed.
Both cases are being investigated by the Arcadia Police Department.
ARCADIA >> A family of three escaped from a home-invasion robbery late Friday by jumping from the roof of their Arcadia home, officials said.
A man and wife estimated to be in their 50s and their son, estimated to be in his 20s, were inside a home in the 600 block of West Lemon Avenue when three robbers broke into the home through an unlocked rear window shortly before 11 p.m., according to Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro.
The victims saw two of the robbers, but only heard the third, he said. One of the robbers brandished a dark-colored handgun.
“The suspects took the victims to an upstairs bedroom where they were forced to lie face down on the floor,” Castro said. “One of the suspects held the victims at gunpoint while the other two ransacked the house.”
But the gunman became distracted while talking to his accomplices, and the family saw their opportunity to escape, Castro said.
“When the suspect was not watching, the victims got up, raced to the window, pushed out the screen and jumped onto the roof. The victims then jumped from the roof to the front yard where they were screaming for help.”
Neighbors called 9-1-1 after hearing the screams, Castro said. Police searched the area but did not find the robbers, who were believed to have fled out of the back of the home, Castro said.
Two of the victims were hurt jumping from the roof, Castro said. The husband suffered an injury to his leg and possibly a broken bone, while his wife suffered apparently minor injuries, the lieutenant said.
The son suffered injuries described as bumps and bruises.
The two robbers who were seen by the victims were described only as two black men, one wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and the other wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.
Because the home was ransacked and the homeowners were hospitalized, it was not clear what the robbers stole during the break-in, Castro said.
No one appeared to be home at the house Saturday afternoon.
There was no apparent reason the robbers targeted the family, Castro said.
A sign on the front lawn indicated the home is protected by a burglar alarm.
A married couple that lives nearby, who asked that their names not be published for fear of retaliation, said they were watching TV when the robbery occurred and heard nothing out of the ordinary until they noticed police outside.
“We locked the doors and set the alarm,” the wife said.
The couple said they only knew the residents of the home from brief greetings in the neighborhood.
“It’s terrible,” the wife said. After two decades of relative tranquility in the area, the woman said it seemed crime has been creeping closer and closer over the past two to three years.
“We’re thinking about installing metal bars on our windows,” the husband said.
Jose Antonio Parra, a 35-year-old father of three, died after he was shot during a Dec. 12. 2011, home-invasion robbery about two miles away, in the in the 11000 block of Kristi Court. A robber or robbers confronted Parra and his family when they arrived home and robbed them of their rent money, investigators said. The robber then forced Parra’s girlfriend and three children into a bedroom before fatally shooting Parra.
Most recently in the San Gabriel Valley, a West Covina woman and her elderly mother became the victims of a home-invasion robbery July 6 in the 3000 block of Larkwood Street, according to West Covina police officials. The daughter was struck in the head during the crime and suffered a minor injury. The two robbers fled with cash, jewelry, electronics and a safe.
Anyone with information on Friday’s robbery in Arcadia was asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5150. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ARCADIA >> Police have placed a somber reminder to drive sober along the city’s main thoroughfare.
In partnership with Jan’s Towing, the Arcadia Police Department is displaying a mangled car that was involved in a fatal DUI-related crash along Huntington Drive, police officials said in a written statement. The goal of the educational project, dubbed the Safe Summer Campaign, is to remind motorists of the dangers and tragic, sometimes deadly consequences of intoxicated driving.
The wrecked vehicle was placed, along with banners encouraging sober driving, was placed on the center median of Huntington Drive just west of Gate 3 Thursday, and will remain in place for weekends through Aug. 18, police said.
“The hope is to grab the attention of passers-by, to make a lasting impression and to cause them to think twice before driving while impaired,” according to the police statement.
Two banners accompany the wreckage. One reads, “Don’t drink and drive,” while the other reads, “Arcadia Police Department Safe Summer Campaign.”
A box of brochures from Mothers Against Drunk Driving sits nearby.
Officials planned to reuse the display at Arcadia High School to educate students in the fall, officials said.
For more information, the Arcadia Police Department Traffic Bureau can be reached at 626-574-5475.
PHOTO courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department
AZUSA >> An Arcadia man died Sunday after his pickup truck struck a tree in Encanto Park in Azusa, authorities said.
The 57-year-old man died at a hospital following 1 p.m. crash on El Encanto Parkway, north of Huntington Drive, Arcadia police officials said in a written statement. His name was not released pending notification of family.
“The male had been driving a white Toyota Tacoma which appears to have collided into a tree, located in the south end of Encanto Park,” according to the police statement.
Paramedics treated the man and took him to the Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later, police said.
No other vehicles were believed to be involved in the crash, officials said. The cause remained under investigation by the Azusa Police Department Traffic Bureau.