Transient accused of smashing windows of Foothill Blvd. business, causing $6,000 in damage

AZUSA >> A 32-year-old transient was behind bars Friday after smashing out the windows of a Foothill Boulevard business with rocks earlier in the week, causing $6,000 worth of damage, police said.
David Firestine was arrested on suspicion of felony vandalism in connection with the incident, Azusa police Sgt. Xavier Torres said in a written statement.
Police responded shortly after 6 p.m. to a report of someone throwing rocks through the windows of a furniture business in the 900 block of West Foothill Boulevard, officials said.
“When officers inspected the business, they found that nearly all the windows to the business had been broken, including the two front glass doors,” Torres said. “Several large rocks were found inside the business. The damage was estimated to be approximately $6,000.”
Six windows on two floors were smashed, in addition to the front doors, Sgt. John Madaloni said
No one was inside the building when the vandalism occurred, Torres added. “The motive for the vandalism is not known.”
Officers quickly found Firestine in the area and arrested him on connection with the crime, police said.
He was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending his initial appearance in West Covina Superior Court.

Police: Missing APU student found safe at Azusa motel

AZUSA — A 19-year-old Azusa Pacific University freshman who’s been missing since Friday was found Wednesday evening at a motel where he had checked in, authorities said.
Christian Lee Hazel was found unharmed and in good health about 6:30 p.m. at an Azusa motel, Azusa police Sgt. Xavier Torres said. Police declined to say exactly what motel or described the circumstances of Hazel’s disappearance late Wednesday.
Hazel was taken to the home of a relative, where police interviewed him, the sergeant said.
He was believed to be missing of his own accord, and was not believed to be the victim of a crime, he added.
Hazel was supposed to move out of the dormitories at APU Friday and contact his grandfather to pick him up, said his mother, Joanne Fox.
His belongings were found in his dorm room and there were no signs of his credit card being used, his brother, Jesse Feldman said.
His cell phone was found plugged into an outlet in his room, his mother added.
Family members became worried about Hazel, who does not drunk or smoke, and was described as a shy, devout Christian. He had never disappeared unexpectedly before.

Nine arrested during police sweep of homeless camps in Azusa riverbed

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AZUSA — For the second time in two weeks, Azusa police visited a portion of the San Gabriel riverbed popular among transients as an illegal campground, authorities said. But while campers were merely advised that they were trespassing in the previous visit, police Wednesday made nine arrests.
Police and county officials previously visited the riverbed at the west end of Azusa April 9, Azusa police Officer Mike Bires said. Several encampments were discovered and the campers were offered services and told to clear out of the area, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of engineers.
One person initially accepted an offer of resources during the April 9 visit, but later refused the assistance, Bires said.
When authorities returned Wednesday,”Subjects that had been previously advised that it is illegal to trespass and camp in the riverbed were arrested,” Azusa police officials said in a written statement. Some also had pre-existing arrest warrants.
“All persons contacted during this operation were again provided information on resources for the homeless that are available to assist them in relocating out of the riverbed.”
The goal of the operations is to reduce trespassing and illegal camping in the riverbed in order to create a safer, cleaner environment for legal visitors, according to the police statement.
“Furthermore, there has been an increase in the number of brushfires in the area during the last several months and reducing the illegal camping will help to reduce the wildfire danger associated with the makeshift fire pits that are found in the illegal camps,” the statement continued.
Ecological damage and ground water contamination are also a concern, officials said.
Nine men between ages 43 and 64 were arrested on suspicion of trespassing Wednesday, police said. Three of them also had outstanding arrest warrants, and one of them was also accused of providing false information to a peace officer.

PHOTO courtesy of the Azusa Police Department

Suspect in Azusa bar shooting wounded by security guard

AZUSA — A security guard shot and wounded an assailant who shot and wounded another patron an a bar in an unincorporated county area near Azusa early Sunday, officials said.
The shooting broke out just after midnight at El Palenque, 17010 E Gladstone Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rebecca Rodriquez said.
“There was an argument between two males,” the sergeant said. It was not clear what the men argued about.
“The suspect shot the victim. He suffered a life-threatening injury that required emergency surgery,” Rodriquez said. The wounded man, whose age and city were not available, was hospitalized in critical condition with a wound to his abdomen.
The suspect tried to shoot at a security as he fled the bar, Rodriguez said. But the security guard fired on the gunman, striking him in the shoulder.
Officers arrived took the wounded suspect, described as a 33-year-old Azusa man, into custody without a struggle, the sergeant said. He was hospitalized with a wound not considered to be life-threatening. His name was not released Sunday afternoon pending booking on suspicion of attempted murder.
Rodriquez said the security guard was believed to have acted lawfully in the shooting.

Officials clear out homeless encampments along Azusa riverbed

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AZUSA — Authorities Wednesday visited the San Gabriel riverbed in Azusa to clear the area of transients and homeless encampments, police said.
The riverbed along the west end of the city is a popular illegal campsite for transients, Azusa police Officer Mike Bires said in a written statement.
“The Azusa Police Department has made numerous contacts with these individuals and advised them they were trespassing,” Bires said. Services have been offered, and some of the inhabitants have elected to take advantage of them and abandon their camps.
“The riverbed camps generally consist of altered landscape, tents, makeshift bathrooms, fire pits, smelting pits, (et cetera). The number of camps fluctuates, but there is constantly a large amount of trash and debris left in the riverbed by the trespassers.”

AZSWEEP2Police early Wednesday teamed with Los Angeles County Fire Department arson investigators, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and officers of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control to sweep through the area, officials said.
“Numerous occupied and abandoned encampments were located and several homeless subjects were contacted,” Bires said. “All subjects that were contacted were offered resources available to the homeless. Only one was interested in taking advantage of those resources. The remaining subjects were advised of trespassing laws and provided contact information for homeless resources should they reconsider the offer.”
In addition to creating a safer, cleaner environment for those who legally visit the area and protecting the area’s ecology, officials said fire safety was also a concern during Wednesday sweep.
AZSWEEP3“There has been an increase in the number of brushfires in the area during the last several months, and reducing the illegal camping will help to reduce the wildfire danger associated with the makeshift fire pits that are found in the illegal camps,” Bires said.
No arrests were made during the operation, he added, however authorities plan to keep a close eye on trespassing issued along the riverbed in the future.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Azusa Police Department

UPDATED — Officials: Man wounded by police after confronting officers with gun in Azusa

AZUSA >> Police shot and wounded a man late Friday who they said pointed a weapon at officers responding to a report of domestic violence.
The officer-involved shooting took place about 8:15 p.m. at a home in the 700 block of South Citrus Avenue, between Arrow Highway and Gladstone Street, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
Azusa police officers went to the home after receiving a call reporting domestic violence, Deputy Amber Smith of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau said in a written statement issued late Saturday.
“When they arrived, the suspect opened the door and pointed a handgun at them and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” she said. “The suspect was struck once in the upper torso. He was transported to a local hospital and is expected to survive.”
Authorities withheld the identity of the wounded suspect Sunday, and no further details were released.
An officer was heard exclaiming, “He’s got a gun,” over police radio just prior to the shooting.
Radio traffic also indicated that the suspect remained confrontational and combative, even after handcuffed.
“A handgun was recovered at the scene,” smith said. “Neither the officers or the second person at the residence were injured.”
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau are assisting Azusa police in the investigation.

UPDATED: Suspect found dead after 4-hour stand-off in Azusa

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AZUSA >> A four-hour SWAT stand-off at an Azusa condominium came to an end Sunday after authorities found the suspect dead.
Few details were initially available regarding the stand-off, which began shortly after 3 p.m. in the 800 block of Pepper Tree Drive, just east of Azusa Pacific University.
Initial reports and police radio traffic indicated a suspect had fled from police before breaking into a nearby home.
Police then received information that there may be a shotgun stored inside the home where the suspect was believed to be holed-up.
Officials evacuated surrounding homes, including those along the south side of Silver Maple Drive, and took tactical positions. Via Twitter, police asked people to refrain from posting photos of officers moving into position.
Police and news helicopters circled overhead as officials made continuous loudspeaker announcements into the home.
The suspect had reportedly suffered a cut to his arm while fleeing police, and was spotted unresponsive inside the condo.
Paramedics pronounced the suspect dead about 7:15 p.m., Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Michael Pittman said.
No description of the dead man was available, and no further details were released.

Officials inspect, cite massage parlors in Azusa

AZUSA — Acting on complaints from residents, police carried out compliance checks at six Azusa massage parlors Wednesday, issuing several citations but making no arrests, officials said.
Police joined with officials from Azusa code enforcement, the California Employment Development Department, the California Department of Industrial Relations, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Bureau’s licensing unit during the operation, Azusa police Lt. Mike Bertelsen said in a written statement.
“Azusa PD has received complaints that some massage parlors within the city may be offering sexual services to customers in addition to massages,” Bertelsen said. “After learning of the complaints, Azusa PD detectives solicited the help of outside agencies with specific expertise in massage parlor operations to develop and execute this administrative compliance detail.”
In addition to verifying that all local, county and state laws and regulations were being followed, police said officials were also seeking to determine whether any victims of human trafficking were associated with any of the massage parlors.
“No victims of human trafficking were located, however numerous citations were issued for violations of various Azusa municipal codes, along with workers compensation insurance or minimum wage violations, Bertelsen said. “Some of the businesses involved face fines of several thousand dollars each. These investigations are ongoing, so none of the businesses are being identified.”
Bertelsen said similar “administrative inspections” are likely to be held again in the future.

Police: Teenage graffiti vandals caught red-handed in Azusa

AZUSA >> Police arrested two teenage boys on suspicion of scrawling graffiti along the street and at a park Thursday after the young vandals were literally caught red-handed, officials said.
A witness called police about 7:15 p.m. to report seeing the teens using spraypaint to vandalize walls and sidewalks in the 400 block of South Pasadena Avenue, Azusa police officials said in a written statement.
Officers responded and encountered two Azusa boys, ages 14 and 15.
“As the police officers approached the juveniles, they saw one of them was holding a spray paint can in his hand, and both juveniles had the same color paint on their hands,” according to the police statement.
“A search of the area led officers to find fresh ‘tagging-style’ graffiti in red paint on a block wall and sidewalk in the 400 block S. Pasadena Ave.,” the statement continued. “Similar graffiti was also found at Gladstone Park.”
The teens admitted to the vandalism. and both were arrested and released to their parents with a written promise to appear in court, police added.
Officials encouraged anyone who witnesses vandalism to call the police. The city seeks restitution from convicted graffiti vandals and their parents to recoup the cost of the damage.

UPDATED — Welcome home: All mandatory evacuation orders lifted in foothills


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Authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders in Glendora and Azusa Sunday morning on the heels of a storm that destabilized the hillsides of the Colby Fire burn area and sent mud flowing through residential streets.
The last of the evacuation orders, which affected 10 homes along Ridge View Drive in Arcadia along the denuded hillsides of the recent Colby Fire, were lifted at 11:45 a.m., Azusa police officials announced in a written statement.
“Residents may return to their residences, according to the police statement.
Only one home at the northern end of Ridge View Drive in Azusa sustained structural damage from the slides, officials said.
EVACS2Dozens of city and county workers, along with firefighters, were busy clearing mud that had poured into the backyard of Ed Heinlein and his family. The mud reached nearly 5 feet thick at some points.
“There’s 100 tons of mud back here,” Heinlein said. “We’ve got mud and stuff in the back of the house.”
To prepare for the mass of mud that eventually barrelled down on his family’s home from a steep hillside, Heinlein said he knocked a hole in a block wall on the south side of his property to allow the water to flow through. And he placed the rubble into trash cans to build a levy on the other side of his property.
“It’s engineering 101 if you’re a local homeowner,” he quipped.
And while the effort helped with the mud flow, Heinlein said he was concerned the weight of the mass of mud and debris might compromise his home’s foundation.
And despite significant damage, Heinlein said it could have been far worse. He credited a grove of 5,000 avocado trees overlooking his home for preventing further disaster.
“It stopped boulders the size of cars,” he said. “It stopped all that nasty stuff. It’s a miracle.”
And the same avocado grove, which the owner heavily watered during the Colby Fire, helped protect Heinlein’s home from damage during the January wildfire, he said.
A basketball hoop that previously stood at a regulation height of 10 feet emerged only about 5 feet from the mud Sunday morning.
Workers started the clean-up process by clearing mud 3 feet away from the periphery of the home, creating a trench. Both shovels and small earthmoving equipment were brought to bear on the mucky mess.
“This is really great,” Heinlein said of the dozens of city and county workers and officials who have helped him and his family deal with the storm damage.
“Mayor (Joe) Rocha left his church service to come down,” Heinlein said. “Council members were out here with shovels.”
Highway 39 within Azusa was also reopened Sunday morning, officials said, though travelers were urged to be cautious while using it due to possible mud or debris remaining in the roadway. The roadway remained closed leading into the Angeles National Forest.
In an act of community spirit, Max’s Mexican Cuisine in Azusa offered free dinner to evacuated residents of Ridge View Drive with proof of residence.
“City crews have been working diligently at removing the debris and mud which flowed onto Ridge View Drive,” according to the police statement. “They will continue to work aggressively at returning the neighborhood to it’s normal condition.”
Glendora officials downgraded the city’s alert status from red to yellow at 6 a.m., allowing displaced residents to return home. About 1,000 Glendora homes were under the evacuation orders.
“Rain-related parking restrictions are in effect,” Glendora police officials said in a written statement. “Residents are directed to remove vehicles, trash bins and other obstructions from the street.”
Trash service in the affected Glendora neighborhoods is to resume its usual schedule immediately, and mail service — which was stopped Friday and Saturday — will resume Monday, police and city officials said.
Authorities advised returning residents to examine their properties before entering, watch out for possible sinkholes in yards and be cautious while driving through the still-muddy and rock-strewn neighborhoods.
Residents with concerns involving mud or debris were encouraged to contact the Glendora Department of Public Works at 626-914-8246. City officials directed residents with other safety-related concerns to contact the Glendora Police Department.
Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers has asked that residents who collected the more than 50,000 sandbags distributed by the city during and prior to the storm to keep them. The bags may yet be necessary during future rains, as the barren hillsides may pose a mudslide risk for several years to come.
Evacuation orders for about 200 homes in Monrovia were lifted at 6 p.m. Saturday.
In Sierra Madre, the Mt. Wilson Trail remained off-limits for hikers as clean-up efforts continued Sunday.
“There are several areas of the trail that are dangerous due to rock slides,” city officials said in a written statement. “Authorities will be working on the trail the next few days to make it as safe as possible. Until then hikers should refrain from using the trail for everyone’s safety. The trail is officially closed until repairs can be made.”