BALDWIN PARK >> Sheriff’s SWAT deputies conducted a search operation in Baldwin Park Sunday in connection to the shooting of a West Covina police officer over the weekend as the wounded officer was released from the hospital, authorities said.
The manhunt began immediately after Friday’s 11:20 p.m. gunfight between a West Covina officer and 47-year-old suspect Jose Luis Chavez Friday on Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street in West Covina.
Police officers and deputies from throughout the region searched the neighborhood en masse in the hours following the shooting, but came up empty-handed.
But the investigation continued, ultimately leading officials to a home in the area of Durness Street and Vineland Avenue in Baldwin Park on Sunday, where heavily armed and specially trained deputies from the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau conducted a search for the suspect, according to sheriff’s and Baldwin Park police officials.
Authorities announced the search was concluded about 6 p.m., but the suspect remained at large.
“We are actively investigating and searching for this suspect,” Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said. “He is armed and dangerous.”
Meanwhile, the injured officer was recovering well after suffering a through-and-through wound to his abdomen, West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
“Our officer was released from the hospital this afternoon and is home resting,” the chief said via Twitter.
The officer approached Chavez, who was riding a bicycle, when Chavez began shooting, according to Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The officer was struck in the torso but returned fire, officials said. It was unclear whether Chavez was wounded before he fled the scene and escaped.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is spearheading the investigation, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTOS [Above] – Baldwin Park search operation on Sunday, May 22, 2016. (Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departrment) [Below] – Shooting suspect Jose Luis Chavez, 47. (Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
BALDWIN PARK >> The California Highway Patrol is inviting young drivers and their parents to take part in a free, two-hour class geared to improve safety on the road.
The “Start Smart” class will be held from 6:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday at the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office, 14039 Francisquito Ave., according to CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez.
“The primary objective of this program is to provide teens between the ages of 15 and 19 with an interactive safe driving awareness class to illustrate how poor choices behind the wheel can tragically impact many lives,” Jimenez said.
“Officers will demonstrate with the use of videos and pictures how poor choices behind the wheel can lead to tragic consequences,” he said.
Instructors will also discuss collision avoidance techniques and other aspects of safe driving.
“The class is powerful and receives excellent reviews,” Jimenez said. Parents or guardians are required to attend along with their children.
Seating is limited and early reservations are recommended. To RSVP, email Officer Jimenez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EL MONTE >> A domestic violence suspect “erratically” driving a stolen car led El Monte police on a chase before crashing in Baldwin Park late Saturday, officials said.
Cesar Antonio Bobadilla, 23, of El Monte was ultimately booked on suspicion of domestic violence, auto theft, evading police, hit-and-run and resisting arrest following the chase, which began about 7:55 p.m., El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said in a written statement.
El Monte police had been seeking him in connection with an alleged April 16 battery on his girlfriend when officers spotted him driving a Black Acura Integra at Parkway Drive and Elliot Avenue, Luna said.
“The officer attempted a traffic stop of Bobadilla where upon Bobadilla accelerated his vehicle at a high rate of speed and fled. A vehicle pursuit ensued throughout the City of El Monte and then into the City of Baldwin Park,” Luna said.
“Bobadilla drove erratically, lost control of his vehicle and collided into a tree at the intersection of Los Angeles St. and Bresee Ave. (in) Baldwin Park,” the sergeant said.
The suspect ran from the crash, but was soon found hiding in a residential backyard in the 13900 block of Belgate Street, police said. The Acura he had been driving was found to have been reported stolen.
Officials took Bobadilla to a hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the crash before booking him into jail.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, he was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
BOOKING PHOTO of Cesar Antonio Bobadilla, 23, of El Monte. (Courtesy, El Monte Police Department)
BALDWIN PARK >> A bicyclist suffered major injuries when he was involved in a collision with a UPS truck along Baldwin Park Boulevard on Friday, authorities said.
The collision took place about 5:50 p.m. in the 1100 block of Baldwin Park Boulevard, in front of a UPS facility just south of the 10 Freeway, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Darryl Kosaka said.
The big rig was pulling into a driveway when it struck the bicyclist, who was traveling along the boulevard, he said.
Paramedics took the badly injured cyclist to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.
The investigation is ongoing. No further details were available Saturday afternoon.
BALDWIN PARK >> A judge sentenced a West Covina man to more than a quarter-century in prison Thursday for the 2013 murder a transgender woman at a Baldwin Park motel, officials said.
A Pomona Superior Court jury convicted Stephen Gonzales, 30, of first-degree murder in January of the Sept. 9, 2013, beating death of 26-year-old Melody Smith at a motel in Baldwin Park where she had been staying. The victim was listed in coroner’s records under birth name of Vanhxay Inthichack.
At his sentencing Thursday, Pomona Superior Court Judge Robert Martinez sentenced Gonzales to 26 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors alleged Gonzales killed Smith during a robbery, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
But the jury acquitted Gonzales of a robbery charge, and also found untrue the special circumstance allegation of murder during the coarse of a robbery, officials said. Gonzales was convicted of an additional count of petty theft.
PHOTO: Melody Smith (Courtesy)
IRWINDALE >> Authorities Thursday released the identity of a motorcyclist from Rosemead killed in a collision with an alleged drunken driver earlier this month.
Maximiliano Michel, 29, died following the crash, which took place about 9:15 p.m. on Feb. 5 at Longden and Myrtle avenues, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said. His identification was delayed as coroner’s investigators worked to notify family members.
An autopsy determined Michel died from “traumatic injuries,” and the death was ruled an accident, according to the coroner’s office.
Michel was riding a 2009 Yamaha motorcycle north on Myrtle Avenue as a 2008 Chevrolet Malibu was turning left from southbound Myrtle Avenue onto eastbound Longden Avenue, according to Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas. the vehicles collided in the intersection.
Officers rushed Michel to a hospital, where he died a short time later, officials said.
The driver of the Chevrolet, 23-year-old Pamela Ramirez of Baldwin Park, was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI after officers determined she was under the influence of alcohol, police said.
County booking records show Ramirez was released from jail pending her initial court appearance two days after the crash after posting $100,000 bail.
BALDWIN PARK >> A jury Friday convicted a West Covina man of the murder of a 26-year-old transgender woman who was ound beaten to death in a Baldwin Park motel in 2013.
A Pomona Superior Court Jury found Stephen Gonzales, 30, guilty of the first-degree murder of the victim known to loved ones as Melony Smith. She was listed by coroner’s officials under birth name, Vanhxay Inthichack.
Smith’s body was found about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, 2013, inside her room at a motel in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials.
The jury found Gonzales not guilty of robbing Smith, though they did convict Gonzales of the lesser offense of petty theft, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The jury also did not find true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of robbery, which would have made Gonzales eligible for capital punishment.
Despite the jury’s decision not to convict Gonzales of robbery, prosecutors believe that was motive in the killing, Ardalani said.
“Our office believes Gonzales wanted to rob the victim of her property,” Ardalani said.
Leticia Alvarado, who worked at the motel where Smith was staying on-and-off for about a year, said she became close friends with the “funny and outgoing” Smith, who she called, “sister.”
Smith, who moved away from home at age 16 because her family disapproved of her lifestyle, graduated Sierra Vista High School and worked for security company, Alvarado said shortly after the slaying.
Another friend of Smith’s, Misty Vale, said her friend had been saving up money to buy a car and planned to return to school to become a dental hygienist.
Gonzales faces a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing Feb. 11, Ardalani said.
PHOTO: Melony Smith, 26. (Courtesy)
BALDWIN PARK >> Police are seeking a man who shot and seriously wounded a woman as she sat in her car in the parking lot of a Baldwin Park liquor store early Saturday.
Officers responded to a report of “shots fired” about 1 a.m. and found gold, four-door sedan that had crashed into a block wall along the surrounding and old rock quarry pit at Azusa Canyon Road and Olive Street, Baldwin Park police Lt. Shawn Blackburn said.
Police soon discovered the female driver had been shot, the lieutenant said. It appeared she was shot while sitting in her car in the parking lot of a nearby liquor store before her car lurched forward, crossed Olive Street and crashed into the wall.
Paramedics took the woman to a hospital where she was listed in critical-but-stable condition, he said.
A detailed suspect description was not available, nor were further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting.
BALDWIN PARK >> An Al Monte gang member who was accidentally released from custody, then-recaptured in Mexico, while awaiting trial for two separate Baldwin Park shootings received a lifetime prison sentence last week, authorities said.
A Pomona Superior Court jury convicted Johnny Mata, 34, of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in August, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. The jurors hung on additional charges of murder, and a second county of possession of a firearm by a felon. Prosecutors were yet to decide whether to seek a retrial for Mata on those counts.
Judge Thomas C. Falls sentenced Mata Friday to life in prison, plus 25 years behind bars, Ardalani said.
Mata, along with Jesus Arroyo Lule, 34, of El Monte and Christina Montenegro, 27, were initially arrested in connection a n allegedly gang-related shooting that left 34-year-old David Anthony Deanda of Baldwin Park dead on Christmas Eve, 2010, in the 13200 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles county sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said.
Lule pleaded “no contest” to a charge of voluntary manslaughter in 2014 for Deanda’s slaying and is scheduled to be sentenced by Pomona Superior Court Judge Mike Camacho on Jan. 29, Ardalani said. A charge of attempted murder was dismissed as part of the plea arrangement.
Montenegro pleaded no contest to a charge of forgery in July of 2013, Ardalani said. A murder charge was dismissed, and Montenegro was sentenced to three years in county jail. Records indicate she has since served her time and been released.
Deanda, a welder, was survived by his wife, a son, a daughter and a stepdaughter, family said.
District attorney’s officials declined to discuss the details of Deanda’s slaying pending the potential second murder trial to come.
Mata’s defense attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Though the jury failed to reach a verdict in the murder case, they convicted Mata of charges related to a second, separate shooting on April 21, 2012, in Baldwin Park.
Mata, described by authorities as an El Monte gang member, opened fire on a rival gang member in front of the victim’s home in Baldwin Park, Ardalani said. The intended target was not struck by the gunfire.
As he awaited trial, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials accidentally released Mata on April 4, 2013, as a result of what sheriff’s officials described as a clerical error. The erroneous release at the sheriff’s Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles occurred after a judge had dismissed an attempted murder charge against Mata, but not other charges, including murder.
El Monte police initially arrested Mata in May of 2012 after he ran from a stolen car, according to El Monte police Lt. David Vautrin.
Following his improper release by sheriff’s officials
After spending more than a year as a fugitive, Mexican authorities, aided by American investigators, found and re-captured Mata in Mexico in May of 2014 and returned him to the U.S. to face trial.
BALDWIN PARK >> A man was hospitalized in critical-but-stable condition with a gunshot wound and his wife suffered a severe facial injury after being pistol-whipped following what was believed to be an incident of domestic violence in Baldwin Park early Saturday, police said.
A man driving a pickup truck flagged down a police officer about 12:30 a.m. at Maine Avenue and Ramona Boulevard and said that his brother had been shot, and was in the bed of the truck, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Shawn Blackburn said.
The driver sped off before providing more details, the sergeant said. Officers gave chase until the driver pulled over at Puente Avenue and Amar Road in the unincorporated county area of Bassett.
Police summoned paramedics to treat the gunshot victim, who had been shot in the abdomen, Blackburn said. He was hospitalized in critical-but-stable condition.
Officers arrested the wounded man’s 45-year-old brother on suspicion of evading police, he said.
About the same time, a woman arrived at a Baldwin Park emergency room with a severe facial injury apparently suffered while being struck with a handgun, Blackburn said. It was soon determined the injured woman is the wife of the man who had been shot.
Detectives believed the violence was the result of a domestic dispute that occurred in a residential neighborhood in the area of Feather Avenue and Macdevitt Street in Baldwin Park, police said.
Neither the husband or wife had been arrested Saturday as the investigation continued into exactly what took place, Blackburn said.
The shooting victim’s brother remained jailed in lieu of $75,000 bail Saturday afternoon, Los Angeles County booking records show.
Officials continued investigating the intentions of the wounded man’s brother, including whether he may have been trying to seek help for his wounded brother when he led police on the chase, Blackburn added.