FBI seeks ‘Dual Valley Bandit’ in string of bank robberies from Woodland Hills to South Pasadena

LOS ANGELES >> The FBI is seeking a serial bank robber they’ve dubbed “The Dual Valley Bandit” in connection with five robberies in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys in recent weeks.
The bandit, who earned his moniker due to he geography of his heists, is believed to be responsible for two bank robberies in Burbank and South Pasadena on May 15, and three more in North Hollywood, Woodland Hills and Tarzana on May 27, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
“During the robberies, the suspect passes a note demanding cash in several denominations and makes oral demands for cash as well,” Eimiller said in a written statement.
No weapon has been seen during the crimes, officials said.
The Dual Valley Bandit is described as a white man, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall, 170 to 180 pounds.
He had stubble during the robberies and was neatly dressed in casual clothing, including a baseball cap and Wayfarer-style sunglasses.
Anyone with information is urged to avoid direct contact with him and call 911 or the FBI’s 24-hour Los Angeles hotline at 888-226-8443. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.


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Bandit sought in bank robberies in South Pasadena, Burbank

Police and federal agents are hunting for a man who robbed banks in South Pasadena and Burbank on Wednesday afternoon.
The bandit first carried out a heist in Burbank about 4:20 p.m. before turning up at another bank branch 15 miles away in south Pasadena 45 minutes later, according to Burbank and South Pasadena police officials.
In both crimes, the robber handed tellers notes demanding cash, officials said. No weapons were seen during the robberies.
The first crime occurred at the U.S. Bank, 1750 W. Olive Ave., Burbank police Sgt. Derek Green said in a written statement.
“He approached a bank teller and passed a note demanding cash, threatening to harm people inside the bank if his demands were not met,” Green said. “Fearing for his safety and the safety of others, the bank teller provided the suspect with the money.”
Police said the robber was believed to have fled the area in a black Ford Flex with an undisclosed amount of cash.
The bandit then showed up shortly after 5 p.m. at a Wells Fargo branch, 1000 Fair Oaks Ave. in South Pasadena.
Again, the robber handed a teller a note demanding cash, South Pasadena police Sgt. Spencer Louie said.
The female teller handed over several thousand dollars, and the robber was last seen exiting the bank.
Police described the serial robbers a man, possibly of Armenian descent, of about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 200 pounds. He wore a white long-sleeve shirt, a gray baseball cap with a white stripe along the brim and aviator-style sunglasses. He had a short beard and mustache.
The Ford Flex seen in connection with the Burbank robbery was black, with a silver top, a moonroof and aluminum paneling on the sides.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Burbank police detectives at 818-238-3210 or South Pasadena police at 626-403-7270. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Burbank Police Department.

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UPDATED: Pasadena man jailed in connection with home-invasion robbery of elderly Burbank woman

Police jailed a Pasadena man Wednesday in connection with their investigation into the violent home-invasion robbery of an elderly Burbank woman last week, officials said.
Lonnie Garcia, 27, is accused of robbery and attempted murder Friday’s 8:22 p.m. home invasion targeting an 89-year-old woman in the 1000 block of Cornell Drive, Burbank police officials said in a written statement.
The investigation also led to the arrest of a second suspect, 40-year-old Eddie Baca, on suspicion of evading police and drug sales following a car chase Wendnesday afternoon, according to Pasadena and Burbank police.
While following up in the investigation into the home-invasion robbery, “Investigators developed leads which led them to the City of Pasadena,” according to the Burnank police statement. “The leads and investigatory work resulted in the arrest of a suspect in the home invasion robbery.”
Garcia was arrested about 5 p.m. and was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, Los Angeles County booking records show.
(Garcia) was recently released from prison and is currently supervised as part of California’s Realignment Program, known as AB109,” according to the Burbank police statement.
Pasadena police officers joined their counterparts from Burnank to carry out surveillance of the suspect, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
Baca led officers on a chase when they tried to pull him over, the lieutenant said.
The chase led to Del Mar Boulevard and Madre Street, where Baca was apprehended after crashing into another car at about 5 p.m. No significant injuries were reported as a result of the crash.
Baca was booked at the Burbank jail for evading police and drug sales, officials said. He was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.
In Friday’s home-invasion robbery, the elderly victim answered a knock at her door when the suspect — later identified as Baca — forced his way into her home, Burbank police said in a written statement.
“A struggle ensued, and the victim received some injuries, including abrasions and lacerations,” according to the statement. It was unclear what, if anything, was stolen in the crime.
The woman summoned help via her medical alert system, police added.

*This story has been updated from a previous version to reflect that Lonnie Garcia is accused of robbery and attempted murder, while Eddie Baca is accused of evading police and drug sales.

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Five ‘Courageous Citizens’ honored by D.A. for acts of heroism is Montebello, Alhambra, Burbank


Video by Walt Mancini
PASADENA >> Five “Courageous Citizens” who put themselves in danger to stop three different violent attacks in Montebello, Alhambra, and Burbank received awards Wednesday form the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
A man who intervened in the beating of an elderly man by an assailant half his age; two women who stopped a registered sex offender and lifelong felon from kidnapping a young woman; and two men who helped stop and capture a man who as he stabbed his ex-wife were the five “ordinary citizens” who District Attorney Jackie Lacey said showed uncommon courage in the face of violent crimes against strangers.
“We hope these stories will inspire others to do the right thing when the time calls,” Lacey told the Pasadena Rotary Club audience.
Telesforo Arellano Diaz, 58, of Montebello, received the Courageous Citizens Award for defending a 78-year-old man who was being severely beaten by an unprovoked attacker half his age, Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho said.
Richard Paul Garcia, then-39, attacked the victim as he collected recyclables from a Montebello dumpster near Washington Boulevard and Greenwood Avenue, Cho said. Garcia punched, kicked and struck the victim with a broomstick.
Diaz rushed to help, Cho said. Garcia attacked Diaz, biting him on the hand during the scuffle. But Diaz, with the help of two other good Samaritans, held Garcia until police arrived.
The victim suffered a broken hand, but no permanent injuries, Cho said. Without Diaz, “It could have been much worse.”
Diaz said he never thought twice about getting involved. “An old person like that, it could have been by father. It’s not right,” he said through a Spanish interpreter.
Jennifer Clark, 43, of Redondo Beach and Connie Tejada, 58, of Downey stopped by a Fremont Avenue Starbucks in Alhambra for coffee on Sept. 12, 2013, when they noticed a man yelling at a woman in her 20s as she sat in a car.
The man — later identified as Frank Hernandez, now-66, of Rosemead — had met the victim at his church and lured her to the coffee shop by telling her he had a gift for her, Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian said. He cut off his GPS tracking device before meeting the woman.
Hernandez brandished what appeared to be a revolver, forced his way into the woman’s car, threatened to kill her and pistol-whipped her, Ayvazian said.
As the terrified victim made eye contact with Clark, “She mouthed, ‘help me,’” Clark said. Clark then told the man, “She doesn’t want you here. You need to go away now.”
As the attacker fled, Tejada used her cell phone to take video footage of Hernandez and his license plate, which she promptly handed over to police, helping them promptly arrest Hernandez, officials said.
“We believe that she was going to be kidnapped, possibly worse, and these two women got involved and stopped that from happening,” Ayvazian said. If not for Clark and Tejada, “who knows what harm this innocent woman would have had to suffer? And another violent predator would be continuing to roam our streets.”
Francisco Godinez, 40, of South Gate and Zinobi Gerbs, 44, of Burbank were honored for intervening when they saw Trino Godinez, 47, attacking his ex-wife with a knife following a planned custody exchange at a Burbank gas station.
The woman ran from her car at a red light after the suspect hopped into the car, brandished a handgun and threatened the woman, Deputy District Attorney Melanie Buccat said. The attacker chased after her, stabbing her three times.
Frank Godinez leapt from his work truck to help and struck the knife-wielding attacker in the head with a wrench before he, Gerbs and an off-duty sheriff’s deputy subdued the man.

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San Gabriel man sentenced for fatal stabbing of Burbank man

PASADENA — A judge sentenced a San Gabriel man to 26 years to life in prison Wednesday for fatally stabbing a man more than 30 times near his Burbank home, officials said.
Jorge Ernesto Villalobos, 47, received his sentence from Pasadena Superior Court Judge Suzette Clover, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
A jury convicted him Dec. 19 of the first-degree murder of 47-year-old Glenn Giles, which took place Feb. 26, 2008, near Giles’ home in the 3000 block of Joaqin Drive in Burbank, officials said.
“Testimony during the trial revealed Villalobos had been keeping track of Giles before finally killing him because he was dating his former girlfriend,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Giles was stabbed 32 times, officials said.
“Giles was stabbed at his house, but managed to make it to his neighbor’s house before collapsing and dying,” the district attorney’s office statement said.
Villalobos was additionally ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution.

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FBI probe reveals problems reported in Burbank Police Department

From the Associated Press:

BURBANK — An FBI probe into allegations of excessive force at the Burbank Police Department reveals an agency beset by problems including accusations of racial discrimination and the suicide of a sergeant, according to a newspaper report Sunday.
The 166-officer force is so divided that newly appointed interim Chief Scott LaChasse has hired psychologists to help him come up with a corrective plan, a newspaper reported. Officers have accused colleagues of taking part in beatings and acting out of deeply entrenched racial bias.
The City Council has set aside more than $1 million to pay for policing experts to assess the department.
Federal prosecutors are scrutinizing several cases involving use of force against suspects, and have subpoenaed the department’s files relating to two cases.
One of those cases involved Neil Thomas Gunn Sr., a 22-year veteran of the force, who turned a 12-gauge shotgun on himself in October in a quiet hillside Burbank neighborhood. He left a note that said, “This is absolutely work related.”
Gunn was a sergeant in charge of the department’s Special Enforcement Detail, an elite unit responsible for making high-risk arrests — and one of several Burbank officers who are subjects of an FBI investigation into allegations of excessive force, the newspaper reported.
Gunn and another sergeant helped conduct searches of locations linked to suspects in a Dec. 28, 2007, restaurant robbery.
At the time, there were anonymous complaints of excessive force, but an internal probe found no substantiation for them. The case was reopened last spring when a detective told authorities that he had watched an officer grab a suspect by the throat and put a gun to his head while the suspect was sitting in a hallway in the police station waiting to be interviewed.
Meanwhile, lawsuits brought by members of the force allege minority officers in the department were taunted by white officers, passed over for promotions, denied backup and, in one case, threatened by a fellow officer at gunpoint.
City attorneys have denied the allegations.
Gunn’s wife, Tina, said her husband felt humiliated and betrayed by having his actions in the field second-guessed. Gunn believed he was being railroaded for having spoken out against the police leadership at police union meetings, his wife said.
He “felt like the fix was in,” she said, “that it didn’t matter what he said.”

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