WEST COVINA >> Dozens of San Gabriel Valley first responders took part in a large-scale active shooter training scenario simulating a terrorist attack on a West Covina shopping mall Sunday.
Six local law enforcement agencies, federal officials and firefighters took part in the mock terror attack at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall, which was held early in the morning, before mall business opened for the day.
“We take the safety of our visitors and our residents very seriously,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said. “There have been several incidents that have happened on the east coast — one happened last week — that certainly have raised our awareness that we need to be prepared. And in my view, we need to be ready for something and hope it never happens, (rather) than to respond to something we weren’t prepared for.”
A blast from a flash-bang grenade intended to simulate a bomb detonation signalled the beginning of the intensive drill at the mall, where three West Covina police officers played the role of heavily armed gunmen bent on creating carnage. Within minutes, the sounds of simulated gunshots echoed through the mall as police engaged the mock terrorists in a gunfight.
Two of the pseudo suspects carried assault rifles, while the third carried a shotgun.
Participating first responders were not told ahead of time what they would be facing in the drill, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez explained.
“Each officer involved in this has to determine how to best handle the situation,” he said.
Police simultaneously hunted for the gunmen and rescued mock victims who wore makeup to simulate injuries. Some officers carried their standard duty sidearms, while others were armed with rifles.
Patrol officers called in a SWAT team after the attack turned into a hostage situation.
Practicing a technique known as “fast-roping,” West Covina police SWAT members slid down a rope from a hovering Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter to join in the operation.
The West Covina Police Department’s recently acquired rescue vehicle, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle acquired from the U.S. Department of Defense, was used to evacuate victims.
After a scenario that lasted about an hour, the three suspects had been killed in shoot-outs with officers. Three civilians had also been killed during the scenario, and many more wounded.
Police officers from West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park and Irwindale police departments were joined by California Highway Patrol officers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials, FBI agents, West Covina firefighters and mall security officials in responding to the mock attack, Lopez said. While West Covina has hosted similar training scenarios in the past, Sunday’s training session was their biggest.
About 75 law enforcement officers participated, along with about 60 volunteers playing the part of victims or bystanders, officials said. The volunteers were primarily police Explorers from the West Covina, Glendora and Ontario police departments.
“Whether this incident happens in West Covina, or happens in Irwindale or Covina, we’re familiar with working with each others’ team,” the chief said. “We might be in different uniforms, but in the end, we’re all in one uniform when it comes time to deal with a critical incident.”
After watching the exercise unfold at the mall, West Covina City Councilman Fred Sykes said he approved.
“A place this large, it’s unfathomable for us not to look at what to do in this type of situation,” he said.
The costs and planning associated with massive drill is a wise investment, as it may help save lives down the road, Sykes said.
“This is extremely important for our community,” the councilman said.
Just like in sports, he added, “The battles are won in practice.”
ROSEMEAD >> A Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer suffered minor injuries in a collision with a car, which fled the scene, on the 10 Freeway Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The crash took place at 4:43 p.m. on the eastbound Metro ExpressLanes of the 10 Freeway near Del Mar Avenue in Rosemead, California Highway Patrol Officer Alex Rubio said.
The car that struck the officer was described as a black Honda Civic or Toyota Camry, officials said. It was lowered, with custom rims, tinted windows and white lettering on the rear windshield.
The hit-and-run car was last seen exiting the 10 Freeway at Walnut Grove Avenue, just east of the crash scene, according to the CHP.
The Metro ExpressLanes of the eastbound 10 Freeway were briefly shut down following the collision, however the regular traffic lanes remained open, Rubio said.
The crash was being investigated by the East Los Angeles office of the CHP.
EAST LOS ANGELES >> A possibly suicidal person on an overpass today caused the complete shutdown of the 5 Freeway in East Los Angeles during rush hour Friday, wreaking havoc on the afternoon commute for nearly four hours, authorities said.
The individual, described only as male, was seen about 3:40 p.m. on a freeway traffic camera grasping a sign attached to the Downey Road overpass, just west of 710 Freeway transition, according to California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Count sheriff’s officials.
Deputies were treating the situation as a possible suicide attempt, and crisis negotiators responded to speak with the man, Sgt. R. Laflin of the sheriff’s East Los Angeles Station said.
“Our crisis negotiation team has made contact with him,” the sergeant said. No details were available regarding what the man was saying to officials.
Northbound Santa Ana Freeway traffic was being diverted onto the northbound 710 Freeway and southbound vehicles were being diverted onto Dittman Avenue, according to the California Highway Patrol. The transition road from the northbound Long Beach Freeway to the northbound Santa Ana Freeway was also closed.
Traffic backed up significantly on the 5 Freeway, as well as on the 710, as officials continued dealing with the situation three hours later. An air bag was placed on the freeway below the overpass as a precaution.
The man was safely brought down from the overpass shortly before 7:30 p.m., however further details were not available, Laflin said.
The sergeant could not confirm reports that the man may have been scrawling graffiti when first encountered by officials, and it was unclear if the man was to be arrested or taken for psychological evaluation.
The Sig Alert for the 5 Freeway was cancelled about 7:30 p.m.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
INDUSTRY — Two men and a woman died early Sunday after the car they were riding in went off the side of the 60 Freeway in Industry, landing in a construction site, authorities said.
The crash occurred just before 6:50 a.m. on the westbound 60 Freeway at Crossroads Parkway, California Highway Patrol Officer Monica Posada said.
A Kia Soul was traveling at an undetermined speed when it veered to the right of the road, and across the onramp and offramp for the westbound 60 Freeway, she said.
“The vehicle went off the freeway,” Posada said. “At some point, it went airborne and ended up in a construction site.”
The three occupants of the Kia were pronounced dead at the scene, officials said. They were initially described as two men and a woman in their 20s.
A Sig Alert remained in effect for several hours for the onramp and offramp to the westbound 60 Freeway as officers from the Santa Fe Springs office of the CHP conducted an investigation.
PHOTO courtesy of the CHP.
California Highway Patrol officials are planning a sobriety checkpoint Saturday night in an unincorporated county area near Industry, officials have announced.
The checkpoint will begin about 9 p.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location in the unincorporated county area near Industry, CHP officials said in a written statement.
Traffic volume permitting, all drivers that pass through the checkpoint will be checked by officers for sobriety, the statement said. If traffic volume becomes too heavy, officers will screen vehicle based on a pre-selected standard — such as every third vehicle or every 5th vehicle — to ensure objectivity.
Funding for Saturday’s checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A Dodge Magnum slammed into temporary supports holding up an in-progress overpass at the 5 and 710 freeways in Commerce early Saturday, killing the driver, injuring his passenger and forcing a closure of the northbound 5 Freeway that was expected to remain in effect throughout the day, authorities said.
All but one lane of the northbound 710 Freeway was also closed following the fatal solo-car crash took place at 2:02 a.m. on the northbound 5 Freeway, just south of the 710 Freeway, California Highway Patrol Officer Rommel Deguzman said in a written statement.
Jose Antonio Garcia, 34, of Compton died in the crash, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
His passenger, a 23-year-old Los Angeles man, was hospitalized with moderate injuries, Deguzman said.
The 2007 Dodge Magnum was traveling at an unknown speed approaching an ongoing construction project to expand the 710 Freeway over-crossing, according to the officer.
“For reasons currently under investigation, the driver left the roadway and proceeded through the raised gore point of the I-5 northbound to the I-710 northbound transition road. As a result, the vehicle collided with the temporary construction framing of the 710 over-crossing expansion project,” Deguzman said. “As a result of the impact, a combination of wood and metal framing material collapsed onto the vehicle, rendering it disabled.”
Paramedics pronounced the driver dead at the scene.
Northbound lanes of the 5 Freeway were shut down at Atlantic Boulevard as Caltrans contractors repaired the damage, along with the transition road connecting the southbound 710 Freeway to the southbound 5 Freeway, according to the CHP. All lanes of the northbound 710 Freeway were reopened about 4 p.m.
The closure was expected to remain in effect until at least 9 p.m.
Countless cars backed up for miles behind the closure Saturday afternoon.
Some drivers turned off their engines to save gasoline or prevent overheating as they sat for long periods without moving.
Alexis Sereg, 18, said she and her friends had spent about three hours on the northbound 5 Freeway en route to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and had moved “a couple miles.”
The traffic jam came at a particularly inopportune time for Farshad Kasiri, 18, of Anaheim and his family, who spend nearly three hours stuck in the gridlock as they tried to make their way to Downtown Los Angeles.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began Saturday, during which practicing Muslims traditionally refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours.
“We’re Muslim. We’re fasting. It’s really hot right now. We cant drink or eat anything,” Kasiri said with a smile.
PHOTO courtesy of Caltrans
ARCADIA — A gravel truck spilled its cargo on the 210 Freeway in Arcadia Wednesday, snarling afternoon traffic for hours, officials said.
The mishap occurred just after 3 p.m. on the westbound 210 Freeway, just east of Santa Anita Avenue, California Highway Patrol Officer Patrick Kimball said.
A truck spilled it’s load of tiny rocks into the roadway, initially blocking all lanes and damaging more than half-a-dozen other vehicles on the roadway, Kimball said. No injuries were reported.
Only the carpool and left lane of the freeway had been opened as of 4:45 p.m., he said.
A Sig Alert remained in effect on the freeway until all lanes were cleared shortly before 6 p.m., according to CHP logs.
DOWNEY >> A 29-year-old Compton man died early Saturday in a motorcycle crash on the Bellflower Boulevard onramp to the 105 Freeway, authorities said.
The name of the rider was not released pending notification of family members, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner officials said.
The crash took place about 2:55 a.m., CHP Officer Peter Bishop said. The rider exited the eastbound 105 Freeway at Bellflower Boulevard on a Yamaha motorcycle just prior to the crash, CHP Officer Peter Bishop said. His speed had not been determined.
“For an unknown reason, he continued straight through the intersection,” Bishop said.
The motorcycle traveled toward the Bellflower Boulevard onramp to the eastbound 105 Freeway, striking a raised concrete curb on the south side of the ramp. The collision through the rider from his motorcycle, and he struck a light pole.
Downey Fire Department paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene at 3:03 a.m.
LA VERNE — An Irvine man died and another man suffered major injuries after their car was struck by a dump truck while stopped along the side of the 210 Freeway in La Verne early Wednesday, authorities said.
Gregory Ashe, 34, died at the scene of the 3:15 a.m. crash on the eastbound 210 Freeway at Fruit Street, according to California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County coroner’s officials.
A second man who accompanied him was hospitalized with major injuries, CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez.
It was not initially clear which man had been driving the Lexus ES 300, or why it was stopped along the shoulder, Jimenez said.
A dump truck approached the Lexus traveling at an unknown speed in the right-hand lane, the officer said. The truck veered off the roadway and struck the rear of the Lexus, Jimenez said.
“It was a hard collision,” he said.
Ashe was pronounced dead at the scene. The second man was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation, however no citations or arrests were made at the scene, Jimenez said.
Officials issued a Sig Alert for all eastbound lanes of the eastbound Freeway near Fruit Street, as well as the westbound carpool lane, through 8 a.m.
Officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP are handling the investigation.
A 64-year-old Santa Monica man died over the weekend following a motorcycle crash on a winding road in the Angeles National Forest north of La Canada Flintridge, officials said.
The fatal collision took place about 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Angeles Forest Highway at Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, California Highway Officer Monique Mischeaux said in a written statement.
Michael Gottlieb, who was wearing a helmet, was southbound on a 2012 Ducati motorcycle when the crash occurred, Mischeaux said. He was riding behind a 2003 Toyota being driven by ba 24-year-old Baldwin Park man.
“(The motorcycle) crossed into opposing traffic in an attempt to pass (the Toyota),” Mischeaux said. The Toyota simultaneously made a left turn onto Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, and the vehicles collided.
Gottlieb was thrown from the motorcycle, officials said.
As a result of the collision, (Gottlieb) received severe head trauma and a broken neck, and succumbed to his injuries,” Mischeaux said. He was pronounced dead by paramedics just under 45 minutes after the crash.
The crash was under investigation by officers from the Antelope Valley office of the CHP.