MONTEREY PARK >> Officials arrested three suspects Friday after a California Highway Patrol officer happened by a Monterey Park convenience store in the middle of a robbery, police said.
The incident unfolded shortly before 7 p.m. at 7-Eleven, 1600 Monterey Pass Road, Monterey Park police Sgt. Paul Yniguez said.
A CHP officer stopped by the store to make a purchase when someone came out and told him the store was being robbed, the sergeant said.
At least three men had used a handgun to rob the clerk of money from the cash register, police said.
Moments later, suspects ran out of the store, Yniguez said. The CHP officer detained one of them.
At least two additional suspects got away from the store, Sgt. Bob Hung said.
Officers set up a search perimeter and quickly found a second suspect hiding in a yard in a nearby neighborhood, Hung said.
After more than an hour of continued searching, the third suspect was found and arrested sitting inside a parked car in a nearby motel parking lot, Hung said.
Detectives continued investigating the possibility of additional accomplices involved in the crime Saturday, he added.
CITY OF COMMERCE >> A Whittier man is accused of three counts of murder in connection with an alleged street racing crash on the 5 Freeway in Commerce early Saturday that killed a UPS driver, the son of a homicide detective and a young woman, authorities said.
Initially booked on suspicion of manslaughter, David Lockhart, 35, was being held on suspicion of three counts of murder Sunday, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
Lockhart was racing another car when he lost control of his Dodge Challenger on the southbound 5 Freeway near Triggs Street in Commerce just after midnight Saturday, striking a UPS truck and sending the big rig hurling over the center median and into opposing traffic lanes, CHP Officer Doris Peniche said. The UPS truck struck a Nissan sedan, shearing off the tops, as well as a Ford Explorer. The big rig burst into flames.
In addition to the three people killed, two other occupants of the Nissan were hospitalized with major injuries, and two more people suffered minor injuries in the crash, officials said.
The deceased young man and woman, both Santa Clarita teens, who were reportedly returning from a visit to Disneyland in a gray Nissan. Both were passengers.
Los Angeles County coroner officials identified one of the victims from the Nissan as 18-year-old Brian Lewandowski.
Lewandowski was the son of Lt. Victor Lewandowski of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, who investigates homicides throughout Los Angeles County, sheriff’s officials said.
“Brian was an incredible young man and every parent’s dream for a son,” the Lewandowski family said in a written statement. “We are absolutely devastated by our loss. Our hearts go out to the other victims and their families and our prayers are for the survivors’ recovery. We are very thankful for the love and support of family and friends throughout this time.”
In addition to his father, Brian Lewandowski is survived by his mother, Jocelyn Lewandowski, and two brothers, sheriff’s officials said.
The young woman killed while riding in the Nissan was identified by her parents as 19-year-old Michelle Littlefield, a student studying business at College of the Canyons and an employee at Six Flags Magic Mountain, according to media reports.
The third victim was identified on a Teamsters Local 396 Facebook page as 52-year-old Scott Treadway of Mira Loma who had been with UPS for 30 years.
“The Teamsters Local 396 Executive Board, Staff and Membership send our heartfelt condolences to the Family of our dear, departed Brother Scott Treadway, who we lost suddenly, in a tragic feeder accident last night. Scott was admired and loved by his friends and co-workers at UPS. We are still trying to come to grips with this horrible loss,” the organization posted. “We love and miss you Brother!”
Fellow teamsters held their meeting Sunday, “under such difficult circumstances,” in honor of Treadway, who worked out of a Cerritos UPS facility, according to the union chapter.
“The members honored Scott’s memory by sharing their thoughts and memories regarding Scott’s remarkable legacy as a UPS Teamster Brother,” Teamsters Local 396 wrote online.
The Dodge Charger Lockhart was allegedly racing, as well as it’s driver, had not been found Sunday, officials said.
Both directions of the 5 Freeway remained closed in the area of the crash through Sunday morning as officials made repairs to the damaged road surface and barriers, according to Caltrans and CHP officials.
According to county booking records, Lockhart was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles pending his arraignment hearing, scheduled Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Anyone with information regarding the crash was asked to contact officers Fonseca or Flores of the CHP’s East Los Angeles area office at 323-980-4600.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
PHOTOS: Crash scene [ABOVE] courtesy of Caltrans; Photo of Brian Lewandowski, 18, of Santa Clarita [2nd FROM TOP] courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; Photo of Michelle Littlefield, 19, of Santa Clarita via Facebook; Photo of Scott Treadway, 52, of Mira Loma via Teamsters Local 396 Facebook page.
SAN DIMAS >> A man died in a crash on a 57 Freeway offramp in San Dimas Sunday afternoon after his Smart Car struck a tire, then careened into the center divider, authorities said.
The crash was reported about 3:50 p.m. on the Covina Boulevard offramp of the southbound 57 Freeway, California Highway Patrol Officer Alex Rubio said.
According to CHP logs, another vehicle lost a tire, which a Smart Car collided with.
After striking the tire, the Smart Car struck the center divider and overturned, according to CHP logs and Los Angeles County Fire Department officials.
Firefighters found the sole occupant of the Smart Car trapped inside the vehicle, fire department Dispatch Supervisor Melanie Flores said.
The driver, a man estimated to be in his 20s or 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene, fire Capt. Russell Thompson said. No other injuries were reported.
CHP officials issued a Sig Alert on the offramp for about an hour following the crash, and briefly shut down all southbound lanes to look for the stray tire and take aerial photographs of the crash scene, logs show.
Officers from the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office are handling the investigation.
BALDWIN PARK >> Fellow law enforcement officers from throughout the San Gabriel Valley bid farewell to CHP sergeant who headed out for his last shift Wednesday after three decades of service to the Southland.
Police from Covina, West Covina and Pomona joined in the morning briefing at CHP’s Baldwin Park area office to send off Sgt. Mike Dulong, the senior ranking sergeant in the CHP, colleagues said.
“The Baldwin Park Area was fortunate to have Sergeant Mike Dulong at our Station,” Baldwin Park Area Commander Capt. Steve Urrea said. “Sergeant Dulong brought a great feel in professionalism, commitment, and dedication to his profession which he passed on to his subordinates for many, many years.”
The CHP’s Baldwin Park area office serviced most of the San Gabriel Valley, and CHP officers regularly work with other area police agencies.
“We’ve all encountered him in the field. That’s where the friendships began,” West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez said. “He’s had an impact on a lot of people. He’s a great leader.”
West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said Dulong has a “heart of gold.”
“He has been an asset to all the agencies in the San Gabriel Valley,” the lieutenant said.
Dulong, a 55-year-old Inland Empire resident, said the additional guests at Wednesday’s briefing were “a pleasant surprise.”
The sergeant began his career at the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office in 1986, before transferring to San Jose two years later, he said.
Having grown fond of Southern California, Dulong transferred back to the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office in 1989. He moved to the South Los Angeles station when he promoted to sergeant in 1992, but returned to Baldwin Park the following year.
Dulong said he kept returning to Baldwin Park because the San Gabriel Valley is his favorite area to work in.
“I’m like a boomerang,” he quipped, adding that he enjoyed both dealing with the people and working Southern California’s extensive highway system.
Dulong has served as a motorcycle sergeant for the past 11 years, adding that patrolling on two wheels has been his favorite assignment.
He said the thing he will miss most about the job is his colleagues, both within the CHP and other law enforcement agencies.
PHOTO: Officials from the Covina, West Covina and Pomona police department bid farewell to Sgt. Mike Dulong of the California’s Highway Patrol’s Baldwin Park area office, who retired Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, after 30 years of service. Dulong was the senior-ranking CHP sergeant in California. From left to right: West Covina police Capt. Doug Muray, West Covina police Lt. Pat Benschop, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton, West Covina police Lt. Dave Lee, CHP Sgt. Mike Dulong, Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan, Covina police Capt. John Curley, Pomona police Lt. Christian Hsu. (Courtesy, West Covina Police Department)
INDUSTRY >> A five-car wreck sent three people to the hospital with serious injuries and prompted the closure of three lanes of the westbound 60 Freeway in Industry during rush hour Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The crash took place shortly after 5 p.m. in the westbound lanes of the 60 Freeway, just west of Crossroads Parkway, California Highway Patrol Officer Patrick Kimball said.
Five vehicle were involved, and three patients were hospitalized with “moderate-to-critical” injuries, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
The CHP issued a two-hour Sig Alert for the three right-hand lanes of the westbound freeway following the crash, Kimball said.
IRWINDALE >> The California Highway Patrol invites teens to learn about the dangers of drinking and driving Saturday before enjoying car races, a pit area tour and more at the Irwindale Speedway.
The free Designated Driver Program begins at 4:45 p.m. inside Building 5 of the race track, 500 Speedway Drive, on the same day Irwindale Speedway will honor police, fire and emergency officials during First Responders Night, CHP Officer Ramberto Salcido said
Following a brief presentation by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, guests will be taken on a guided tour of the pit area, provided with a meal and given a chance to meet drivers for an autograph session, the officer said.
Pre-race ceremonies honoring first responders will take place at 6:45 p.m., followed by racing at 7 p.m.
For more information on the Designated Driver Program, contact Officer Salcido at 818-240-8200. Spots must be reserved via email at email@example.com.
WEST COVINA >> A Fontana man accused of wounding a California Highway Patrol officer in a shotgun attack last week entered a not guilty plea Wednesday as investigators released new details regarding the West Covina shootout that erupted during a routine traffic stop.
John Alfred Garcia, 30, is accused of opening fire on CHP officer Felix Serpas with a semi-automatic shotgun after being pulled over at the Sunset Avenue offramp of the westbound 10 Freeway in West Covina just after 1:30 a.m. Friday.
The wounded CHP officer and his partner returned fire, wounding Garcia before he led West Covina police and other authorities on a high speed chase that ended with his arrest in Fontana.
Garcia pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of attempted murder of a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a semi-automatic firearm and felony evading of police, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Garcia is also accused of the special allegations that her personally fired a semi-automatic firearm during the crime, and that the shooting resulted in great bodily injury to the officer.
Serpas and partner Jeremy Keller pulled over a Cadillac Escalade, suspecting the driver may be impaired, CHP Assistant Chief Marc Shaw said. Keller had one year experience with the CHP.
The SUV exited the freeway and stopped in a the parking lot of a business along Sunset Avenue, he said. Felix approached the Escalade to talk with the driver, later identified as Garcia.
“He greeted the driver of the vehicle and was able to get the words, “Good evening,” out when, immediately, an attempt to murder our officer occurred,” Shaw said.
“Our officer tactically retreated. The suspect exited with a semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun and continued his deliberate, aggressive and premeditated attack in his attempt to murder our officers,” Shaw said. “An officer-involved shooting occurred as they attempted to defend their lives, and an exchange of gunfire in excess of 30 seconds occurred at that point.”
It was unclear how many shot were traded by the suspect and officers.
Garcia got back into his SUV and fled. West Covina police officers soon spotted the Escalade, initiating a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 mph before coming to an end in Fontana. Officers took Garcia, who had been wounded in the shootout, into custody with help from a West Covina police K-9.
The reason Garcia attacked the officers remained unclear, officials said. He had no outstanding arrest warrants, and the SUV he was driving was not stolen.
A second occupant was believed to be inside the Garcia’s SUV when officers first stopped it, but was not present when the chase conclusion. It was unclear exactly when and where the second occupant exited the vehicle. The search for the passenger continued Wednesday.
Serpas, a 40-year-old with six years experience with the CHP, was discharged from a hospital Tuesday and was resting at home, said Capt. Steve Urrea of the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office, where Serpas works.
Though he sustained wounds to his torso, head, neck and both arms, ‘He’s expected to make a full recovery,” Urrea said.
The injuries could have been worse if not for the officer’s bullet-proof vest, Urrea said.
CHP officials thanked West Covina police, other agencies and medical professions who assisted helped in the aftermath of the shooting.
“This part incident could have happened in any city in California. We were blessed to be there at the right time and have the opportunity to get involved and assist in apprehending the suspect.,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
Faulkner also thanked the numerous other agencies who took part in the apprehension and arrest.
Garcia was ordered back to court Oct. 27 for a preliminary hearing setting, Risling said. Bail was set at $2.075 million.
PHOTOS: [TOP] – Alleged gunman John Garcia, 30, of Fontana opens fire on two CHP officers after being pulled over in West Covina on Friday, Sept. 11, 2014. (Courtesy of the CHP) [CENTER] – CHP Officer Felix Serpas approaches an SUV moments before being shot and wounded. (Courtesy of the CHP) [BELOW] – CHP shooting suspect John Alfred Garcia, 30, of Fontana. (Courtesy of the CHP)
WEST COVINA >> A gunman shot and wounded a California Highway Patrol officer during a traffic stop in West Covina early Friday before being apprehended following a pursuit that ended in Fontana, authorities said.
The officer was hospitalized in stable condition following the 1:40 a.m. shooting along the Sunset Avenue offramp of the westbound 10 Freeway, CHP Officer Tony Polizzi said.
He had pulled over a Cadillac Escalade containing a man and woman.
“During the course of the traffic stop, one of the suspects shot and struck the officer,” Polizzi said.
The officer returned fire, he said. It was unclear whether either suspect was struck.
After wounding the officer, the suspects fled but were quickly spotted by West Covina police officers, Polizzi said.
Police chased the SUV on multiple freeways until the pursuit came to an end following a crash at Arrow Boulevard and Citrus Avenue in Fontana, where the alleged shooter was captured, officials said.
It was not immediately clear whether the woman who accompanied the suspect was also in custody. No further details were available.
BALDWIN PARK >> The California Highway Patrol is hosting a class for teens and their parents Friday designed to help young people stay safe behind the wheel.
The “Start Smart” class will take place from 6:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office, 14029 Francisquito Ave., CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said.
“The primary objective of ‘Start Smart’ is to provide teens and their parent (or) guardian with an interactive safe driving awareness class which will illustrate how poor choices behind the wheel of a car can affect the lives of numerous people,” CHP officials said in a written statement.
Topics will include the responsibilities of newly-licensed drivers, the responsibilities of parents and guardians and collision avoidance techniques.
The class is free for teens ages 15 through 19 years old and a drivers’ licenses are not required. Space is limited, however, and those interested are urged to RSVP early.
Due to some graphic pictures and video displayed during the class, teens must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who must sign a waiver form at the beginning of the class.
For more information, or to reserve a space for a teen and guardian, contact Officer Jimenez at 626-338-1164, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
INDUSTRY >> A San Gabriel man died after he was struck by a big rig after exiting his car on the right shoulder of the 605 Freeway in Industry early Friday, officials said.
The man, described as 62-years-old, died at the scene of the 6:17 a.m. collision along the southbound 605 Freeway, just south of Valley Boulevard, Officer J. Gomez of the California Highway Patrol’s East Los Angeles area office said in a written statement. His name was not released pending notification of family.
Officers investigating reports of a man lying on the right shoulder found the man unconscious, lying directly in front of his Toyota Camry, Gomez said.
Investigators determined that, for an unknown reason, the man had exited his car before being struck by a 2004 Peterbilt big rig, the officer said.
The driver of the truck remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, CHP Officer Alex Rubio said. The collision remains under investigation.