Covina man accused of accidentally shooting teenage friend

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COVINA >> Police arrested a 21-year-old Covina man Tuesday who accidentally shot a teenage friend in the arm earlier this month, officials said.
Marcos Santiago Contreras, 21, is accused of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the shooting, which took place about 7 a.m. Feb. 14 in the 500 block of Rimsdale Avenue, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Officers responded to a reports of a shooting when they found a 16-year-old boy walking in the area with a gunshot wound to his left arm, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
The teen did not cooperate with investigators and told police he was wounded in a drive-by shooting, Peterson said. But police concluded the boy’s story was false.
Detectives eventually determined the teen had been shot accidentally while riding in a car nearby, he said.
Contreras was driving with the teen as a passenger, the sergeant said. Contreras was showing off a handgun to the teen when the gun went off. The wounded boy exited the car, and Contreras drove off.
After determining what had taken place, Peterson said officers arrested Contreras shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday at his home in the 19000 block of East Arrow Highway.
During a search of the suspect’s home, police found a gun believed to have been involved in the shooting, Peterson said. Police also recovered a fired bullet from the door of Contreras’ car.
According to county booking records, Contreras was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in West Covina Superior Court.

PHOTO of Marcos Santiago courtesy of the Covina Police Department.

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ROP teacher at Gladstone High School in Covina accused of sex with student

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Police arrested a female Regional Occupational Program teacher Thursday on suspicion of having sex with a male Gladstone High School student, officials announced Friday afternoon.
East San Gabriel Valley ROP teacher Eddee Kovacs Kolos, 50, of Sierra Madre turned herself in to police about 4 p.m. Thursday, according to Sierra Madre police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
(Detectives) interviewed her. At the conclusion of their interview, they determined there was enough evidence for an arrest,” Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said.
Police booked her on suspicion of having sexual intercourse with a minor, .
The allegation came to light about noon, when a 16-year-old Gladstone High School student reported the encounter to a school officials, the chief said.
Kolos posted $20,000 bail and was released from custody Thursday night, records show. She could not be reached for comment Friday.
Representatives of the East San Gabriel Valley ROP also could not be reached for comment after hours Friday.
Giannone said the alleged misconduct occurred within recent months, but declined to provide a specific time-frame.
It was unclear what subject Kolos taught through the ROP program.
Covina police initially investigated the allegation, but turned the case over to their counterparts in Sierra Madre after determining the alleged crime took place in that city.
Giannone declined to say exactly where the alleged molestation occurred.
“The cooperation of the Azusa Unified School District, the Covina Police Department, and the quick work of Sierra Madre Police Department detectives were instrumental in bringing this case to a quick conclusion and the arrest of the suspect within four hours of school authorities being notified,” Giannone said.
Upon learning of the alleged misconduct, the district immediately notified authorities, and also contacted ROP officials to have the teacher removed from campus and placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, Azusa Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Corey James said in a written statement.
“Azusa Unified takes very seriously any allegation about inappropriate relations between a student and teacher, regardless of whether they are an AUSD employee.  While this teacher was not a direct employee, AUSD holds this individual and all other guests on our campus to the same high standards to which we hold our own teachers,” James said.
“Our students’ safety is our first priority,” James said. “We are cooperating with law enforcement to facilitate a speedy resolution to this issue.  On behalf of our student, AUSD will call for immediate prosecution to the full extent of the law.  In the meantime, we are providing counseling for our student.”
Kolos was scheduled to appear for arraignment in Pasadena Superior Court on April 3, officials said.

PHOTO of Eddee Kolos, 50, of Sierra Madre, courtesy of the Sierra Madre Police Department

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Covina police jail La Puente man in alleged $100,000 employment scam

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COVINA >> Police jailed a La Puente man Thursday on suspicion of bilking about 30 victims out of an estimated $100,000 by posing as a utlity representative offering to help them get a job with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, officials said.
James Raymond Zulaica, 37, is accused of grand theft and identity theft for his alleged scam, which has been ongoing since July, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said in a written statement.
Calling himself, “Jimmy Rojas,” Zulaica has been falsely claiming to work for the LADWP, Peterson said. He told his victims that for a fee, he could help them get jobs at the utility.
“The fees he charged each individual victim ranged from $1,300 to $15,000. The total losses of all victims are estimated to be approximately $100,000.”
Police arrested Zulaica early Thursday while carrying out a search warrant at his La Puente home.
According to county booking records, Zulaica was being held in lieu of $45,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
Police are seeking additional victims of the alleged con, and asked anyone with information to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5615.

PHOTO of suspect James Zulaica courtesy of the Covina Police Department.

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UPDATED: Two stabbed in alleged hate crimes at Covina shopping center; suspect jailed

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COVINA >> A La Puente resident and self-described El Monte gang member stabbed two Black men late Saturday at a Covina shopping center in unprovoked attacks which police are investigating as hate crimes, authorities said.
Louis Vasquez, 19, is accused of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, along with special allegations that the crime was a hate crime and gang-related, Covina police officials said.
Vasquez had just been released from jail Saturday morning after serving a sentence for an auto theft conviction, according to officials and county records.
Both victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the stabbings, which took place just after 7:40 p.m. at a shopping center at the northeast corner of Azusa Avenue and Badillo Street, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
The first attack occurred outside a Smart & Final store, where an 18-year-old employee was collecting shopping carts, Peterson said. He noticed Vasquez standing behind him before being attacked without warning.
“Out of nowhere, (Vasquez) just stabbed him,” Peterson said.
The teen, who suffered a stab wound to his shoulder, ran from his attacker, the sergeant said. Vasquez shouted insults, including racial slurs, as the victim fled, he added.
Immediately following the first stabbing, Vasquez headed to a neighboring CVS Pharmacy and attacked a 27-year-old man who was approaching the entrance.
The second victim did not see his assailant approach when he was stabbed from behind.
“He felt a pain in his right shoulder. He looked and saw the suspect holding the knife. The suspect stabbed him again,” Peterson said.
The wounded man tried to run into the store, but an automatic door wouldn’t open quickly enough for him to escape his pursuer, the sergeant said. The victim then ran along the front of the store, where he fell.
“(Vasquez) started slashing at him,” Peterson said. The attacker slashed the victim in the leg before the victim managed to kick the knife out of Vasquez’s hand, then grab hold of it.
Once disarmed, Vasquez ran, police said. He fled into a residential neighborhood in the 800 block of West Edna Place, where residents reported seeing him jumping through backyards.
Officers found Vasquez hiding in a yard and arrested him without a struggle, Peterson said.
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court and booking records, Vasquez was released from jail about 2:40 a.m. Saturday, 17 hours before the stabbings.
After being arrested by El Monte police in October, Vasquez was convicted of auto theft in November and served 112 days of a 242-day sentence, records show.
Vasquez’s has other previous criminal convictions including receiving stolen property in receiving stolen property in December, theft in September and trespassing in August, according to court records.
Vasquez remained in custody Sunday in lieu of $500,000 bail pending an arraignment hearing, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records.

PHOTO: Louis Vasquez, 19, of La Puente (Courtesy of the Covina Police Department)

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UPDATED: Female Covina Valley Unified School District teachers accused of sex with students

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WEST COVINA >> Deputies arrested two Covina Valley Unified School District teachers on Saturday on suspicion of having sexual relationships with students, officials said.
South Hills High School teacher Melody Lippert, 38, of Covina and Michelle Ghirelli, 30, who was working on special assignment at the district office, are accused of engaging in sexual conduct with male students during two separate trips to San Clemente State Beach late last year, according to Orange County sheriff’s and CVUSD officials.
Records indicate Ghirelli served as a girls’ junior varsity softball coach at South Hills High School in 2010 through 2012.
Their arrests came just 10 days after police in West Covina arrested South Hills High School part-time girls’ wrestling coach Anthony Vidales, 29, of Covina on suspicion of having sex with a female student on Jan. 7. Police disclosed Vidales’ arrest Tuesday.
0119_NWS_SGT-L-WCTEACHERS2The alleged inappropriate conduct by the women began in November, when Lippert met a group of male students at San Clemente State Beach in Orange County, sheriff’s officials said.
• SOCIAL MEDIA: What students think of the Covina teachers’ arrest
“During the meeting at San Clemente State Beach, Lippert provided alcohol to students and engaged in a sexual relationship with one of them,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
“Several weeks later, Lippert orchestrated an overnight camping trip to the same location with Ghirelli and several of the same high school students,” the statement continued. “During the camping trip, Lippert and Ghirelli are suspected of engaging in sexual relations with two students.”
The student Lippert was allegedly involved with was 18 or older, Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Hallock said. Ghirelli’s alleged victim was under 18.
The camping trips took place over the Thanksgiving and Winter holidays and was not sponsored by the school or the Covina Valley Unified School District, CVUSD spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden said.
District officials were in the process of placing both teachers on administrative leave Sunday, she said. Parents were notified of the arrests by a recorded telephone message.
Lippert, an English teacher at South Hills High School, has worked for the school district for 15 years, Van Der Linden said. Ghirelli has been with the district for five years.
Van Der Linden said she had no information regarding any previous assignments the teachers may have had in the district prior to their current positions.
“We’re obviously taking it very, very seriously,” Van Der Linden said. She encouraged anyone with information to contact sheriff’s investigators.
“We’re gong to have additional counselors available Tuesday for students and staff,” Van Der Linden said.
Orange County sheriff’s officials began investigating the women on the evening late Friday after West Covina police notified them of the alleged sexual misconduct in their jurisdiction, officials said.
The allegations came to light when a fellow teacher reported the alleged inappropriate relationships to district officials, Van Der Linden said.
“No additional information about the alleged sexual relationships or the student victims is being released,” according the sheriff’s department statement.
Neither woman could be reached by telephone for comment Sunday.
Social media exploded with comments about the latest scandal at South Hills High School, many from students and alumni of South Hills High School. Comments ranges from apparent concern to jokes and sarcasm.
“Headlining every news channel, go south hills,” Twitter user @_toricazarez posted on the social network.
“South hills is a joke now,” Twitter user @ChrisCjmartin posted.
Others posted about their shock in learning of the arrests.
“Mrs. Lippert would never do this? she’s a sweet person and very loving,” Twitter user @ellieeamayaa wrote.
“my prayers go out mrs lippert and mrs ghirelli.!” user @victor92999 posted on Twitter.
Officials booked Lippert on suspicion of conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Ghirelli was booked on suspicion of oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor.
According to Orange County booking records, Lippert posted $20,000 bail and was released from custody Sunday pending her initial court appearance. Ghirelli was freed on $50,000 bail.
No additional incidents or victims were known to investigators Sunday, Hallock said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7000. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-847-6227.

PHOTOS: Top – Melody Lippert, 38, of Covina; Below – Michelle Ghirelli, 30, of Covina. (Courtesy of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department)

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Police: Report of men attempting to buy child in Covina was misunderstanding

COVINA >> An incident in which a woman believed two men were trying to buy her son from her at a Covina supermarket this week was actually a misunderstanding and not a crime, police said Friday.
The woman called police Wednesday evening to report two men had just tried to buy her 2-year-old son at the Baja Ranch Supermarket, 425 S. Citrus Ave., Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
Police released surveillance images of the two involved men in hopes of developing information.
The plan worked, Peterson said. And investigators were confident Friday that the encounter was not a crime, but an attempted good deed gone awry.
“These two men were embarrassed and immediately came forward after watching the story on local media outlets,” Peterson said. “The Covina Police Department confirmed their story and believed there was no criminal intent, rather a philanthropic man trying to do a good deed.”
After speaking with the man who approached the woman Wednesday, “It was learned the Hispanic male is a successful local business owner who was at the market with his business partner to buy items for celebrating a successful year in his business,” Peterson said. “The subject observed the mother and her son and gave her compliments on how beautiful her son was. He said the boy resembled his son at that age.”
When the man spotted the woman and child again in the parking lot, with their car parked next to his, “He immediately thought it was a sign to be generous and reached into his pocket removing a $100 bill,” according to Peterson. “He offered the money to the woman and said, ‘Please take and use it to buy your son something’.’”
The woman refused to take the money, police said, and the man relayed to investigators that he left the $100 bill with her as a good deed before driving away.
Detectives re-interviewed the woman after obtaining the new information.
“The woman did say it was possible she misinterpreted what he said and what his intentions were,” Peterson said. “She was nervous and afraid because it seemed very strange to her that he was complementing her son so much and she was unsure of his intentions. The Covina Police Department is confident the incident was a misunderstanding and the men were overly complimentary and generous.”

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Police: Men try to buy toddler from woman at Covina supermarket


COVINA >> In a crime described by police as both bizarre and disturbing, two men tried to buy a woman’s 2-year-old son as she shopped at a Covina supermarket Wednesday, officials said.
Both the woman and child got away unharmed following the 7:40 p.m. encounter at the Baja Ranch Supermarket, 425 S. Citrus Ave., which detectives are investigating as an attempted human trafficking case, West Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said.
Two men took part in the crime, police said. One approached the woman and child, while the other remained in the suspects’ SUV.
0109_NWS_SGT-L-CHILDThe first suspect walked up to the woman as she was checking out, Sgt. Gregg Peterson said in a written statement. He began complimenting the woman, telling her that both she and her son were beautiful.
“The suspect asked the woman if she wanted to sell her son, and when she told him no, the suspect continued with the compliments, but they were focused solely on her son.”
After finishing checking out at the store, the woman waited until several minutes after the man had left before exiting herself and heading toward her car with her son.
When the woman reached her car, she found the man sitting in the driver’s seat of a brown or champagne colored Honda Pilot parked next to her car, Peterson said. A second suspect was sitting in the passenger seat of the SUV.
The first man again began complimenting the woman and child.
Doonan said the man did not appear to be trying to intimidate the woman. “It was more like he was trying to charm her,” he said.
CHILD2“The woman told the suspect to leave them alone and he exited his vehicle,” Peterson said. “The suspect approached her and removed a $100 bill from his pocket. The suspect said, ‘Can I buy your son.’”
“The woman felt the suspect was going to try and kidnap her son and became so scared, she could not scream or yell for help,” he said.
Still clutching the $100 bill, the suspect urged the woman to take the money. The second suspect inside the SUV also told the woman, ‘Just take the money,’” Peterson said.
“When the woman did not answer, (the first suspect) said, “Just keep it, here”, and dropped the $100 bill in her shopping cart. (He) got into his vehicle and drove away with (the second suspect).
Police described the first suspect as a Latino man of about 45 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 200 pounds. He wore blue jeans, a brown button-down shirt and a black baseball cap with a white logo on the front.
The second suspect, who remained in the SUV, was a black man in his 50s, about 6 feet tall and 215 pounds, wearing tan slacks and a long-sleeve white shirt, police said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Covina Police Department Detective Bureau at 626-384-5612. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO/VIDEO: Police are seeking the men pictured in this surveillance video (brown shirt, black baseball cap) for trying to buy a woman’s 2-year-old son at the Baja Ranch Supermarket in Covina on Jan 7, 2015. (courtesy)

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UPDATED: Missing Covina man sought by Azusa police found safe

AZUSA >> Police asked the public’s help, and received it, Sunday in tracking down a possibly suicidal Covina man who went missing in Azusa.

Ethan Luke Robben, 22, was last seen about 8 a.m. Sunday in the 200 block of North Aspan Avenue, Arcadia police officials said in a written statement.

Several hours later, a person who saw the missing person flier on the Azusa Police Department’s Facebook page reported spotting the man, who was located safe and sound, police said.

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Man fatally struck by Metrolink train in Covina

COVINA >> A commuter train struck and killed a Covina man Sunday near the Glendora Avenue rail crossing, officials said.
The 35-year-old man, whose name was not released pending notification of family, died at the scene, Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said.
A westbound Metrolink train traveling about 60 mph struck the man on a stretch of tracks at Glendora Avenue, just south of Cypress Street, the lieutenant said.
“He was standing on the tracks. It’s unclear what he was doing there,” Doonan said.
The conductor sounded the train’s horn and applied the emergency brakes prior to striking the man, he said.
No injuries were reported on the train, which carried 116 passenger, Doonan said.
The train remained in place for about 90 minutes before continuing on its journey from San Bernardino to Los Angeles.
Eastbound rail traffic between Los Angeles and San Bernardino was also delayed by as much as two hours as a result of the incident, according to Metrolink officials.

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San Gabriel Valley cops brighten holidays for disadvantaged kids

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Throughout the San Gabriel Valley and beyond, cops have been working to brighten the holidays of needy and disadvantaged kids.
Police and California Highway Patrol Officers, as well as Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, have been busily playing the roles of elves distributing toys, food and cheer to young people in need of some holiday spirit.
1223_NWS_SGT-L-COPCHRISTMAS-WHITTIERThe California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have run large-scale toy drives to collect gifts for kids who might otherwise go without this holiday season.
And sheriff’s officials even brought Santa Claus, via helicopter, to meet with kids in Compton Saturday as deputies took them on a special Target shopping trip. Sheriff’s deputies also hosted an annual party Dec. 7 for abused and neglected children.
Police officers from both the Irwindale and Covina police departments have delivered toys to the young patients at the City of Hope in Duarte this month.
1223_NWS_SGT-L-COPCHRISTMAS-LAPUENTEPolice agencies including those in Whittier and West Covina, as well as some sheriff’s stations, joined Target stores for the “Heroes & Helpers” program, in which officers take needy youths shopping for gifts, officials said.
In La Puente, deputies visited schools and churches and neighborhood to hand out about 300 bags full of groceries Friday, sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said. And more food giveaways are planned this week.
1223_NWS_SGT-L-COPCHRISTMAS-BALDWINPARKBaldwin Park police attracted an estimated 2,000 kids to their police station Friday as they handed out more than 3,500 toys, according to the Baldwin Park Police Association. And of course, Santa Claus was on-hand as well.

 

 

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PHOTOS: (top to bottom) 1.)Covina police officials deliver toys to children at the City of Hope in Duarte on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (Courtesy) 2.) Whittier police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (Courtesy) 3.) Principal Mona Diaz of Workman Elementary School in La Puente stands in front of a patrol car as Sgt. John Suh unloads bags of groceries to be handed out to families to help out for the holidays on Friday, Dec. 18, 2014. (Courtesy) 4.) Children meet with Santa Claus at the Baldwin Park Police Station as the Baldwin Park Police Association handed out more than 3,500 toys. (Courtesy) 5.) Irwindale police and city officials from Irwindale and La Puente deliver donated toys to City of Hope in Duarte on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. From left to right: La Puente City Councilman David Argudo, Irwindale police Officer Shawn Cory, Irwindale police Officer Diego Cornejo, Irwindale police Detective Jose Vargas, Irwindale police Capt. Ty Henshaw and Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda. (Courtesy) 6.) West Covina police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (Courtesy)

 

 

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