Honda pumps free gas in Baldwin Park, Covina

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Honda teamed with gas stations in Covina and Baldwin Park Saturday to help San Gabriel Valley Honda owners kick off their Independence Day travels by pumping free gas.
The helpful folks in blue shirts brought their “Random Acts of Helpfulness” campaign to Valero, 3660 Puente Ave. in Baldwin Park, in the late morning, then headed to Jerry’s Automotive Services and Kwik Serv, 4560 N. Grand Ave., early Saturday afternoon.
Word of the free fuel quickly spread, and both stations saw lines of Honda’s waiting to take advantage of the events.
Damian Ruiz, 20, of Covina said he rushed to the Covina gas station after receiving a text message from a friend letting him know about the unannounced giveaway.
0705_NWS_SGT-L-FREEGAS1“I was on a quarter (tank),” so this will get me through the weekend,” he said. “I’m going to Laughlin right after this, so it was perfect.”
A stroke of luck brought Rolando Buelnas, 23, of Covina, to the Covina giveaway.
He said he tried to go to the Baldwin Park event but didn’t make it in time. He headed to a car wash next door to the Covina station when the Honda crew coincidentally arrived to continue pumping free gas.
“I was going to wash my car and I saw this long line of Hondas,” he said.
Joanna Perales, 30, of Baldwin Park arrived at the Baldwin Park Valero station just as the Honda crew was leaving. So she said she decided to follow them to see if they stopped nearby.
The tactic paid off when the Honda team pulled in to Jerry’s Auto in Covina and let the pumps loose.
“This is awesome,” Perales said as Honda representatives filled her tank. Though she’d heard of Honda’s helpfulness campaign before, “You don’t really think it was really true until you actually go through it.”

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Man jailed after leading West Covina police on short pursuit

WEST COVINA >> Police used bean bag rounds to subdue an uncooperative man following a short police chase early Sunday, officials said.
Fidel Pantoja, 26, of Covina, was booked on suspicion of felony evading of police and resisting arrest following the incident, which kicked off about 12:38 a.m., West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
Officers tried to pull over a car being driven by Pantoja in West Covina but he refused to yield, initiating a chase, Patton said. The pursuit came to an end minutes later when Pantoja stopped his car outside the Brunswick Covina bowling alley in the 1000 block of West San Bernardino Road.
Pantoja exited his car but ignored officer’s orders to surrender, the lieutenant said. Officers shot Pantoja with a bean bag round before taking him into custody.
A knife was found on the ground, within Pantoja’s reach, he said.
Pantoja, who has previous criminal cases pending, was being held in lieu of $155,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

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Man accused of stealing money from friend’s wallet in front of police during Covina traffic stop

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COVINA >> Police stopped a driver for a traffic violation but ended up arresting his passenger after an officer spotted the suspect stealing money from his friend’s wallet during the traffic stop early Saturday, officials said.
Victor Hugo Rojas-Salgado, 22, of Rowland Heights was arrested on suspicion of petty theft following the unusual incident, which unfolded about 1:45 a.m. in the 200 block of West College Street, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
Two officers stopped a car, suspecting the driver may have been intoxicated, the sergeant said. The driver was ultimately found to be sober, but was issued a ticket for a traffic violation.
But while one officer spoke with the driver outside the car, Rojas-Salgado helped himself to $20 from his friend’s wallet and placed it in his pocket, Peterson said. Rojas-Salgado apparently didn’t realize the second officer was watching.
The officer asked the driver if his passenger should be taking money, and arrested Rojas-Salgado after the driver told them his friend did not have permission.
Rojas-Salgado was released with a misdemeanor citation, Peterson said.

PHOTO – Courtesy of the Covina Police Department

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Three Glendora burglary suspects jailed following chase, neighborhood search in Covina

Police arrested three Glendora burglary suspects Thursday following a pursuit that ended in Covina and a neighborhood search that lasted more than eight hours, authorities said.
Charter Oak High School and the school district office went on lockdown in response to the incident, which began about 10 a.m., Glendora police Lt. Matt Egan said.
Police received a report of a suspicious person entering the backyard at a house in the 600 block of East Kirkwall Road, Egan said.
When officers arrived, they spotted a 16-year-old boy exiting the home and took him into custody after a brief foot chase, the lieutenant said. Two additional suspects fled in a car, leading officers on a pursuit to the 4900 block of Mangrove Avenue in Covina, Lt. Scott Strong said. Both Suspects ran from the car in opposite directions, police said.
One of the fleeing men, later identified as 19-year-old Jabaree Williams of Los Angeles, was quickly apprehended, Strong said.
The third and final suspect, 34-year-old Jerad Chaney of Los Angeles, eluded police until officers, including a SWAT team and a police dog, found him hiding in a residential garage shortly after 6 p.m., Strong said.
Police recovered from the suspects items stolen in the Kirkwall Road break-in, as well as property taken during another Glendora burglary earlier in the day, Strong said.
Nearby Charter Oak High School at 1430 East Covina Blvd. and the Charter Oak Unified School District offices at 20240 East Cienega Ave. were placed on lock down as police hunted for the alleged burglars.

– Brian Day and Stephanie Baer

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Woman burned, man sought after suspected hash oil lab mishap near Covina


COVINA >> A woman suffered burns and a man was being sought after an apparent mishap stemming from a hash oil lab in an unincorporated county area near Covina Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The incident was firs reported about 1:45 p.m. as a possible assault after the woman showed up at a hospital with second-and third-degree burns on one of her arms, Sgt. F. Maldonado of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s San Dimas Station said. The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
Deputies determined the woman had suffered burns in some sort of mishap at a small-scale lab used to concentrate marijuana into hash oil, or “honey oil,” on Calora Street near Grand Avenue, the sergeant said.
The injured woman’s boyfriend, who was also believed to have been present at the hash oil lab, had left the home and remained unaccounted for Wednesday afternoon, Maldonado said.
Firefighters responded to the home but found no fire or smoldering, he added.
The incident took place one day after Glendora police arrested a man and dismantled another alleged hash oil lab in the 1200 block of East Elgenia Avenue in West Covina, officials said.

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Two of 10 suspects in ‘coordinated’ Korea Town jewelry store heist arrested near Covina

Los Angeles police investigating a violent a well-organized Korea Town jewelry store robbery likened to “the plot of a Hollywood movie” Wednesday found and arrested two suspects near Covina before ultimately arresting a total of 10 alleged robbers, authorities said.
The robbery and initial two arrests took place Wednesday evening, according to Los Angeles police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
The robbery unfolded about 6:15 p.m. at the St. Cross Jewelry Store inside the Korea Town Center Mall, 928 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles police said in a written statement.
“Approximately nine male suspects had violently and with coordinated precision and speed, overpowered employees and took over the store to rob it of its loot of several hundred expensive designer watches,” according to the LAPD statement.
The robbers were armed with handguns, as well as sledge hammers.
“After overpowering employees and holding them at gunpoint, the suspects proceeded to smash the display cases with the sledge hammers and removed the watches,” the statement said.
The crime was over within minutes, and the suspects fled to a getaway van, police said.
“From video images inside the store as well as witness accounts, and the fact that the store was inside a mall filled with shoppers, it was obvious this was a well-planned, coordinated and practiced operation,” according to the LAPD statement.
LAPD officers tracked two of the suspects to an unincorporated county area near Covina about two hours later via GPS tracking devices hidden inside the expensive watches.
Authorities shut down Lark Ellen Avenue between Arrow Highway and Cypress Street as they stopped the car and took two suspects into custody, according to sheriff’s radio traffic.
The arrest was handled by LAPD, without direct assistance from local sheriff’s deputies, sheriff’s Lt. Tonya Edwards said.
Traffic was reopened within a matter of minutes.
Detectives continued following up on the investigation, ultimately arresting eight more suspects — five of them juveniles — overnight throughout Los Angeles and other nearby cities, according the LAPD.
Officers also recovered three guns and several sledge hammers believed to have been used in the robbery, as well as several hundred expensive watches taken in the heist.
Police said it was fortunate that no one was seriously injured during the crime.
“Although this sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, in reality this was a violent and dangerous crime that could have had disastrous results,” the statement said.

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Report of suspicious persons at Covina Walmart leads to arrests of two wanted men

COVINA >> A report of two suspicious people loitering in a Walmart parking lot Thursday led police to arrest a wanted parolee and a federal fugitive, officials said.
Wanted parolee Michael Hernandez, 25, of Azusa and Manuel Anaya, 48, of Azusa, who’s wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service, were arrested in the incident, Covina police Lt. Rick Walczak said. The men were additionally booked on suspicion of providing false information of police, and Hernandez is accused of resisting arrest.
A tipster called police about 6:20 p.m. to report seeing two suspicious men in a car in the parking lot of the store, 1275 N. Azusa Avenue, Covina police Lt. Rick Walczak said. The caller believed the men may have been involved in drug activity.
Officers arrived and spoke with the men, the lieutenant said. “Both were nervous and evasive about their identities.”
As the officer talked to the men, he noticed they had a booking slip from another arrest with a different name than those the men used to identify themselves, Walczak said. Hernandez ran from the car once the officer found the document.
Police quickly chased down and captured Hernandez. Anaya, who remained in the car, was taken into custody without a struggle.

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La Puente man denies murder, attempted murder, other charges in connection with San Gabriel Valley crime spree

POMONA >> A La Puente man accused of fatally shooting a man in West Covina, as well as shooting and wounding his ex-girlfriend in Covina, during an alleged crime spree in April, pleaded not guilty to six felony charges Thursday, authorities said.
Manuel Jerome Lujan, described by police as a 33-year-old West Covina gang member, appeared in Pomona Superior court where he denied charges of murder, attempted murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, robbery, assault with a firearm and exhibiting a concealed firearm in public, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Prosecutors further allege that Lujan intentionally fired a firearm causing injury or death, and that Lujan was previously convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in 2001.
His alleged series of violent crimes took place between April 26 and April 29. It began when Lujan robbed a man of his cell phone at gunpoint in Valinda and brandished a gun at other victims, according to prosecutors.
Three days later, he fatally shot 36-year-old Jabarri Butts behind a Social Security office in the 500 block of South Vincent Avenue, and opened fire on a nearby home, West Covina police officials said.
Hours later, he showed up at the home of his ex-girlfriend in the 300 block of West Center Street in Covina, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said. He through rocks and the woman’s window to get her attention, then shot her when she came to the window.
Lujan is scheduled to appear in Pomona Superior Court July 9 for a hearing, officials said. If convicted as charged, he could face life in prison.

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Updated: Suspect jailed in takeover robbery at Covina check cashing business

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COVINA >> One of two men police say dressed as security guards when they carried out a takeover robbery at Covina check cashing business in March was behind bars Friday as police continued seeking his alleged accomplice.
0530_NWS_SGT-L-COVARREST1Police found and arrested Brian Lamar Lemle, 27, of Los Angeles, a documented Crips gang member, at a Los Angeles Park late Thursday in connection with the March 18 robbery at Check Into Cash, 517 N. Azusa Avenue, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
Investigators had been seeking him for several weeks, ever since facial recognition computer software helped identify him as a suspect in the Covina crime, the sergeant said.
Lemle and another unidentified suspect wore security guard uniforms and brandished handguns when they entered the business, Covina police said in a written statement.
“Both suspects demanded money from the employees before tying them up,” the statement said. “Both suspects left the location on foot westbound on San Bernardino (Road) with approximately $7,800 in cash and personal property from the employees.”
0530_NWS_SGT-L-COVARREST2The crime was captured on surveillance video, which police used to generate wanted fliers with the suspects’ photos for distribution to other area law enforcement agencies, Peterson said.
Facial recognition software was able to match surveillance footage to a possible suspect, Lemle, earlier this month, he said.
Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Division found and arrested Lemle Thursday night at a park, Peterson said. He was turned over to Covina police, who booked him on suspicion of robbery once witnesses identified him as one of the robbers. Additional charges, such as robbery, may also be sought against Lemle.
The second suspect in the robbery remained at-large.
According to county booking records, Lemle was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

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PHOTOS: [TOP TO BOTTOM] Brian Lemle, 27, of Los Angeles; surveillance photo of second suspect who remains at-large; surveillance photo taken during the robbery. (Courtesy)

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Police: Tragedy averted when teen girl points gun at officers in Covina

COVINA >> Two rookie Covina police officers safely apprehended 15-year-old girl who pointed a gun at them Sunday in what a police lieutenant described as an exceptional display of restraint and quick thinking.
Covina police Lt. Tim Doonan said the two officers responded about 10 a.m. to a report of a domestic disturbance in which the girl was irate with her parents at the family’s home in the 300 block of South First Avenue.
The officers went into the family’s apartment to talk to the teen, who was in her bedroom, Doonan said.
“The officers were in the doorway. After a very brief conversation, she pulled a handgun from her waistband area,” Doonan said. “She actually pointed it at the officers.”
The officers drew their own weapons and retreated into the hallway, where they began ordering the girl to drop the pistol and surrender, the Doonan said. She ultimately raised her hands and dropped the gun.
The Beretta pistol brandished by the girl was real, but was found to have been modified to be unable to fire, Doonan said. Officials took the girl for psychiatric evaluation.
The lieutenant commended the officers on the cool-headed and restrained manner in which they dealt with the situation, which could easily have resulted in an officer-involved shooting, despite their lack of experience.
One of the two officers completed training three weeks ago, he said. The other was a reserve officer with less than a year on duty.

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