A church was found painted with graffiti including the number “666” early Saturday in what deputies are investigating as a hate crime, officials said.
An unknown vandal or vandals scrawled the message in blue paint sometime between 10 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 16050 East San Bernardino Road in an unincorporated county area near Covina, said Sgt. Pete Schupe of the sheriff’s San Dimas Station, which is investigating the incident.
The graffiti, a poorly drawn cross with three sixes to its right, was written about 4 feet above ground level on the wall of the church’s Fellowship Hall in the southwest portion of the small campus. It was behind the building and not visible from the street.
It was about four feet tall and three feet wide.
Deputies recovered a bottle of blue paint from some bushes nearby the vandalized wall, Schupe said.
Church officials could not be reached for comment Sunday afternoon.
COVINA — The arrest of a 16-year-old Covina High School student on suspicion of making a threat against two other students, coupled with rampant and inaccurate police rumors, caused concerns and cut Friday attendance at the campus by 25 percent, police said.
Police officers responded to Covina High School to investigate a report that a student had approached fellow students and made a “threat of violence,” Covina police Sgt. Ray Marquez said in a written statement.
The alleged threat was reported to school administrators, who reported it to police.
The teenage student was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats and was taken to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, the sergeant said.
“The investigation revealed that no weapons were on campus and that the student suspect does not have direct access to firearms,” Marquez said.
He added that the alleged threat was, “an isolated incident where the student suspect acted alone.”
In the wake of the arrest, students began spreading “unsubstantiated information about yesterday’s events,” Marquez said. “Some of those messages included inaccurate rumors that have increased concerns among parents and students, causing increased inquiries to the school, district officials and police.”
About a quarter of Covina High School’s student body was absent from school Friday, he said.
Covina Valley Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services Bill Brown reassured parents Friday that the campus was safe.
“My understanding is it was a generic verbal threat,” he said.
Because the alleged threats were an isolated incident that had already been dealt with, there was no need for parents to be worried about sending their children to school.
“It’s imperative in today’s times that we treat every concern extremely seriously and follow through,” he said.
But as far as Thursday’s incident, “It’s really a non-issue at this point,” Brown said.
School officials were awaiting the findings of the police investigation before determining what administrative action the involved student may face, Brown said.
As online rumors began circulating through social media, the district notified parents with available information via an automated phone call Thursday, he added.
“Social media poses some challenges some times. “We knew the social media had given some inaccuracies.”
Police have already beefed up patrol on and near school due to increased concerns over school safety following the massacre at Newtown, Conn., officials said.
“The Department, in conjunction with the Covina Valley Unified School District personnel, have made school safety a priority and reassure the community that yesterday’s event was an isolated incident,” Marquez said.
“Its a safe campus,” Brown added. “Everything is very calm (Friday) and we just want to get on with instructing our students.”
A man driving a stolen pickup truck was arrested after a car chase and foot pursuit Wednesday night.
The culprit abandoned the pickup which ended up hitting a parked car.
Covina Police Sgt. Jim McDonough said the officer found an EBT or Electronic Benefit Transfer card in someone else’s name in the stolen vehicle. A shaved key was also used to get the ignition started, he added.
The incident started around 11 p.m. on Vincent Avenue and San Bernardino Road when Officer Mario Corona saw a 1997 black Nissan pickup truck with no taillight.
The officer ran the license plate and found out the vehicle was reported stolen to the LAPD on Dec. 27, according to McDonough.
Corona followed the pickup. The chase began at Edna Place and Vincent Avenue.
It hit a top speed of 75 mph and lasted about two minutes. McDonough said the driver also drove on the wrong side of the street and ran two “Stop” signs.
After a mile and a half, the driver ditched the pickup and headed for a relative’s home.
McDonough said the man was trying to jump a fence to get into the
relative’s backyard when he was tackled by the officer.
Ruben Barcena, 40, from Glendale was arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto, felony evading police, possession of a burglary tool and possession of stolen property.
He was booked at Covina jail and his bail is $75,000.
- Ruby Gonzales
Covina police arrested a Walnut-area soccer coach from West Covina Wednesday on suspicion of sending inappropriate, sexual text messages to an 11-year-old player on his team, authorities said.
Albert David Gutierrez, 45, was booked on suspicion of contacting a minor with intent to commit certain offenses, according to Covina police and Los Angeles County booking records.
The arrest stemmed from an allegation by a woman that Gutierrez, who coached her 11-year-old daughter’s American Youth Soccer Organization team, sent inappropriate text messages to the girl in December, Covina police Sgt. Ray Marquez said.
“They were sexual in nature,” the sergeant said.
The girl then told her mother, who confronted Gutierrez about the messages, police said.
“The suspect apologized to the victim’s mother for sending the messages and indicated he would stop all interaction with her,” the police statement said.
The mother then reported the situation to Covina police, who launched an investigation.
Police took a report and interviewed Gutierrez, who quickly obtained a lawyer, in December, Marquez said.
Through his attorney, Gutierrez agreed to turn himself in to police after the holidays, Marquez said. Detectives continued building their case in the meantime.
But when the holidays passed and Gutierrez did not turn himself in, police went looking for him, the sergeant said.
Detectives conducted a surveillance operation Wednesday at Gutierrez’s home in the 3200 block of Stella Avenue in West Covina and arrested him without incident, officials said.
The messages involved text only, and no pictures were sent, Marquez said.
He added that investigators were unaware of any previous allegations of sex-related crimes against Gutierrez.
The father of the alleged victim, whose name is being withheld to protect the girl’s identity, said his daughter played in the Walnut-based branch of the AYSO, known as Region 624.
The father added that he and his wife were shocked to learn of the allegations against a man whom they had previously trusted.
He also said he was glad his daughter reported the inappropriate situation immediately, before it become more serious.
Jill Meshekow, Director of the Safe Haven program at the American Youth Soccer Organization National Office, said Gutierrez would not be on the soccer field as the investigation continues.
“Mr. Gutierrez is parent of children playing in Region 624,” she said in a written statement. “While not acting in any official coaching capacity over the last few years, Mr. Gutierrez has stepped aside from helping in this Region in any capacity pending the outcome of this case.”
Safe Haven Program is the AYSO’s program directed and protecting both children and organization volunteers. “We are disheartened anytime there is an investigation of this nature and we will continue to support law enforcement as needed,” Meshekow said.
Gutierrez was released from jail Thursday morning after posting $500,000 bail, records show. He could not be reached for comment.
He was scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 13 in West Covina Superior Court.
“Because of Mr. Gutierrez’s involvement in coaching youth sports in the local area, there is a concern there may be additional victims who have not yet been identified,” according to the police statement.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Covina police Detective Felipe Munoz at 626-385-5615, or 626-384-5808.
PHOTO of Albert Gutierrez courtesy of the Covina Police Department
COVINA — Sheriff’s deputies arrested an 18-year-old Covina man Friday on suspicion of robbing an 11-year-old boy of a scooter he had just received as a Christmas present, authorities said.
Francisco Rodriguez was booked on suspicion of strong-arm robbery following his arrest Friday afternoon at his home in the 1300 block of Citrus Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Kirk Smith said.
The boy had just received the scooter as a Christmas gift from his mother and was riding it shortly before 2 p.m. in the 18600 block of East Arrow Highway, in an unincorporated area near Covina, the sergeant said.
“The suspect pushed him off the scooter, took the scooter and ran off with it,” Smith said. The boy was not injured.
When deputies responded to interview the boy, they learned the suspect had an “unusual haircut,” Smith said. “He had dark black hair with a white streak down the middle like a skunk.”
A deputy following up on the case began asking around the area about the skunk-striped suspect, officials said.
“One place led him to another place, which led to another,” Smith said. Officials ultimately found the suspect sleeping on the porch of his home on Citrus Avenue.
The boy’s scooter was recovered from another location after Rodriguez told deputies where to find it, Smith said. Deputies returned it to the 11-year-old boy on Friday.
According to county booking records, Rodriguez was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance Wednesday in West Covina Superior Court.
After more than a week of eluding authorities, an Azusa man suspected of leading police on two wild pursuits late last month and assaulting an officer was in custody Sunday.
But not before he kicked a hole in the roof of his home and climbed through it in a final attempt to escape, police said.
Gerardo Herrejon, 43, was arrested after a two-hour standoff late Saturday at his condo in the 600 block of East Lee Place in Azusa, Covina police Lt. Ric Walczak said.
Herrejon was booked on suspicion of felony evading, assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and forgery after being taken into custody about 11:50 p.m., Walczak said.
He had been sought since Nov. 29 when he allegedly passed counterfeit money along with 23-year-old Chandra Olazaba of Azusa at the Covina Walmart and then led Covina police on a pursuit that ended when the pursing police car crashed, officials said.
Police identified Olazaba as a suspect in the forgery and pursuit, and showed up at a parole office in El Monte Nov.<TH>30, where she was scheduled to meet with her parole officer, officials said.
Olazaba was arrested at the parole office, but Herrejon allegedly rammed a police car in the parking lot before leading officers on a second pursuit, according to Covina police Lt. Dave Foster.
Herrejon again eluded officers by abandoning his car in El Monte, leaping from a tall wall and and continuing to flee on foot.
Authorities had been seeking Herrejon when Azusa police Officer Seth Chapman spotted him Saturday evening on Lee Place and saw him run into a two-story condominium, Walczak said.
Herrejon refused to come out, initiating a two-hour standoff before police forced their way into the home, Walczak said.
Once the officers got inside, Herrejon began running upstairs and was shot with a less-lethal foam projectile, officials said.
“That struck him in the back of one of his legs, however, he managed to climb up into his attic,” Walczak said.
“From his attic, we continued to order him out, the lieutenant added. “He then kicked a hole in the roof of the condo and got onto the roof.”
Officers had the home surrounded, and after another half-hour of negotiations through Covina police Sgt. Dan Regan, Herrejon was persuaded to surrender via a fire department ladder, according to Walczak.
According to county booking records, Herrejon was being held in lieu of $250,000 bail pending his initial court appearance Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
Olazaba, who officials said was on parole for a previous burglary conviction, was being held without bail on suspicion of burglary and forgery. She was due to appear in West Covina Superior Court Dec. 17.
PHOTOS of Gerardo Herrejon courtesy of the Covina Police Department
One man was hospitalized in critical condition and another jailed on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon following a stabbing outside a house party early Saturday, authorities said.
Izaak Salampessy, 20, was arrested following the 3:15 a.m. stabbing in the 17600 block of Benbow Street in an unincorporated county area near Covina, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Kirk Smith said. He was believed to live nearby the scene of the alleged attack.
Officials first learned of the incident when a 22-year-old man showed up at a Covina hospital with multiple stab wounds to his torso, the sergeant said.
Covina police notified sheriff’s deputies after the injured man relayed that he was stabbed on Benbow Street, in an unincorporated county area patrolled by the sheriff’s San Dimas Station, Smith said. The stabbing victim was transferred to a trauma center in critical condition.
Investigators determined, “There was a fight between two individuals outside of a party,” he said. “One of the individuals stabbed the other,” Smith said.
“Apparently they know each other,” he added. When interviewed in the hospital, the victim identified his alleged attacker by name.
Meanwhile, deputies at the scene had detained Salampessy, who was found in the area with blood on him, Smith said. He was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after being identified by the wounded man as the attacker.
A folding knife with a blade of about 5 inches — believed to be the weapon used in the stabbing — was recovered, Smith added.
Salampessy was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
Police arrested an 18-year-old suspect on suspicion of drunken driving early Sunday after he led officers on a 7-mile chase from Covina to Azusa that ended in a crash, authorities said.
Flavio Mondragon of Azusa was booked on suspicion of intoxicated driving and evading police, Covina police Sgt. Tom Tardif said.
An officer tried to pull Mondragon over for a traffic violation as he drove in a pickup truck about 12:30 a.m. in the area of Citrus Avenue and Covina Boulevard, the sergeant said.
Mondragon refused to pull over and blew threw red lights as he led officers on a chase that ended when he crashed into a wrought iron fence surrounding an apartment complex at Gladstone Street, just east of Pasadena Avenue, in Azusa, according to Covina and Azusa police officials said.
The driver exited the crashed pickup truck and briefly began to run before surrendering, Tardif said.
COVINA — A small camera was discovered attached near a bank ATM on Thursday.
The discovery at the Chase Bank, 1453 N Azusa Ave., was reported to Covina police around 5 p.m.
Lt. Dave Foster said the camera was placed there in an attempt to get the PIN codes of people using the ATM.
He said he believed a bank employee found the camera.
- Ruby Gonzales
COVINA — A Covina woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of child abuse resulting in the death of her 8-month-old grandson, who was found unresponsive in a bathtub while in her care in October.
Irma Godinez, 48, was ordered back to Pomona Superior Court Dec. 19 for a preliminary hearing, court officials said.
Julian Sosa died two days after being found unconscious and not breathing in a bathtub at Godinez’s apartment Oct. 22, Covina police officials said. Godinez was watching the infant for her daughter, who was not present.
Coroner’s officials said Godinez left the baby alone in the tub to answer the phone before finding him unresponsive.
County booking records indicated Godinez was being held in lieu of $230,000 bail.