POMONA >> Prosecutors have declined to file a case against a Montebello police officer arrested in May on suspicion driving under the influence of prescription painkillers following a solo-vehicle crash in Diamond Bar in May, officials said Wednesday.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station arrested Montebello police Sgt. Christopher Cervantes, 43, in the early-morning hours of May 6 after the vehicle he was driving crashed into a tree.
Cervantes was scheduled to appear in court Monday for an arraignment hearing, but the hearing was cancelled after officials decided not to pursue a criminal charge against the officer.
After reviewing the case, “We declined a case against Mr. Cervantes June 29 due to insufficient evidence,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The case was declined because the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials have no expert to provide an opinion regarding Cervantes’ alleged impairment.
“(Cervantes) stated he swerved to avoid a collision with another vehicle and struck a tree,” according to his district attorney’s office charge evaluation worksheet. “He exhibited objective symptoms of being under the influence of a drug at the scene and was arrested.”
“(Cervantes) provided a blood sample which tested positive acetaminophen/butalbital/codeine and morphine, a prescription drug. (He) has a valid prescription for this medication,” according to the document.
But prosecutors said they could take the case no further.
“There is no expert testimony available through our crime lab to offer a quantitative or qualitative opinion of impairment based upon the facts set forth,” according to the charge evaluation worksheet. “The (field sobriety tests) and driving are insufficient to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that suspect operated a motor vehicle while impaired. Prosecution is declined based upon insufficient evidence.”
Both Montebello police and sheriff officials have declined to discuss details of the allegations against Cervantes, including whether the vehicle involved in the crash was city-owned, or whether the officer was on-duty at the time of the crash.
Montebello police have also declined to say whether Cervantes was placed on leave or remained on normal duty during the investigation.
DIAMOND BAR >> A major sewage leak flooded a Diamond Bar street with malodorous muck for nearly four hours Sunday, officials said.
The leak began about 11:20 a.m., when sewage began spurting from beneath a manhole cover in the 1100 block of Clear Creed Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. David Buckner said.
Before long, a stream of the foul-smelling sludge was spread over several hundred feet, he said. The reason for the backup was not clear.
Public works officials got managed to shut off the flow of sewage about 3 p.m., but remained on-scene into the late afternoon.
DIAMOND BAR >> Deputies arrested a Montebello police officer early Wednesday on suspicion of drunken driving following a crash in Diamond Bar, according to officials and county booking records.
Christopher Andrew Cervantes, 43, was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI about 3:30 a.m. and released on $5,000 bail within the hour, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
Lt. John Saleeby of the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar station confirmed the arrest, but declined to provide information regarding the circumstances of the arrest, saying the investigation was “ongoing.” He deferred further inquiries to the Montebello Police Department.
In addition to the sheriff’s department investigation, Montebello police have launched their own internal investigation into the incident, Montebello police Lt. Kelly Gordon said.
“At 12:40 this morning, one of our employees was involved in a traffic collision in Diamond Bar,” Gordon said. “The employee was arrested.”
Gordon declined to confirm the name of the involved officer.
She said she did not know whether the involved police employee was on-duty or off-duty, or whether the crash involved a police vehicle or a personal car.
Further details were not available. Montebello Police Chief Kevin McClure could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Wednesday’s arrest was not Cervantes first scrape with the law from the other side of the badge.
He was arrested by San Diego police in July of 2011 when he was allegedly drunk, resisted arrest and falsely identified himself to arresting officers as an agent from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Fellow officers who filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Montebello Police Department in 2012 accused the department of failing to properly discipline the officer.
Former Mongol Al “The Suit” Cavazos and his brother, former club president Ruben “Doc” Cavazos, have accused Cervantes and his partner in the ATF of lying about the circumstances of a 2007 shooting in order to obtain a search warrant which ultimately led to federal convictions for 78 Mongols and a state conviction for the shooter. Both Montebello police and ATF officials have denied the allegation.
The Mongols have voted the Cavazos brothers “out bad” of the organization.
Al Cavazos said he was not surprised Cervantes, who he described as “crooked,” had gotten into legal trouble.
“I have put in numerous complaints with the Montebello Police Department department about his corruption,” Al Cavazos said of Cervantes. “He falsified documents that put me in jail.” Al Cavazos served nine months behind bars in connection with the case, and has since successfully sued the government for the return of a seized motorcycle.
“(Cervantes) falsified evidence, which I could prove,” he said. “He went as far as to falsify two attempted murder, and drug charges.”
Al Cavazos said he has also filed complaints with the sheriff’s East Los Angeles Station, which patrols the jurisdiction where the 2007 Nicola’s bar shooting took place. But nothing has come of the complaints, which Cavazos said police and sheriff’s administrators were not taking seriously.
DIAMOND BAR >> A brush fire broke out Thursday afternoon along Derringer Lane.
The fire was first reported just before 4 p.m in the 1800 block of Derringer Lane, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Keith Mora said.
It grew to 2.5 acres before firefighters got the flames extinguished in about an hour, fire Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Simms said. No structures were initially threatened, and no injuries were reported, the captain said.
The fire was burning with a 5- to 10 mph wind at its back ad firefighters poured water on the fire from both hoses and helicopters, Mora said.
The cause was under investigation.
DIAMOND BAR >> Sheriff’s officials Thursday announced the arrest of a 42-year-old San Dimas woman who was found driving in Orange County with the remains of her slain mother-in-law in an SUV Wednesday following a fire at the mother-in-law’s Diamond Bar home.
Unyoung Lee had been a “person of interest” in the investigation ever since she was found driving in Tustin early Wednesday morning, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
After a day of questioning, detectives arrested Lee about 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to Los Angeles County booking records. She was booked on suspicion of murder and was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail pending her arraignment, scheduled Friday in Pomona Superior Court.
Orange county coroner’s officials withheld the identity of Lee’s alleged victim and 77-year-old mother-in-law.
A large fire that broke out shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday at the victim’s house in the 1200 block of N. Diamond Bar Boulevard first drew emergency personnel to the home, according to deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Firefighters found no one inside the home.
But Tustin police soon received a tip that the resident of the home had been killed, the house had been set on fire intentionally, and the possible killer was driving in the Tustin area with the victim’s remains in the car.
Tustin police quickly found the car and detained Lee as detectives continued their investigation both in Tustin and in Diamond Bar.
A motive in the slaying has not been released.
DIAMOND BAR >> Deputies arrested three teenage burglary suspects Sunday afternoon after they broke into a Diamond Bar home occupied by another teenager, officials said.
The break-in occurred about 12:10 p.m. in the 800 block of Leyland Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. David Buckner said.
A teenage boy was home alone when the burglars knocked at the door, then forced their way into the house after receiving no response, the lieutenant said.
The victim called 9-1-1 to report the burglary while the teenage suspects were still inside the home, Buckner said. They had fled in a blue Honda Civic before deputies arrived, however.
A neighbor managed to take down the license plate number of the car, and deputies soon found it nearby and pulled it over, Buckner said.
Deputies arrested the three teens of about 17 years old and recovered several hundred dollars believed to have been stolen in the break-in, he said.
DIAMOND BAR >> A person has been hospitalized in unknown condition after being struck by a truck on the 60 Freeway in Diamond Bar early Saturday.
The incident occurred on the westbound lanes of the 60 beneath the 57 Freeway about 2:45 a.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Tony Polizzi said.
The sequence was initiated with a single-vehicle crash with either the center divider or the right shoulder wall of the freeway, causing the vehicle, a gray Cadillac, to catch fire, according to CHP logs.
The Cadillac appeared to have had two occupants, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department officials and a videographer at the scene.
At least one of them exited the car, officials said.
A person, described only as male, was trying to put out the fire when he was struck by a truck, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Al Jackson said.
Another driver stopped and dragged the victim out of the freeway lanes, according to the log.
Paramedics took the injured person to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center for treatment, according to fire and CHP officials. An update on his condition was not available.
The second person inside the Cadillac was not hospitalized, officials said.
Fire officials described the involved truck as a big rig, while CHP officials described it as a delivery truck.
The investigation was being handled by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP, who could not be reached for comment.
— Staff and wire report
DIAMOND BAR >> A fiery crash blamed on a drunken driver sent five people to the hospital early Sunday, including a woman and a boy who suffered major injuries, authorities said.
The California Highway Patrol received reports of a crash between a 2003 Toyota Camry and a 2010 Kia Forte about 3:10 a.m. on the northbound 57 Freeway just north of Diamond Bar Boulevard, CHP Sgt. Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh said in a written statement.
The Kia was stopped along the right shoulder of the freeway prior the crash, she said. A 29-year-old woman was at the wheel, along with a 24-year-old woman, a boy of unknown age and a man of unknown age riding as passengers. All four occupants of the Kia were Apple Valley residents, however the relationship among them was unclear.
The boy and a man who were passengers in the Kia suffered major injuries and were flown to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment, Van Valkenburgh said. Paramedics took the woman who was driving the Kia, as well as the second woman riding as a passenger, to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center with injuries described as minor to moderate.
Edgar Rodriguez, 26, of Covina, is suspected of being drunk as he drove his Toyota Camry up the 57 Freeway approaching the stopped Kia, Van Valkenburgh said.
“His vehicle drifted onto the right shoulder and rear-ended the Kia,” she said.
The impact sent the Kia spinning, and it ultimately came to a rest blocking the two right-hand lanes, officials said.
The Toyota continued forward along the sound wall along the right side of the freeway before coming to a rest.
“Shortly after (Rodriguez) escaped from his vehicle, is caught fire and became engulfed in flames,” Van Valkenburgh said. He was treated for “moderate” injuries including a broken wrist and was expected to be booked on suspicion of felony drunken driving.
Officials shut down all northbound lanes of the freeway until about 4:10 a.m., at which time the HOV lane was opened for traffic, according to the CHP. All traffic lanes were cleared shortly before 5 a.m.
Any witnesses to the crash were asked to contact Officer Dockweiler of the Baldwin Park office of the CHP at 626-338-1164.
DIAMOND BAR >> A man robbed a woman of her wallet Thursday, but the woman fought back with pepper spray, officials said.
The robbery took place about 2 p.m. on Diamond Bar Boulevard, just south of Grand Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Frank Rivera said.
The robber pushed the woman and grabbed her wallet when it fell to the ground, the lieutenant said. The woman sprayed pepper spray toward the robber, though it was unclear if it hit him in the face.
Deputies searched the area for the robber, but he was not found, Rivera said. A detailed suspect description was not available.
The woman, who was in her 20s, was examined by paramedics but did not appear to have suffered significant injury, Rivera said.
POMONA >> A judge sentenced a former Diamond Bar middle school teacher to more than 15 years in prison Thursday for carrying on a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student, officials said.
Ex-Carl Lorbeer Middle School teacher Steven Shane Andrews, 43, of Anaheim, received the maximum sentence of 15 years and 18 months in state prison from Pomona Superior Court Judge Mike Camacho, according to Sarah Ardalani of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
A jury convicted Andrews in March of 17 felony counts related to the a sexual relationship he had with a student between May 2011 and his his Sept. 20, 2011, arrest, authorities said.
Camacho additionally ordered Andrews to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Ardalani said.
Andrews first met his victim at school when she was 13 years old, investigators said.
“The defendant taught the victim for about a year before the sexual misconduct began,” Ardalani said in a written statement. “Initially, the incidents transpired at the school, but later also occurred off-campus.”
The crimes came to light when another teacher at the school became suspicious of Andrews’ interactions with the girl and notified the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, she added.
Andrews was placed on leave from the Pomona Unified School District a day before his arrest when school officials learned of the allegations, officials said. He was formerly fired in December of 2012.
The investigation was handled by the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau.