Flames engulf car along 210 Freeway in Duarte


DUARTE >> A disabled car burst into flames along the 210 Freeway in Duarte Friday afternoon, slowing traffic but resulting in no injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The fire was first reported about 1:01 p.m. on the westbound 210 Freeway near Buena Vista Street, CHP Officer Michelle Bond said.
The driver of the Acura Integra experienced an engine malfunction and saw flames coming from beneath the hood of his car and pulled over to right shoulder, Los carfire2Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Rudy Gilson said. The man got out of the car uninjured before it became engulfed in flames.
Officials briefly shut down the two right-hand traffic lanes, but firefighters quickly doused the fire and traffic resumed normal flow, she said.
It was unclear exactly what caused the car’s engine to catch fire.

PHOTOS by Keith Durflinger


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Elderly good Samaritan helps deputy wrestle violent suspect into custody in Duarte

DUARTE >> An 81-year-old good Samaritan helped a deputy wrestle a combative wanted felon into custody in Duarte earlier this week, officials said.
Officials from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Temple Station thanked the citizen, a local man who wished to remain anonymous, for his help in Tuesday’s arrest in a written statement.
Michael Rodriguez, 24, was booked on suspicion of battery on a deputy, vandalism and resisting arrest, and was also being held on a pre-existing warrant, Sgt. Jose Carbajal said. An additional charge of escape may also be sought by prosecutors.
Deputy Joshua Lambert stopped Rodriguez about 12:40 p.m. on Tuesday after spotting him riding a bike with an open container of alcohol at Huntington Drive and Highland Avenue, Sgt. Jose Carbajal said.
The deputy then placed Rodriguez, un-handcuffed, in the back seat of his patrol car, officials said.
“A warrant check revealed the suspect had a no-bail felony warrant for a weapons violation,” according to the statement. “When the suspect realized he was being arrested, he became enraged, kicked out the rear passenger side window and climbed out of the patrol vehicle.”
The deputy began fighting with the suspect in an attempt to prevent is escape. The 81-year-old good Samaritan was driving by when he saw the struggle, stopped his car and got out to help.
“The citizen grabbed the suspect around the neck and told him, ‘Relax and let him handcuff you. Just relax,’” according to the statement. “The suspect continued to struggle. The three of them fell to the ground where the deputy and the citizen held the suspect in place until assisting deputies arrived a short time later.”
Fellow deputies then arrived and helped take the suspect into custody. The deputy suffered only bumps and bruises, Carbajal said. The good Samaritan was unhurt.
In addition to being thanked by the station as a whole, Deputy Lambert personally expressed hi gratitude to the good Samaritan.
“If it hadn’t been for (the citizen) stopping to help me, it could have got real ugly. That guy did not want to go to jail,” Lambert said.

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Duarte man sought after vanishing two weeks ago


DUARTE >> Authorities are asking the public to keep an eye out for a 58-year-old Duarte man suffering from medical problems who’s been missing for two weeks.
Rudolph “Rudy” Mejia was last seen leaving his Vineyard Avenue home about 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Mejia left home in his white, 2015 Dodge Ram pickup truck. But the truck was found abandoned along San Gabriel Canyon Road in the Azusa Canyon on Tuesday, officials said. The were no signs the truck had been involved in a crash.
“The missing persons suffers from depression and heart issues,” according to the statement. “His family is very concerned and is also asking for the public’s assistance.”
Mejia is Latino, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 230 pounds, with brown hair, blue eyes and missing bottom front teeth. He has a 3- to 4-inch vertical scar on the front of his left knee.
He was last seen wearing a gray shirt and blue jeans.
Anyone with information can reach detectives Abraham or Nunez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, Missing Persons Unit at 323-890-5500.

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Man crashes car after being shot at near Monrovia

MONROVIA >> A man crashed his car after another driver opened fire on him in an unincorporated county area near Monrovia on Monday afternoon, but was not struck by the gunfire, authorities said.
The incident unfolded shortly after 5 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Frank Ruiz said.
After being fired upon by another motorist, the driver crashed into another car at Schrode and California avenues, the lieutenant said.
The intended target of the shooting suffered no significant injuries, he said. The occupant of the other car involved in the crash was treated for apparently minor injuries.
The shooting was believed to have occurred near the scene of the crash, but the exact location of the gunfire was yet to be determined, Ruiz said.
Deputies were still sorting out conflicting suspect descriptions Monday evening.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man found dead in Duarte field; no foul play suspected

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DUARTE >> Investigators did not suspect foul play after a man was found dead in a vacant field in Duarte on Saturday morning, authorities said.
A person flagged down a deputy about 8 a.m. to report finding an unresponsive man lying in a dirt field dotted with trees in the 1400 block of East Huntington Drive, just east of Buena Vista Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ronald Daily said.
DUARTEmapParamedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.
The man was yet to be identified, Daily said. He appeared to be homeless and was estimated to be in his 50s.
Officials found no signs of foul play involved in the death, according to the lieutenant.
Los Angeles County Department of Coroner-Medical Examiner officials retrieved the body are conducting an investigation into the man’s cause of death.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171.

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UPDATED: Duarte man accused of murder after fatal shooting of neighbor, pursuit

DUARTE >> A Duarte man shot and killed his neighbor Friday night before leading police on a chase that ended with his arrest in Azusa, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 7:55 p.m. in the 2100 block of Broach Avenue, Deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, 35, died in the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Luis Valdes-Santillan, 40, was booked on suspicion of murder, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
De La Torre and Valdes-Santillan lived in separate homes on the same lot, Hernandez said. Both attended a party being held at another neighbor’s home.
“At some point during the party, the victim and the suspect began to argue,” she said. “The suspect then entered his residence, retrieved a handgun, exited, and fired multiple rounds at the victim, striking him.”
De La Torre died at the scene.
Witnesses told deputies the shooter had fled in a white Toyota work truck, officials said.
Deputies soon spotted the truck nearby. The driver refused to pull over, initiating a pursuit.
The chase headed down Duarte Road and Huntington Drive before ultimately making its way onto the eastbound 210 Freeway, according to sheriff’s radio traffic.
A helicopter joined in the pursuit before Valdes-Santillan stopped and surrendered on the Azusa Avenue offramp in Azusa.
“A weapon was recovered inside the suspect’s vehicle,” Hernandez said.
The man was taken to the sheriff’s Temple Station for questioning, officials said. He was ultimately booked on suspicion of murder.
Valdes-Santillan was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Alhambra branch, records show.
No further details were released as the investigation continued Saturday.
De La Torre’s brother-in-law, Bobby Serna, said De La Torre is survived by his wife and three step-daughters who he had helped raise. The youngest of his step-daughters is a teenager.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Serna said. “He took a really good man that I looked up to. I loved him, I really did.”
Serna, who was not present when the shooting occurred, said his brother-in-law was gathered with family members behind his home, along with Valdes-Santillan.
It was unclear what angered Valdes-Santillan and prompted him to retrieve a gun from his home.
The suspect made a statement to the effect of, “Who wants it first?” before opening fire, Serna said.
Until the gunshots were fired, “Nobody even knew it was happening,” he said.
Serna said he did not know whether De La Torre was specifically targeted in the shooting.
“He was such a good man,” Serna said of his brother-in-law.
De La Torre migrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager and had been working as a subcontracting electrician, he said. De La Torre’s white work van with a ladder affixed to the top remained parked in front of the home Saturday.
He was saving money and planning to obtain his contractor’s license, so he could start his own contractor business, Serna said.
“He would help anybody,” Serna said. “He really valued family. He loved kids. He was a hard worker.”
De La Torre’s personality was “quiet but humorous,” he said.
“My daughters are devastated. They loved their uncle,” Serna said.
Funds to benefit De La Torre’s family are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/2ksz74hg.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO: Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, courtesy

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UPDATED: Man and wife beaten in Duarte home invasion; 3 suspects sought

DUARTE >> Three masked attackers beat a man and his wife during a home invasion at the northern edge of Duarte Friday, authorities said.
One of the attackers tried, but failed, to carjack a woman while fleeing from the scene of the 1 p.m. home-invasion on Spinks Canyon Road, at Rim Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ismael Chavez said.
The husband and wife, both in their 50s, suffered injuries not believed to be major, including swelling, abrasions and bruising to their heads and faces, the lieutenant said.
The man was standing in front of the home when he was first confronted by one of the masked criminals and attacked, Chavez said. After being beaten up, the man managed to go to a neighbor’s house to seek help.
Meanwhile, the two additional robbers made their way to the home’s front door.
“They force their way in and start beating her up,” Chavez said. “She was able to flee to a neighbor’s house.”
It was unclear what, if anything, was stolen from the couple’s home as the investigation continued late Friday.
Three male suspects, all black wearing hooded sweat shirts, black masks and black gloves, carried out the crime, he said.
Two of the men fled the area in a silver Range Rover SUV, last seen driving south along Spinks Canyon Road, Chavez said.
The third suspect was left behind by his partners in crime, Chavez said. He tried to carjack a woman near the scene of the home-invasion, but the woman was able to drive away. The third suspect was last seen on foot.
Detectives had found no obvious reason late Friday why the robbers would target the couple, Chavez said.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Victim of Irwindale shooting identified as Duarte man

IRWINDALE >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a Duarte man found dead inside a bullet-riddled car along Foothill Boulevard in Irwindale Wednesday morning.
Martin Diaz, 48, was found fatally shot about 5:40 a.m. in the 15900 block of Foothill Boulevard, Los Angeles Count Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
He was believed to have been driving east on Foothill Boulevard when he was shot by an unknown assailant, who remains at large, Lt. Joe Mendoza of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. But it was unclear exactly what time the shooting took place.
No further information regarding the circumstances or motive in the shooting were available.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Man killed, woman wounded in shooting near Duarte

DUARTE >> A man died and a woman was wounded in a shooting in a residential neighborhood in an unincorporated county area between Duarte and Monrovia late Sunday, authorities said.
Deputies responded to a report of a shooting about 7:05 p.m. at Lincoln and Shrode avenues, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“Upon their arrival, they found a victim, a male Hispanic adult, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the upper torso,” according to Deputy Kelvin Moody. “The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.”
A woman had also been struck by gunfire, he said. She was hospitalized in stable condition with a gunshot wound to her leg.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were available.
“There is no suspect information at this time,” Moody said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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‘Bluto Bandit’ suspect, linked to 4-county bank robbery spree, charged federally


LOS ANGELES >> A prolific serial bank robbery suspect known as the “Bluto Bandit” who was arrested following an ill-fated heist in South Pasadena Thursday has been charged in federal court, officials said Saturday.
Joseph Adel Noriega, 37, of Rancho Cucamonga is accused of eight bank robberies and attempted bank robberies, as well as numerous other incidents of “casing,” spanning Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties since June 10, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
His alleged crime spree came to an end Thursday after he tried, unsuccessfully to rob a South Pasadena bank before being captured minutes later by police in neighboring San Marino, according to South Pasadena police Cpl. Shannon Robledo.
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint Friday charging Noriega with the South Pasadena crime.
“However, the investigation is continuing and Noriega potentially faces additional charges,” FBI officials said in a written statement.
Crime attributed to the serial bandit have been reported in cities including Monrovia, Duarte, unincorporated Pasadena, Ontario, Chino, Norco, Fontana and Beaumont.
The FBI labeled the then-unidentified robber the Bluto Bandit due to a black fake beard he wore during the crimes, reminding investigators of the villain in the Popeye comic strips, Eimiller said.
The Bluto Bandit’s tactic, or modus operandi, was to pass a note demanding cash to bank tellers, officials said.
“In some robberies, the note advised the teller to remain calm; to remove the money within 15 or 30 seconds; or to avoid deploying security devices,” according to the FBI statement. “The suspect generally did not talk during the robberies.”
When San Marino police apprehended Noriega following a brief car chase Thursday, officers found evidence linking him to the crime spree, including bank robbery demand notes, officials said.
He was still wearing his trademark fake beard, Robledo added.
Noriega appeared in federal court in Los Angeles Friday and was remanded to federal custody pending trial, officials said.

Bank surveillance photo courtesy of the FBI.

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