POMONA >> An El Monte gang member has begun serving a sentence of 80 years to life in prison for the fatal shooting of a fellow gang member in El Monte in 2012.
A Pomona Superior Court jury convicted Frank Escalante, 27, in April of the June 14, 2012, slaying of 34-year-old German Palacios of El Monte in the 11500 block of Medina Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Convicted along with Escalante was 27-year-old Noah Akuna of Pomona, who was sentenced earlier this month 50 years in life in state prison. The jury found both guilty of murder with special gun allegations, conspiracy to commit murder and being convicted felons in possession of a firearm. Escalante also admitted a previous conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.
Both men fired on Palacios, Deputy District Attorney Robert Serna said.
Pomona Superior Court Judge Thomas C. Falls sentenced Escalante Tuesday to 83 years to life in state prison, Ardalani said.
Homicide detectives said Escalante and Akuna, along with two other attackers, shot Hicks 16 times because they believed he was involved in the April 12, 2008, slaying of Jack Edward Hicks, 35, of El Monte in a tent trailer parked behind a friend’s house in the 5200 block of Cogswell Road. Officials also suspected Palacios was targeted for disrespecting a higher-ranking gang member.
Detective Ray Lugo of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau confirmed that investigators had looked into Palacios in connection with Hicks’ slaying, but charges were never filed.
Two other men charged in connection with Palacios’ killing — Richard Sanchez of Covina and Michael Dominguez of El Monte — have pleaded “no contest” to charges of voluntary manslaughter.
Sanchez helped plan the killing, and Dominguez provided Akuna with a handgun used in the shooting, Serna said.
Sanchez has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, while Dominguez is scheduled to be sentenced July 8.
PHOTOS: [Above] -Convicted killer Frank Escalante, 27, of El Monte [Below] – Homicide victim German Palacios. (Courtesy)
EL MONTE >> Los Angeles police shot and critically wounded an armed domestic violence suspect in El Monte early Friday at the conclusion of a two-hour car chase that began in South Los Angeles, authorities said.
The wounded suspect was rushed into surgery and hospitalized in critical condition following the shooting, which took place about 5:30 a.m. at Valley Boulevard and Mountain View Road, Los Angeles police Lt. John Jenal said.
The incident began two hours earlier, when officers from the LAPD’s Southeast Division responded to a report of a domestic assault in the are of 96th Street and Firth Avenue, the lieutenant said. They encountered a victim with significant injuries, but the suspect had already left.
Officers spotted the suspect driving a white Toyota minivan nearby and began a pursuit when he failed to pull over, Jenal said.
The slow speed chase continued for about two hours, primarily on surface streets, Jenal said. “Officers saw him waving a weapon.”
Police used a spike strip to flatten the minivans wheels, but the suspect continued driving on the van’s rims.
He stopped the minivan and exited at Elliot Avenue and Cogswell Road, Jenal said. Police first shot at the man with a bean bag gun before opening fire with bullets, he said. The suspect, who was not struck by the gunfire, returned to the minivan and continued driving.
The minivan again came to a stop, apparently disabled, at Valley Boulevard and Mountain View Road.
“He put a blanket over him as he exited the van, to the point where you could not see his hands,” Jenal said. “Shortly thereafter, the blanket fell to the ground. In his hand, he brandished that same handgun, that’s when the officer-involved shooting occurred.”
Jenal said the suspect suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was in “very critical condition” at an intensive care unit. His identity was not available. He was initially described as about 30 years old. Graphic video of the incident that emerged online showed the suspect brandishing a handgun in the moments before he was shot. The view of the suspect is obscured at the moment police open fire.
In the minutes leading up, police are seen on the video ordering the suspect to throw his gun out the window, stop his car and surrender.
At one point, the suspect tells police, “I don’t want to kill myself. I just want to drive.” He later tells an officer who orders him to stop his van, “I can’t. You don’t understand.”
EL MONTE >> Police are planing a checkpoint tonight in El Monte, officials said.
Officers will check drivers for sobriety and valid licensed during the checkpoint, to be held from 7:30 p.m. tonight through 3 a.m. Sunday in the area of Santa Anita Avenue and Lower Azusa Road, El Monte police officials said in a written statement.
DUI-related crashes have claimed one life and resulted in 83 injures in El Monte over the past three years, El Monte police Sgt. Jimmy Pitts said.
Funding for the checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Traffic Safety,
POMONA >> A jury convicted a Rowland Heights man Tuesday of fatally stabbing his ex-boyfriend, an El Monte man, to death in an industrial neighborhood in La Puente last year.
Andres Aguirre, 28, also known as Andres Aguirre Garcia, faces up to 26 years to life in prison when he returns to Pomona Superior Court July 7 to be sentenced for the Feb. 12, 2014, slaying of 27-year-old Joseph Chacon, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
The men had ended a relationship years prior to the stabbing but had recently reunited and become friends at the time of the killing, officials said.
On the night of the fatal stabbing, Aguirre picked up the victim at his Rowland Heights home, authorities said. “Aguirre provided Chacon with a large amount of alcohol and drove the victim to an isolated industrial area in La Puente,” district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
The men ended up in a parking lot behind an insulation business owned by La Puente’s then-mayor, Charlie Klinakis, in the 15900 block of Old Valley Road in La Puente, Lt. Steve Jauch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said at the time.
“At one point, the victim exited the car to urinate and Aguirre followed,” the statement said. “As the victim attempted to return to the car, Aguirre fatally stabbed Chacon in the chest and back.”
“Four of the five wounds were fatal or potentially fatal,” Deputy District attorney Lauren Guber said.
Chacon’s body was found by a passer-by a short time later.
Detectives arrested Aguirre two days later after he agreed to meet with detectives for an interview. He was the last person known to have seen Chacon alive.
As Aguirre’s story failed to add up, he confessed to stabbing Chacon, sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said.
Chacon and Aguirre had been involved in a relationship, but broke it off in 2006, the prosecutor said. The men fell out of touch for several years, but began a friendship when they met by a coincidence on a bus in the year or so leading up to the deadly encounter.
Following his arrest, Aguirre told investigators that he became angry at Chacon because he believed Chacon was being a bad friend and disrespecting him by taking phone calls and making other plans while the men spent the evening together, Guber said. Aguirre also made mention of seemingly unfounded, irrational fears that Chacon or one of his friends would harm him, though Chacon never physically harmed or threatened Aguirre.
Aguirre told detectives his intention on the night of the killing was to “test their friendship,” Guber said. He brought the knife with him when he picked up Chacon, later admitting to investigators that if the night did not go well, the thought of killing his friend had crossed his mind.
Following his arrest, the killer then led investigators to a roadside in Walnut where he had buried the knife used in the killing, described as an ornamental sword-like knife with a blade about 10 inches long, Guber said. “He seemed to have driven it into the ground with a hammer.”
That confession was played as evidence for the jury during the trial, Ardalani said.
Following a five-day trial, jurors deliberated for less than a day before finding Aguirre guilty of first degree murder, along with the special allegation that he personally used a knife in the killing, the prosecutor said. In doing so, jurors rejected the defense’s position that Aguirre should be convicted of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, rather than murder.
“The jury worked hard. I think they came to the right decision, Guber said.
EL MONTE >> Police wrote more than 140 tickets to drivers this month as the department cracked down on distracted driving, officials said.
Throughout May, El Monte police joined other law enforcement agencies nationwide in devoting extra attention to distracted driving enforcement.
“Most of the citations were issued for using a cellular phone while driving, including talking on the phone or texting while driving,” El Monte police Sgt. Jimmie Pitts said in a written statement. “One driver was cited for applying makeup while driving on the freeway and almost colliding with a police motorcycle officer while not paying attention to the traffic around her.”
Funding for the campaign was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
EL MONTE >> Police reached out to the public for help Wednesday in tracking down a 71-year-old old El Monte man suffering from schizophrenia and a mild intellectual disability who went missing Saturday.
Francisco De Guevara Ladron was last seen about 8 a.m. Saturday leaving his home in the Sunnyside Guest Home, 4457 Maxson Road, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said in a written statement. He told staff he was heading to a store, possibly a 7-Eleven at 12170 Ramona Blvd., Luna said.
When staff members noticed Ladron had not returned, they went looking for him without success, Luna said. El Monte police were also unable to find Ladron after searching the area.
“Ladron has no immediate family and there are no other known areas where he frequents,” Luna said. “Ladron does require daily medication.”
Ladron was described as Latino, with gray hair and brown eyes. He’s 5 feet 6 inches tall, 145 pounds and is missing all of his teeth. He speaks only Spanish and talks in an “animated” fashion, police said. He walks slowly and with poor posture.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the El Monte Police Department or their local law enforcement agency immediately.
EL MONTE >> Police arrested an El Monte middle school teacher on suspicion of inappropriate behavior with female students last week, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Police arrested Marcos Miguel Bowers, 45, of Covina Friday on suspicion of committing lewd acts with four underage victims, according to El Monte police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. He posted $100,000 bail and was released from custody three hours later.
The arrest came at the end of a month-long investigation that began April 2, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said in a written statement. Police were notified that Bowers had been involved in “inappropriate physical contact” with a juvenile, Luna said. Bowers was placed on leave at the outset of the investigation.
“The investigation continued, which resulted in the identification of three additional victims,” Luna said. Police described the alleged victims all as juveniles under the age of 17. But the specific ages and genders of the students were not released Wednesday, nor was information regarding whether the alleged victims were students.
Bowers taught math and science teacher at Kranz Intermediate School, according to the school’s website.
Mountain VIew School District officials could not be reached for comment late Wednesday, nor could Bowers.
Bowers was scheduled to appear for arraignment July 9 in Pomona Superior Court, officials said.
EL MONTE >> The community is invited to have a free lunch with El Monte’s new police chief Saturday at Arceo Park.
The meet and greet with El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso, who took over the El Monte Police Department last month, will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park, 3125 N. Tyler Ave., according to the El Monte Police Officers Association, which is hosting the event.
Free hot dogs, chips and drinks will be provided.
For more information, the department’s Community Relations Office can be reached at 626-580-2186.
– PHOTO by Walt Mancini
EL MONTE >> An El Monte Kung Fu instructor is accused of molesting three students at his Valley Boulevard studio, police said.
Police arrested Derick Lee, 49, of Temple City, Thursday on suspicion of child molestation, child annoyance and false imprisonment, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said late Friday in a written statement.
The investigation into the Kung Fu instructor began early Thursday morning, Luna said.
“El Monte Police Officers received information that a local martial arts instructor from the Elite Kung Fu Training Academy, 10423 Valley Blvd., El Monte, had inappropriate physical contact with a juvenile,” Luna said.
Detectives identified Lee as the suspect in the alleged molestation.
“A follow-up investigation resulted in the identification of two additional victims,” the sergeant said. “All of the assaults were committed against current and former students of Elite Kung Fu Academy and the assaults occurred inside of the business.”
The crimes occurred over the past year, Luna said. Police withheld the genders of the alleged victims, described only as under 17 years old.
Messages seeking comment left with the martial arts school via phone and email were not returned Saturday.
According to the martial arts studios’ website, Lee began instructing Kung Du in 2004, “with only a handful of students practicing at local parks and Sifu Lee’s own home.” Sifu is a respectful Chinese term used to described martial arts instructors.
Lee opened DLee’s Martial Arts in Temple City in 2006 before moving to El Monte in 2012 and renaming the academy Elite Kung Fu, according to the website.
Lee was being held in lieu of $550,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Monday in El Monte Superior Court, county booking records show.
Detectives sought any potential additional victims, and anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact El Monte police at 626-580-2114.