Shotgun-wielding bandit sought in El Monte gas station robbery

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EL MONTE >> Police Wednesday released photos of a shotgun-wielding robber sought for holding up an El Monte gas station last week, officials said.
The crime took place about 11:50 a.m. Jan. 28 at an ARCO gas station, 9824 Flair Drive, near the 10 Freeway, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said in a written statement.
“A male, 25 to 30 years old, entered the location, brandished a blue steel shotgun and the store clerk and demanded cash,” Luna said.
The gunman obtained about $60 and fled in a 1998- to 2000-model, four-door Nissan Altima, described as possibly gold in color, police said.
Police Wednesday released surveillance camera images depicting the robber and 0204_NWS_SGT-L-EMROB3his car in hopes of generating tips from the public, Luna said.
He was described as Latino, 5 feet 4 inches tall, 170 pounds, of medium build, with black hair. He wore sunglasses, a white polo shirt with tan stripes, blue jeans with cuffs and black tennis shoes with white soles.
Anyone with information is asked to contact El Monte police at 626-590-2114. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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PHOTOS of robber, getaway car courtesy of the El Monte Police Department.

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Three men arrested for car burglary, auto theft in Whittier


WHITTIER >> A tipster helped police arrest three men accused of breaking into a car at the Whittwood Town Center mall Tuesday night, then fleeing in a stolen car, officials said.
David Payan, 31, of El Monte, Jose Pedro Zavala, 26, of El Monte and Jose Luis Hernandez, 25, of Hacienda Heights, were booked on suspicion of auto burglary and auto theft following their 77:20 p.m. arrests, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
A witness called police to report seeing burglars breaking into a car parked at the Whittwood Town Center, 15466 Whittier Blvd., Whittier police said in a written statement.
The tipster followed the suspects in their car and provided information to police, Lt. Aaron Ruiz said.
Officers stopped the suspects and took them into custody in the 15100 block Mulberry Drive in South Whittier, he said.
“Officers were able to detain three suspects and recover property taken in the burglary,” according to the police statement.
Police soon determined that the car the suspects had been using had been reported stolen in Los Angeles, officials said.
All three suspects were being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending their initial court appearances, records show.

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Armed El Monte gang member leads West Covina police on chase in stolen car


WEST COVINA >> West Covina police arrested an El Monte gang member who led them on a short chase in a stolen car before ditching the vehicle, as well as a loaded handgun, and trying to escape on foot, officials said.
Parolee Andrew Cuevas, 23, is accused of being a felon in possession of firearm, auto theft, evading police and violating parole, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
Officers encountered Cuevas about 7:20 a.m. when they tried to pull over the car he was driving for a traffic violation, the lieutenant said.
Cuevas sped away instead, leading police on a brief pursuit before abandoning the car and running at Pacific and Puente avenues, just across the city border in Baldwin Park, he said.
“(Cuevas) proceeded to run from vehicle, making continuous furtive gestures in area of his waistband,” Patton said. Refusing repeated orders stop, “He pulled out a weapon — a handgun, loaded semi-auto — and tossed it into an adjacent yard.”
Officers then captured Cuevas without a struggle, Patton said.
The car Cuevas had been driving was found to have been taken earlier in the morning in West Covina, but not yet reported to police as stolen.
Cuevas was taken to a hospital for examination prior to booking due to a pre-existing medical condition, officials said. He was expected to be held without bail pending his initial court appearance.

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Man accidentally released from jail, recaptured in Mexico, sentenced for Baldwin Park shooting; mistrial declared on murder charge

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BALDWIN PARK >> An Al Monte gang member who was accidentally released from custody, then-recaptured in Mexico, while awaiting trial for two separate Baldwin Park shootings received a lifetime prison sentence last week, authorities said.
A Pomona Superior Court jury convicted Johnny Mata, 34, of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in August, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. The jurors hung on additional charges of murder, and a second county of possession of a firearm by a felon. Prosecutors were yet to decide whether to seek a retrial for Mata on those counts.
Judge Thomas C. Falls sentenced Mata Friday to life in prison, plus 25 years behind bars, Ardalani said.
Mata, along with Jesus Arroyo Lule, 34, of El Monte and Christina Montenegro, 27, were initially arrested in connection a n allegedly gang-related shooting that left 34-year-old David Anthony Deanda of Baldwin Park dead on Christmas Eve, 2010, in the 13200 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles county sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said.
Lule pleaded “no contest” to a charge of voluntary manslaughter in 2014 for Deanda’s slaying and is scheduled to be sentenced by Pomona Superior Court Judge Mike Camacho on Jan. 29, Ardalani said. A charge of attempted murder was dismissed as part of the plea arrangement.
Montenegro pleaded no contest to a charge of forgery in July of 2013, Ardalani said. A murder charge was dismissed, and Montenegro was sentenced to three years in county jail. Records indicate she has since served her time and been released.
Deanda, a welder, was survived by his wife, a son, a daughter and a stepdaughter, family said.
District attorney’s officials declined to discuss the details of Deanda’s slaying pending the potential second murder trial to come.
Mata’s defense attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Though the jury failed to reach a verdict in the murder case, they convicted Mata of charges related to a second, separate shooting on April 21, 2012, in Baldwin Park.
Mata, described by authorities as an El Monte gang member, opened fire on a rival gang member in front of the victim’s home in Baldwin Park, Ardalani said. The intended target was not struck by the gunfire.
As he awaited trial, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials accidentally released Mata on April 4, 2013, as a result of what sheriff’s officials described as a clerical error. The erroneous release at the sheriff’s Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles occurred after a judge had dismissed an attempted murder charge against Mata, but not other charges, including murder.
El Monte police initially arrested Mata in May of 2012 after he ran from a stolen car, according to El Monte police Lt. David Vautrin.
Following his improper release by sheriff’s officials
After spending more than a year as a fugitive, Mexican authorities, aided by American investigators, found and re-captured Mata in Mexico in May of 2014 and returned him to the U.S. to face trial.

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Montebello man sentenced for crimes against ex-girlfriend, who jumped from moving car on El Monte freeway to escape him

PASADENA >> A Montebello man received a sentenced of more than 8 years in prison this week for allegedly threatening, kidnapping and assaulting his ex-girlfriend at an El Monte motel before she jumped from a moving car on the 60 Freeway to escape him, authorities said.
Benny Torres, 30, pleaded “no contest” Tuesday to two counts of making criminal threats, two counts of cruelty to a child, one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of domestic violence in connection with the series of crimes that unfolded in October of 2014, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Darrel Mavis immediately sentenced Torres to 8 years and 4 months in state prison, and ordered him to stay away from the victim for 10 years, Ardalani said.
Following his arrest, Torres was charged with 14 criminal counts. A judge dismissed the kidnapping charge and a burglary charge following Torres’ preliminary hearing Ardalani said.
Under Tuesday’s negotiated plea arrangement, which was made with the approval of the victim, additional counts including rape and false imprisonment, were dismissed, Ardalani said.
Torres first threatened his girlfriend, a Monterey park woman in her 20s who he had dated for several months, on Oct. 3 2014, during a domestic violence incident, Ardalani said. “The defendant strangled his ex-girlfriend and warned her that he would kill her in front of her two children.”
Just over three weeks later on Oct. 27, Torres called the victim and ordered to pick him up and bring him to an El Monte motel, according to prosecutors and Monterey Park police officials.
“In fear for her life, the victim did what Torres asked,” Ardalani said.
Once at the motel, Torres refused to allow the victim to leave, threatened to kill her again and struck her in the head with a handgun.
Police alleged Torres assaulted the woman both physically and sexually while keeping her captive overnight. The following day, he took her car keys and ordered her to get into the passenger seat of her car as he drove. The terrified woman saw a chance to escape as Torres drove down the 60 Freeway in El Monte, near the 605 Freeway.
“During the car ride, the victim believed Torres would ultimately kill her,” Ardalni said. “As a result, she jumped out of the moving vehicle.”
The victim sought help and was treated for injuries suffered in the attack and escape, officials said.
Monterey Park police Lt. Bill Cuevas said at the time that the woman, “bravely, by her own actions, basically saved her own life.”
The multi-agency West San Gabriel Valley Anti-Crime Task Force found and arrested Torres without a struggle on Nov. 4, 2014, at a relative’s home in East Los Angeles.

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UPDATED: Six people hospitalized in El Monte crash

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EL MONTE >> A multi-vehicle crash in El Monte Thursday believed to have been triggered by a driver suffering a medical problem Thursday sent six people to a hospital, authorities said.
The crash was first reported shortly after 3 p.m. on Peck Road near Ramona Boulevard, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Chris Reade said.
A total of eight patients from four vehicles were ultimately examined by firefighters, officials said. Some had to be freed from the wreckage by rescuers.
EMCRASH3Six patients were taken to hospitals, fire officials said. Two more declined to be hospitalized by paramedics.
None of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening, El Monte police Lt. Ben Lowey said.
A man was driving a pickup truck west on Ramona Boulevard when he apparently suffered a medical problem, the lieutenant said.
The pickup truck struck another pickup truck stopped at the light, he said. The struck vehicle lurched forward, struking a third vehicle.
The pickup truck which first triggered the crash then continued, striking another vehicle before flipping over, Lowry said.
No arrests or citations were made at the scene. The investigation was ongoing.

PHOTOS – courtesy

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Circumstances of man’s death in El Monte remain unclear


EL MONTE >> The cause of death of a man whose body was discovered in the parking lot of an El Monte auto dealership Saturday remained unclear Sunday, officials said.
The 49-year-old man’s identity was not released pending notification of his family, Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said. He was believed to be a transient known to frequent the area.
A worker at an auto dealership in the 9900 block of Garvey Avenue first reported finding the man unresponsive about 10:35 a.m. Saturday, Corral said. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
The body showed signs of facial trauma, however the source of the injuries remained under investigation. The man may have been injured simply by falling, Corral said. Officials noted an odor of alcohol emanating from the body.
But investigators were yet to rule out the possibility of foul play, Corral said. An autopsy was pending, Corral said.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau are assisting El Monte police in the investigation. 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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Man found dead in El Monte


EL MONTE >> Detectives are investigating the death of a man whose body was discovered Saturday in a commercial neighborhood in El Monte, officials said.
The death was first reported about 11:05 a.m. in the 9900 block of Garvey Avenue, according to Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau. The sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is assisting El Monte police in the investigating.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene, Rouzan said. No further details were released.
It was not initially clear whether the death involved foul play.

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Brother and sister killed in El Monte house fire identified

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EL MONTE >> Coroner’s officials have identified two siblings killed in a fire at their El Monte home a month ago.
Margarita Dennis, 73, died a hospital following the fire, which was first reported shortly after 10 p.m. Nov. 5 at a home in the 12300 block of Felipe Street, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
Her brother, 61-year-old David Gutierrez, died at the scene, coroner’s officials said.
Their officials identifications were delayed due to the condition of the remains, as well as efforts to notify family members.
An autopsy determined Dennis died from smoke inhalation and burns, and the death was ruled accidental, coroner’s officials said. Gutierrez’s cause of death was yet to be determined pending the results of forensic tests.
The siblings lived at the home with another brother, who escaped the fire unharmed, officials said.
The house was destroyed by the fire, which firefighters extinguished 21 minutes after being summoned to the scene.
Handling detectives at the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Bureau could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The cause of the fire was unavailable.

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UPDATED: Man’s body found in back of SUV parked in El Monte

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EL MONTE >> Homicide detectives are investigating the suspicious death of a man whose body was found in the back seat of a sport utility vehicle parked at an intersection Friday afternoon.
The death was first reported around 2 p.m. in a residential neighborhood at Ferris Road at Cogswell Road, according to Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau. The sheriff’s department is assisting El Monte police with the investigation.
Capture2Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Philip Guzman said a gardener working in the neighborhood first discovered an unresponsive man in the back seat of a Cadillac SUV parked along the north curb of Ferris Road.
Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.
Guzman said the investigation remained in its early stages, and it has yet to be determined if the man was a victim of foul play.
“It looks like the person may have suffered some trauma,” he said.
Blood was found on the man’s upper body, but the source of the blood or whether it was related to the cause of death remained unknown, Guzman said.
The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner will determine how the man died. An autopsy is pending. Authorities have not identified the dead man.
Capture3The Cadillac SRX was registered to an owner in Los Angeles, officials said. Detectives had not made contact with the registered owner yet.
Guzman said the SUV had been parked on Ferris Road since at least Thursday morning and possibly earlier. But it was unclear if the body had been inside the entire time.
Neighborhood resident Cassandra Davidson, 25, said she walks by daily as she heads to and from work.
The SUV was parked in the same spot when she passed by about noon Wednesday, she said. Davidson said she recalled a foul odor while passing by the SUV, but wasn’t sure if it emanated from the vehicle itself or from a storm drain next to it.
She said the grisly discovery left her nervous, as she often walks the neighborhood alone after late shifts at her job.
Neighbors said they did not see or hear anything unusual before the gardener discovered the body.
A distraught man waiting at the scene for information did not wish to comment.
Investigators planned to have the SUV with the body still inside towed to the coroner’s office.
Anyone with information is 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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PHOTOS by Sarah Reingewirtz

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