San Gabriel Valley police, firefighters to square off on basketball court in Arcadia to help the Special Olympics

2014 Battle of the Badges

San Gabriel Valley police officers will take on their fire department counterparts on the basketball court in Arcadia this weekend as the annual Battle of the Badges tournament returns bigger than ever to raise money for the Special Olympics.
The series of games will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in the gymnasium of Arcadia High School, 180 Campus Drive in Arcadia, organizers said in a written statement. The cost of admission will be a “donation of your choosing,” and proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics Southern California.
In addition to the action on the court, there will be jumpers for children, refreshments, a SWAT demonstration, historical vehicles, a fire truck and gaming booths set up by Dave & Buster’s, Arcadia police Detective Walter Ashby said. An iPad Air will also be raffled off.
“One-hundred percent of the proceeds are donated directly to the Special Olympics,” he said.
San Gabriel police officers will take on San Gabriel firefighters at 10 a.m.; Alhambra police will play Alhambra firefighters at noon; El Monte police will take on Upland firefighters at 2 p.m.; Pasadena police will play Pasadena firefighters at 4 p.m.; and Arcadia police officers and firefighters will face off on the court at 6 p.m.
For more information, contact Detective Ashby at 626-821-2654, or email washby@ci.arcadia.ca.us.

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El Monte man sentenced to 50 years to life for molesting girlfriend’s young daughter

EL MONTE >> A Pomona Superior Court Judge sentenced an El Monte man to 50 years to life in prison Wednesday for sexually molesting his girlfriend’s young daughter in 2012, authorities said.
A jury convicted Miguel Angel Lomeli, 43, on April 4 of two counts of sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child 10 years old or younger, two counts of oral copulation or sexual penetration with a foreign object with a child 10 years old or younger, one count of forcible lewd act on a child and one count of an attempted lewd or lascivious act with a child under 14 years old, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
“The prosecutor said Lomeli dated the victim’s mother for a short time before moving into her home,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Evidence presented at trial revealed that Lomeli sexually assaulted the victim between June and November, 2012.”
El Monte police investigators arrested Lomeli Nov. 15, 2012, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records. He remained in custody pending his trial, conviction and sentencing.

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El Monte High School Lions pay tribute to classmate killed in tour bus crash


EL MONTE >> A steady stream of El Monte High School Lions stopped by a memorial in front of the campus Saturday to light candles and pay their respects to classmate Adrian Castro, who lost his life along with nine other people in a fiery bus crash in Orland while en route to tour his prospective college.
The 18-year-old El Monte High School senior is unaccounted after a FedEx truck collided head-on with a tour bus containing 44 Southern California high school students, three adult chaperones and a driver. His family members have said they’ve been informed he is among the dead, though officials identification through Glenn County coroner’s officials was pending.
Five students, the three chaperones, the bus driver and the truck driver all died following the crash. The bus was on a trip to bring underrepresented Southern California High School seniors to visit the campus of Humboldt State University.

2014-04-12 14.39.54Friends recalled Castro as a popular, outgoing and loyal young man as they lit candles, left flowers and wrote messages to the young man. Monster energy drinks, a baseball glove, beer, baseball caps and other mementos also lined the sidewalk in front of El Monte High School, where Castro played football and baseball.
“He had a very bright personality,” said Robert Medina, a junior who transferred this year from El Monte High School to Mountain View High School.
“He used to back everyone up,” Medina said. “His thing was, since we’re all Lions, we’re all a family.”
Though Medina said he and others initially held out hope for a miracle, that Castro would be found alive, he said he’s accepted that his friend is gone.
“He’s in a very better place,” Medina said.
Friend Bryana Ruiz, said Castro was a good friend.
“He was just a great student. Everyone loved him, everyone knew he was. Not because he was popular, but for what he was doing and what he wanted to accomplish in life,” Ruiz said. “We all just loved him and we’re all going to miss him a lot. He was always number one in our hearts.”
Some visitors at the memorial knew Castro well. Others had not met him, but nonetheless wanted to show their support for his family and their classmates.
El Monte High School freshman Andres Huerta stopped by to light a candle at the sidewalk memorial.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know him,” he said. But he said he still felt compelled to visit the school Saturday, “to pay my respects to the family.”
“Lions stick together,” Huerta added.
— Staff Writer John McCoy contributed to this report.

 

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El Monte police to collect unwanted prescription drugs

EL MONTE — El Monte police will be collecting residents’ unwanted prescription medications this month for safe disposal, officials said.
Unused or expired drugs can be turned in from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 in the rear parking lot of the El Monte Police Department, 11333 Valley Boulevard, El Monte police officials said in a written statement.
For more information, El Monte police can be reached at 626-580-2100.

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Police: No policy violations in fatal shooting of El Monte family’s German shepherd

0406_NWS_SGT-L-EMDOGFOLO

VIDEO

EL MONTE >> More than nine months after police walked passed “beware of dog” signs, entered an El Monte family’s front yard and then fatally shot the family’s pet German shepherd when it charged at one of the officers, El Monte police have announced an internal investigation found no wrongdoing or policy violations on the part of the involved officers.
Detective Arlen Castillo and then-officer Ken Fraser, who has since been promoted to the rank of sergeant, responded to the home in the 4700 block of Maxson Road in El Monte on the afternoon of June 19 to collect a photograph of the teenage son of Cathy Luu and Chi Nguyen, whom they had previously reported had run away from home. The boy came home a short time later.
Video footage of the incident captured by the family’s home surveillance system depicts Fraser casually open a gate and enter the family’s front yard, followed closely by Castillo. The officers stood in front of the family’s front door before the family’s pet pit bull approached Fraser, and he petted the dog.
The family’s 2-year-old German shepherd then emerged from the back yard of the home, began barking and charged toward Castillo, who was standing at the home’s front door. Castillo shot and wounded the dog.
“The full incident was investigated, including both officers’ actions, with no sustained policy violations found,” El Monte Police Chief Steven Schuster said in an email.
Both Castillo and Fraser remain on active duty, police officials added.
“The El Monte Police Department has strict policies in place that describe the procedures in place to protect residents’ pets,” Schuster said. “This was an unfortunate and isolated situation in which, upon responding to a call from the residents asking for police assistance, the officers felt that their safety was compromised due to the dog.”
In a written statement, police officials said the department remains “committed to continued development” of policies regarding encounters between officers and dogs.
The department has “already integrated these procedures into our officer training,” according to the statement. No specific examples were given.
Following the shooting, police officials said the officers noted the “beware of dog” signs, shook the fence and looked around for the presence of dogs before entering the family’s yard.
But the video tape depicts the officers arriving in their patrol car, then opening the gate and entering the yard without breaking stride.
Schuster acknowledged the “discrepancy” between the account provided by the officers and the video of the incident, but the department found no policy violation on the part of the officers.
“The initial statement included information that was known to the reporting officer at the time, which was prior to knowledge of video evidence,” the Chief said. “As we learned about the discrepancy, we corrected the statement to the media and public and asked for the original video file to assist in our investigation. We completed a full investigation on this matter, and determined there were no sustained violations.”
In addition to the death of their dog, family members also initially complained of the manner in which they were treated after their dog was shot.
Police immediately seemed to begin investigating the family, demanding to see license paperwork for the wounded animal and other dogs at the home before providing veterinary help, family members said at the time. The video shows the dog lying wounded for more than an hour before being picked up by animal control officials.
Police also initially promised to pay for the dog’s medical care, but rescinded the offer after learning of the $7,000 price tag for the medical procedures, Luu said. The dog was eventually euthanized.
“We have apologized to the family numerous times for the loss of their beloved pet and we have worked with the family to try to rectify the situation,” Schuster said.
El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero said he empathized with the family and hoped police would use the incident, “as a learning experience.”
“It’s my understanding that they did review their policies and make sure going forward there’s additional training,” the mayor said. He added he was concerned about both the safety of residents’ pets, as well as the safety of police officers.
“I’m hoping, on a moving forward basis, that we’re going to be able to have no more incidents like this.”
Quintero said he was satisfied with the internal police investigation into the shooting.
“I believe they did review all the different aspects that they could,” he said.
Luu said she did not wish to comment on the findings Friday.
Mayor Quintero said he and then-acting city manager and current Assistant City Manager Jesus Gomez has met with the family and listened to their concerns.
“They were very kind, very gracious,” he said.
The family has not filed a claim against the city or the police department seeking damages.
Nonetheless, Quintero said, if the family was interested in getting a new dog, “I would do whatever I could to make sure that happened. I think everyone at city hall empathizes with the loss of a pet in those circumstances. Not a replacement, but a new pet to help them heal.”

 

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Investigation continues in fatal shooting of Whittier man in El Monte

EL MONTE >> Detectives continue seeking clues in the mysterious slaying of a Whittier man who was shot to death while sitting in a car with his girlfriend over the weekend.
Simon Mendoza, 40, died at the scene of Saturday’s 12:32 a.m. shooting in a residential neighborhood in the 1300 block of Medina Court in El Monte, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said.
The Whittier resident, who held three jobs, was sitting in the driver seat of his car and talking with his girlfriend just prior to the fatal shooting, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. The car was parked near the girlfriend’s home.
“She hears a tapping on the driver-side side window,” Hernandez said. “Shortly after the tapping, she hears several gunshots.”
Bullets struck Mendoza several times in the “upper torso,” the lieutenant said. The woman was not struck by gunfire, but was injured by shattered glass.
No words were exchanged before the shots were fired, he said.
“It happened quickly,” Hernandez said. “He didn’t have any time to react, and definitely didn’t have any time to defend himself.”
The shooter, described only as male, then fled the scene, Hernandez said.
A compact car was seen speeding away, though it was not clear Wednesday whether that car was involved in the shooting, he added.
No further details regarding the circumstances was known Wednesday.
A motive in the slaying was yet to be established.
“We’re still working the leads we have,” Hernandez said. “The detectives have been working diligently on it since it occurred.”
Neither Mendoza nor his girlfriend were believed to have gang ties, Hernandez said. But the area where the shooting occurred is known to be frequented by local gang members.
Friends and family members could not be reached for comment. A manager at an IHOP restaurant in Rosemead said Mendoza had worked there for two years and he was saddened by the shooting. He added that coworkers were rallying to help Mendoza’s family.
Mendoza’s Facebook profiles indicates he was a father.
Photos posted on the profiles show him smiling with neat, short-cropped hair, a mustache and wearing silver-colored cross necklace.
Sheriff’s homicide detectives are assisting El Monte police with the investigation, and 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. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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1 arrested, 15 cited at El Monte police checkpoint

EL MONTE — Police screened 1,208 drivers during a sobriety and driver’s license checkpoint, yielding one arrest, 15 citations and three vehicle impounds, authorities said.
The checkpoint took place late Friday into early Saturday along Ramona Boulevard at Gilman Road, on the city’s eastern border,El Monte police Lt. Eric Stanley said.
One person was arrested on suspicion of a narcotics violation, the lieutenant said.
Two drivers were given sobriety tests at the checkpoint, but neither was ultimately arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving, he added.
Police cited 15 people for driving without a license, Stanley said. Three cars were impounded, while 13 were released at the checkpoint to licensed drivers.

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Shooting suspect found dead after El Monte standoff identified

EL MONTE >> Coroner’s officials Saturday identified a 61-year-old man found dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting and critically wounding another man in a neighborhood dispute.
Thanh Cao was pronounced dead shortly after 1:30 p.m. Friday after a SWAT team stormed into his home in the 11400 block of Elmcrest Street in El Monte, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
An autopsy was pending to determine an officials cause of death, Police found Cao fatally shot in a room he was believed to have been in by himself, El Monte police Lt. Chris Williams said.
Officials said Cao shot a neighbor — described as a man in his 50s — multiple times about 7:30 a.m. Friday. Further information regarding the nature of the dispute that led to the shooting was not available.
The first police at the scene scooped up the wounded man, placed him in a police car and rushed him down the street to waiting paramedics, Williams said. He was hospitalized at a trauma center in critical condition.
Acting on witness reports that the shooter — later identified as Cao — had gone into a home, police ordered anyone inside to come out, Williams said. Two people emerged and told police that Cao had gone into a bedroom just before they heard a single gunshot.
A SWAT team surrounded Cao’s home and spent five hours trying to communicate with him before ultimately forcing their way in, William said. They then discovered Cao, fatally wounded.
A search of public records indicates Cao has lived in the home for 12 years, and in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.
Mourning family members gathered at the scene Friday declined to comment.

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Police: Shooting suspect found dead in El Monte home, victim critically injured

STANDOFF

EL MONTE >> A SWAT team stormed an El Monte home Friday afternoon where a shooting suspect was holed-up and discovered him dead of a gunshot wound.
El Monte Police stopped short of calling the death a suicide, but said the suspect, described as a man in his 50s, was believed to be alone in a room when shot. No additional suspects were being sought.
The suspect allegedly shot another man at 7:27 a.m. in the 11400 block of Elmcrest Street.
The victim, also a man in his 50s, was hospitalized at a trauma center in critical condition, according to El Monte Police Lt. Chris Williams.
Police provided no details of what prompted the shooting but had described the confrontation as a neighborhood dispute.
Williams said the incident began with a report of “shots fired” and a “person hit”.
“Initial information was that a subject was shot, and a suspect was seen going into a neighboring house,” he said.
Officers found a man at the scene suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, Williams said. It was not clear how many times the man had been shot.
Officers placed the wounded man into a police car and rushed him down the street to paramedics, who were standing by near the crime scene as police searched for the shooter.
Police ordered anyone inside the home where the suspect was seen entering to come out, Williams said.
Two people exited, but neither was the suspect.
“One person told officers they heard a single gunshot in the room where the suspect was,” Williams said.
The relationship between the witnesses and the suspect was not immediately available.
Believing the armed shooting suspect may be barricaded inside the home, police summoned a SWAT team to the scene.
Six homes in the area were evacuated and Frank Wright School at 11317 McGirk Ave. was placed on lockdown as a precaution, officials said.
For five hours, officials tried unsuccessfully to speak with the suspect, including tossing a telephone into the home shortly after noon.
“After all attempts at communication failed, (SWAT) officers entered the residence a little after 1:30 p.m.,” Williams said. They then discovered the suspect fatally shot.
Family members of the dead man gathered at the scene but declined to comment.
Neighbor Daniel Chou, 29, said he did not hear the shooting and first learned something was going on when police swarmed the neighborhood.
At 9 a.m., Chou said police told him to stay in his home. A half-hour later, they returned and told him it was time to evacuate.
The school lockdown was lifted shortly before 2 p.m., and evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes just after 2 p.m. as police continued investigating the shooting scene.

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Dinner and dance this weekend to benefit El Monte police K-9 program

EL MONTE — The community is invited to mingle with the El Monte Police Department’s four-legged officers and their handlers Saturday during the Soggy Dog Dinner and Dance to raise funds for the El Monte Police K-9 Association.
Dinner will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the El Monte Moose Lodge, 4249 N. Peck Road, followed by a dance from 8 p.m. to midnight, organizers said in a written statement.
Steak and chicken dinners will be served for $13, however the cutoff date to select a chicken dinner has passed.
The event will include raffles.
For more information, the lodge can be reached at 626-442-1025.

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