48 cited in El Monte pedestrian and bicycle safety crackdown

EL MONTE >> Police issued 48 tickets and arrested one drunken driver Saturday during an extra enforcement campaign aimed at pedestrian and bicycle safety in El Monte, officials said.
Traffic officers focused extra attention between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on spots throughout the city that tend to have higher numbers of accidents involving pedestrians and bicycles, El Monte police Sgt. Jimmie Pitts said.
Saturday’s efforts focused primarily on the pedestrian and cyclists themselves, he explained. Other similar extra enforcement campaigns primarily target drivers that commit traffic violations that place pedestrians and cyclists in jeopardy.
Police wrote 46 citations to pedestrians or cyclists for violations such as jaywalking or riding a bike on the wrong side of the road, Pitts said.
Two drivers were cited, and one of them was ultimately jailed on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, the sergeant said.
Funding for the campaign was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Man sought in robbery, attempted robbery at El Monte markets

EL MONTE >> A knife-wielding man tried, but failed, to rob one El Monte market Thursday before successfully robbing a second store 10 minutes later, police said.
The first crime took place about 1:10 p.m. at Superior Grocers, 10683 Valley Blvd., El Monte police Lt. Ben Lowey said.
The robber brandished a knife as he tried to hold up the store but ultimately fled empty-handed, the lieutenant said.
About 10 minutes later, a second crime was reported about two miles away at a Circle K, 12004 Ramona Blvd., Lowry said. In that case, the robber obtained an unknown amount of cash.
In both incidents, the robber was described as a man wearing a black hat and a bandana covering his face, driving a gray minivan, Lowry said.
The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information can reach El Monte police at 626-580-2100. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man sought after groping 10-year-old girl on way to school in El Monte


EL MONTE >> Police are seeking an unidentified man who grabbed and groped a 10-year-old girl as she was walking to school Friday morning.
The girl was walking to school about 7:15 a.m. when she encountered the man at Tyler Avenue and Dodson Street, El Monte police Sgt. Roger Cobian said in a written statement.
“The male suspect approached the girl who was alone and engaged her in conversation speaking only Spanish,” Cobian said. The girl walked away from him.
“The suspect came up behind the girl and hugged her while fondling her breast area over her clothing,” the sergeant said. “A school bus arrived scaring the suspect off.”
The attacker got into a silver, four-door compact car — possible a Toyota Corolla — and drove off, police said.
He was described as a Latino man, between 50 and 60 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, of medium build, with salt-and-pepper hair an facial pock marks, officials said. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sketch artist created a composite sketch of the molester, “with the brave victim’s help,” Cobian said.
Police are in contact with area schools, and have beefed up patrols around area campuses, Cobian said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact El Monte police at 626-580-2114, or email tips@empd.org. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Young El Monte man and woman killed in Boyle Heights car-to-car attack


BOYLE HEIGHTS >> Coroner’s officials have identified a young man and woman from El Monte who died Sunday after a gunman opened fire on the car in Boyle Heights, sending it careening into a house.
Henry Sanchez, 19, and Maria Cordova, 18, died following Sunday’s 11 a.m. attack at Enchandia Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said. Coroner’s officials could not confirm reports that the woman was pregnant.
Sanchez was at the wheel of a white sedan with Cordova and another man riding as passengers when two attackers approached in a mid-size, black SUV, Los Angeles Police Department officials said in a written statement.
At least one of the attackers opened fire as the sedan was stopped at a red light, striking Sanchez, officials said.
“Upon being shot, (Sanchez) lost control of his vehicle and collided into a residential home near the intersection of Enchandia Street and Pleasant Avenue,” according to the LAPD statement.
Sanchez was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries, Smith said. Investigators determined Sanchez died from multiple gunshots wounds and ruled the death a homicide.
Cordova was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting and crash, officials said. An autopsy revealed she died as a result of blunt force trauma, and her death was also ruled a homicide.
The third passenger in the sedan was not seriously hurt, and no one at the home the car crashed into was hurt.
Police described one of the killers as a Latino man between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall, wearing dark clothing. The second killer was described only as male.
“The investigation reveals that the shooting is possibly gang-related,” according to the statement.
Anyone with information is asked to contact LAPD Hollenbeck Homicide detectives at 323-342-8964. During weekends or non-business hours, calls may be placed to 877-527-3247. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.


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Temple City man found dead along 10 Freeway in El Monte identified

EL MONTE >> Authorities have released the name of a man found dead in some bushes along a freeway offramp in El Monte on Friday.
Samuel Arteche Jr., 45, was pronounced dead about 12:15 p.m. Friday after he was found unresponsive near the Santa Anita offramp of the eastbound 10 Freeway, Lt. David Smith of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said. He was listed as a Temple City resident.
A transient approached a Freeway Services Patrol worker and said he believed his friend had died, CHP Sgt. Mike Maehr said.
El Monte police took over the investigation and noted no overt signs of foul play, El Monte police Lt. Ben Lowry said.
An autopsy had not yet been performed Sunday.

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Shotgun-wielding bandit sought in El Monte gas station robbery


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.


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


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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