EL MONTE — Suicide was suspect Saturday after a man’s body was discovered at the base of a parking structure, authorities said.
A security guard first notified authorities after seeing an unresponsive man lying on the ground about 11:15 a.m. in the 3300 block of Aero Jet Avenue, El Monte police Lt. David Vautrin said.
When officials arrived, they pronounced the man dead and determined he had taken a fall from the nearby parking structure, the lieutenant said. He was described as being in his early-60s.
He was initially believed to have jumped from the fifth floor of the eight-story structure, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner planned to carry out an autopsy to determine the man’s official cause of death, Vautrin said, however foul play was not initially suspected.
EL MONTE — El Monte police had no comment Saturday regarding the controversial shooting of a police dog in which the department’s version of events appears to contradict video of the incident captured by the residents security camera.
Police have launched an internal investigation into the incident, however the two involved officers remained on-duty, said Valerie Martinez of the city’s hired public relations agency, VMA Communications.
The video captured the arrival of two officers and the shooting of a family’s pet German shepherd which took place Wednesday at a home in the 4700 block of Maxson Road. The officers were there to meet with Cathy Luu and her husband Chi Nguyen to regarding their teenage son, whom they had reported as a runaway over the weekend.
Capt. Dan Buehler said Thursday that the police reports indicated the officers noted the “Beware of Dog” signs on the property and took precautions, such as shaking the gate to make noise, to make sure there were no dogs present in the yard before entering. Only after checking for dogs did the officers enter the yard to knock on the family’s front door.
A pit bull emerged from the back portion of the yard, followed by a German Shepherd which charged toward a female officer standing on the porch, police said. The officer then shot 2-year-old German shepherd once. It ultimately had to be euthanized.
But video footage provided by the family shows the officers walking opening the gate and entering the yard and entering the gate without taking the precautions described by Buehler.
Additionally, the family alleged that the department failed to get prompt medical treatment for the wounded animal, rescinded an offer to pay for medical treatment and treated the rudely in the wake of the incident.
Martinez said it was too early for the department to make any officials comment regarding the shooting, and the apparent discrepancies between the department’s official version of events and the video footage.
“The investigation is still underway,” she said, adding that it remained in its early stage.
Chief Steve Schuster did not return a request for comment, instead referring the request for comment to VMA.
Officials have urged patience, saying the situation is being investigated as an officer-involved shooting.
But since no people were injured, the shooting does not automatically trigger parallel investigations by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office or the County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review, as is the case in officer-involved shooting in which a person is injured.
EL MONTE — A family expressed outrage Friday after an El Monte police officer shot their pet 2-year-old German shepherd inside their fenced-in front yard while following up on a report of a runaway teenager. The family was forced to put the dog down following the shooting.
In an encounter recorded by a home security camera shortly after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, two police officers arrived at the home of Cathy Luu, her husband Chi Nguyen and their children in the 4700 block of Maxson Road.
“I’m hurt that they would do this to my pet, but at the same time I’m angry because they act like they don’t even care. They didn’t apologize,” Luu said through a Vietnamese translator.
Police and the family gave conflicting reports of the events leading up to the shooting.
Police said the officers shook the gate and otherwise took care to check if there were dogs present in the yard before opening the gate and entering. But a video captured by the family’s home security camera appears to support Luu’s claim that the officers simply parked their patrol car and entered the yard without checking for dogs, despite two posted “beware of dog” signs, including one mounted to the gate itself.
After being shot, the wounded dog ran to the backyard of the home. It was later euthanized at a veterinary hospital.
The loss of the female German shepherd, named Kiki, devastated the family, Luu said, especially the couple’s 11-year-old son.
“She was his baby,” the mother son. “He cried all night. He still cries.”
In addition to the death of the dog, family members said they were concerned about the safety of an officer firing a gun in a neighborhood crowded with children.
There were four children present at the home when the shooting occurred, and a children’s pool party was taking place in a front yard across the street, according to the family and the video.
“What if my son ran outside behind the dog?” Luu said. “When I think about it, it’s scary.”
El Monte police Capt. Dan Buehler said the officers had an appointment to meet with Luu and Nguyen about 3:30 p.m., but were delayed and ended up arriving about 4:30 p.m.
“They did go up to the front (gate),” the captain said. “There was a beware of dog sign on the gate. They did what we always do as police officers. They shook the gate. They didn’t see any dogs.”
“They looked for any signs of dogs — chew toys, dog mess, what have you,” Buehler said, adding that they entered the yard after not seeing anything indicating a dog was present.
“They walked up to the porch. They rang the doorbell. They knocked on the door. That’s when the first dog came around the house,” he said.
One of the officers is seen on the video petting the pit bull before returning to the gate, which had been left open by the officers, and closing it. The male officer was outside the closed gate when the second officer, a female, was confronted by the German shepherd.
“Then the German shepherd came from behind the house,” Buehler said. “The German shepherd came up. It was much more aggressive than the pit bull. It was growling, it was barking.”
The (female) officer remained on the porch and continued knocking on the front door with her foot as the German shepherd charged toward her, he said.
“As the dog got to about three feet of this officer, this officer had no other choice than to fire a round,” Buehler said.
The dog was struck in the side.
The video, however, depicts the officers walking up to the gate, opening it and entering, seemingly without breaking stride…
FULL STORY and VIDEO
EL MONTE — Prosecutors have declined to file charges against an Arroyo High School teacher and coach who has on administrative leave during an investigation into allegations of inappropriate communication with a student, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
The teacher, whose name was not released, was placed on leave April 18, El Monte Union High School District Superintendent Nick Salerno said.
Both the EMUHSD and El Monte police were looking into allegations that the teacher and coach had been involved with inappropriate communication with a student, Salerno said. The alleged inappropriate communication involved, at least in part, text messages.
Few details about the ongoing investigation were available due to privacy laws pertaining to employee privacy, he said.
But police investigators last week presented their findings case to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which rejected the case based on insufficient evidence, El Monte police Sgt. Roger Cobian said.
That decision effectively ended the police investigation into the teacher, the sergeant said.
An administrative investigation within the district was ongoing, Salerno said.
The teacher was placed on leave almost immediately after school officials learned of the allegation, Salerno said. “There was no lag time.”
The teacher, whom Salerno described as a longtime employee of the school, would not return to the classroom while the investigation continues, he added.
Arroyo High School parents were not notified of the situation because it remained in the investigative stage, the superintendent said.
Meanwhile, the trial is approaching for another EMHUSD teacher who is accused of carrying on an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old student.
El Monte police arrested 40-year-old Mountain View High School music teacher Abel Heriberto Acosta last month on suspicion of sex crimes against a student.
At his arraignment three days later in Pomona Superior Court, Acosta denied 17 felony charges, including unlawful sex with a minor, lewd acts on a minor, oral copulation of a minor and sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to court documents and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Officials.
Acosta was scheduled to again appear in Pomona Superior Court for a preliminary hearing June 20, district attorney’s officials said.
At the hearing, a judge will listen to a summary of the evidence and make a ruling on whether sufficient evidence exists to order the defendant to stand trial.
According to county booking records, Acosta was released from custody pending court proceedings May 21 after posting bail. A woman who answered the phone at Acosta’s home Wednesday declined to comment.
Officials have opened an investigation, and a rescue group is offering a $5,000 reward, after a dog was found with possible chemical burns all over its body in El Monte late last month.
Someone dropped the approximately 10-year-old male Boston Terrier as a stray about 5:45 p.m. May 29 at the Baldwin Park office of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, 4275 N. Elton Street, DACC spokeswoman Evelina Villa said.
The animal had sores or wounds all over it’s body, which resembled chemical burns, however the nature of the dog’s injuries had not been conclusively determined Wednesday, she said. The animal was ultimately euthanized by a veterinarian the next day.
Veterinarians examined the dog and determined, “It was necessary. He was in pain,” Villa said.
A Boston Terrier rescue group known as Boston Buddies took custody of the dog and took it for a second veterinary opinion in hopes of saving its life, according to Villa and the organization. They named him Henry.
“Our vet believes that Henry’s condition was caused by a chemical burn,” according to a statement on Boston Buddies’ Facebook page. “In addition to the damage to his skin, one of Henry’s eyes was severely ulcerated – perhaps another result of chemical torture.”
“He was emaciated,” Boston Buddies Director Rachel Farmer. “In multiple places, you could see the muscle sticking through. He couldn’t even stand. He was hypothermic.”
It was determined that Henry could not be saved.
“Although we had hoped that we could stabilize Henry and try to heal him, upon the recommendation of the vet and seeing how much pain Henry was in, we decided to help Henry cross the bridge. Henry is now out of the immense pain that he was suffering – but we are determined to find the individuals responsible for this.”
To that end, the group is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect, should it be determined the dog was, in fact, the victim of abuse.
“We put up $1,000 ourselves,” Farmer said. “We received $4,000 in donations from the public,” Farmer said, adding that the majority of donations came from local residents.
“We hope that this amount of money will provide the impetus for someone to come forward,” according to Boston Buddies’ statement.
Anyone with credible information was asked to contact Boston Buddies at 310 364-4543, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A DACC officer has been assigned to investigate whether the dog was the victim of abuse, or disease, Villa said. “We’re still looking into it.”
PHOTO courtesy of the Boston Buddies.
EL MONTE — A SWAT team searched for, but ultimately did not find, a man who broke into a Mountain View Road home Friday and pulled a gun on two women who lived there as they his from him inside their garage, officials said.
The strange crime was reported shortly before 4 p.m. at a house in the 2600 block of Mountain View Road, El Monte police Sgt. Michael Buckannon said in a written statement.
The incident began when a woman reported an “unknown male Caucasian subject entered her residence through an unlocked doorway,” the sergeant said. The man asked the woman if she had a room available for rent, and she responded that she did not.
“The resident became fearful for her personal safety when she observed the handle of a knife protruding from the waistband of the suspect’s pants,” Buckannon said. She ran to the home’s attacked garage and locked the door, but was still able to look into the interior of the home through a window.
She watched as the man approached a second woman living in the home and grabbed her by the wrist, Buckannon said. But the second woman managed to break free of the man’s grasp and also took refuge in the garage and locked the door.
“The primary female resident continued to monitor the actions of the suspect from the garage and watched the suspect remove a blue steel, unknown-model handgun from his waistband,” Buckannon said. “The suspect demanded that the females exit the garage.”
The second woman called police, who responded to the home and set up a perimeter around it, he said. The residents told police they believed the gunman was still inside their home.
An El Monte police SWAT team was summoned and surrounded the house and ultimately went in looking for the man, but found the home to be empty, Buckannon said.
The armed man’s ultimate intentions were not clear, however police said they were taking the incident very seriously.
“The El Monte Police Department wants to assure the public that every effort is being made to find any and all outstanding subjects who may be involved in this incident,” Buckannon said. Anyone with information was asked to contact the department at 626-580-2100.
A teacher from an El Monte high school accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old student pleaded not guilty Friday to 17 felony charges, officials said.
Mountain View High School music teacher Abel Heriberto Acosta, 40, was charged Friday with five counts of unlawful sex with a minor, five counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, four counts of lewd acts on a minor and three counts of oral copulation of a minor, according to a felony complaint filed in Pomona Superior Court.
He entered a not guilty plea and was ordered to return to court May 23 for a preliminary hearing, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said
The alleged molestation took place between December of 2012 and April of 2013, according to the complaint.
El Monte police arrested Acosta Tuesday after several days of investigation, police and El Monte Union High School District officials said. The allegations against the teacher first came to light four days earlier.
Acosta has been an employee of the school district for nearly two years, officials said.
EL MONTE — A Mountain View High School music teacher is behind bars Thursday on suspicion of carrying on an inappropriate relationship with a freshman student, authorities said.
Abel Acosta, 40, was arrested Tuesday, according to El Monte police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
El Monte Unified High School District and police launched an investigation on May 3, when district officials, “received information that a Mountain View High School teacher was having an illicit relationship with a student,” EMUHSD officials said in a written statement.
“Late Tuesday night, the El Monte Police Department arrested (Acosta) for having a sexual relationship with a minor,” El Monte police Lt. Dan Burlingham said.
“The minor is safe and cooperating with authorities,” the lieutenant added. “No other victims have been identified at this time.”
The investigation was ongoing, Burlingham said.
Acosta, who has been employed by the EMUHSD for nearly two years, had no previous allegations against him, according to the school district’s statement.
“This was the first complaint that has been received regarding this particular teacher,” the statement said. “This employee had cleared all preliminary screening and requirements as a school employee, including clearance of fingerprints through the Live Scan system.”
The school and school district have been cooperating and collaborating with police, and will continue to do so, district officials added.
“Parents of students attending the school have been notified of the situation and counseling is available for all students if needed,” according to the EMUHSD statement.
EMUHSD Superintendent Nick Salerno said the teacher’s status with the district was yet to be determined as he remained behind bars, but he would not be back in a classroom while the investigation continues.
Though Acosta continued teaching Monday and Tuesday as police investigated and gathered evidence, “There was very close monitoring by both the police department and school officials,” Salerno said.
Mountain View High School parents were notified Thursday of the situation via automated phone calls, he said.
Salerno said the allegation was handled swiftly and appropriately.
“I appreciate the efforts of the El Monte Police Department and our staff,” he said. “I commend the police in their quick work.”
According to county booking records, Acosta was being held in lieu of $1.3 million bail pending his initial court appearance. The date of Acosta’s first court appearance was not available Thursday.
Anyone with information was asked to contact El Monte police Detective Jake Fisher at 626-258-8696.
EL MONTE — A man died Wednesday after falling through the roof of a hangar at the El Monte Airport, authorities said.
Lon Schultz, 46, of Alhambra died in the apparent accident, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Larry Dietz said.
The fatal mishap occurred about 1:40 p.m. as the man was making repairs to an air vent atop the hangar at the airport, 4233 N. Santa Anita Ave., El Monte police Lt. Dan Burlingham said.
When the roof gave way, “He fell about 30 feet and suffered a fatal injury,” the lieutenant said. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
The investigation was ongoing, Burlingham said, however the incident was being investigated as an accident, and no foul play was initially suspected.
Airport officials deferred comment to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, which administers El Monte Airport, along with four other airfields in the county.
DPW spokesman Bob Spencer said the hangar where the accident took place was privately owned, and not managed by the county.
It was owned by Parker Aero Hangar Development, a hangar rental company based at the El Monte Airport.
It was not clear whether Schultz was the tenant of the hangar, or an employee of Parker Aero Hangar Development. The company could not be reached by telephone Thursday.
According to the company’s web site, it rents out hangars at the airport for storage of boats, recreational vehicles, vintage and classic cars, airport cars and aircraft.
EL MONTE — A 33-year-old El Monte man was convicted Wednesday of sexually abusing two children, officials said.
According to Deputy District Attorney Deborah Scott, jurors deliberated less than a day before finding Roberto Edgar Torres guilty of two counts each of unlawful sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child 10 years or younger, and unlawful oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child 10 years or younger.
He was also convicted of one count each of sending harmful matter with the intent to seduce a minor and lewd act with a child under 14 years. Jurors found true a special allegation of multiple victims.
Torres faces a maximum sentence of 80 years to life at his May 28 sentencing.
Authorities said Torres abused a boy and a girl between January 1997 and March 2009. The girl was then 7 and the boy was 7 or 8.
Torres fled during the investigation and was caught in Tamaulipas, Mexico. He was sent back to the U.S. Pomona police investigated the case.
- Ruby Gonzales