LA PUENTE >> No wounded victims were initially found after a gun battle unfolded on a residential Le Puente street between two shooters in two cars and another person at a home, officials said.
The exchange of gunfire was first reported shortly after 2 p.m. in the 300 block of Lang Avenue.
Two attackers in two passing cars, described as a gray Jeep Liberty and an older-model Nissan Maxima, opened fire with a handgun and a rifle, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. The intended target, who was not struck, returned fire.
The rear window of the Nissan Maxima’s had been shot out, but it was unclear if anyone inside the vehicle was struck by the gunfire, Sgt. Liza Vera said.
Both vehicles were last seen heading south on Lang Avenue, officials said. Initial reports from the scene indicated the suspects were five men and one woman, and they were armed with a handgun and an AR-15 rifle.
The intended shooting victim, a man in his mid- to late-20s, was believed to have former gang ties, Lt. Rick Thurlo said.
He apparently received word that attackers were coming after him, and armed himself as he awaited their arrival, the lieutenant added.
It was not clear Sunday afternoon whether the man would be arrested.
The shooting appeared to be gang-related, and sheriff’s gang detectives are handling the investigation, Vera said.
PASADENA >> A judge sentenced a Pasadena gang member to prison Wednesday for his role in luring a 20-year-old woman to a Pasadena market, where she was ambushed and fatally shot in 2008, authorities said.
Roberto Barajas Jr., 37, received a prison term of 50 years to life for the Aug. 19, 2008, shooting death of Jennifer Ortega outside a small shopping center in the 1800 block of Villa Street, said Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich, who prosecuted the case.
Pasadena gang member Barajas, along with several other suspects have not been charged with the killing, killed Ortega, a gang members, because she had cooperated with police regarding a drug case four months before, the prosecutor said.
The gang had “green lighted” her for execution, he said.
“She was lured to that location by some friends,” Mrakich said. “She was cornered by the defendant and four other people and shot three times in the back.”
Several additional suspects were initially arrested in connection with the killing, but only Barajas was ultimately charged in connection with the fatal shooting, Mrakich said. There was insufficient evidence to move forward with cases against the other suspects, Mrakich said.
Barajas drove the attackers to and from the shooting scene, though he was not believed to be the shooter, Mrakich said.
Scents detected by police dogs on the spent bullet casings recovered from the scene matched Barajas, indicating he had handled the bullets used to shoot Ortega prior to the killing, Mrakich said.
The fatal ambush stemmed from a drug arrest that took place about four months earlier, Mrakich said. After being caught with methamphetamine, Ortega told investigators that it belonged to a fellow gang member, he said. That gang member received a year behind bars as a result of the drug case.
Word of Ortega’s cooperation with police, as well as police documents, circulated through the gang, Mrakich said. A vague letter from a gang member in prison appearing to instruct fellow gang members to take action against Ortega was found in the possession of one of the suspects who was not charged. Mrakich likened the letter to a “death warrant.”
Ortega had no listed city of residence, but was believed to be staying with friends in the Pasadena area, police said.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Suzette Clover handed down Barajas’ sentence after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder May 1 following a six-week trial, officials said. The jury also found true the special allegations that the killing was gang-related, and that a gun was used in the crime.
LOS ANGELES >> A judge declared a mistrial Thursday after a jury became deadlocked in the case of two alleged gang members charged with capital murder for the fatal shooting of an innocent bystander investigators say became caught in gang crossfire in Pasadena on Christmas Day in 2012.
Reputed Bloods gang members Larry Darnell Bishop, 23, of Chino, and Jerron Donald Harris 27, of Pasadena, have been charged with murder and other crimes in connection with the Dec. 25, 2012, shooting that left 49-year-old Victor McClinton of Pasadena dead in the 1900 block of Newport Avenue in Pasadena.
After a trial that lasted more than a month, the Los Angeles County Superior Court jury hung with respect to both defendants, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
The jury hung 9-3 in favor of convicting Bishop of all charges, and 7-5 in favor of acquitting Harris, Risling said.
Judge Curtis Rappe declared a mistrial. It was unclear Thursday whether prosecutors would pursue a second trial.
“Our office hasn’t made a decision on whether to retry the case,” Risling said.
McClinton was walking with a friend to deposit a Christmas gift in the friend’s car when Bishop and Harris both opened fire on a rival gang member, police and prosecutors allege. McClinton became caught in the crossfire.
But the man allegedly targeted in the shooting, who was wounded in the hand, testified at a preliminary hearing that Bishop and Harris were not his assailants.
The two defendants were each charges with murder with special circumstances of discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle and murder to benefit a criminal street gang, attempted murder, two counts of shooting at an inhabited dwelling or vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon.
McClinton was a father of two, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department law enforcement technician of 18 years and a youth coach who founded the nonprofit Brotherhood Community Youth Sports League in Pasadena.
Bishop had benefitted from the state’s prison realignment of 2011, also known as AB 109, officials said. Under the sentencing guidelines, he was able to serve less than one year of a two-year sentence for a previous assault with a deadly weapon as a “nonviolent, non-serious” offender in county jail, rather than state prison. Also as a result of AB 109, Bishop was released from custody without parole supervision about six months before McClinton’s slaying. He had two prior felony convictions as well.
MONTEBELLO >> Prosecutors have charged three additional suspects in connection with the alleged rape and murder of a 15-year-old Montebello girl on her way to school more than 12 years ago.
The three men join a woman who is already awaiting trial on charges related to the Oct., 2002, slaying of Brenda Sierra, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Eddie Chavira, 20, Daniel Cervantes, 35 and George Barraza, 35, were added to a felony complaint alleging murder and other charges already filed against Rosemary Chavira, 28, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Rosemary Chavira, Cervantes and Barraza are each charged with murder, conspiracy to dissuade a witness and forcible rape, along with the special circumstance of murder during the commission of a kidnapping to benefit a street gang, court documents show.
Eddie Chavira faces charges of murder and conspiracy to intimidate a witness.
Sierra was on her way to Schurr High School in Montbello when she was kidnapped on Oct. 18, 2002.
“She was raped and killed,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Her body was found the following day in the Crestline area of the San Bernardino Mountains. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.
Sierra had no gang ties, investigators said. But she may have been killed so send a message to the community to keep quiet about gang violence.
In the days before Sierra’s kidnapping and slaying, “Eddie Chavira was in custody for a shooting witnessed by victim Brenda Sierra’s relative,” the district attorney’s office statement said. “Chavira told a fellow Lott gang member that he was going to have other Lott gang members take care of a witness. About the same time, he contacted his (then-)15-year-old sister, Rosemary Chavira, to assist in getting other gang members to take care of witnesses.”
Eddie Chavira and Daniel Cervantes are each serving prison time for previous convictions, authorities said. Investigators arrested Rosemary Chavira in February. Barraza remains a fugitive.
Rosemary Chavira has pleaded not guilty to her charges and is due back in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.
Arraignment dates were yet to be scheduled for Eddie Chavira and Cervantes.
Because Rosemary Chavira was herself a teen at the time of the killing, she faces a maximum penally of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charges, prosecutors said. Eddie Chavira faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Cervantes and Barraza’s alleged crimes make them eligible for the death penalty under California law, however authorities have not yet determined whether to seek capital punishment in the case.
PHOTO of Brenda Sierra – courtesy
WHITTIER >> A man was shot five times, but is expected to survive, following a drive-by shooting in a Whittier alley late Friday, police said.
The victim, a 40-year-old Whittier man, was walking about 8:20 p.m. in an alley along the 12800 block of Penn Street, just east of Milton Avenue, when an assailant in a passing car fired seven shots, Whittier police Lt. Steve Dean said.
Five of the bullets struck the man, wounding him in the torso, arm and leg, the lieutenant said. He was taken to an area hospital where he was expected to survive his injuries.
The victim has ties to a Los Angeles Street gang and the shooting is believed to be gang-related, Dean said.
A suspect description was not available, he added. The victim did not cooperate with investigators, and other witnesses provided conflicting descriptions of the involved car.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A suspect is behind bars and accused of murder in connection with a solo-car crash that killed his passenger last week, which detectives say occurred as the occupants of the car were fleeing the scene of a shooting they had just committed.
Anthony James Rojas, 20, is being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records. His city of residence was not available.
He’s suspected of murder for the death of 19-year-old Jonathan William Loaiza of Bell Gardens, who died in the June 26 crash on the northbound Rosemead Boulevard on-ramp to the eastbound 60 Freeway, sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. Loaiza was pronounced dead at the scene after the 2006 Mitsubishi Galant he was as a passenger in crashed and overturned.
The driver fled the scene, officials said. Two handguns were found inside the wrecked Mitsubishi, and a second passenger was detained.
“Detectives now believe the occupants in the Mitsubishi that flipped over shot at the occupants in another vehicle as they traveled north on Rosemead Boulevard,” Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. A man was struck by the gunfire and remained hospitalized Friday, Rouzan added. The shooting was believed to be gang-related.
“Detectives believe, that as the suspects in the Mitsubishi fled the scene, (Rojas) lost control of the vehicle causing it to flip and crash,” Rouzan said.
Paramedics pronounced Loaiza dead at the scene.
Detective identified the driver as Rojas and arrested him Wednesday, according to officials and booking records. Sheriff’s officials announced the arrest Friday.
Under a California law known as the felony-murder rule, a defendant can be charged with murder if an accomplice dies as the result of a felony.
Rojas was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Monday in Downey Superior Court.
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)
ALTADENA >> A man escaped injury Friday afternoon after a group of attackers twice pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger, but the gun malfunctioned both times, authorities said.
The incident, which was believed to be gang-related, took place about 5:30 p.m. in the 600 block of West Altadena Drive, just west of Lincoln Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Booker Hollis said.
A man was standing along the side of the road when a blue, older-model Lincoln sedan with three attackers inside pulled up, the sergeant said.
One of the three male suspects inside the car pointed a handgun at the victim, he said.
“They attempted to fire a round, but the gun malfunctioned,” Hollis said.
“They drove around again and did the same thing again, and the gun malfunctioned again,” he said. The car then sped away. The victim was not injured.
Pasadena police stopped a car matching the description of the suspects’ vehicle about 9:08 p.m. at Claremont Street and Sunset Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said. Two men, one a parolee and one a probationer, were arrested after police found a single .45-caliber round of ammunition in the car. Neither is allowed to possession ammunition due to their respective parole and probation statuses. Both were being held without bail pending their initial court appearances, records show.
The victim said he was unable to identify the two arrested man as being involved in the attack, Hollis said. The investigation was ongoing.
PICO RIVERA >> A legally blind Pico Rivera man suffered a gunshot wound to his chest in a drive-by shooting late Friday, officials said.
The shooting took place just before 10 p.m. in the 9500 block of Bradhurst Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva said.
The victim, a 24-year-old documented gang member, was in the front yard of a home when shots were fired from a passing car, the lieutenant said.
The attackers were described only as two male suspects in a red, four-door sedan.
An update on the victim’s condition was not available.
A judge sentenced a gang member to 34 years to life in prison Wednesday for shooting a rival gang member in the throat last year, authorities said.
Andrew Phillip Kingsbury received his sentence in Pomona Superior Court, where a jury convicted him April 29 of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. Authorities described him as a West Covina resident, though a family friend said he is from Hacienda Heights.
He shot and wounded a 44-year-old Hacienda Heights man on May 18, 2014, in the 1000 block of Olympus Avenue, according to prosecutors and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
After shooting the victim in the throat, the shooter then fled on a bicycle, but the chain snapped, sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Thurlo said at the time. Deputies soon captured Kingsbury nearby.