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.
PASADENA >> A Pasadena church is hosting a youth forum this month featuring the son of executed killer, gang leader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stanley “Tookie” Williams.
The “Youth Speak Out” forum will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1700 N. Raymond Ave., FAME Board of Directors member Pamela Short Powell said.
The event is targeted toward young people ages 16 to 35.
Travon Williams will discuss, “his lived experiences in the gang culture and how making he right decisions can have a positive impact on life’s challenges,” church representatives said in a written statement.
His father, who was an early leader of the Crips street gang in Los Angeles before being convicted and executed for four murders, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize six times while behind bars, “in recognition of his work against gang violence, anti-gang choices and life in prison,” according to the statement.
A panel of young people from local high schools, colleges, churches and other organizations will be invited to engage in a dialogue with Travon Williams and speak out regarding the issues and challenged they face in their lives.
Community resource providers and social service agencies will also be on-hand to provide information.
For more information, FAME Pasadena can be reached at 626-798-0503, or online at famepasadena.org.
“Community members walked from Fountain of Life Church, to the Fair Oaks Burger, where Christopher Walker was killed on April 30, 2015. This marks the six-month anniversary of the murder of Christopher Walker. Christopher spent much of his short life affiliated with a gang, but he had put that behind him. At the time of his death, Walker turned his back on gang life and he had a family and a full-time job.This event is a call to action for the community of Altadena. Community leaders and members will come together to learn ways to curb gang affiliation and violence in the community and offer options to Altadena and Pasadenas at-risk youth. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)”
ALTADENA >> Loved ones and community members marched through Altadena Thursday to memorialize the life of a 26-year-old father of two who was gunned down in an unprovoked attack at a hamburger stand last year, as well as call on the community to work toward solutions to gang violence.
More than 100 people met at the Fountain of Life Church before heading to Fair Oaks Burger, where Christopher Walker was killed in an ambush on Oct. 30, 2014 as he sat on the outdoor patio of the restaurant.
“We want people to know who Christopher was, but we also want people to know it’s time to do something about the violence in out community,” Walker’s mother Ursula Walker said.
“All life matters. That is my main point today,” she said.
PHOTOS by Walt Mancini
HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> A jury Wednesday convicted a West Covina man of shooting a rival gang member in the throat last year, officials said. The shooter’s getaway was foiled when his bicycle chain snapped.
A Pomona Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days before finding Andrew Philip Kingsbury, 21, guilty of the May 14, 2014, shooting of a then-44-year-old Hacienda Heights man in the 1000 block of Olympus Avenue,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. The jury convicted him of attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“The defendant traveled to Hacienda Heights, spotted a gang member, walked up and shot him in the throat,” Ardalani said.
The victim was hospitalized in stable condition, sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said.
Kingsbury tried to flee on a bicycle, but was soon apprehended after the chain on his bike broke, Thurlo said.
Kingsbury faces up to 34 years to life in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing June 5, Ardalani said.
LA PUENTE >> The community is invited to join sheriff’s officials for a conversation regarding La Puente’s gang injunction next week.
The community meeting will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 5 at the La Puente Community Center, 501 Glendora Ave., according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro.
The permanent civil injunction targeting gang members and gang-related activity has been in place since 2011. It is meant to curb the activities of the local street gangs Puente 13 and Bassett Grande. Deputies have described the injunction as a valuable tool in combating gang crime.
Members of the sheriff’s gang task force, known as Operation Safe Streets, will be on hand to discuss the injunction, along with the La Puente Special Assignment Tem and Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Michael Fern of the D.A.’s Hardcore Gang Division, Cacheiro said. And crime analyst Henry Gil will provide statistics regarding the gang injunction and its impact on crime.
In addition to La Puente, the injunction also covers a portion of West Covina and nearby unincorporated county area such as Valinda and Bassett.
For more information, contact Deputy Viviana Marez at 626-934-3303, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
AZUSA >> A gang member with a lengthy criminal record who was released from earlier this month under AB 109 guidelines was back behind bars Sunday after being caught with a stolen and loaded handgun, police said.
Officers chased down and arrested Anthony Joseph Zepeda, 23, of West Covina about 11:30 p.m. Friday after he ran from officers and discarded a handgun in the 700 block of South Donna Beth Avenue, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Two officers noticed two “suspicious” men standing near a parked car, Sgt. Andy Sutcliffe said in a written statement.
“When the officers began investigating, the men split up and ran in different directions,” Sutcliffe said.
Zepeda jumped residential fences and ran through backyards before officers captured him, the sergeant said.
“Officers learned while running from them, he through a 9mm handgun on the roof of a residence,” he said. The gun, which was loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition, had been reported stolen in Glendora.
The second man who also fled from police was not found.
According to police and booking records, Zepeda was released from county jail Jan. 13 under the guidelines of AB 109, also known as California’s 2011 Public Safety Realignment. The legislation shifts custody and post-release supervision of convicted felons from state prisons and parole agents to county jails and probation departments.
He was released after serving less than three months of a six-month sentence he received in October of 2014 for violating his probation, records show.
Zepeda, who wears the name of area street gang “KHA” or “Kings Have Arrived” tattooed on his chin, has an extensive criminal history dating back to 2010, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records.
KHA began as a tagging crew, officials said. The group was declared a criminal street gang by prosecutors in 2008 after two of it’s members were linked to the fatal 2007 shooting of a 14-year-old boy and his father in front of their Baldwin Park home.
Zepeda’s previous convictions include drug possession in 2010 and 2014; possession of drug paraphernalia in 2010 and 2012; being under the influence of drugs in 2011; fleeing police in a vehicle in 2011; and domestic battery in 2011 and 2014, court records show.
Zepeda was being held without bail pending a scheduled appearance Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.