La Puente community meeting planned to discuss gang injunction

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 vcmarez@lasd.org.

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Police: Gang member found with loaded, stolen gun in Azusa

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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.

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Suspected gang member arrested, gun seized in Pasadena

PASADENA >> Police arrested a man who threw a handgun while running from police late Saturday, officials said.
Officers jailed alleged gang member Unique Dedwin Robinson, 22, of Fontana on suspicion of carrying a concealed handgun, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
Officers spotted a group of suspected gang members about 10:30 p.m. at Sunset Avenue and Hammond Street, outside of the Kings Villages apartment complex, Luna said.
As officers approached the group, Robinson walked away, the lieutenant said. But he walked toward other officers who were approaching from another direction.
Robinson threw a .22-caliber, semi-automatic handgun as he fled from the police into a nearby home, where he was arrested a short time later, Luna said.
Los Angeles County booking records indicated Robinson was being held in lieu of $90,000 bail pending his initial court date.

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Pico Rivera man killed in shooting identified

PICO RIVERA >> Coroner’s officials Sunday identified a Pico Rivera man found fatally shot beside a bicycle on a Rosemead Boulevard sidewalk early Saturday.
Matthew Albert Garcia, 26, died following the shooting, which was reported just before 6 a.m. Saturday in front of an apartment complex in the 5400 block of Rosemead Boulevard, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Dana Bee said.
A passer-by found him lying on a sidewalk with gunshot wounds, Sgt. Troy Ewing of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
No suspect description was known, officials said. The shooting was believed to be gang-related.

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Man sentenced for fatal Norwalk shooting

NORWALK >> A pleaded “no contest” to a voluntary manslaughter charge Tuesday for fatally shooting another man during a dispute confrontation in early 2013, officials said.
A judge immediately sentenced Andrew Ramos, 29, of Norwalk to six years in state prison after he entered his plea in Norwalk Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Prosecutors initially charged Ramos with murder for the Jan. 2, 2013, fatal shooting of 32-year-old Jimmy Deleon Hernandez of Norwalk in the 14000 block of Gard Avenue in Norwalk, Ardalani said.
In a negotiated plea, Ramos entered a “no contest” plea to a single felony charge of voluntary manslaughter, she said.
Officials described Ramos and Hernandez as rival gang members. The shooting took place after Hernandez confronted Ramos at a Norwalk home.
“(Hernandez) confronted Ramos while he was on the porch,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “The two men had an exchange and Ramos shot Hernandez several times.”
Hernandez succumbed to his injuries at a hospital.
“An eyewitness account linked Ramos to the crime and he was arrested a week later in connection with the killing,” the statement said.

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La Habra gang member sentenced for 2006 slaying outside Halloween party

SANTA ANA >> A La Habra gang member received a sentence of 50 years to life in state prison Friday for fatally shooting a Westminster man outside a La Habra Halloween party eight years ago, authorities said.
A Santa Ana Superior Court jury convicted David Anthony Parga, a 28-year-old member of the West Side La Habra street gang, late last year of second-degree murder for the Oct. 29, 2006, slaying of 27-year-old Leland Washington, according to Orange County District Attorney’s officials.
In addition to finding Parga guilty of murder, the jury also found true special allegations that the crime was gang-related, and that Parga personally used a firearm in the killing, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Washington, a senior at California State University, Long Beach, attended a Halloween party in the 400 block of West First Street when he was shot to death shortly after 1:30 a.m., officials said.
Though the party was attended by many gang members, Washington had no gang ties, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Washington went to the party at the invitation of two friends, but returned to his car after he was unable to find them.
“Outside of the house, Parga approached Washington and shot him without provocation several times in the torso,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Parga murdered the victim for a criminal street gang purpose. Washington and Parga did not know each other, and the victim had no previous contact or conflict with anyone at the party.”
Washington’s friend placed the wounded man into a car, called 9-1-1 and rushed him to the La Habra Police Department, officials said. He was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
After the investigation into Washington’s murder went cold, prosecutors developed new evidence and charged Parga with the killing in 2009. He was already serving a jail sentence for leading police on a chase in a stolen car that ended with a crash in Whittier about two weeks after the slaying.

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Alleged Pico Rivera gang members charged with fatal shooting of Whittier man in front of his home

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WHITTIER >> Prosecutors filed murder charges Friday against two alleged Pico Rivera gang members accused of fatally shooting a man as he took out the garbage at his Whittier home in broad daylight.
Jonathan Rojas, 34, died at a hospital following the Aug. 30 shooting at Washington Avenue and La Cuarta street, according to Whittier police and Los Angeles County coroner’s officials.
Anthony Michel Delci, 30, and Victor Marcus Arzate, 24, pleaded not guilty Friday in Bellflower Superior Court, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Police described both suspects as members of the Pico Nuevo street gang.
Delci, Arzate and a teenager who has not been charged in the case drove past Rojas’ home about 12:10 p.m., investigators said. They stopped in front of a front of a group of people on the porch.
“Delci and Arzate yelled out their gang affiliation, flashed some gang signs and then drove off,” according to the Whittier police department statement.
“Delci and Arzate circled around and came back to the residence on Washington Avenue, Delci stopped his vehicle in front of the victim’s address and Arzate exited the vehicle and approached Rojas who was taking out the trash,” the statement said.
Arzate asked Rojas what gang he belong to, and Rojas responded he was not in a gang, the police statement said. “Arzate then fired a .357 revolver at Rojas, striking him several times.”
The two suspects and the teen then all fled in Delci’s Honda CRV SUV, officials said.
After identifying Delci’s SUV as the one used in the shooting, Delci was arrested later that night, police said. He had the alleged murder weapon with him. Arzate was arrested Sept. 5.
Prior to being charged with murder Friday, Delci was being held on suspicion of illegal gun possession, and Arzate was being held in connection with an alleged robbery, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford said. Arzate has also since been charged with illegal gun possession.
Prosecutors also allege the slaying was gang-related, that a firearm was used in the killing and that Delci personally used a gun in the crime.
If convicted as charged, Delci and Arzate could each face more than 50 years to life in state prison. They were scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court Oct. 14 for a preliminary hearing setting. Bail has been set at more than $2 million each.

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Gang members sentenced for fatal shooting of Whittier teen

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Two Whittier gang members were each sentenced to spend decades in prison Thursday for the fatal 2012 shooting of a 17-year-old Whittier boy on a busy street corner in what the prosecutor described as an orchestrated gang hit.
A Norwalk Superior Court jury convicted Whittier 13 gang members Eudiel Eddie Lopez, 21, and Daniel Cesar Stopani, 20, both of Whittier, Sept. 4 of the murder of Michael Soto of Whittier. Soto was shot to death about 12:30 p.m. on March 26, 2012, at a strip mall at the corner of Mulberry Drive and Painter Avenue in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Judge John Torribio sentenced both killers to the maximum sentence allowed by law, officials said.
Lopez, who was convicted of first-degree murder, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. Stopani, who was convicted of second-degree murder, received a sentence of 40 years to life in prison.
Torribio ordered each convict to pay $5,000 in restitution to the Victims Compensation Board, and $5,885 to Soto’s mother for funeral costs and lost wages, Ardalani added.
In addition to convicting Lopez and Stopani of Soto’s murder, jurors also found true the special allegations that a gun was used in the crime and that the killing was gang-related, Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford of the District Attorney’s Hardcore Gang Division said.
Lunsford said the shooting stemmed from a brief exchange of words between Lopez and Soto about a month prior to the shooting.
Lopez had told Soto that he was a Whittier 13 gang member, and Soto responded that he did not care. The perceived disrespect was enough to prompt Lopez to target Soto in what Lunsford described as an orchestrated gang execution.
On the day of the killing, Stopani approached Soto from the front as Lopez snuck up behind him, Lunsford said.
Stopani shouted out the name of his gang and punched Soto before Lopez drew a revolver from his waistband and began shooting, the prosecutor said. Lopez continued shooting even after the teen had fallen wounded to the ground.
Lopez was arrested for the killing within hours, officials said. Stopani was interviewed the day of the slaying, but not formally charged until February of 2013.

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Whittier gang members convicted of fatal shooting of teen in South Whittier

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SOUTH WHITTIER >> A jury convicted two Whittier gang members Thursday for the execution of a Whittier teen in broad daylight at a strip mall in 2012.
A Norwalk Superior Court jury deliberated for less than a day before finding Eudiel Eddie Lopez, 21, and Daniel Cesar Stopani, 20, guilty of the March 26, 2012, slaying of 17-year-old Michael Soto of Whittier, at a strip mall at the coroner of Mulberry Drive and Painter Avenue, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
“It was a gang hit; orchestrated, planned,” Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford said.
The killers approached the murder scene together before splitting up, the prosecutor said. Stopani approached Soto from the front and waited until Lopez took a position just behind the teen. Portions of the incident were captured by a surveillance camera mounted on a nearby bus.
Stopani suddenly shouted out “Whittier 13,” the name of a local street gang,” and punched the Soto
Lopez then pulled a .357 Magnum handgun and opened fire, Lunsford said.
The first two gunshots struck Soto in the face and back, knocking him to the ground, Lunsford said.
“Once he was down, it appears (Lopez” shot him twice more,” the prosecutor said. “He shot him four times in total.”
The jury convicted Lopez of first-degree murder and found true the special allegations that he personally used a gun in the crime, and that the crime was gang-related, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Stopani was convicted of second-degree murder, and the jury found true the special allegations that a gun was used in the crime, and that the crime was gang-related, she said.
The shooting took place shortly after noon at busy strip mall, just across the street from a continuation school that had just let out for the day.
Lunsford said the fatal ambush stemmed from a brief exchange of words between Lopez and Soto about a month prior to the killing, Lunsford said.
Lopez had issued a gang challenge to Soto and told the teen that he was from Whittier 13. Soto responded they he didn’t care what gang Lopez belonged to.
Lopez told investigators the perceived slight was the reason he targeted Soto, Lunsford added.
Soto died at a hospital shortly after he was shot,
Relatives said Soto was not a gang member, and described him as a smart young man who hoped to join the U.S. Marines when he turned 18.
Following the shooting, Lopez and Soto split up, officials said.
Lopez fled north. He ran across a set of train tracks that were muddy due to rain the previous day, Lunsford said. Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators were able to follow Lopez’s muddy footprint to a nearby mobile home park, where he was quickly found and arrested hiding inside a trailer that belonged to a friend.
“He was leaving footprints that led right to the back door of the trailer where he was hiding,” Lunsford said.
Officials found Lopez, the muddy shoes and the gun that was used in the shooting inside, he added.
Stopani fled south from the shooting scene and was found and interviewed by investigators the same day, Lunsford said.
But Stopani was not arrested until February of 2013, after investigators had gathered evidence of his culpability in the killing, according to Lunsford and county booking records.
Lopez and Stopani are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 18 in Norwalk Superior Court. Lopez faces a maximum sentenced of 50 years to life in prison, while Stopani could face up to 40 years to life in prison.

PHOTO of Michael Soto, 17, of Whittier, taken at memorial to Soto in the wake of his fatal shooting on March 26, 2012, at the corner of Mulberry Drive and Painter Avenue in South Whittier. (By Keith Durflinger)

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El Monte Flores gang members indicted on conspiracy, drug trafficking, other charges

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities Wednesday arrested 18 El Monte Flores gang members and associates who used the former offices of the Boys & Girls Club as their hangout.
The 18 were among 41 people indicted by a federal grand jury last week on charges that include conspiracy, murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons violations.
Federal officials said the gang conducted illegal activities out of the Boys & Girls Club of America/San Gabriel Valley Club facilities on Mountain View Road.
“They used the club as a place where they would openly sell drugs and collect taxes,” said Vijay Rathi, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The gang also used the club, which recently held community meetings and hosted a car wash fundraiser for a Flores member who was murdered.
“It is very disturbing that a facility that is supposed to give boys and girls protection and a safe place could be used for that,” Mayor Andrew Quintero said.
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