19 arrested in parole/probation compliance sweep in Azusa, Glendora, Covina

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY >> A police task force arrested 19 people and seized drugs, a gun and cash during a parole and probation compliance sweep Friday in Azusa, Glendora and Covina, authorities said.
Members of the San Gabriel Valley East AB 109 Task Force carried out compliance checks of parolees and probationers in Covina, Azusa and Glendora, Pomona police Sgt. Bert Sanchez said in a written statement. The seven-agency task force is based out of the Pomona Police Department.
“The operation included attempting apprehension of identified subjects found to be in violation of their conditions of release, as well as directed crime suppression in known gang, narcotic and high crime ‘hot spots’ within the target areas,” Sanchez said.
The task force targeted 17 locations and netted 19 arrests, including ones for probation or parole violations, drug offenses, weapon possession and existing warrants, Sanchez said.
One loaded gun was seized during the operation, along with 54 grams of drugs and $6,000 in allegedly ill-gotten cash, he added.
Officers from the Azusa, Baldwin Park, Covina, Glendora, La Verne, West Covina and Pomona police department took part in the sweep, along with probation and parole officials and representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

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Officials identify Glendora man killed in shooting at Covina mobile home park

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COVINA >> Authorities have identified a Glendora man found fatally shot outside a mobile home in an unincorporated county area near Covina Friday.
Richard Alan Wurtz, 37, died at the scene of the shooting, which was reported shortly after 11 a.m. at the Royal Palms Mobile Homes Park, 21210 E. Arrow Highway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Two men were detained for questioning at the scene as deputies responded to reports of gunfire, however neither had been arrested Saturday morning, officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said Saturday in a written statement.
“Deputies detained two adults from the location in order to investigate their connection, if any, to the shooting,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “No arrests have been made at this time and the motive for the shooting remains under investigation.”
The names of the two men detained by deputies were not released.
Deputies investigating reports of gunshots encountered a man lying wounded outside a mobile home, and a second man leaving, sheriff’s Sgt. Nicole Davis said.
The wounded man was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other man was detained for questioning, officials said. A second man found nearby was also detained by investigators in the wake of the fatal shooting.
Neighbors said one of the men taken into custody by deputies at the shooting scene was a 32-year-old resident of the mobile home. They did not know the identity of the second person detained by deputies.
A family member of Wurtz reached by telephone Saturday did not wish to comment.
The ongoing investigating was being handled by detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.

PHOTO by Watchara Phomicinda

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Third and final defendant convicted of role in starting the Colby Fire

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A federal jury on Thursday convicted the last of three suspects charged with starting the damaging Colby Fire above Glendora early this year, as officials cautioned that a looming storm poses a potential debris flow threat to the barren hillsides created by the wildfire.
The Los Angeles jury convicted Jonathan Carl Jarrell, a 23-year-old transient, of one felony and one misdemeanor in connection with a campfire that grew out of control on Jan. 16 and became the 1,952-acre wildfire that burned five homes and 17 other structures. One civilian and five firefighters were hurt during the fire.
Jarrell was found guilty of one felony charge of unlawfully setting timber afire, and a misdemeanor charge of illegally starting a fire, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The jury deadlocked on two additional misdemeanor charges related to the fire.
“As a result of today’s guilty verdicts, Jarrell faces up to five-and-a-half years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu on July 31,” Mrozek said.
The final conviction in the three-defendant case came just as Glendora city officials issued a “Yellow Alert” to urge residents to be prepared of the possibility of mud or debris flows in the hillsides denuded by the Colby Fire.
The thunderstorm was expected to hit Palmdale hardest, however officials issued the Yellow Alert, “due to the unpredictability of thunderstorms and the possibility it may go over the Colby Impact Area,” Glendora police officials said in a written statement.
Two friend’s of Jarrell’s were tried separately and each convicted by a federal jury May 16 of one felony count of unlawfully setting timber afire and three other misdemeanor charges related to illegally starting a campfire.
Clifford Eugene Henry, 22, of Glendora and transient Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, each face up to six-and-a-half years in federal prison when they return to court for sentencing Aug. 4, officials said.
“Henry, Aguirre and Jarrell were detained by Glendora police officers after they were seen escaping the fire,” Mrozek said. “During interviews with Glendora Police and personnel with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Arson Investigations Unit — interviews that the jury heard during the two trials — all three defendants admitted playing a role in the starting of a campfire that started the Colby Fire after wind blew burning paper into the brush in the hills above Glendora.”
The investigation was carried out by the Glendora Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

PHOTO of Jonathan Jarrell: courtesy

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UPDATED: Two found dead inside car over the side of Glendora Ridge Road in the Angeles National Forest

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> Two bodies were discovered Sunday inside of a car that had tumbled nearly 800 feet over the side of Glendora Ridge Road, deep in the Angeles National Forest north of the San Gabriel Valley, authorities said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department search and rescue team members located the car about 11:15 a.m. over the side of Glendora Ridge Road, just west of Mt. Baldy Village, California Highway Patrol Officer Francisco Villalobos said. Two bodies were found inside, however no descriptions of the dead were available.
Sheriff’s officials had been searching the area since shortly after 8 a.m. after receiving a report through the U.S. Forest Service that a vehicle had gone over the side of the road, sheriff’s Sgt. Alex Vargas said.
Officials from the Los Angeles County Department responded to the scene to take custody of the bodies, coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz said. They were yet to be identified.
The crash was first reported to U.S. Forest Service officials, who notified Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials, who in-turn notified the CHP once search and rescue team members found the wreckage.
No further details were immediately available. The crash was being investigated by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.
A similar crash involving a Scion XB occurred on the same stretch of road last year, killing a young man who was driving and seriously injuring a young woman who was riding as a passenger, sheriff’s Lt. Andy Berg said at the time.
That crash took place about 12:30 a.m Aug. 16, when the car left the roadway and tumbled about 600 feet down the hillside before bursting into flames.
Tyler Scheurenbrand, 18, whose city of residence was not listed in coroner’s records, died at the scene from “thermal burns and probable blunt force trauma,” Dietz said. The death was ruled an accident.

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UPDATED — Welcome home: All mandatory evacuation orders lifted in foothills


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Authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders in Glendora and Azusa Sunday morning on the heels of a storm that destabilized the hillsides of the Colby Fire burn area and sent mud flowing through residential streets.
The last of the evacuation orders, which affected 10 homes along Ridge View Drive in Arcadia along the denuded hillsides of the recent Colby Fire, were lifted at 11:45 a.m., Azusa police officials announced in a written statement.
“Residents may return to their residences, according to the police statement.
Only one home at the northern end of Ridge View Drive in Azusa sustained structural damage from the slides, officials said.
EVACS2Dozens of city and county workers, along with firefighters, were busy clearing mud that had poured into the backyard of Ed Heinlein and his family. The mud reached nearly 5 feet thick at some points.
“There’s 100 tons of mud back here,” Heinlein said. “We’ve got mud and stuff in the back of the house.”
To prepare for the mass of mud that eventually barrelled down on his family’s home from a steep hillside, Heinlein said he knocked a hole in a block wall on the south side of his property to allow the water to flow through. And he placed the rubble into trash cans to build a levy on the other side of his property.
“It’s engineering 101 if you’re a local homeowner,” he quipped.
And while the effort helped with the mud flow, Heinlein said he was concerned the weight of the mass of mud and debris might compromise his home’s foundation.
And despite significant damage, Heinlein said it could have been far worse. He credited a grove of 5,000 avocado trees overlooking his home for preventing further disaster.
“It stopped boulders the size of cars,” he said. “It stopped all that nasty stuff. It’s a miracle.”
And the same avocado grove, which the owner heavily watered during the Colby Fire, helped protect Heinlein’s home from damage during the January wildfire, he said.
A basketball hoop that previously stood at a regulation height of 10 feet emerged only about 5 feet from the mud Sunday morning.
Workers started the clean-up process by clearing mud 3 feet away from the periphery of the home, creating a trench. Both shovels and small earthmoving equipment were brought to bear on the mucky mess.
“This is really great,” Heinlein said of the dozens of city and county workers and officials who have helped him and his family deal with the storm damage.
“Mayor (Joe) Rocha left his church service to come down,” Heinlein said. “Council members were out here with shovels.”
Highway 39 within Azusa was also reopened Sunday morning, officials said, though travelers were urged to be cautious while using it due to possible mud or debris remaining in the roadway. The roadway remained closed leading into the Angeles National Forest.
In an act of community spirit, Max’s Mexican Cuisine in Azusa offered free dinner to evacuated residents of Ridge View Drive with proof of residence.
“City crews have been working diligently at removing the debris and mud which flowed onto Ridge View Drive,” according to the police statement. “They will continue to work aggressively at returning the neighborhood to it’s normal condition.”
Glendora officials downgraded the city’s alert status from red to yellow at 6 a.m., allowing displaced residents to return home. About 1,000 Glendora homes were under the evacuation orders.
“Rain-related parking restrictions are in effect,” Glendora police officials said in a written statement. “Residents are directed to remove vehicles, trash bins and other obstructions from the street.”
Trash service in the affected Glendora neighborhoods is to resume its usual schedule immediately, and mail service — which was stopped Friday and Saturday — will resume Monday, police and city officials said.
Authorities advised returning residents to examine their properties before entering, watch out for possible sinkholes in yards and be cautious while driving through the still-muddy and rock-strewn neighborhoods.
Residents with concerns involving mud or debris were encouraged to contact the Glendora Department of Public Works at 626-914-8246. City officials directed residents with other safety-related concerns to contact the Glendora Police Department.
Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers has asked that residents who collected the more than 50,000 sandbags distributed by the city during and prior to the storm to keep them. The bags may yet be necessary during future rains, as the barren hillsides may pose a mudslide risk for several years to come.
Evacuation orders for about 200 homes in Monrovia were lifted at 6 p.m. Saturday.
In Sierra Madre, the Mt. Wilson Trail remained off-limits for hikers as clean-up efforts continued Sunday.
“There are several areas of the trail that are dangerous due to rock slides,” city officials said in a written statement. “Authorities will be working on the trail the next few days to make it as safe as possible. Until then hikers should refrain from using the trail for everyone’s safety. The trail is officially closed until repairs can be made.”


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Mud puts lives on hold in foothills; Monrovia residents get OK to go home

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Reporting that the “streets are a mess right now,” Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab said Saturday evening that the city hopes to have its emergency level alert downgraded to yellow by 6 a.m. today, which will allow residents to return to their homes, with caution.

“The last two storm cells to come through have done a pretty good job at pulling that mud down the hillsides.” Staab said.

“For those residents who have been evacuated, this is getting old. We understand that. We continue to ask or our residents’ patience,” he said. “Out No.  1 goal is to get our residents back into their homes and, unfortunately, it’s these storms that are getting in the way right now.”

The massive rainstorm continued to soak barren hillsides in Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia on Saturday as officials warned evacuated residents that the danger of mudslides and flooding remained very real, even as rays of sunshine peeked through the clouds.

“The experts tell us that thunderstorms are unpredictable, and they form really quickly,” Staab said in an afternoon news conference. “They also tell us that the hillsides are so saturated that we really don’t know at this point what event can cause the hills to suddenly break loose. And once that momentum starts, you just have to get out of the way.”

Officials lifted mandatory evacuation orders in Monrovia at 6 p.m. Saturday as the storm left the region…

FULL STORY

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Flash Flood Warning issued as heavy rain resumes in foothill burn areas

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning Saturday afternoon as heavy rains again began to pound the already water-saturated hillsides of recent burn areas in Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia.
The warning, which was preceded by forecasts of heavy rain and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon, was issued just before 2:30 p.m. It was expected to remain in effect through 4:15 p.m.
“At 2:15 p.m., National Weather Service doppler radar indicated a cluster of thunderstorms moving toward the burn areas,” according to a statement issued by the agency. “Rainfall rates have exceeded one half inch per half hour with these storms, which will be capable of producing additional flooding with mud and debris flows in the burn area.”
Those who remained inside the mandatory evacuation zones were advised to shelter in place rather than trying to leave their homes during the storm.

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UPDATED: Storm continues soaking unstable hillsides of Glendora, Azusa, Monrovia

A massive rainstorm continued to intermittently soak barren hillsides Glendora, Azusa and Monrovia Saturday as officials warned evacuated residents that the danger of mudslides and flooding remained very real, even as rays of sunshine peaked through the clouds.
The rain damaged to properties in Glendora on Friday afternoon and sent mud pouring into the backyards of three homes in Azusa early Saturday, authorities said. Mandatory evacuation orders for more than 1,200 area residents of the recent Colby Fire burn area remained in effect, with no estimate of when they may be lifted.
Though the storm saw a relative lull overnight, it was expected to resume dropping heavy rain on the region about 10 a.m., with showers and possible thunderstorms continuing though the afternoon, Glendora police and city officials said at a morning news conference. The storm was expected to exit the area by 9 p.m.
Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab asked evacuated residents to remain patient, and cautioned them not to underestimate the continued threat posed by the storm.
“For those residents who have been evacuated, this is getting old. We understand that. We continue to ask or our residents’ patience,” Staab said. “Out No. 1 goal is to get our residents back into their homes and, unfortunately, it’s these storms that are getting in the way right now.”
But with thunderstorms potentially on the horizon, and hillsides saturated with water and unstable, the danger remained real, the chief said.
“The experts tell us that thunderstorms are unpredictable, and they form really quickly,” he said. “They also tell us that the hillsides are so saturated that we really don’t know at this point what event can cause the hills to suddenly break loose. And once that momentum starts, you just have to get out of the way.”
The foothills near the Colby Fire burn area had received 4 inches of rain by Saturday, Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers said.
“Rates were recorded at 1.3 inches per hour.”
Rainfall rates at or above half-an-inch per hour create serious potential for mudslide, Jeffers said.
And the NWS predicted another two inches may fall in the area by the storm’s conclusion, officials said. Even heavier rain was expected along the mountain ridge line.
The NWS issued a Flash Flood Warning for the foothill burn areas just before 2:30 p.m. Saturday as heavy rain began to fall again on the region. The warning was expected to remain in effect through 4:15 p.m.
The amount of rainfall Saturday afternoon would be crucial in determining when evacuation orders in Glendora would be lifted, Jeffers said. Those who remained in their homes were advised to stay in their homes and not attempt to leave should mud begin flowing.
And officials again cautioned residents that firefighters cannot rush into a mudslide or debris flow to effect a rescue. They must wait until the debris flow stops and drys.
The National Weather Service issued a brief tornado warning for the east San Gabriel Valley between about 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. No funnel cloud materialized, however hail as large as 1-inch fell in Walnut, officials said.
The four key debris basins near the Colby Fire were holding up well and were not expected to reach capacity during the storm, Jeffers said. When inspected at 6 a.m. Saturday, they ranged from 40 percent to 55 percent full.
Two homes in the 1100 block of Easley Canyon Road in Glendora sustained damage Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Martin said. The garage of one home was inundated with mud, while a nearby home’s backyard was flooded with mud that pressed up against the rear of the home.
City officials identified another dozen or so home where mud had flowed onto the properties, but not entered into the homes, Jeffers said. They were urged to hire geotechnical engineers to examine their properties.
Officials took note of 15 sites in the city where an estimated 200 cubic yards of mud and debris needed to be removed from roadways.
Jeffers added that the city is asking that once the storm passes, residents keep the more than 50,000 sandbags distributed during the storm in case of future potential mudslides. The denuded hillsides of the Colby Fire burn area will continue to present debris flow danger during storms for three to four years.
Residents along Rainbow Road at the northern edge of Glendora continued shoring up barriers Saturday. Some were made of metal pipes and wood, while others consisted of sandbags and tarps. Neighbors mentioned they had been contacted by city officials in February, in the wake of the Colby Fire, to discuss mitigation of potential debris flow.
Glendora residents Gary Smith used a break in the rainfall Saturday morning to take a bike ride. Looking at a barrier erected to block the flow of mud, “It looks like it did its job,” he said.
In Azusa, flowing mud along the 1700 block of Ridge View Drive, where officials expanded evacuation orders Friday, became far too close for comfort to three homes early Saturday, Azusa police Sgt. John Madaloni said. The mud flowing through the backyards reached the windowsill of one home, while it rose 2- to 3-feet high along the back of the other two.
“We don’t have any evidence that it’s actually gone into the homes, but it’s certainly accumulating outside the exterior walls,” Madaloni said.
“The damage right now is limited to cosmetic damage,” the sergeant said. Items such as fences and external stairways had been damaged, along with an avocado grove, but no structural damage had been confirmed.
Highway 39 in Azusa was shut down during a downpour Saturday afternoon due to mud flowing onto the roadway, as well as fears the K-rails placed to block slides would not hold, police said.
The evacuation zone in Monrovia, comprised of about 200 homes in the northern end of town, has sustained no reported structure damage, Monrovia police Lt. Zeke Cerecerez said.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Crews made quick work overnight of a mudslide the flowed onto Highland Place, just north of Hillcrest Boulevard, he said.
Officials tentatively planned to lift mandatory evacuation orders in Monrovia at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We appreciate our residents’ patience at this time,” Monrovia Fire Department Chief Chris Donovan said in a written statement. “We are still predicting some mud and debris flows from the storms predicted by the National Weather Service this afternoon. Once those pass, we will re-evaluate the evacuation orders.”
In Sierra Madre, a rock slide on the Mt. Wilson trail prompted Sierra Madre city officials to urge residents to avoid the area late Saturday morning.

— Staff writer Grace Wong contributed to this report.

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UPDATED: Upland man accused of DUI following injury crash on 210 Freeway in Glendora

GLENDORA >> A two-vehicle crash that injured three people on the 210 Freeway in Glendora Saturday afternoon is blamed on a drunken driver, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
Daniel L. Runnestrand, 53, of Upland was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol following the 2:20 p.m. crash on the eastbound 210 Freeway, just east of Grand Avenue, California Highway Patrol Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said. He suffered injuries described as moderate in the collision.
He was driving a 2007 Ford F-250 pickup truck at a “high rate of speed” in the No. 3 lane just prior to the collision with a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the officer said.
“This collision occurred when Mr. Runnestrand changed lanes from the No. 3 lane to the No. 4 lane and collided with the rear end of the Oldsmobile Cutlass,” Jimenez said.
The pickup truck overturned, ending up on it’s roof in the No. 4 lane, he said. The Oldsmobile was spun around and pushed to the right shoulder.
The sedan was severely damaged in the crash, however the occupants were conscious and breathing when treated by firefighters, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. P.J. Carter said.
Jimenez said the driver of the Oldsmobile, who had not been positively identified but was believed to be a Pomona resident in his 50s, suffered major injuries. They included internal injuries and a fractured leg.
His passenger, a 54-year-old Pomona woman, was hospitalized with injuries believed to be moderate.
Both the man and woman from the Oldsmobile were flown to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center by helicopter for treatment, officials said.
“Mr. Runnestrand was placed under arrest for suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury and was transported to USC Medical Center via ambulance to be treated for his injuries,” Jimenez said.
Witnesses reported the pickup truck had been weaving in and out of traffic lanes just prior to the crash, according to CHP logs.
Officials issued Sig Alert for the two right lanes of the eastbound 210 Freeway that remained in effect for nearly two hours.
Coincidentally, CHP’s Southern Division fielded 20 extra officers late Saturday into early Sunday to hunt for intoxicated drivers in a DUI saturation patrol, officials said.
The collision was being investigated by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.

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Glendora police receive grant to combat alcohol sales to minors

GLENDORA — The Glendora Police Department has been selected to receive funding to continue taking part in minor decoy operations to deter businesses and adults from providing alcohol to minors, officials announced this week.
California Office Of Traffic Safety officials has announced Glendora police will be once again funded this year take part in the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s Minor Decoy-Shoulder Tap program, Glendora police officials said in a written statement.
“During the program, a minor decoy, under the direct supervision of law enforcement officers, either attempts to purchase alcohol, or solicits adults outside ABC licensed stores to buy the minor decoy alcohol,” according to the police statement. “Any person furnishing alcohol to the minor decoy is either cited or arrested for furnishing alcohol to a minor.”
Glendora police have routinely taken part in the program in the past, officials said. During the last operation, carried out over the holiday season, 22 businesses were visited. None sold alcohol to the minor decoys.
“This was the first time in recent memory where the Department has conducted an alcohol minor decoy operation without a single sale,” Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said. “This is exactly what I want. An important part of this program is to raise public awareness about of underage drinking, and it’s working.”

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