IRWINDALE >> Police asked the public’s help Saturday in tracking down a man believed connected to a series of mail thefts from five Irwindale businesses late last month.
The thefts occurred Oct. 27 at five businesses in the 4800 block of Fourth Street, Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said in a written statement.
A thief pried open the locked, outdoor mailboxes and took mail, the sergeant said. “Several checks were stolen during the thefts and subsequently cashed at nearby locations.”
Since the Oct. 27 thefts, several incidents of mailbox tampering have been reported in the same area, officials said.
Police released a surveillance camera image of a man taken as he cashed a stolen check, as well as a photo of an SUV captured on security cameras near where the mail was stolen.
Anyone who recognizes the suspect or has information regarding the case is asked to contact Detective Jose vargas at 626-430-2290.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department.
LOS ANGELES >> A former Irwindale police sergeant was convicted Friday on charges related to the on-duty sexual assault of a Chino woman he had pulled over two years ago, authorities said.
David Paul Fraijo, 36, pleaded “no contest” to two felony counts stemming from the Oct. 20, 2012 attack in the area of Arrow Highway and Azusa Canyon Road, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
Under a negotiated plea arrangement announced at what was scheduled to be a preliminary hearing setting, the former Irwindale Police Department sergeant pleaded no contest in Los Angeles Superior Court to charges of oral copulation under color of authority and sexual battery by restraint, Risling said.
“Fraijo stopped a female driver on Oct. 20, 2012, and asked to see her driver’s license,” Risling said in a written statement. “Fraijo then sexually assaulted her in a parking lot.”
Three other counts Fraijo was additionally charged with following his March 10 arrest are expected to be dismissed when Fraijo returns to court for sentencing Jan. 14 before Judge Ray Jurado, Risling said. The charges to be dismissed are kidnapping to commit another crime, forcible oral copulation and assault under color of authority.
Under the plea agreement, Fraijo faces a maximum sentence of nine years in state prison, Risling said.
If convicted of the five counts he was initially charged with, Fraijo could have received a life sentence.
The Chino woman victimized by Fraijo initially filed a lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages, however the lawsuit was withdrawn in January, and the city paid about $400,000 to the woman, according to a source with knowledge of the case.
Fraijo was fired from the Irwindale Police Department in February, according to Chief Anthony Miranda.
Fraijo was released from custody in June pending his legal proceedings after posting $1 million bail.
Deputy District Attorney Rosa Alarcon of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Justice System Integrity Division, who prosecuted the case, could not be reached for comment late Friday, nor could Irwindale Police Chief Anthony Miranda, who took the helm at the department in January, replacing former chief Dennis Smith.
Fraijo is not the only former Irwindale officer to be criminally convicted in recent months.
Another ex-Irwindale officer, Dennis Alva, was sentenced to a year in prison and five years of probation in November after pleading “no contest” to a single count of grand theft, district attorney’s officials said. He was accused of stealing his father’s life savings of $250,000.
And a third former Irwindale officer, Daniel Camerano, was charged last year with six felony sex crimes for alleged crimes against two underage police Explorers. The officer was initially placed on paid leave as authorities investigated, then resigned in June after charges were filed.
According to county booking records, Camerano is free on $240,000 bail pending a preliminary hearing setting Oct. 16 in Los Angeles Superior Court. He has pleaded not guilty.
WEST COVINA >> Dozens of San Gabriel Valley first responders took part in a large-scale active shooter training scenario simulating a terrorist attack on a West Covina shopping mall Sunday.
Six local law enforcement agencies, federal officials and firefighters took part in the mock terror attack at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall, which was held early in the morning, before mall business opened for the day.
“We take the safety of our visitors and our residents very seriously,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said. “There have been several incidents that have happened on the east coast — one happened last week — that certainly have raised our awareness that we need to be prepared. And in my view, we need to be ready for something and hope it never happens, (rather) than to respond to something we weren’t prepared for.”
A blast from a flash-bang grenade intended to simulate a bomb detonation signalled the beginning of the intensive drill at the mall, where three West Covina police officers played the role of heavily armed gunmen bent on creating carnage. Within minutes, the sounds of simulated gunshots echoed through the mall as police engaged the mock terrorists in a gunfight.
Two of the pseudo suspects carried assault rifles, while the third carried a shotgun.
Participating first responders were not told ahead of time what they would be facing in the drill, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez explained.
“Each officer involved in this has to determine how to best handle the situation,” he said.
Police simultaneously hunted for the gunmen and rescued mock victims who wore makeup to simulate injuries. Some officers carried their standard duty sidearms, while others were armed with rifles.
Patrol officers called in a SWAT team after the attack turned into a hostage situation.
Practicing a technique known as “fast-roping,” West Covina police SWAT members slid down a rope from a hovering Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter to join in the operation.
The West Covina Police Department’s recently acquired rescue vehicle, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle acquired from the U.S. Department of Defense, was used to evacuate victims.
After a scenario that lasted about an hour, the three suspects had been killed in shoot-outs with officers. Three civilians had also been killed during the scenario, and many more wounded.
Police officers from West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park and Irwindale police departments were joined by California Highway Patrol officers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials, FBI agents, West Covina firefighters and mall security officials in responding to the mock attack, Lopez said. While West Covina has hosted similar training scenarios in the past, Sunday’s training session was their biggest.
About 75 law enforcement officers participated, along with about 60 volunteers playing the part of victims or bystanders, officials said. The volunteers were primarily police Explorers from the West Covina, Glendora and Ontario police departments.
“Whether this incident happens in West Covina, or happens in Irwindale or Covina, we’re familiar with working with each others’ team,” the chief said. “We might be in different uniforms, but in the end, we’re all in one uniform when it comes time to deal with a critical incident.”
After watching the exercise unfold at the mall, West Covina City Councilman Fred Sykes said he approved.
“A place this large, it’s unfathomable for us not to look at what to do in this type of situation,” he said.
The costs and planning associated with massive drill is a wise investment, as it may help save lives down the road, Sykes said.
“This is extremely important for our community,” the councilman said.
Just like in sports, he added, “The battles are won in practice.”
IRWINDALE >> Three men were hospitalized in critical condition following a solo-car crash on Arrow Highway Sunday afternoon, officials said.
The crash was reported at 5:28 p.m. on at Arrow Highway and 4th Street, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Melanie Flores said.
The Scion sedan involved ultimately came to a rest upside-down and lodged in a gate surrounding an auto body shop.
The three occupants were men estimated to be in their 20s, fire Capt. Ronald Mandzok said.
One of them was thrown from the car, the captain said. He was unconscious as he was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center by ambulance.
The other two men were trapped inside the car and had to be cut free of the wreckage using Jaws of Life, Mandzok said. They were both flown to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center by helicopter, Mandzok said. One remained unconscious the scene, while the other was initially unresponsive, but started to come to as firefighters treated him.
The cause of the crash was under investigation by the Irwindale Police Department.
No further details were immediately available.
IRWINDALE >> A fire tore through an Irwindale auto shop Saturday, sending a thick cloud of black smoke over the San Gabriel Valley but resulting in no injuries, authorities said.
The fire was first reported about 6:30 p.m. at Irwindale Auto and Truck Repair, at the corner of Arrow Highway and Vincent Avenue, according to Irwindale police and Los Angeles County fire officials.
Firefighters arrived to find flames burning through the roof of the auto shop, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Phil Ulloa said.
Firefighters battled the flames for more than an hour before declaring the fire extinguished at 7:50 p.m., Ulloa said.
In addition to being an auto repair shop, the business also warehouses tires and vehicle batteries.
A fire department hazardous materials crew was summoned to the scene due to damaged batteries, officials said.
The auto shop was closed when the fire broke out, Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto said. No evacuations were ordered.
One employee who was inside the business when the fire broke out managed to exit safely before firefighters arrived, officials said.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, and the full extent of the damage was not immediately clear.
The intersection of Arrow Highway and Vincent Avenue was shut down as a result of the blaze and remained closed through Sunday morning, Gatto said.
PHOTO courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department
IRWINDALE >> A drunken driver slammed into a charter bus filled with senior citizens in Irwindale late Sunday, officials said.
Ten of the 48 primarily elderly passengers of the bus complained of pain following the crash, and one was taken to a hospital for examination, Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto said.
Montiel Reyes, 23, of Los Angeles was booked on suspicion of felony drunken driving in connection with the crash, which took place about 7 p.m. at Arrow Highway and Live Oak Avenue, just east of the 605 Freeway, Gatto said. Reyes was unlicensed and has also had his driving privilege suspended, he added.
Reyes was driving a two-door Honda Civic west on Arrow Highway when he entered the intersection and struck the bus, Gatto said. The bus was eastbound on Arrow Highway, making a left turn to continue east on Arrow Highway at the Live Oak Avenue fork.
Police said the civic struck the left, rear portion of the bus.
Damage to the car was described as major, while damage to the bus appeared moderate, Gatto said.
A second bus was sent for the passengers, Gatto said. It was not clear where the bus was heading when it became involved in the crash.
Reyes was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail at the Baldwin Park Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, Gatto said.
The circumstances of the crash remained under investigation, and anyone with information was asked to contact Detective Sgt. George Zendejas at 626-962-3601.
BOOKING PHOTO of Montiel Reyes, 23, of Los Angeles courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department.
IRWINDALE >> A drunken Covina man led Irwindale police on a 4-mile chase before being arrested late Saturday, officials said.
A detective was patrolling in the area of Arrow Highway and Vincent Avenue about 9:15 p.m. when he noticed late-1990s Honda Accord came to a “screeching stop” at the intersection, Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said.
Suspecting DUI, the detective tried to pull over the car, but it sped away heading south on Vincent Avenue, police said.
The chase reached speeds of up to 70 mph as it wound through surface streets in an unincorporated county area near Covina, Zendejas said.
The driver, 24-year-old Freddy Rios Godoy, ultimately stopped in the front yard of a relative’s home in the 16600 block of Benwood Street, the sergeant said. He was then taken into custody without a struggle.
He was booked on suspicion of intoxicated driving and evading police, as well as an outstanding $10,000 arrest warrant from another law enforcement agency, police said.
According to county booking records, Godoy was being held in lieu of $85,000 bail at the Glendora Police Department’s jail pending his arraignment, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
IRWINDALE >> A big rig hauling cement blocks overturned on the 210 Freeway in Irwindale Friday, sending the driver to a trauma center and bringing area traffic to a screeching halt, authorities said.
The truck was hauling about 25,000 pounds of bricks on the westbound freeway about 11:40 a.m. when it struck the center divider and overturned just west of Irwindale Avenue, California Highway Patrol officials said.
“Bystanders on both sides of the freeway stopped to help,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Mark Delgado said. An off-duty firefighter helped get the injured truck driver, estimated to be in his late-40s or early-50s, out of vehicle.
Paramedics took the truck driver to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment, Delgado said. The man was conscious and breathing when hospitalized. An update on his condition was not available.
Two other cars became involved in the crash, Delgado said. The drivers of both appeared to have suffered only minor injuries and declined to be taken to a hospital.
None of the concrete blocks spilled from the big rig, CHP Officer Tony Polizzi said. But about 20 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the wreckage, complicating the clean-up effort.
“It was just a massive traffic jam,” Delgado said.
Caltrans officials also had to make repairs to the center divider before a Sig Alert for the carpool and two left lanes of the westbound freeway was lifted five hours later, officials said.
The crash could have been worse, Delgado said. “Fortunately, it did not go over the divider into opposing traffic.”
Officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP were investigating the cause of the crash.
IRWINDALE — Police, aided by a good Samaritan, arrested an intoxicated driver after he fled the scenes of several crashes, including one that sheared a fire hydrant, sending a geyser of water erupting into the air, officials said.
Daniel Lopez, 39, was booked on suspicion of intoxicated driving and hit-and-run following the series of crashes, which took place shortly after 4 p.m., Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said.
“Irwindale police dispatch received a call from a citizen advising they were following a drunk driver who had just hit a fire hydrant,” the sergeant said.
The sheared off hydrant sent water spewing high into the air at the northwest corner of Arrow Highway and 4th Street, Zendejas said.
But the white cargo van continued driving as the caller reported its position to police, he said.
The van made a U-turn on Irwindale Avenue at Ornelas Street and struck a light pole, Zendejas said. But the driver continued on.
The van struck a fixed object at a gas station at Irwindale Avenue and Arrow Highway just before police caught up with it, Zendejas said. Police stopped the driver as he drove back toward the sheared hydrant and became caught in the traffic it created.
Officers determined Lopez was under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both, and placed him under arrest.
Zendejas commended the witness for calling police and helping direct them to the driver.
According to county booking records, Lopez was released from jail on $5,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
PHOTO courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department
IRWINDALE — A homeless man searching for recyclables stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a body separated from the skull in a brush covered field along the San Gabriel riverbed Thursday afternoon.
The grisly discovery was made just after 5:20 p.m. in a field just west of the riverbed and south of Foothill Boulevard, according to Irwindale police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
The remains were mainly skeletal, and appeared to have been there for at least several weeks, Sgt. Scott Hoglund of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The skull and the rest of the body were about 15 feet apart when discovered, the sergeant said. The skull was nearly visible from Foothill Boulevard.
“It was most likely animal activity” that separated the skeleton from the skull, Hoglund said.
Hoglund said the investigation remained in its early stages, however there were no overt signs of foul play or trauma on the remains.
Investigators could not initially tell if the remains were that of a man or a woman, but they appeared to belong to an adult.