Irwindale police personnel honored for valor, service


IRWINDALE >> The Irwindale police recognized officers and other personnel for acts ranging from charging toward an active shooter to resuscitating a lifeless baby during the department’s first-ever Employee Awards Banquet Wednesday.
Awards presented included the department’s Medal of Valor, awarded for “an act displaying extreme courage while consciously facing imminent peril”; the Life Saving Award, “when a life is saved or prolonged due to actions taken by an officer”; the Distinguished Service Award, “for performing exceptional service in a duty of great responsibility or of critical importance to law enforcement”; and the Meritorious Service Award, for “meritorious service similar to, but to a lesser degree than required for the Distinguished Service Medal,” Irwindale police officials said in a written statement.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of this department,” Chief Anthony Miranda said. “The men and women of this department are really doing, right now, the right thing for the right reason. That’s all any chief can ask for.”
Since the event was the department’s first awards ceremony, some of the recognitions were long overdue, official said.
Five sworn officers received the Medal of Valor, and a police dispatcher received a Distinguished Service Award for their efforts to stop a Dec. 16, 2011 mass shooting at an Irwindale Southern California Edison Office in which two people were killed and three others injured by a disgruntled coworker.
With the aid of Dispatcher Mariela Avila, Sgt. Greg Gomez, Cpl. Armando Lopez, Detective Jose Vargas, Sgt. Rudy Gatto, Officer Mario Camacho and Officer Jesse Bravo arrived within three minutes, police said.
“Without hesitation, these officers organized a six-person ‘active shooter’ entry team and entered the building,” according to the statement. Upon arrival, they immediately smelled burnt gunpowder and encountered panicked employees trying to flee.
“It is at this moment that each of these officers placed themselves in great danger and faced imminent peril as they closed in on the active shooter,” the statement said. “Dispatcher Mariela Avila was the voice and ears for these officers during this event and was the help the employees calling 9-1-1 needed to hear as she reassured them help was on the way.”
The gunman fatally shot himself as the officers closed in on him, officials said.
More than four years later, the involved officers were yet to be formally recognize for their heroism, Miranda said.
“For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. That didn’t sit right with me. It needed to be done. It really needed to be done,” the chief said.
Wednesday’s ceremony was held at a different SCE facility in Irwindale. SCE Vice President of Business Customer Division Lisa Cagnolatti was on-hand to express the utility’s gratitude to the first responders.
Sgt. John Fraijo and Officer Rudy Campos received Life Saving Awards for helping resuscitate and rescue a lifeless, choking toddler on Jan. 31, 2014. Sgt. Rene Sapien, Officer Joe Hardy and Dispatcher Sherry Peterson received Distinguished Service Awards for their roles in the same rescue.
Officer Rudy Campos received a second Life Saving Award for talking a suicidal man down from a 605 Freeway overpass on Aug. 20, 2014.
Officer Jesus Bravo received a Life Saving Award for performing CPR on a 60-year-old man for more than 10 minutes before paramedics arrived.
Sgt. George Zendejas, Sgt. Rudy Gatto and Officer Diego Cornejo received Meritorious Service Awards for their work to increase the department public outreach through social media and the Internet.
Also recognized were 2015 Officer of the Year Officer Rudy Campos; 2014 Officer of the Year Diego Cornejo; 2015 Civilian Employee of the Year Records Clerk Norma Ortiz and 2015 Civilian Employee of the Year Volunteer Dianna Hurst.

PHOTO courtesy of Glenn Purbaugh/Irwindale Police Department. — Chief Anthony Miranda, center, stands with award winners following the first-ever Irwindale Police Department Employee Awards Banquet on Wednesday, Jan, 27, 2016.

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Detectives investigating man’s death in Irwindale

IRWINDALE >> Homicide detectives are investigating a man’s death in Irwindale Friday afternoon.
The death was first reported about 3 p.m. in the 12900 block of Lower Azusa Road, near the 605 Freeway, according to Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
No information regarding the circumstances of the death were immediately released.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau responded to the scene to assist Irwindale police in the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Baldwin Park man accused of DUI, auto theft after leading Irwindale police on chase


IRWINDALE >> Police working a DUI patrol in Irwindale late Christmas night arrested an alleged drunken driver who led them on a chase in a stolen pickup truck that ended in a crash at a park in Baldwin Park, authorities said.
Miguel Higuera Lujan, 36, of Baldwin Park remained jailed in lieu of $25,000 bail Saturday on suspicion of auto theft, DUI and hit-and-run, according to Irwindale police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Two officers were working an extra enforcement operation in search of intoxicated drivers just after 11 p.m. when they saw a 1994 Nissan pickup truck run a stop sign at Ramona Boulevard and Elton Avenue, Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said.
The driver refused to pull over, starting a chase, the sergeant said. He fled for about 1227_NWS_SGT-L-DUICHASE2a mile, running through a red light otherwise driving recklessly, before driving the truck through the basketball court at Hilda L. Solis Park, at 15010 Badillo Street in Baldwin Park.
“Thankfully, there was no one in the area,” Zendejas said.
Lujan jumped from the still-moving truck and continued to flee on foot. The truck came to a stop after crashing into a chain link fence at the edge of a flood control channel, officials said. Police soon captured the fleeing suspect nearby.
Police determined the truck had been reported stolen in the Temple City area.
Zendejas commended the involved officers.
“This was outstanding work on behalf of the officers working the DUI enforcement patrol and taking another dangerous DUI driver off the streets to keep our citizens safe during the holiday season,” he said.
Lujan was scheduled to appear for arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.


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Officials to canvass Irwindale neighborhood in search of clues in fatal shooting


IRWINDALE >> Deputies plan to canvass a stretch of Foothill Boulevard early Monday in search of witnesses or anyone who may have information to help solve the mysterious slaying of a Duarte man found shot to death in his bullet-riddled car nearly a month ago.
Martin Diaz, 48,  was found fatally shot about 5:40 p.m. Nov. 25 in his car, which was stopped in the 15900 block of Foothill Boulevard, just west of Irwindale Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials said. The shooting is believed to have occurred between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., as Diaz was on his way to work at an Azusa sprinkler company.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting, the motive or a suspect description have been released.
In hopes of generating new leads, “Deputies and officers will be contacting drivers (and) passengers in an effort to obtain information from possible witnesses who may have seen anything related to the murder of 48-year-old Martin Diaz,” according to Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau are assisting Irwindale police in the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 888-222-8477.


PHOTO of Martin Diaz courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Crime scene photo by Walt Mancini.

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Victim of Irwindale shooting identified as Duarte man

IRWINDALE >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a Duarte man found dead inside a bullet-riddled car along Foothill Boulevard in Irwindale Wednesday morning.
Martin Diaz, 48, was found fatally shot about 5:40 a.m. in the 15900 block of Foothill Boulevard, Los Angeles Count Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
He was believed to have been driving east on Foothill Boulevard when he was shot by an unknown assailant, who remains at large, Lt. Joe Mendoza of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. But it was unclear exactly what time the shooting took place.
No further information regarding the circumstances or motive in the shooting were available.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Irwindale police sport pink patches to fight breast cancer


IRWINDALE >> Police in Irwindale began sporting pink shoulder patches with their uniforms Thursday in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and raise funds for the City of Hope.
The pink patches are intended to stimulate conversation within the community and encourage public awareness in the early detection and fight against this disease,” Irwindale police officials said in a written statement.
PINKPATCHThe patches are also available for members of the public to purchase. They are available for $10 each at the Irwindale Police Department, 5050 N. Irwindale Ave., along with T-shirts available for $15 each.
The patches were first offered for sale in July, but officers began wearing them Thursday and will continue wearing them through October.
The effort had been well-received so far, Sgt. George Zendejas said.
“The Pink Patch Project has been a team effort, and we have received overwhelming support in our efforts to raise funds, raise awareness and unite with those who have battled breast cancer either personally or through friend and family,” he said.
PINKPATCH3The department’s foal is to raise $10,000 for the City of Hope in Duarte to fund breast cancer research, treatment and education, officials said.
Police Chief Anthony Miranda said he was proud of department personnel for their efforts.
“They identified a great cause, in where by raising funds we believe we can help make a difference in the fight against breast cancer,” Miranda said.
For more information on the Pink Patch Project, visit To purchase a patch or T-shirt, contact Norma Ortiz at, or call 626-430-2249.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department.

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CHP hosting teen driver program at Irwindale Speedway

IRWINDALE >> The California Highway Patrol invites teens to learn about the dangers of drinking and driving Saturday before enjoying car races, a pit area tour and more at the Irwindale Speedway.
The free Designated Driver Program begins at 4:45 p.m. inside Building 5 of the race track, 500 Speedway Drive, on the same day Irwindale Speedway will honor police, fire and emergency officials during First Responders Night, CHP Officer Ramberto Salcido said
Following a brief presentation by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, guests will be taken on a guided tour of the pit area, provided with a meal and given a chance to meet drivers for an autograph session, the officer said.
Pre-race ceremonies honoring first responders will take place at 6:45 p.m., followed by racing at 7 p.m.
For more information on the Designated Driver Program, contact Officer Salcido at 818-240-8200. Spots must be reserved via email at

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Irwindale police chief challengers other area top cops to drag race Saturday

IRWINDALE >> Irwindale Police Chief Anthony Miranda has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging other area police chiefs to a drag race Saturday night at the Irwindale Speedway to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal street racing and encourage legal competition.
The TOP COP race will take place at 8 p.m. at the drag strip at 500 Speedway Drive, Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto said.
TOPCOPThe event will follow an afternoon of NHRA Street Legal racing beginning at 5 p.m.
An admission price of $10 for adults and $5 for kids includes all of the day’s racing events, Gatto said.
The cost to race is 20, according to Speedway officials. Gates open at 4 p.m.
“We’ve invited the chiefs to bring their own police cars or one of their department’s police cars,” Miranda said in a written statement. “We’ll get them some practice runs on our eighth-mile drag strip and then, at 8 o’clock, we’ll see who the ‘TOP COP’ will be! We’ll determine the night’s winner based on each driver’s reaction times on the starting line.”
Chiefs from the Bell, Beverly Hills, San Gabriel, San Marino, Santa Monica and Vernon police departments had accepted the challenge, among others, Gatto said.
“The purpose of the “TOP COP” challenge is to raise public awareness about the dangers of illegal street racing and to raise support for street legal NHRA drag racing as a safe alternative,” Gatto said.
“Illegal street racing affects everyone, not just the participants,” Miranda added. “We need to have safe, controlled places like Irwindale for this activity and to put an end to the senseless loss of young lives.”

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UPDATED: Irwindale fire station evacuated after found mortar shell brought in

IRWINDALE >> Officials evacuated a Los Angeles County fire station after a couple cleaning out a deceased veteran’s home in Covina discovered what appeared to be an 81mm mortar shell and brought it to the Irwindale firehouse Wednesday afternoon, police said.
The incident began just after 2 p.m. at Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 38, 15546 Arrow Highway, Irwindale police Capt. Ty Henshaw said.
A couple was cleaning out the home of a relative and military veteran who had died in Covina when they came across a collection of military items, which included the ordinance, described as a somewhat football-shaped M43A1 mortar shell, the captain said.
Firefighters stored the device in a brick office and summoned a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad to investigate, Henshaw said.
The bomb squad responded and determined the device was inert and contained no explosives, police said. The all-clear was sounded shortly before 4 p.m.
The fire station was evacuated, but no other nearby buildings in the commercial neighborhood were evacuated, Henshaw said.
In general, residents who discover possible explosives are advised to leave them where found and call 9-1-1, rather than transport them to a fire or police station, Henshaw said.

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Suspect dies after being subdued with Taser in Irwindale

IRWINDALE >> A man died Saturday after police took him into custody with the use of a Taser while responding to reports he was acting strangely along Ramona Boulevard, officials said.
The incident began about 3:30 p.m. when officers responded to a gas station in Baldwin Park along Ramona Boulevard at the 605 Freeway after someone reported the man was lying on the sidewalk, Baldwin Park Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said.
The man, who was reported to be in his 40s, was calm when officers arrived but witnesses directed them to a parking lot across the street.
“When officers arrived, they were told that the suspect had stolen a large American flag and flag pole from a gas station and had been swinging it at cars and people in the area,” deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said.


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