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.
The 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.”
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.
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.
IRWINDALE >> Police helped a teenager wrangle his pet, 3-foot-long lizard after it escaped from its yard Saturday afternoon for the second time in recent weeks.
A neighbor first called police about 11 a.m. to report what they described as a Komodo dragon loose in the neighborhood along Nora Avenue, just north of Cypress Street, Irwindale police Sgt. Armando Lopez said.
While officers did not find a Komodo dragon, which is the largest lizard species on Earth and known for highly toxic saliva, they encountered an very “well-fed, 3-foot-long iguana,” Lopez said.
And the officers recognized the runaway reptile as the same one they had helped capture after a previous escape July 24, the sergeant added.
The officers contacted the teenage boy who owns “Peppy” the iguana, who came and picked him up.
Lopez said the large lizard did not cause any problem during Saturday’s foray.
“He just hisses a little when you get close,” he said.
PHOTO of “Peppy” the iguana, taken July 24, 2015, courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department.
IRWINDALE >> A Baldwin Park man was behind bars Sunday after being caught in the act of stealing copper wire from an industrial mining operation, police said.
Miguel Angel Gallegos, 31, was booked on suspicion of grand theft and providing false information to police following his arrest shortly before 8:30 p.m. Saturday in the 13100 block of Ramona Boulevard, Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto said in a written statement.
A witness called 9-1-1 from a neighboring business to report seeing someone removing bales of copper wire from Vulcan Material Company via a surveillance camera, the sergeant said.
“Officers located a subject matching the description hiding in some bushes nearby the location,” Gatto said. “The subject was in possession of approximately 200 feet of large gauge copper electrical wire.”
Officers determined Gallegos had cut a hole in a fence surrounding the mining operation to take the wire, he said. The wire was valued at about $1,500.
Gallegos was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail at the Baldwin Park Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance.
IRWINDALE >> An AB 109 probationer is accused of violating a restraining order and carjacking his ex-girlfriend early Sunday, officials said.
Officers arrested Manuel Martinez, 21, of Duarte on suspicion of carjacking and violating a criminal protective order following the incident, which took place shortly after midnight at an ARCO gas station at 110 E. Longden Ave., according to Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto.
Martinez, who was on post-release community supervision under AB 109 guidelines following a domestic violence conviction and was barred by court order from contacting the woman, approached the woman at the gas pumps, Gatto said.
Martinez demanded a ride, but the woman refused, the sergeant said. He then pulled the woman from the driver seat of the car, wrestled her keys away from her and drove away in her vehicle. The woman suffered minor injuries but declined medical treatment.
Police found the car abandoned near Pamela Park in Duarte about 30 minutes later, Gatto said. Officers found Martinez in the 400 block of Shrode Avenue in Duarte and took him into custody without a struggle.
Martinez was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his arraignment hearing, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court, records show.
PHOTO of suspect Manuel Martinez, 21, of Duarte courtesy of the Irwindale Police Department
IRWINDALE >> Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies stood in 24-hour guard Wednesday over the site where fellow deputy David March was fatally shot during a traffic stop 13 years ago.
Afternoon temperatures climbed into the mid-90s as deputies have continued the stoic tradition each year since March was gunned down along Live Oak Avenue, just east of Peck Road, on April 29, 2002.
Sheriff’ Jim McDonnell visited the memorial site to pay his respects.
“These deputies from Temple have taken the time to pay tribute to the life of Deputy David March,” McDonnell said. “This tribute exemplified the belief that’s shared throughout the law enforcement community that we will never forget, and that we want to respect the memory and the sacrifice through the year.”
March, 33, who was assigned to the sheriff’s Temple Station, was fatally shot after pulling over Jorge Arroyo Garcia, also known as Armando Garcia. After being captured in Mexico and extradited back to the U.S., Garcia pleaded guilty to the deputy’s murder in 2007 and received a life sentence in prison.
Two by two, deputies, primarily from the sheriff’s Temple Station, took turns standing half-hour shifts over the spot where March was fatally shot, which is marked with a permanent memorial plaque. After standing frozen in place for 30 minutes, deputies changed guards with a brief ceremony.
IRWINDALE >> Police jailed a wanted felon Friday after he tried to using a stolen credit card and identification to buy items at an Irwindale hardware store, officials said.
Daniel Garcia, 33, of Los Angeles, is accused of identity theft, false impersonation of another person and possession of drug paraphernalia, Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said. He’s additionally wanted by South Gate police due to an auto theft warrant and Manhattan Beach police in an identity theft case.
The arrest took place about 5:20 p.m. when the suspect tried to make purchases at Grainger Industrial Supply, 12780 Schabarum Ave., the sergeant said.
Store employees called police to report the fraud attempt, and Garcia ran from officers when they arrived at the store, Zendejas said. He was captured nearby, without a struggle.
Friday’s incident was the second time in recent days Garcia has gone shopping at the hardware store with stolen identification and credit cards, police said. He successfully bought goods at the store with fraudulent information in recent days, though the exact date was not available Saturday.
It is estimated that the suspect fraudulently purchased items totaling $3,000,” Zendejas added.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Garcia was being held without bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
IRWINDALE >> A CHP patrol car and a Honda sedan collided on Irwindale Avenue on Friday afternoon, sending both drivers to the hospital.
The crash took place about 4 p.m. on Irwindale Avenue, just north of Arrow Highway, California Highway Patrol Officer Peter Bishop said.
Paramedics rushed the driver of the Honda to a trauma center by helicopter, while the injured CHP officer was taken to a hospital by ambulance, Irwindale police Sgt. Robert Avila said.
The woman in her 20s who was driving the Honda suffered injuries described as moderate, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Irvin Williams said. The officer, who is in his 30s, suffered apparently minor injuries.
The CHP car sustained significant damage to the front end. The Honda sustained major damage to passenger side.
Authorities shut down both directions of traffic on Irwindale Avenue between Arrow Highway and Gladstone Street as they investigated the scene.
Both CHP and Irwindale police officials took part in the investigation, which was expected to be spearheaded by Irwindale police.
The crash was the second involving a law enforcement patrol car in the San Gabriel Valley Friday.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department patrol car sustained major damage about 11:30 a.m. after colliding with a Nissan Altima being driven by a woman on San Gabriel Boulevard in Rosemead, sheriff’s Lt. Loy McBride said.
Officials said the deputy was driving southbound on Rosemead Boulevard, just south of Garvey Avenue, with emergency lights and sirens on when the crash occurred.
The patrol car struck the Nissan and a parked car, McBride said. The woman was not hurt. The deputy was treated for injuries described as minor.
The cause of the Rosemead crash remained under investigation.
PHOTOS: TOP – By Watchara Phomicinda; BELOW – By Brian Day