A Compton man is accused of drunken driving and manslaughter following a weekend crash in Barstow that claimed the lives of two passengers, including a La Puente woman, and seriously injured two others, authorities said.
Leticia Magana, 35, of La Puente died in the crash, which took place about 4:10 p.m. on the southbound 15 Freeway, just south of Barstow Road, San Bernardino coroner’s Deputy John Kroeker said. Another passenger also died at the scene of the crash, however officials did not release the second victim’s identity Thursday.
“A 43-year-old male driver, Jesus (Mojica) Rivera, driving a black Kia SUV with 4 passengers, collided into the rear of a truck tractor trailer driven by a 56 year old male driver,” CHP Officer Ryan Camara said. “During the investigation, alcohol was found to be a factor in the collision.”
After pleading not guilty to charges of drunken driving, vehicular manslaughter and child endangerment, Rivera is being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his next court appearance, scheduled May 28, according to San Bernardino Superior Court and booking records.
Rivera suffered injuries in the crash, but has since received treatment and been booked into jail, Camara said.
Rescuers floew two additional passengers of the Kia to a hospital by helicopter with major injuries, Camara said.
LA PUENTE >> Two men died and a woman suffered major injuries following a solo-car crash possibly linked to street racing early Easter Sunday, authorities said.
A 26-year-old La Puente man who was driving the car and a 19-year-old La Puente man riding as a passenger died at the scene of the 3:20 a.m. crash on Puente Avenue, just north of Amar Road, according to California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Department of Coroner officials. A 23-year-old woman was hospitalized with severe injuries.
All three were inside a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu that was heading south on Puente Avenue “at a high rate of speed” just before the crash, Officer A. Rolens of the CHP’s Baldwin Park office said in a written statement.
“For unknown reasons, the driver of the Chevrolet lost control, which caused the Chevrolet to collide with the rear of a legally parked Ford truck,” the officer said.
“A witness indicated the Chevrolet Malibu may have been racing a beige sedan,” he said.
Only the 19-year-old man was wearing a seat belt, officials said.
The force of the collision broke a concrete fence footing separating the sidewalk from the backyard of Richard and Lilly Koutsky.
The couple said they heard the crash from their bed.
“I heard a very big noise,” Lilly Koutsky said. Richard Koutsky said he got up to see what had happened and called 9-1-1.
“Two men died and a lady was crying and saying, ‘help, help,’” Lilly Koutsky said.
Bystanders tried to help the woman before police and paramedics arrived, she said.
The names of the two men were not released Sunday pending notification of family, coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
While coroner’s investigators described the driver as a La Puente resident, CHP officials had his hometown listed as West Covina.
Anthony Guzman, 20, of La Puente described the 19-year-old passenger killed in the crash as his best friend.
“I knew him since preschool. He’s always been my best friend. He was always there,” Guzman said.
Guzman described his friend as “funny” and “well-rounded.”
He never had an attitude with anybody,” Guzman said.
After attending Workman and La Puente high schools, the young man had just completed an associate’s degree in criminal justice at ITT Tech, Guzman said. He was hoping to become a forensic investigator.
Guzman said his friend enjoyed soccer and skateboarding.
Guzman said he did not know who the man and woman who accompanied his friend were.
The timing of the fatal collision on Easter Sunday seemed to only compound the tragedy, said Guzman’s mother, Victoria Anaya Guzman.
“I had just gotten home from Mass when I got a call from his mom,” Anaya Guzman said.
“He was a great kid,” she said.
Anyone with information regarding the crash was asked to contact the Baldwin Park office of the CHP at 626-338-1164.
PHOTOS and VIDEO by Keith Durflinger
LA PUENTE >> A La Puente man faces up to 120 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him Thursday of molesting two young female relatives over the coarse of eight years, officials said.
The Pomona Superior Court jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Mark Christopher Acosta, 45, guilty of eight felony counts related to child molestation, as well as a count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
He is scheduled to return to court for sentencing April 7, she said. He faces a maximum sentence of 120 years to life in state prison.
Acosta sexually abused two female relatives over different time periods between 2001 and 2009, Ardalani said.
“The first victim revealed the abuse to an adult in 2007, but the adult did not believe her,” Ardalani said.
“In 2013, the second victim came forward about being sexually assaulted,” she said. “As a result, the first victim also alerted authorities to the abuse she suffered.”
Investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau arrested Acosta in February of 2014, according to county booking records. He had been held in lieu of $6 million bail pending the trial process.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVINA >> A La Puente resident and self-described El Monte gang member stabbed two Black men late Saturday at a Covina shopping center in unprovoked attacks which police are investigating as hate crimes, authorities said.
Louis Vasquez, 19, is accused of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, along with special allegations that the crime was a hate crime and gang-related, Covina police officials said.
Vasquez had just been released from jail Saturday morning after serving a sentence for an auto theft conviction, according to officials and county records.
Both victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the stabbings, which took place just after 7:40 p.m. at a shopping center at the northeast corner of Azusa Avenue and Badillo Street, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
The first attack occurred outside a Smart & Final store, where an 18-year-old employee was collecting shopping carts, Peterson said. He noticed Vasquez standing behind him before being attacked without warning.
“Out of nowhere, (Vasquez) just stabbed him,” Peterson said.
The teen, who suffered a stab wound to his shoulder, ran from his attacker, the sergeant said. Vasquez shouted insults, including racial slurs, as the victim fled, he added.
Immediately following the first stabbing, Vasquez headed to a neighboring CVS Pharmacy and attacked a 27-year-old man who was approaching the entrance.
The second victim did not see his assailant approach when he was stabbed from behind.
“He felt a pain in his right shoulder. He looked and saw the suspect holding the knife. The suspect stabbed him again,” Peterson said.
The wounded man tried to run into the store, but an automatic door wouldn’t open quickly enough for him to escape his pursuer, the sergeant said. The victim then ran along the front of the store, where he fell.
“(Vasquez) started slashing at him,” Peterson said. The attacker slashed the victim in the leg before the victim managed to kick the knife out of Vasquez’s hand, then grab hold of it.
Once disarmed, Vasquez ran, police said. He fled into a residential neighborhood in the 800 block of West Edna Place, where residents reported seeing him jumping through backyards.
Officers found Vasquez hiding in a yard and arrested him without a struggle, Peterson said.
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court and booking records, Vasquez was released from jail about 2:40 a.m. Saturday, 17 hours before the stabbings.
After being arrested by El Monte police in October, Vasquez was convicted of auto theft in November and served 112 days of a 242-day sentence, records show.
Vasquez’s has other previous criminal convictions including receiving stolen property in receiving stolen property in December, theft in September and trespassing in August, according to court records.
Vasquez remained in custody Sunday in lieu of $500,000 bail pending an arraignment hearing, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
PHOTO: Louis Vasquez, 19, of La Puente (Courtesy of the Covina Police Department)
LA PUENTE >> Deputies and a keen-eyed employee foiled an armed robbery at a La Puente shoe store late Tuesday, a sheriff’s lieutenant said.
The incident unfolded about 9 p.m. at Warehouse Shoe Sale, 1081 N. Hacienda Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Raymond Enriquez said.
Three suspects, all believed to be gang members, entered the store just before closing time, he said. The suspects asked employees if they were the last customers in the store.
One of the three men exited the store and stood out front, Enriquez said. He was believed to be acting as a lookout.
An employee who happened to be on the phone with a district manager noticed a gun tucked into the waistband of one of the two suspect still inside the store, the lieutenant said. The employee told the manager that the store was about to be robbed, and the manager called for help.
Deputies quickly arrived and detained the alleged lookout, Enriquez said. They then ordered the five employees and two customers out of the shoe store, followed by the to remaining suspects.
Deputies found a loaded 9mm handgun hidden in a shoe box inside the store, Enriquez added.
All three men, who are in their mid-20s, were arrested on suspicion of robbery, he said. Their names were not available late Tuesday pending the booking process.
Throughout the San Gabriel Valley and beyond, cops have been working to brighten the holidays of needy and disadvantaged kids.
Police and California Highway Patrol Officers, as well as Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, have been busily playing the roles of elves distributing toys, food and cheer to young people in need of some holiday spirit.
The California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have run large-scale toy drives to collect gifts for kids who might otherwise go without this holiday season.
And sheriff’s officials even brought Santa Claus, via helicopter, to meet with kids in Compton Saturday as deputies took them on a special Target shopping trip. Sheriff’s deputies also hosted an annual party Dec. 7 for abused and neglected children.
Police officers from both the Irwindale and Covina police departments have delivered toys to the young patients at the City of Hope in Duarte this month.
Police agencies including those in Whittier and West Covina, as well as some sheriff’s stations, joined Target stores for the “Heroes & Helpers” program, in which officers take needy youths shopping for gifts, officials said.
In La Puente, deputies visited schools and churches and neighborhood to hand out about 300 bags full of groceries Friday, sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said. And more food giveaways are planned this week.
Baldwin Park police attracted an estimated 2,000 kids to their police station Friday as they handed out more than 3,500 toys, according to the Baldwin Park Police Association. And of course, Santa Claus was on-hand as well.
PHOTOS: (top to bottom) 1.)Covina police officials deliver toys to children at the City of Hope in Duarte on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (Courtesy) 2.) Whittier police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (Courtesy) 3.) Principal Mona Diaz of Workman Elementary School in La Puente stands in front of a patrol car as Sgt. John Suh unloads bags of groceries to be handed out to families to help out for the holidays on Friday, Dec. 18, 2014. (Courtesy) 4.) Children meet with Santa Claus at the Baldwin Park Police Station as the Baldwin Park Police Association handed out more than 3,500 toys. (Courtesy) 5.) Irwindale police and city officials from Irwindale and La Puente deliver donated toys to City of Hope in Duarte on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. From left to right: La Puente City Councilman David Argudo, Irwindale police Officer Shawn Cory, Irwindale police Officer Diego Cornejo, Irwindale police Detective Jose Vargas, Irwindale police Capt. Ty Henshaw and Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda. (Courtesy) 6.) West Covina police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (Courtesy)
IRWINDALE >> Irwindale police delivered a truck full of toys to the young patients at City of Hope hospital in Duarte Wednesday.
Officials collected hundreds of donated playthings during a toy drive Tuesday at Mariscos Uruapan restaurant in Irwindale, Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said. Tuesday’s event featured a meet and greet with Mexican recording artist Luis Coronel.
City officials from Irwindale and La Puente joined Irwindale police in the drive, organizers said.
Police loaded the toys into a police truck Wednesday and delivered them to City of Hope, Zendejas said.
“Chief (Anthony) Miranda wants to thank all who came out to support the toy drive as we worked together to brighten the day of children who will be spending Christmas at the hospital this year,” Zendejas said.
PHOTO: Irwindale police and city officials from Irwindale and La Puente deliver donated toys to City of Hope in Duarte on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. From left to right: La Puente City Councilman David Argudo, Irwindale police Officer Shawn Cory, Irwindale police Officer Diego Cornejo, Irwindale police Detective Jose Vargas, Irwindale police Capt. Ty Henshaw and Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda. (Courtesy)
LOS ANGELES >> A doctor from Covina pleaded not guilty to last week in a 31-count federal drug trafficking case that could land him more than 300 years in prison, authorities said.
Dr. Daniel Cham, 47, entered his plea Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a written statement. He posted a $140,000 bond and was ordered to serve home detention pending trial, scheduled for Dec. 16. He is prohibited from practicing medicine in the meantime.
Federal agents arrested Cham Wednesday at his Covina home, officials said. The doctor operated medical offices in La Puente and Artesia.
A federal grand jury returned a 31-count indictment against the doctor in October, however it remained sealed until Cham was arrested.
The indictment alleges Cham distributed powerful painkillers and other drugs to patients, including an undercover investigator, who had no legitimate medical need for them.
Anthony Williams, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Los Angeles Field Office, said federal authorities take a tough stance against doctors who cross into drug dealing.
“Along with our law enforcement partners, we continue to aggressively target medical professionals who act as drug traffickers cloaked in a white lab coat,” Williams said.
If convicted of all 31 counts — which included drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud and making false statements to federal authorities — Cham faces up to 339 years behind bars, according to the DOJ.
“Unscrupulous doctors who prescribe controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose are simply fueling a black market of narcotics,” Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said. “These doctors are the same as street dealers who face lengthy sentences in federal prison.”
The primary drugs illegally distributed by Cham include oxycodone, also known as OxyContin; hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin or Norco; alprazolam, also known as Xanax; and carisprodol, also known as Soma, officials said.
Cham often saw patients in the middle of the night on weekends, but post-dated prescriptions to make it appear they had been written during the week, according to the DOJ statement.
“In the year that ended in March 2014, Chan issued more than 5,500 prescriptions for controlled substances,” the statement said. “…and he issued more than 42,000 such prescriptions since July 2010.”
An undercover investigator visited Cham’s La Puente office three times and obtained prescriptions for powerful drugs in exchange for $200 to $300 in cash or money orders, prosecutors allege.
Cham issued the prescriptions even though the undercover agent told him he had been, “drunk and high while receiving controlled substance prescriptions,” according to the DOJ statement.
“On another occasion, Cham prescribed oxycodone even though the undercover law enforcement officer presented, in lieu of photo identification, a written notice that his license had been suspended for driving under the influence,” the statement continued.
LA PUENTE >> Gang investigators arrested a carjacking suspect Thursday following a brief stand-off at a La Puente home, authorities said.
Jairo Vasquez, a 20-year-old member of a local street gang, was ultimately booking on suspicion of carjacking, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
Deputies had been seeking Vasquez after identifying him as a suspect in a Sept. 7 carjacking in a nearby unincorporated county area when they spotted him about 4 p.m. on Radway Avenue, near Prichard Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Mileski said.
“They obtained information that he was inside a residence,” Mileski said.
Deputies surrounded the home before the suspect tried to run out of the back door and was quickly captured, the sergeant said.