Irwindale police deliver donated toys to kids at City of Hope

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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)

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Doctor from Covina indicted in federal drug trafficking case

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.

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Carjacking suspect arrested in La Puente

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.

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Sheriff’s deputies distribute school supplies to La Puente kids

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LA PUENTE — Sheriff’s deputies, in partnership with the City of La Puente and the National Latino Peace Officers Association, is in the process of distributing 100 backpacks full of school supplies to needs students.
The giveaway began last week at Workman Elementary School and Hurley Elementary School, and will continue next week at Sparks Elementary School and Del Valley School, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. and La Puente Police Chief Pete Cacheiro said.
The backpacks and supplies were donated by the National Latino Peace Officers Association, and were arranged by Explorers from the sheriff’s Industry Station. Sheriff’s officials worked with the schools to identify the students most in need of the supplies.
In addition to putting smiles on children’s faces, the event exemplifies the “Community Oriented Policing” strategy employed in La Puente, fostering trust between young people and law enforcement.
0908_NWS_SGT-L-BACKPACKS2La Puente City Councilwoman Valerie Munoz accompanied deputies as they distributed the backpacks at the first two schools.
“In our community, we do have students who need these services,” she said.
Students also got a chance to chat with deputies and sit in their patrol cars.
“How wonderful it is they take the time to build those relationships. They’re very present in the community,” Munoz said. ” They’re going above and beyond and making a big impact in our community by being involved.”
Cacheiro and Munoz both credited community-oriented policing with significant drops in La Puente’s crime rate this year, which is among the lowest in the county.
“The effort that they’ve made in community-oriented policing is something that’s shown a vast improvement,” Munoz said.

PHOTOS: (Top)Sheriff’s deputies, La Puente City Councilwoman Valerie Munoz and students of Workman Elementary School in La Puente pose for a photo after deputies gave them backpacks full of school supplies, donated by the National Latino Peace Officers Association, on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.  (Below) Deputy Richard  Muehlich hands out backpacks full of school supplies, donated by the National Latino Peace Officers Association, to kids at Workman Elementary School in La Puente on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. (Courtesy)

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La Puente man, Panorama City man killed in Panorama City 7-Eleven shooting

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Two men who were fatally shot outside a Panorama City 7-Eleven on Thursday have been identified by coroners’ officials as police continued Sunday to hunt two suspects still at large.
The victims were identified as Maron States, 26, of La Puente and Miles DeShawn, 19, of Panorama City, said Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s Investigations Unit. The precise cause of death was still pending Sunday morning.
A third man, who was also standing outside the store, was shot in the leg and was taken to a local hospital for treatment, officials said.
A radio call went out at 5:55 a.m. Thursday of an assault with a deadly weapon and shots fired outside the 7-Eleven at 8243 N. Sepulveda Boulevard, said Sgt. S. Carlsen, a watch commander with LAPD’s Mission Station.

… FULL STORY by Brenda Gazzar

PHOTO by Gene Blevins

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La Puente’s Independence Day celebration draws thousands

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LA PUENTE — More than 17,000 people gathered at La Puente park Thursday to celebrated Independence Day with music, food, and of course, fireworks.
An additional 3,500 or so spectators lined the streets around the park, 501 N. Glendora Avenue, as the sparks began to fly at 9 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said.
Prior to the fireworks show, families picnicked at the park and enjoyed festivities, including games, crafts and live music from the California Army National Guard 40th Infantry Division Band and Cold Duck.
“It went fantastic,” La Puente Mayor Violeta Lewis said. “I had an opportunity to walk the crowd. “I saw a lot of families having a good time and enjoying themselves, and that’s what it’s all about.”
And despite the massive crowd the event drew, the event went remarkably smoothly from a public safety standpoint, Cacheiro said.
“Everyone had a great time,” said Cacheiro, who effectively serves as La Puente’s police chief. “It was an incredible community event.”
There were two misdemeanor arrests during the event, Cacheiro said. One was for being drunk in public, and the other was for outstanding warrants after deputies approached a person who was smoking marijuana in the park.
Officials handled two medical issues, as well as 18 lost children, who were all promptly reunited with their families.
About 50 deputies patrolled the park during the celebration, including some on horseback, assisted by sheriff’s Explorer scouts, West Covina Police, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and American Medical Response, Cacheiro said. Even the FBI helped with the event, providing expertise in large event planning.
“It’s a very well-attended community event,” La Puente City Manager David Carmany said of the annual Independence Day celebration. “It brings out all the families. It’s a point of real pride for La Puente.”
“We tried to do everything we could to make it enjoyable for the community, and I hope we succeeded,” he said.

PHOTO courtesy of the City of La Puente

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Loved ones mark anniversary of fatal La Puente deputy-involved shooting

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LA PUENTE >> More than three-dozen family members and friends gathered with candles last weekend to mark the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of a La Puente man who officials said fled from a traffic stop while armed with a handgun.
Ceaser Joe Mendoza, 24, died at a hospital soon after he was shot and wounded by a sheriff’s deputy about 9:50 p.m. June 22 along Loukelton Street just west of Ballista Avenue, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
0628_NWS_SGT-L-MENDOZA3“Even several weeks after he was gone, I kept walking around thinking I’d seen him,” sister-in-law Joeie Martinez said.
“He was the happiest person ever. He would always make the best of any situation,” she said. “He was so giving. If you needed something, he’d find a way to give it to you.”
Mendoza was a passenger in a car with two other men when it was pulled over by a sheriff’s patrol car for running a stop sign, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials. One deputy remained with the two men in the stopped car, while Deputy Chad Sessman chased after Mendoza.
Authorities allege he reached for a 9mm handgun that was tucked into his waistband while fleeing, Sessman to open fire.
Shortly after the shooting, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement that Mendoza twice faced Sessman and reached for the handgun while running, though detectives said he never fully removed it from his pants.
Family members conceded that Mendoza was armed and that he ran from deputies, but have said they don’t believe he assaulted a deputy, or intended to. And the autopsy report confirmed the family’s assertion that Mendoza had been shot in the back.
Officials at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office ultimately determined the deputy-involved shooting was lawful self-defense.
0628_NWS_SGT-L-MENDOZA2Another passenger of the Nissan Altima told investigators that Mendoza became “extremely nervous” when the car was pulled over by deputies, and said that he had a gun on him and needed to run, according to the district attorney’s office report on the shooting.
“As Mendoza ran from Sessman, he tripped and fell onto the ground landing on his buttocks facing Sessman,” according to the report. “Sessman saw that Mendoza had a chrome handgun in his waistband. Mendoza looked directly at Mendoza, reached for his waistband and grabbed the handgun with both hands. Believing Mendoza was preparing to draw the firearm and shoot him, Sessman drew his service weapon and fired at Mendoza.”
Mendoza returned to his feet and continued running west on Loukelton Street, officials said.
“As Mendoza ran, he kept his arms in front of him near his waist. Mendoza was moving his hands near his waist and periodically looking over his left shoulder toward Sessman,” the district attorney’s report said. “Sessman moved into position behind a concrete fence post and fired a second salvo at Mendoza.”
“Sessman believed Mendoza was attempting to draw his firearm from its holster and scanning over his left shoulder for Sessman. Believing that Mendoza was preparing to shoot him, Sessman fired his weapon again to end what he perceived to be a deadly threat,” according to the district attorney’s report.
The district attorney’s report differed from the initial statement released by the sheriff’s department, which stated that Mendoza, “turned around a second time reaching for his waistband.”
Mendoza fell wounded and was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries less than an hour later, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Sessman fired five shots, according to the district attorney’s office.
Mendoza was struck by three .45-caliber bullets, according to the coroner’s autopsy report. The fatal wound was to the center of his back. Another bullet struck him struck him on the left, rear side of his up, and third penetrated through the back of his right arm.
The district attorney’s investigation into the shooting was completed on April, concluding that , “LASD Deputy Chad Sessman acted lawfully in self-defense. We are closing out file and will take no further action in this matter.”
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56 arrested at La Puente checkpoint

LA PUENTE >> A sheriff’s checkpoint held in La Puente over the weekend resulted in 56 arrests, including one for drunken driving and 41 for motorists driving without valid licenses, officials said Sunday.
The checkpoint was held from 7 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday at Hacienda Boulevard and Temple Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Of 2,481 vehicles that passed through the checkpoint, deputies screened 1,958 of the drivers.
One person was jailed on suspicion of drunken driving and one person was arrested for drug possession, officials said. One driver was arrested due to an outstanding traffic warrant, and 12 drivers were arrested for driving on a revoked or suspended license.
Forty-one motorists were arrested and sent to court for driving without licenses, according to the sheriff’s statement.
Deputies impounded five vehicles for 30 days, and 13 vehicles were stored for one day, officials said. Thirty-five cars were released to licensed drivers under checkpoint procedures.

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Checkpoint planned this weekend in La Puente

LA PUENTE >> Sheriff’s officials are planning a checkpoint late Friday in La Puente, where the past two such checkpoints have resulted in the arrest of 111 people for driving without a license, as well as three for driving while intoxicated.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Industry Station are planning to screen motorists from 7 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within La Puente, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
While the emphasis of the checkpoint is on finding DUI drivers and discouraging others from committing the crime, according to the statement, “Deputies will also check drivers for proper licensing and will strive to delay motorists only momentarily.”
The sheriff’s Industry Station provides law enforcement services to the cities of Industry and La Puente, as well as nearby unincorporated county areas including Hacienda Heights, Valinda, East Valinda and Bassett.
But the last two checkpoints held by the station have been in La Puente.
“Checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety to officers and the public,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
During a checkpoint held overnight Feb. 21 and 22, deputies arrested more than 70 people, officials announced. Two drivers were jailed on suspicion of DUI, and one person was accused of driving without a court-ordered ignition interlock device. But the vast majority of arrests, at 55, were for driving without licenses.
At another La Puente checkpoint held overnight Dec. 21 and 22, deputies also arrested more than 70 people. One of the arrests was for DUI, while 56 were for driving without a license.
Funding for the checkpoints is provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Clerk aids in arrest of West Valinda robbery suspect

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WEST VALINDA — An alleged stun gun-wielding would-be robber was behind bars Wednesday with help from a gas station clerk who fought him off and ripped away his mask, exposing the robber’s face to surveillance cameras during a failed heist earlier this month, officials said.
Deputies arrested Eddie Gonzalez, 56, of La Puente Friday in connection with the March 4 robbery at a Mobile station at Valley Boulevard and Alderton Avenue in the unincorporated county area of West Valinda, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt/ Bob Boese said Wednesday in a written statement.
Prosecutors at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed charges of robbery, assault, vandalism and petty theft against Gonzalez, the sergeant said.
Gonzalez wore a bandana over his face and a sweat shirt hood over his head when he entered the gas station about 6:30 p.m. March 4, Boese said. He brandished a stun gun and demanded money from the clerk.
As the clerk collected cash from the register, Gonzalez pressed the stun gun against the clerk’s body and tried to jolt him, officials said.
“The clerk, seeing his opportunity, began to fight with the suspect,” Boese said. “During the struggle, the clerk was able to tear away the bandana covering the suspect’s face and pull off the shirts worn by the suspect. This enabled the store video cameras to capture video of the suspect.”
The clerk then ran from the gas station, locking Gonzalez inside, Boese said. Gonzalez drank several beers from the store’s cooler before smashing a window to flee.
Aided by the surveillance camera footage, which provided clear images of the robber, detectives identified Gonzalez as a suspect in the crime and arrested him on pre-existing warrants Friday, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
Gonzalez was being held without bail pending a scheduled appearance Thursday in West Covina Superior Court, according to booking records.

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