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.
“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.
Another 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.”
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.
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.
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.
LA PUENTE — Deputies raided a Hacienda Boulevard business Wednesday afternoon, uprooting about 600 marijuana plants and arresting one suspect, authorities said.
An ongoing investigating culminated about 2 p.m. when deputies from the sheriff’s Industry Station narcotics team and the La Puente Special Assignment Team arrived at a business in the 1000 block of Hacienda Boulevard, between Amar Road and Fairgrove Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said.
In addition to the marijuana plants, deputies seized lights, irrigation systems and other equipment used to grow the pot. Sgt. Alex Radovic of the sheriff’s Industry Station narcotics team described the scene as “a sophisticated grow operation.”
The name of the man arrested was not available Wednesday afternoon as detectives sought additional suspects, Cacheiro said. He was accused of cultivating marijuana.
La Puente Mayor Charlie Klinakis commended the work of the deputies, saying it signified a good example of active policing and intelligence-based investigations.
“We’re not waiting for the bad guys to come to us,” the mayor said. “We’re seeking them out and we’ll prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
LA PUENTE >> La Puente welcomed the little league baseball season Saturday with a parade and inspirations visits from two former professional baseball players.
The La Puente National Little League’s grand opening parade and ceremony was a success, La Puente Mayor Charlie Klinakis said.
In addition to a parade of local officials, organizations, and of course, baseball players that went from City Hall to La Puente Park, little leaguers and their parents got a chance to mingle with former Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles player Don Buford, as well as former Toronto Blue Jays player James Bishop. Both men are staff members at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
“These people taking the time and coming into the community… we all appreciated it,” the mayor said. ““I’m glad to see there’s programs like this out there.”
Saturday’s festivities were hosted by the City of La Puente, La Puente National Little League and the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Industry Station, which patrols La Puente, organizers said.
Sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro, who effectively serves as La Puente’s police chief, said sheriff’s department was glad to take part in the event and thanked the Urban Youth Academy for it’s support.
“These guys are always mentoring young kids, making sure they don’t get into gangs, and giving back to the community,” the lieutenant said.
Also in attendance were city officials, dignitaries including Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, State Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-57, State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-24.
PHOTO courtesy of the City of La Puente
Checkpoints held throughout the San Gabriel Valley over the weekend resulted in more than 100 arrests, most of which were for driving without a license, officials said Sunday.
A six-hour checkpoint in La Puente late Friday and early Saturday resulted in two DUI arrests, along with 55 arrests of unlicensed drivers and 22 arrests for other alleged crimes, authorities said.
The checkpoint, run by deputies from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Industry Station, took place from 7 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday on Hacienda Boulevard at Temple Avenue, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. It was one of several checkpoints held throughout the San Gabriel Valley over the weekend by area law enforcement agencies from La Verne to Pasadena.
Of the 2,271 cars that passed through the overnight checkpoint, deputies screened 1,673 drivers, officials said.
Two drivers were arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and two people were arrested on suspicion of drug possession, according to the sheriff’s department statement. One person was jailed on suspicion of knowingly allowing an unlicensed person to drive and one driver was accused of driving without a court-ordered ignition interlock device.
One person was jailed on an outstanding traffic warrant, officials said. And 17 drivers were arrested for driving on a suspended or revoked license.
But the vast majority of the 79 arrests, 55 of them, were of unlicensed drivers, officials said.
Eleven cars were impounded for 30 days at the checkpoint, while 15 were impounded for one day and 48 were released at the checkpoint.
Similar results were seen during the sheriff’s Industry Station’s last checkpoint, which was also held in La Puente overnight Dec. 21 and 22.
More than 70 people were arrested at the December checkpoint, which took place on Hacienda Boulevard at Nelson Avenue, sheriff’s officials said at the time. One driver was accused of driving under the influence of methamphetamine; one person was jailed for drug possession; one person was arrested on a parole violation, three people were arrested due to traffic warrants; two people were arrested for allowing an unlicensed person to drive, 14 people were jailed for driving on a suspended or revoked license; and 56 arrests of unlicensed drivers were made.
The dozens of arrests of unlicensed drivers at the December checkpoint, as well as dozens more at a checkpoint in Baldwin Park the following weekend, sparked outrage from family members of those arrested and immigrant rights activist who allege the checkpoints unfairly target undocumented immigrants.
But the sheriff’s department maintains the checkpoints are designed to improve public safety.
“Checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety to the public,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. But arresting intoxicated drivers is not the only goal.
“This DUI/Driver’s License checkpoint lowers DUI deaths and injuries. A major component of these checkpoints is the deterrent effects it has on those who might drive drunk or drugged.”
The La Puente checkpoint was one of several held over the weekend throughout the region. Arcadia, La Verne, and Pasadena also had overnight checkpoints. The California Highway Patrol also sent 20 extra officers out on a DUI saturation patrol late Saturday and early Sunday.
In Arcadia, police screened about 1,200 of the nearly 2,000 cars that passed through a checkpoint held from 9 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday along Baldwin Avenue at the Gate 8 entrance to Santa Anita Park and the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall, Arcadia police Lt. Bob Anderson said.
“Fifteen (field sobriety tests) were given, resulting in five DUI arrests,” Anderson said. Two people were jailed on traffic warrants.
Police cited, but did not arrest, 16 unlicensed drivers and 7 people who were driving on a suspended or revoked licensed, Anderson said. One person was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public.
Arcadia police impounded six cars for 30 days, and another six cars for 1 day, Anderson said.
Official results from Pasadena’s checkpoint, which took place late Friday and early Saturday at Fair Oaks Avenue and Hurlbut Street, were not available over the weekend, officials said. But electronic police logs indicated four suspected DUI drivers were arrested.
In La Verne, a checkpoint late Saturday and early Sunday netted 15 arrests, La Verne police Sgt. Monica Schusse said.
Two of the arrests were for intoxicated driving, while the other 13 resulted from other alleged crimes, the sergeant said. Further details regarding the arrests were not available Sunday.
The reasons for the difference in the ways in which police agencies deal with unlicensed drivers at checkpoints — whether such drivers are cited or arrested is not entirely clear.
Following protests in Baldwin Park in December and January, Baldwin Park police officials said unlicensed drivers were taken to jail because they did not have valid identification to prove their identities, as the Los Angeles Superior Court’s West Covina Branch, where the department files it’s cases, would no longer accept matricula consular cards as identification.
Court officials said no such policy change occurred.
Baldwin Park city officials subsequently announced police would resume accepting matricula consular cards as identification, and the city council discussed considering a moratorium on checkpoints. The city previously suspended checkpoints and changed its checkpoint impound policy in 2010 amid outcry from activists.
Funding for the checkpoints is provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A Rowland Heights man was charged Tuesday with fatally stabbing another man whose body was found behind a La Puente business.
The District Attorney’s Office filed one count of murder against 27-year-old Andres Aguirre Garcia, according to DA spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
She said the charge comes with the allegation that the suspect personally used a knife to commit the crime.
Garcia’s arraignment was continued to March 11 at Pomona Superior Court.
The victim, 28-year-old Jose Chacon of El Monte, was found lying in a parking lot behind a business in the 15900 block of Old Valley Road in La Puente about 2:45 a.m. Feb. 12. He sustained multiple stab wounds to his upper body and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Garcia and Chacon were acquaintances. The two had a disagreement which resulted in the stabbing, he said.
But Jauch didn’t say what the disagreement was about or what led deputies to Garcia on Feb. 14. He was arrested that night.
“He confessed and he produced the knife,” Jauch said.
Booking records show Garcia is being held at Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.
- Ruby Gonzales
Officials in La Puente, La Verne, Monterey Park and Arcadia are planning to screen drivers for sobriety and valid licenses at checkpoints this weekend.
Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Industry Station will hold a checkpoint from 7 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within La Puente, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
More than 70 people were arrested during the city’s last checkpoint, which took place overnight Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 on Hacienda Boulevard, just north Nelson Avenue, officials said.
One of the arrests was for suspected driving under the influence of methamphetamine, sheriff’s officials said. Fifty-six drivers were arrested for driving without a valid license, while one person was jailed on a parole violation, three people were arrested due to outstanding traffic warrants and 14 people were arrested on suspicion of driving on a revoked or suspended license.
The La Puente City Council suspended checkpoints in the city in mid-2011 amid concerns that such checkpoints unfairly target local residence who are unlicensed or uninsured. But the council reversed it’s decision a year later.
Protestors demonstrated against Baldwin Park police in late December after a checkpoint overnight Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 at Los Angeles and Littlejohn streets, as well as Ramona Boulevard and Barnes Avenue, in that city resulted in the arrests of more than two-dozen unlicensed drivers, along with five allegedly intoxicated drivers and several other arrests.
Another checkpoint is scheduled to take place this weekend in La Verne, La Verne police officials said in a written statement.
The checkpoint will be held from 7 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday at an undisclosed location within the city, police said.
Monterey Park police are planning a checkpoint at a undisclosed location within that city from 7 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m., officials said, Sunday, and Arcadia police will hold a checkpoint late Saturday into early Sunday.
Funding for all the checkpoints is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
LA PUENTE — Detectives Sunday announced an arrest in connection with the slaying of an El Monte man who was found stabbed to death behind a La Puente business Wednesday.
Andres Aguirre Garcia, 27, of Rowland Heights was arrested late Friday on suspicion of murder in connection with the stabbing, which was discovered about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday in a parking lot behind a business in the 15900 block of Old Valley Road in La Puente, Lt. Steve Jauch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said in a written statement.
“Garcia has confessed to the crime and the murder weapon was recovered by homicide detectives,” Jauch said.
Lieutenant Pete Cacheiro of the sheriff’s Industry Station described the arrest was the result of, “a bunch of leads.”
“This was a collaboration of Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, the La Puente Special Assignment Team and the community,Cacheiro said.
No information regarding the motive in the alleged slaying was released.
Jose Chacon, 28, was discovered suffering from multiple stab wounds to his upper body in the parking lot to the rear of Alert Insulation Co. Inc., which is owned by La Puente Mayor Charlie Klinakis.
Earlier in the week, the mayor expressed sorrow over the slaying and said she did not know the victim.
Garcia was booked at the sheriff’s Industry Station’s jail, where he was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his scheduled arraignment Wednesday in El Monte Superior Court, according to county booking records.
- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales