Pomona man accused of vandalizing Pasadena bank and Long Beach VA hospital after trying to steal shopping cart full of bullets in Covina

Police arrested a Pomona man early Saturday after he allegedly tried to steal a shopping cart full of ammunition in Covina, vandalized a bank in Pasadena with anarchist symbols and was captured trying to vandalize a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs hospital in Long Beach, authorities said.
Matthew Ryan Willert, 29, was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail Saturday at the Long Beach Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, according to Los Angeles County booking records. The motive in his alleged bizarre crime spree was unclear.
Willert, or at least his license plate number, first came to the attention of law enforcement about 11:30 p.m. Thursday after he tried to steal bullets from the Covina Walmart, 1275 N. Azusa Avenue, Covina police Sgt. Tom Tardif said.
“He went to the gun display. He had a (baseball) bat in his hand,” Tardif said. It was not clear if he brought the bat with him or picked it up inside the store.
“He loaded up a shopping cart full ammunition,” Tardif said. He also placed several utility knives and other tools into the cart.
But Willert was confronted by a store security guard and fled the store, leaving the shopping cart containing a “large quantity” of bullets and blades behind, Tardif said.
The number and caliber of bullets Willert tried to steal was not available, but the total value of the items in the cart was estimated at $2,500, police said.
Authorities again encountered the suspect’s alleged handiwork about 11 p.m. at OneWest Bank, 888 E. Walnut Street, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
“A suspect drove up to the business in a truck, jumped out of his truck, and spray-painted graffiti along the glass windows,” Clawson said. The graffiti was largely comprised of anarchy symbols.
“He then retrieved a brick and threw it through the front window,” Clawson said. “The suspect fled the scene, but a witness saw the license plate.”
As officers continued investigating early Saturday, Clawson said, they learned a man driving the same truck had been arrested by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs police in Long Beach as he was attempting a similar vandalism outside the VA Long Beach Healthcare System hospital. Spraypaint and more bricks were recovered from Willert’s car at the time of his arrest in Long Beach.
Willert was arrested about 12:30 a.m. Saturday as he was attempting to vandalize a sign in front of the hospital, according to VA police and Los Angeles County booking records. He did not manage to significantly damage the sign before his arrest.

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UPDATED with PHOTOS: Investigation into Asian organized crime nets 200+ pot plants, 2 assault weapons, 7 arrests

1008_NWS_SGT-L-GANGBUST1Deputies uprooted 217 pot plants in Temple City, recovered two assault weapons and a handgun in Covina and arrested seven people with suspected ties to Asian organized crime Tuesday and Wednesday at the culmination of a month-long investigation, officials said.
Detectives, who had been watching the group of suspects from afar, made their move Tuesday afternoon, raiding an indoor marijuana grow inside a home in the 4800 block of Glickman Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s gang investigator Sgt. Steve Kim said.

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Deputies found 217 pot plants being grown inside the home, he said. Ting Mo, 22, who told investigators she lived at the home, was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, along with Guan Mei, 29, of Los Angeles, who was detained as he was driving away from the home.
Earlier in the afternoon, deputies arrested two other men linked to the grow house after tracking them down in the area of 28th Street and Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach, Kim said. Zhen Huang, 29, of Rowland Heights and Man Chon, 31, of Valinda were booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana.
Deputies then headed to a home in the 100 block of West Arbor way that had also been linked to the pot grow, Kim said. Deputies recovered an AK-47-style rifle, an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun, however the suspect was not home. Deputies continued seeking him on suspcicion of cultivating marijuana and weapons violations.
As part of the investigation Tuesday, deputies also searched another home in the 4800 block of Glickman Avenue, as well as one in the 16900 block of Pocono Street in Valinda, Kim said. Nothing of significance was discovered at either home.
Finally, deputies arrested three men Wednesday afternoon when they arrived at the the grow house that had been raided the previous day, Kim said. Rueng Chen, 28, of Duarte, Haiqian Zhang, 24, of Los Angeles and Lesheng Zou, 20, of Los Angeles were also booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana.
The suspects were believed to have ties to the Chinese gang known as Red Door, Kim added.
All seven suspects were booked with bail amounts of $50,000, sheriff’s officials said.
All of the suspects are Chinese nationals, with the exception of Huang, who sheriff’s officials described as a naturalized American citizen.

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Long Beach crash leaves Baldwin Park man critically injured

LONG BEACH — A 25-year-old Baldwin Park man was listed in extremely critical condition Thursday after he allegedly lost control of his car and was broadsided by another vehicle in East Long Beach.

Long Beach Police Department and Fire Department units were called to the area of Stearns Street, just east of McNab Avenue, at about 7:25 a.m. when the crash was reported, said Nancy Pratt, an LBPD spokeswoman.

The initial investigation found the 25-year-old was driving a white 1985 Mazda GSL west on Stearns and was traveling too fast for the rainy conditions when he lost control of the car and entered on-coming traffic lanes and spun out, Pratt said.

“The vehicle was then broadsided by a 2009 grey Nissan Rogue being driven by a 39-year-old woman from Long Beach,” Pratt said.

Although the driver of the Mazda was wearing his seatbelt, the force of the impact was so great he was thrown out of the hatchback window of his car, she said.

Witnesses at the scene said one of the cars also briefly caught fire.

The 25-year-old man was rushed to a local hospital, where he was in extremely critical condition Thursday afternoon, Pratt said.

Long Beach Fire Department paramedics also transported the 39-year-old woman to a local hospital, though her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening, said Fire Capt. Jim Arvizu.

Accident Investigations detectives were called to the scene, and shut down a large portion of the street to traffic for several hours Thursday morning.

Anyone with information about the crash is urged to call the Accident Investigations Detail, 562-570-7355. Anonymous tips may be submitted by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), texting TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637) or visitingwww.lacrimestoppers.org.

– Tracy Manzer

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Trial begins in Turnball Canyon throat slashing case

NORWALK — Jury selection began Tuesday for two El Monte men charged with slashing the throat of a 20-year-old Bellflower woman and leaving her for dead in a rugged canyon.
Vincent Mendoza, 23, and Edward Meraz, 26, are each charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated mayhem and assault with a deadly weapon for the 2009 attack on Christina Ivonne Martinez, who was then 20 years old.
Prosecutors also allege the men personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim and Mendoza used a knife to commit the crimes.
The charges stem from the Aug. 4, 2009, kidnapping of Martinez.
Martinez told police she was going to the beach with the men, who were her friends, when she got into their car.
Instead, she was tied up, beaten and then driven to Whittier where she was unbound and forced out of the car. One of the men then allegedly slashed her throat before pushing her down the rocky canyon.
Despite her injuries, Martinez was able to climb the steep grade. She then made her way to the back door of a house in the 6000 block of Altmark Avenue in Whittier where she was helped by a resident.
A Whittier Police Department officer later stopped a Mitsubishi and found the two defendants, along with a third suspect, a shovel and a rope, police said.
The third suspect, Jose Ayala, pleaded no contest on March 17 to a single count of attempted murder and was sentenced to 39 years to life in prison.
There was no word Tuesday if he would testify against his former co-defendants.
If Meraz and Mendoza are convicted on all counts, they face face a life prison term as well.
A jury was chosen Tuesday for Mendoza. A separate jury will be selected Wednesday for Meraz, according to court staff.
The two men will be tried simultaneously, with the two juries seated in the same courtroom to save time and expenses.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Dept. D of the Norwalk Superior Court.

– From our counterparts over at the Long Beach Press Telegram.

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Bodies found in Norwalk, Long Beach linked to missing persons’ case

NORWALK — Police have linked a body found in a shallow grave in Norwalk over the weekend and another found buried in long Beach Wednesday to the investigation into a missing Compton couple, authorities said.
A teenage boy and girl were arrested on suspicion of murder in the case, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Sheriff’s and coroner’s investigators unearthed the body of a woman in Norwalk about 10 a.m. Saturday, officials said. It was buried just below the ground in the side yard of an abandoned property in the 11800 block of Norwalk Boulevard.
The woman remained listed Thursday as a Jane Doe at the coroner’s office pending positive identification, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said.
Concerned family members contacted sheriff’s officials Tuesday to report a couple had gone missing under “suspicious circumstances,” according to the sheriff’s statement.
The following day, using information given to them by the family of the missing couple, investigators found a second body buried in a shallow grave in a vacant lot at Atlantic Avenue and Rates Boulevard, officials said. The second body also had not been identified Thursday.
The causes of deaths for both people remained under investigation.
A 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl have been booked on suspicion of murder in connection with the killings and were being held without bail at a juvenile detention facility, authorities said. Their cities of residency were not available.
“The female juvenile is related to the missing couple, but their exact relationship has not been disclosed,” according to the sheriff’s statement.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Teenage girl killed, two men wounded in high school shooting

This tragic story comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

LONG BEACH — A 16-year-old girl died and two men were wounded after being shot following a football game at a Long Beach high school.
Long Beach police Sgt. Dina Zapalski says it’s unclear what led to Friday night’s shooting at Wilson High School. Police are searching for a gunman.
The girl died at a hospital.
An 18-year-old man and a 20-year-old man sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
City Councilman Gary DeLong described the girl as “an innocent bystander who was not
involved” in the altercation.
It’s unclear if any of the victims were students at the school.

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Truck driver killed in fiery Long Beach crash

From the Associated Press:

LONG BEACH — A tanker truck hauling 8,000 gallons of ethanol crashed on a highway, exploding into an inferno that sent a river of flame into storm drains, officials said. The driver was killed.
The truck crashed around 6 p.m. Saturday when it hit the side rail of eastbound State Route 91 at the transition to Interstate 710, the Long Beach Fire Department said in a statement.
The driver’s name was not immediately released.
Witnesses said the heat was so intense it melted guardrails and all that remained of the truck were its axles and small portions of the cab.
A stream of fire flowed from the tanker into a storm drain, causing plumes of flame to spew 20 feet in the air from other storm drains.
The large quantity of ethanol in the truck fueled a huge fireball that enveloped the overpasses, Long Beach Fire Department Capt. Jackawa Jackson said. Firefighters snuffed the flames with foam, he said.
Officials worried the fire may have weakened the elevated stretch of road, the fire department said.
The cause of the crash was under investigation and the roadway remained closed while inspectors examined it.

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Road rage turns deadly

This comes from the Associated Press:

LONG BEACH– Police say a 29-year-old driver has been arrested in connection with a road rage fistfight that escalated into murder.
Long Beach police spokeswoman Nancy Pratt says Duy Tieu of Santa Ana was arrested
shortly before midnight Friday on suspicion of murdering 53-year-old George McCafferty of Long Beach.
Pratt says the two men were fighting on the Carson Street offramp of Interstate 605 when Tieu got back into his car and sped toward McCafferty, who was standing outside his Ford Escort. Tieu allegedly plowed into McCafferty and pinned him against his car, killing him.
Tieu is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

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Homeless homicides

Not a lot of new stuff to report in the Long Beach case of five people shot to death at a homeless encampment in Long Beach. Here’s what LA homeless blog is reporting:

18832-homelesshomicides-thumb-300x168.jpgJust like the murder three weeks ago of a homeless man in the Rampart area of Los Angeles, the police have not figured out who murdered the five homeless persons in Long Beach, a large city just south of Los Angeles.
<snip>.

Of course, having five people shot to death has rattled this local neighborhood.

KCBS2/KCAL9 has video from the crime scene here.

Here’s the latest story from our sister paper the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

 

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