A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s Department psychologist from La Canada Flintridge could face life in prison after a jury convicted him Friday of sexually abusing two young relatives over more than two years, authorities said.
A Los Angeles County jury convicted Michael Dane Ward, 45, of four counts of committing lewd acts on a child, two counts of forcible lewd acts on a child under 14, three counts of oral copulation of a child under 10 and one count of sodomy of a child under 10, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials announced in a written statement.
“Sentencing is set for Oct. 19, when Ward faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison,” according to the statement. The jury deliberated for three days before finding Ward guilty.
Should Ward ever be released from prison, he is expected to be required to register as a sex offender, district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling said.
Ward’s crimes took place between October of 2014 and March of 2016, prosecutors said at the time. His victims were both family members: a then-9-year-old boy and a then-10-year-old girl. Both victims testified against him at trial.
He was employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a psychologist at the time of his arrest. His specific duties within the department were not available, but sheriff’s officials said he was not a sworn deputy.
In a statement issued in the days following Ward’s arrest, the sheriff’s department described the allegations as “deeply troubling.”
“These allegations were not as a result of contacts he made within the scope of his work with the Sheriff’s Department,” according to the statement.
Ward was relieved of duty the same day he was arrested on May 5, 2016, sheriff’s officials added.
Ward posted $2 million bail 12 days after his May 5, 2016 arrest and had remained free pending the trial process, Los Angeles County booking records show.
Following the jury’s verdict on Friday, he was immediately remanded into custody without bail pending his sentencing in October in the Los Angeles branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
ALTADENA >> Sheriff’s officials joined with the community for a day of fun and reflection to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Altadena Station on Saturday.
Deputies opened up their facilities for an open house during the celebration, held in observance of the opening of the sheriff’s Altadena Station on Aug. 15, 1927.
In addition to barbecue, equipment displays, station tours and kids’ entertainment to mark the occasion, Capt. Vicki Stuckey relayed some of the station’s history, from it’s early days as a sparsely-staffed substation to its modern, and still-expanding, form.
“The reason we are here is to celebrate and acknowledge 90 years of service,” the captain said.
Guests met Bosco, a horse with the Altadena Mounted Posse, got a chance to explore SWAT vehicles and equipment up-close, perused historical photos and chatted with Mountain Search and Rescue Team members, among other law enforcement-related activities on-hand for the day.
Dignitaries who attended to pay their respects included Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale, high-ranking sheriff’s officials and representatives from other law enforcement agencies and others, Altadena Town Council members and others.
A moment of silence was held for the station’s two fallen deputies, whose families were both present at Saturday’s event.
“Thank you so much for sharing your families with us,” Stuckey told the families of the fallen deputies. “We will never forget our fallen comrades.”
Deputy Miesha Santana told of Deputy Charlene Marie Rottler, who died in 2010 from injuries suffered when the patrol car she was riding in was struck by a drunken driver on Nov. 5, 1972.
Rottler was a pioneering women of law enforcement and one of the first women to serve the sheriff’s department in a patrol capacity.
“If it wasn’t for women like Charlene Marie Rottler, I definitely wouldn’t be wearing this uniform,” Santana said.
Deputy Raul Reyes shared the story of Deputy David Stout Larimer, who was struck by a drunken driver on Christmas Eve of 1941 while helping a woman cross the street during bad weather and blackout conditions in the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor weeks earlier.
“David Larimer will never be forgotten as we walk in the beat he paved for us a long time ago,” Reyes said.
LA MIRADA >> A sheriff’s patrol car responding to a report of a collision became involved in an collision of its own on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The crash occurred about 5:20 p.m. at Imperial Highway and La Mirada Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Manuel Flores said.
The deputy was heading north on La Mirada Boulevard with emergency lights and sirens activated when the patrol car collided with another motorist driving through the intersection on Imperial Highway, the sergeant said. The deputy was responding to another reported car crash when the collision took place.
Officials said the deputy suffered injuries to his chest and ankle, possibly amounting to fractures, but suffered no apparent major injuries, Flores said.
A passenger in the second car involved in the collision complained of pain but declined to be taken to a hospital, he said. The driver of the second car was apparently unhurt.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
TEMPLE CITY >> More than 52 years after a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy lost his life in the line of duty in South El Monte, family members, officials and fellow law enforcement officers gathered to give the fallen lawman an overdue honor with the dedication of a memorial at the sheriff’s Temple Station on Wednesday, authorities said.
Deputy John M. Slobojan, 31, died on Nov. 7, 1964, after suffering a heart attack while chasing a robbery suspect in South El Monte.
“During the chase, Deputy Slobojan collapsed. CPR was administered and he was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead,” according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He had served as a deputy for five years.
But as the decades passed, the story of Deputy Slobojan became lost to history, Capt. David Flores of the sheriff’s Temple Station said.
The sheriff’s department has recently embarked on a mission to identify any fallen deputies who may have not been properly honored in the past. “It’s a proactive effort to honor these fallen heroes,” Flores said.
In recent months, a Temple Station sergeant learned about Slobojan and began researching the deputy.
The effort culminated in Wednesday’s ceremony, where Slobojan’s wife, brothers, two sons and daughter joined in unveiling a portrait, plaque and flag to commemorate the deputy, Flores said.
Slobojan’s memorial took its place between those of two other deputies who lost their lives while serving the sheriff’s Temple Station: Deputy Harold Stephen Blevins, who was gunned down on Oct 12, 1957, and Deputy David William March, shot to death on April 29, 2002.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
LA PUENTE >> Sheriff’s deputies teamed with a food company and a bicycle shop to provide free bicycles on Saturday to 85 students from La Puente elementary schools as a reward for good grades and attendance.
The “Build Your Bike” program, hosted at Sparks Elementary School, was a collaboration of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Industry Station’s La Puente Special Assignment Team, Golden State Foods and Incycle Bicycles, sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said.
Sheriff’s officials worked with teachers at Sparks, Sunset and Hurley elementary schools to identify deserving kids, the lieutenant said.
“The selected kids have demonstrated their potentials in schools by maintaining a positive attitudes, outstanding grades and attendance,” he said. “They’re earning this bike.”
GSF procured the dozens of bicycles, which the kids then assembled with help from deputies and sheriff’s Explorers, as well as staff from Incycle Bicycles.
Officials also provided the students with helmets, bike locks and handlebar bells. And sheriff’s officials provided the kids with a bike safety class.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
After months of tireless efforts by colleagues and loved ones, a life-saving bone marrow match had been found for a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant who is battling leukemia, supporters announced this weekend.
Fellow deputies have been organizing bone marrow matching events at sheriff’s stations and other sites throughout the region in hopes of finding a desperately-needed matching bone marrow donor for Sgt. Jorge Chavez, a 17-year-veteran of the sheriff’s department. She sergeant is in need of a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December.
And on Friday, the “Be a HERO for Sergeant Jorge Chavez” Facebook page, dedicated to helping the deputy and his family through their journey, announced, “the news we have all been waiting for!”
The online community went on to share a letter from the Chavez family:
“It is with tremendous thanks and praising God that we share with you that a matching donor has been found and Jorge will be receiving his transplant within the next couple of weeks,” it said.
“Although we still have a long road ahead of us, your prayers, help, support and caring efforts have set us on our way. Earth Angel hero wherever you are, thank you. May our heavenly Father bless you forever. You will always have a very special place in our hearts.
“We now hope & pray that everyone will keep their hearts and minds open to the possibility of being a donor for another person who needs a hero too. With all our hearts, thank you,” the letter continued.
Chavez was most recently assigned to the sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau, colleagues said. Previous assignments included the sheriff’s San Dimas and Industry stations.
Despite the encouraging news, the community’s help is still needed, both for Chavez and other cancer patients in need.
Chavez will continue requiring blood and platelets over the coming months, according to the supporters’ Facebook page. Donors were encouraged to make an appointment at the City of Hope in Duarte. If blood and platelet donations are not needed by Chavez, they will not be wasted, as they will be used to help other patients.
“Also, although we have been fortunate enough to find Jorge his match, many other families — including four LASD families — have not been so fortunate, YET,” according to the web page. “Please continue to spread the word about being a donor and about the upcoming events. All of the events being held in support of Jorge can help anyone! Jorge would like to see many more families given the gift of life!”
For more information, visit Be a HERO for Sergeant Jorge Chavez online at www.facebook.com/sgtjorgechavez.
PHOTO of Sgt. Jorge Chavez courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
NORWALK >> A man died of unknown causes after being detained by two witnesses, then taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies following an erratic display of behavior that included climbing into passing vehicle late Saturday, authorities said.
The incident unfolded just before 7 p.m. in the area of Firestone Boulevard and Studebaker Road, according to Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The identity of the man was not released Sunday pending positive identification and notification of family members, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
The string of events began in the 11700 block of Studebaker road, “where the suspect entered one occupied parked vehicle and attempted to enter a second occupied vehicle,” Alexander said in a written statement.
The man then ran south toward Firestone Boulevard and jumped into the bed of an occupied pickup truck, she said.
“The suspect fell out of the truck bed and entered a local business wearing only his shirt and underwear,” she said. “The two good Samaritans noticed the suspect’s erratic behavior and detained him until the deputies’ arrival.”
Deputies arrived to find the two men still detaining the suspect in front of the business, a Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza parlor, Lt. Robin Limon of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said.
“The deputies began to take custody of the suspect when he became unconscious,” Alexander said. “Deputies immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the suspect was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.”
Deputies were not involved in any significant struggle with the suspect while taking him into custody, officials said.
Coroner’s officials are investigating his cause of death.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is spearheading the investigation, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
LA PUENTE >> La Puente’s Mayor Valerie Munoz and the deputies from the Los ngeles County Sheriff’s La Puente Special Assignment Team are inviting the community to join them for the 4th Annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast this month.
The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Feb. 16 in the banquet room of St. Joseph School, 15650 Temple Ave., organizers said in a written statement.
The mayor will also be discussing critical issues and accomplishments within La Puente over the past year, as well as the importance of local churches and clergy in the community, according the statement.
Sheriff’s Industry Station Capt. Tim Murakami and Lt. Pete Cacheiro are also scheduled to give a presentation regarding community policing, crime reductions, crime statistics and goals for policing in the 21st Century.
Breakfast will be served.
“The LASD/La Puente Prayer Breakfast has had great positive success in the past four years with the community, clergy and law enforcement,” Cacheiro said. “When our Special Assignment Team implemented the event, we had full support from then-mayor Charlie Klinakis and local business like Cacique Cheese, C&F Foods, Starbucks and Roly’s Trucking. The event has established a large network and outreach to our communities and the unincorporated areas.”
To reserve a spot, contact Deputy Viviana Marez at 626-934-3303, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAN DIMAS >> The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is inviting the community to join deputies at the sheriff’s San Dimas Station Saturday for a barbecue, and help save the life of a 17-year-veteran of the department who’s battling cancer.
Sgt. Jorge Chavez was recently diagnosed with leukemia, sheriff’s officials said.
“Sergeant Chavez is in need of a lifesaving marrow donor, and until a match is found, blood and platelet donations will be in dire need,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “There is currently no matching marrow donor for Sergeant Chavez.”
Fellow deputies have taken it upon themselves to organize several bone marrow match events in search of bone marrow donor for Chavez.
A barbecue and bone marrow matching event is planned from 11 a,m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the sheriff’s San Dimas Station, 270 S. Walnut Ave., where Chavez worked from 2013 to 2016, coworkers said. His assignments have also included the sheriff’s Industry Station, and most recently, the sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau.
In just a few minutes, through a “quick and easy” oral swab, potential donors can find out if they are a match for the ailing sergeant.
“I encourage everyone to become a bone marrow donor. Even if you turn out not to be MY perfect match, you might be someone else’s perfect match,” Chavez said in a statement issued from his hospital bed. “There are so many of us that are waiting and hoping our match will be found soon. By taking a few minutes and becoming a donor, you can be an angel and save one of our lives and keep our families together.”
Marrow donors must between 18 and 44 years old, be in general good health and be willing to help a patient in need, officials said.
Those who are tested for a match will receive a free barbecue lunch, organizers said. Those not undergoing testing can purchase a plate for a fundraising price of $7.
Those wishing to be tested, but unable to attend the event, can request a swab kit via mail by visiting http://join.marrow.org/swabforjorge.
Blood and platelet donors must be 17 years of age, in good health and meet some basic requirements. Blood and platelet donations can be made at the City of Hope in Duarte.
For more information, contact RARobbin@lasd.org.
PHOTO of Sgt. Jorge Chavez courtesy of the LASD.
PICO RIVERA >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a 48-year-old man who died after being shot by sheriff’s deputies who responded to reports he was attacking family members with scissors in Pico Rivera on Christmas Eve.
Zhonghua Li, 48, of died in the deputy-involved shooting, which took place shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday outside a home at Greenglade Avenue and Kells Place, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Deputies were first summoned to the home in regard to a family disturbance involving a man with mental health issues, Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said. While en route, the call was updated to say the suspect was stabbing family members with a pair of scissors.
Two deputies arrived and confronted Li in the street, Alexander said in a written statement. He began walking toward the deputies with what was ultimately found to be a pair of “threading scissors,” Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
A deputy fired a bean bag round at Li, to no effect, and he continued approaching the deputies and refusing to drop the scissors, according to Alexander. Both deputies then fired their pistols, fatally wounding Li.
Li’s sister suffered a stab wound to her hand in the original family disturbance but declined to be taken to a hospital, Jauch said.