UPDATED: Memorial to slain deputy near Irwindale destroyed in car crash; plans to rebuild underway

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The community is rallying to quickly rebuild a roadside memorial to a slain sheriff’s deputy near Irwindale that was destroyed in a car crash Thanksgiving morning.
The memorial marked the location along Live Oak Avenue near Peck Road in an unincorporated county area near Irwindale, where Deputy David March, 33, of Saugus, was fatally shot after pulling over a career criminal on April 29, 2002.
A woman was driving eastbound on Live Oak Avenue about 7 a.m. Thursday when she fell asleep at the wheel and allowed the vehicle to drift to the side of the road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Hector Figueroa said in a written statement.
1130_NWS_SGT-L-MEMORIAL3But the Irwindale Police Officers Association, which initially helped fund the monument, along with L & L Building Material Inc., which originally did the brickwork, are wasting no time getting March’s memorial restored.
“The cost is no issue. It needs to back up as soon as possible with no delay,” Irwindale police Officer and POA President Rudy Campos said.
L & L volunteered to redo the brickwork for free, and the Irwindale POA will have the plaque that adorned the memorial polished and repaired, Campos said. He expressed gratitude to L & L for stepping in to help.
Neither the driver nor her passenger were injured in the crash, but the memorial comprised of bricks and a metal plaque was destroyed, he said.
No crime was initially suspected in the crash, which was being investigated as an accident, officials said.
Campos said.
The importance of the monument persuaded officials to move forward with the repairs early next week, hopefully as soon as Monday, instead of waiting on possible compensation for the damage from the driver. It’s unlikely the POA will seek to be reimbursed by the driver who crashed into the monument he added.
The destruction of the memorial gave a glimpse into how deeply March’s slaying affected the local community.
Flowers have been showing up at the memorial site since the crash, Campos said.
Fellow deputies have held annual 24-hour honor guards over the site on the anniversary of 1130_NWS_SGT-L-MEMORIAL2the deputy’s slaying.
Following the murder of March, who was assigned to the sheriff’s Temple Station, killer Jorge Arroyo Garcia, also known as Armando Garcia, fled to Mexico where he was arrested in 2006. He is now serving a life sentence in prison.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Members of sheriff’s youth organization clean up blighted section of railroad tracks

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NORWALK — More than a dozen young members of a sheriff’s program for at-risk youths took it upon themselves to clean up a blighted section of train tracks Saturday, officials said.
The volunteers from the Personal Responsibility in Development and Ethics (PRIDE) Youth Intervention Program of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Norwalk Station, Sgt. Brian Doyle said.
The targeted area runs adjacent to a set of railroad tracks between the San Gabriel riverbed and Hoxie Avenue.
“There was so much trash that I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to complete the task, but the students really stepped up and got the job done” Doyle said. “I was impressed by all the students, by their hard work and willingness to give back.”
And the community seemed to appreciate the effort, he added.
“We received so much praise from the shoppers at (a nearby) Target who saw what we were doing. The staff at Target also came out and provided us with water, snacks, rakes and trash bags. It was truly a good day,” he said. “We cleaned up that entire area, so now the community won’t have to look at the mess.”
The PRIDE Youth Intervention Program is a 12-week program for at-risk young people between 12 and 17 years old.
The program consists of two components: one focusing on a “scared straight” philosophy highlighting the consequences of their choices, followed a second component focusing on “positive alternatives,” Doyle explained.

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UPDATED: Four accused of distributing child pornography online

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Deputies Friday announced the arrests of four men in connection with a child porn ring with ties to Baldwin Park, West Covina and Whittier.

The arrests came as the result of a six-week investigation into the distribution of images of child pornography over the Internet, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“This is very graphic and nasty material,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Cyber Crimes Detective John Howard said.
“This material depicts children between the ages of 1 year old and 16 or so years old engaged in sex acts with adults,” Howard said. “Not all of the persons have the same type of material, but it was recovered in this investigation.”
Hundreds of images of child pornography were recovered from four desktop computers, four laptop computers, 9 portable flash drives, three computer hard drives and a digital SUSPECTS 2video recorder seized by investigators who carried out search warrant Wednesday and Thursday.
“There is an ongoing effort to identify and help the children who are victims of these crimes, and who are believed to be located throughout the world,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Arrested on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography were 43-year-old Mario Aburto of West Covina, 19-year-old Rolando Garcia of South Los Angeles, 52-year-old Gregory MacClean of Palmdale and 72-year-old Jon Johnson of Fullerton, sheriff’s officials said.
The four suspects did not know each other, but stored and shared imaged of child pornography via the same online network, Howard said.
SUSPECTS 3Additionally, MacClean’s wife, Soraya Solimano, 53, of Palmdale was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession as a result of the investigation, Howard said.
In addition the suspect’s homes, detectives also searched a Baldwin Park insurance office owned by Aburto, as well as a Los Angeles County office where MacClean works, Howard said. The detective declined to identify the name of Aburto’s insurance agency or say what county agency MacClean was employed by.
Aburto was arrested Wednesday and released from custody Friday pending his initial court appearance, according to Los Angeles county booking records. Garcia was jailed Thursday and released from jail Friday after posting $40,000 bail.
Solimano was arrested Wednesday and release from custody the same day after posting $10,000 bail, records show. And
MacClean, who turned himself in Friday, remained in custody in lieu of $20,000 bail.
MacClean had fled from investigators when they attempted to meet him at his workplace at a county office in Whittier earlier in the week, sheriff’s officials said.
Booking information for Johnson was not available Friday.
SUSPECTS 4All the suspects were expected to face charges in Los Angeles Superior Court, with the exception of Johnson, who was expected to appear in Orange County Superior Court, officials said.
The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
“In this case, investigators pro-actively sought out persons offering to distribute child pornography on the Internet,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
“Once sources were identified, investigators then actively downloaded videos and photos from the sources. After confirming it was illegal child pornography, investigators SUSPECTS 5determined the locations from which the images were distributed, then linked them to the suspects who were doing the distributing. The arrests followed.”
The investigation was ongoing, officials added.
Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact sheriff’s Detective John Howard at 562-619-5257. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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L.A. County sheriff’s deputy guilty of domestic violence, threats in Orange County

An Orange County jury Tuesday convicted a longtime Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy of repeatedly assaulting and threatening his girlfriend after she discovered he was having an affair, as well as threatening the other woman if she appeared in court, officials said.
Mark Eric Hibner, 44, of Anaheim was convicted of two counts of domestic battery with corporal injury and three counts of making criminal threats, Orange County District Attorney’ spokeswoman Farrah Emami said in a written statement.
All five counts are felonies, and Hibner faces up to eight years in state prison when he returned to the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana to be sentenced Nov. 15, officials said.
The allegations stem from Christmas Day of 2012, when Hibner became involved in an argument after his girlfriend, “discovered a sexually suggestive voicemail from another woman on the defendant’s cell phone,” according to the D.A.’s statement. The girlfriend was identified by authorities as Jane Doe #1.
“Over the next few days, Hibner physically assaulted Jane Doe #1, spit on the victim, repeatedly swore at her and threatened to kill her,” the statement said.
Hibner, whose booking sheet indicated stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, woke up Jane Doe #1 Dec. 30, dragged her into the living room of her Anaheim home by her hair and got on top of her, prosecutors said.
“Jane Doe #1 cried, begged Hibner to stop and banged her foot on the floor to wake the neighbors,” according to the D.A.’s statement. “Hibner than covered the victim’s mouth, pinched her nose and threatened to make her pass out. He got off Jane Doe #1, spit on her, threw a lit cigarette at her an called her derogatory names.”
Hibner met with the other woman, with whom he’d had a previous relationship and a child with, for a custody exchange Feb. 19, officials said. She was described as Jane Doe #2.
“During the meeting, Hibner threatened to kill Jane Doe #2 if she appeared in court at a hearing scheduled for two days later regarding a protective order for the crimes against Jane Doe #1,” according to the D.A.’s statement.
The case was investigated by the Anaheim Police Department.
Hibner, a 22-year-veteran of the sheriff’s department, was assigned to patrol county courthouses, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
He was placed on administrative leave in January, Whitmore added. Following his conviction Tuesday, the sheriff’s department began the process of terminating him.
Records show Hibner was taken into custody after the jury verdict Wednesday.
Though he officially remained employed by the sheriff’s department Wednesday pending termination proceedings, his booking records described his occupation as “unemployed.”

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Family awarded $2 million for fatal deputy-involved shooting of Azusa man in 2009

Efrain GutierrezLOS ANGELES — The family of a 31-year-old Azusa man fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy four years ago won a $2 million judgement this week in a wrongful death suit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Efrain Lara Gutierrez died at the scene of the shooting, which took place about 1 a.m. Oct. 2, 2009 near Renwick Road and Rockvale Avenue in an unincorporated county area just south of Azusa. He lived with his parents, Eva and Dionicio Gutierrez, at a nearby home.
“They feel like they obtained some justice on behalf of their son. It’s very emotional.” said Woodland Hills-based attorney Dale K. Galipo, who is representing the Gutierrez family.
The judgment came only two days before the fourth anniversary of Efrain Gutierrez’s death.
Sheriff’s officials have maintained that the deputy who fatally shot Efrain Gutierrez, identified in court documents as David Salazar of the sheriff’s San Dimas Station, fired his weapon out of fear for his safety. But Woodland Hills-based attorney Dale Galipo, who is representing the Gutierrez family, argued in a federal civil rights lawsuit that Efrain Gutierrez did not pose an immediate threat to the deputies when shot.
Sheriff’s officials said deputies confronted Efrain Gutierrez and tried to detain him and another man on suspicion of breaking into cars in the area.
When cornered, Gutierrez “lunged towards the deputy with a knife in his right hand,” officials from the Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau said the day of the fatal shooting. “Fearing for his safety, the deputy fired several shots at suspect (Gutierrez), striking him.”
But Galipo said four key factors contradicted the sheriff’s version of events.
“We proved the distance was at least 28 feet when the first shots were fired,” the attorney said.
Gutierrez was shot five times, Galipo said. “The shots all had a back-to-front trajectory, with two shots in the back.”
Five shots were fired by the deputy, and all five struck Gutierrez, Galipo added. In addition to the two gunshot wounds to his back, he was shot in the shoulder, neck and side.
A 20-foot blood trail at the shooting scene led from the spot where Gutierrez was first shot toward a gate, Galipo said, indicating he was moving away from the deputy when shot, not toward the deputy as stated by the sheriff’s department.
And in Salazar’s depositions, Galipo said, the deputy testified that he saw an object in Gutierrez’s hand when he opened fire, but could not identify it.
A knife was recovered from the scene of the shooting, investigators said.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department strongly disagreed with the jury’s decision.
“We are right now preparing post-trial motions,” he said. “We’re also going to look at all the legal options, and they very well may include an appeal of this decision, which we disagree with entirely.”
“We stand behind our deputies and their actions,” Whitmore said.
Gutierrez, who was armed with a knife and had methamphetamine in his system posed a threat to both deputies and the public, he said.
“They did what they had to do,” Whitmore said. Not only were the deputies endangered by Gutierrez at the time of the shooting, “although this was a tragic result, and it is, they may have saved lives,” Whitmore said.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the shooting and determined not to file any criminal charges against Salazar.
“We conclude that LASD Deputy David Salazar was placed in reasonable fear of imminent danger of death or great bodily injury by (Gutierrez’s) actions and acted lawfully in self-defense when he used deadly force,” Deputy District Attorney Amy Pellman Pentz wrote in the D.A.’s office findings. “We are therefore closing our file and will take no further action in this matter.”
Galipo acknowledged that Efrain Gutierrez had methamphetamine in his system, but said the amount of the drug found in his system was low.
The four-man, four-woman jury deliberated for a day and a half before unanimously deciding in favor of the Gutierrez family and awarding them $2 million in damages, Galipo said.
Gutierrez, who was unmarried and had no children, was working as a gardener at the time of his death, Galipo said.

PHOTO of Efrain Gutierrez courtesy of the Dale Galipo Law Offices

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Sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station celebrates 40 years of service

PICO RIVERA — Law enforcement officials from the past and present gathered Wednesday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station.
Sheriff’ Lee Baca was joined at the ceremony by other sheriff’s officials including station Capt. James Thornton Jr., who currently heads the station, as well as five past captains.
Attendees from all generations were invited to tour the station following the ceremony, “comparing its current state to the days of old,” Thornton said.
“This is like coming home,. This is a great place ot have worked,” said former captain Larry Anderson, who led the station from 1978 to 1980. “I just appreciate being a part of this family.”
Juan Rodriguez, who served at the station’s captain from 1997 to 2004, also shared fond memories of serving the people of Pico Rivera.
“I loved it,” he said. “I thought it was the best community where we could possibly work.”
“I miss it dearly,” he said. “I miss it every day. I love this station. I love this community and I’ll always treasure it from the bottom of my heart.”
Patrol cars from the station’s early days, including a 1970 Plymouth Fury and a 1978 Chevrolet Nova, were on display next to their modern counterparts
Sheriff Baca credited the current and former captains with making the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station what it is today.
The station itself is only a building, he said.
“(The captains) are the ones who built the sheriff’s department’s legacy here,” Baca said.
He also commended city officials for their partnership with the sheriff’s department over the past four decades.
“What we’ve had is a great relationship that is built upon our city’s leadership,” the sheriff said. “We obviously enjoy working for this great city of Pico Rivera.
Baca added that after 40 years of service, the station was growing crowded and it planned to look into possibilities for expansion.

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Carson sheriff’s deputies aid Swedish family through tough time

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CARSON — When deputies spotted a family of seven walking along Sepulveda Boulevard at 4:30 a.m. Friday, they suspected something wasn’t right.
After talking with family members, who spoke very little English, deputies learned they were visiting Southern California from Sweden for a family members graduation, but had been left homeless and penniless due to a family emergency, Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
“They had a family emergency where they had to cut their trip short,” Nishida said. But the cost of re-booking an earlier flight used up all of the family’s money, leaving them stranded with no means to obtain food or shelter.
The family was comprised of a mother, father and five daughters, officials added. The children were a 2-year-old girl, two 10-year-old twin girls, a 14-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl.
“Deputies were able to kind of talk to them with the limited English they do know,” Nishida said. The family was then taken to the sheriff’s Carson Station.
“We actually have a (reserve) sergeant who speaks Swedish who came out,” she added. The sheriff’s department has deputies speaking more than 100 languages.
After learning of their predicament, the deputies decided to circulate an email to try and raise funds to help the family.
They procured donations which were used to provide the family with hotel lodging, food and transportation to Los Angeles International Airport, where they boarded a Sweden-bound airplane Sunday, Nishida said.

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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AP: Award made in suit over alleged LA deputy affair

LOS ANGELES — A jury has awarded more than $450,000 to a man who was investigated by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective he claimed was having an affair with his wife.
The Los Angeles Times says jurors ruled for Alberto Gutierrez Thursday in a civil rights lawsuit against Detective Phillip Solano and a sheriff’s deputy.
Gutierrez claimed Solano had an affair with his wife at the same time that he was investigating Solano for allegedly threatening the woman during a bitter custody battle. He also accused a sheriff’s deputy of a cover-up.
Gutierrez was twice arrested in 2008 on suspicion of violating a restraining order. He was acquitted of some criminal charges and others were dropped.
- From the Associated Press
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County law enforcement on ‘heightened alert’ following Colorado mass shooting

Though some law enforcement stations instructed officials to pay extra attention to movie theatres while on patrol in response to the mass shooting during a midnight showing of a new Batman movie in Colorado, police and sheriff’s officials in the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena and Whittier areas largely operated as usual Friday.
Preliminary reports indicated that the shooter, who allegedly killed at least twelve and wounded dozens during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, had no ties to any terrorist organization, according to the FBI.
“While the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado appears to be an isolated incident, our vigilance has been raised,” according to Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau. “The heightened alert of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department includes increased patrols to create a more visible presence at movie theaters and other places where people congregate.”
The sheriff’s department operates stations in Pico Rivera, Norwalk, Industry, Temple City, Walnut, San Dimas, Crescenta Valley and Altadena, among others throughout Los Angeles County.
In addition to extending condolences to the victims, their loved ones and first-responders affected by the shooting, Parker and other officials encouraged citizens to report any suspicious activity immediately.
“The greatest deterrent to crime is often a phone call to law enforcement by a person who sees something that just doesn’t look right,” the captain said.
Many San Gabriel Valley-area law enforcement officials said they were not particularly worried about any incidents at local movie theaters.
“It seems like such an isolated incident,” Pasadena Police Lt. Diego Torres said. “We don’t plan extra patrols at this point.”
But extra patrols may be added if appropriate, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said in a written statement.
“The Pasadena Police Department initiated proactive steps this morning by visiting movie theaters in our community to determine security level(s),” he added.
The Pasadena Police Department’s heightened diligence may include extra patrols and additional police presence as appropriate.
Torres added that as normal procedure, Pasadena police keep aware of the layouts of large gathering places, such as movie theaters, so they can quickly respond in the case of an emergency.
Police had similar views throughout the region.
“We’re actively listening and learning, just like everyone else,” Alhambra police Sgt. Sean Heckers said.
Additional patrols were not planned, he added.
“We don’t have anything that would cause us to do that,” Heckers said.
Movie theaters tend to be heavily patrolled by police officers and sheriff’s deputies in general, officials said.
“We do a pretty good job of patrolling these theaters,” West Covina police Sgt. Tony Cortina said. “We have a very high presence.”
Covina police officials said officers were advised during Friday morning’s briefing to keep an extra eye on local theaters, though no special patrol operations were planned.
Los Angeles police checked in on Hollywood movie theaters after learning of the Colorado shooting but found no security issues, Los Angeles Police officials said.
El Monte police were keeping in contact with the manager of the theater in that city to make sure everything was okay, Lt. Dan Burlingham said.
Though no special patrols were planned in West Covina, Cortina said, officers may may spend a little extra time making themselves visible near theaters, “just for the peace of mind of the public,” he said.
Pico Rivera sheriff’s Lt. John Kepley also said deputies tend to patrol the city’s movie theater, located on Whittier Boulevard, heavily.
A compliment of reserve deputies are assigned to the Pico Rivera Krikorian theater full-time, he said.
When it comes to the theater, “We try to be pro-active,” Kepley said. “We want it to be a family environment.”
Sgt. Cortina said that tragedies such as the one in Colorado serve as a somber reminder for patrol officers.
“We train for active shooter scenarios like these,” he said. “This freshens in (officers’) minds that things can happen like this anywhere at any given time.”

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