Similar gas station robberies in Pasadena, Monrovia may be linked

Two similar gas station robberies within 20 minutes of each other on Wednesday along the 210 Freeway corridor in Monrovia and Pasadena may be linked, authorities said Thursday.
The armed robberies took place about 1:30 p.m. at a Chevron station at Altadena Drive and Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena, then at 1:50 p.m. at a 76 station along Myrtle Avenue, just south of the 210 Freeway, Pasadena and Monrovia police officials said. Both crimes involved two suspects.
In the Pasadena crime, one of the men entered the store, pointed a handgun at a woman working behind the counter and demanded money, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said. The second robber acted as a lookout.
The robbers were last seen fleeing the area on foot after obtaining an undetermined amount of cash, he said.
Both robbers were Latino men in their early 20s, Mercado said. One stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed about 175 pounds. He was clean-shaven, with a medium complexion, Mercado said. He wore a white T-shirt, black shorts and a black baseball cap and carried a black handgun.
The second robber was also about 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 150 pounds, Mercado said. He had a light complexion and brown hair, and he wore an orange hooded sweatshirt and dark shorts during the crime.
The second robbery unfolded about 20 minutes later, less than 7 miles to the east.
In that case, two robbers entered the store, Monrovia police Sgt. Chad Harvey said. One of them carried a black semi-automatic handgun.
The robbers stole about $3,000 in cash from the store, the sergeant said. They also helped themselves to a 12-pack of Modelo beer before fleeing.
They were last seen running north toward the freeway, he said.
Officials described the Monrovia robbers as two Latino men in their mid-20s. One wore a white T-shirt, brown shorts and a black baseball cap. The second robber was described as wearing brown long-sleeve shirt and black shorts.
Detectives at both departments were looking into the possibility both robberies were the work of the same criminal duo, officials said. No injuries were reported in either robbery.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police at 626-744-4241, or Monrovia police at 626-256-8000. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Monrovia couple drowns in Lake Havasu

LAKE HAVASU, ARIZ. >> A husband and wife from Monrovia drowned Friday while boating on Lake Havasu in Arizona, authorities said.
Esmeralda Gonzalez, 41, and Raul Gonzalez, 44, died in the apparent accident, reported shortly before 3:30 p.m. near the Crazy Horse Docks, along the eastern shore of Lake Havasu, Mohave County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
They were on board a boat with another man and two young children that was floating just west of the Crazy Horse Cove when the incident took place.
Esmeralda Gonzalez jumped into the water to go for a swim, sheriff’s said. She was not wearing a life jacket.
“Esmeralda began to panic in the water, so her husband, Raul Gonzalez, 44, jumped in to rescue her,” according to the statement. “Raul also was not wearing a life jacket. Both were seen struggling in the water prior to them both going under the water’s surface and not resurfacing.”
Off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who happened to be nearby pulled the unconscious woman from the water and onto their boat and performed CPR as they brought her to the Crazy Horse Docks, MCSO officials said. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
Rescuers then learned a second person, Raul Gonzalez, was also missing from the boat and began searching the water where the boat had been.
“At about 3:45 p.m., the male subject was located at the bottom of the lake in approximately 12 feet of water by personnel from the Lake Havasu City Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department marine units,” the MCSO statement said. “(Raul Gonzalez) was transported to the Crazy Horse Docks where he was also pronounced deceased.”
Autopsies are scheduled, and investigators were looking into whether alcohol played a role in the accident, officials said. The investigation was ongoing.
The couple had been married six years and are survived by children including a 6-month-old daughter.
The fund, at, had raised more than $11,000 by Sunday morning.
“Raul was a loving father who was a leukemia survivor who dedicated the rest of his life to helping the children at the Children Hospital in Los Angeles,” according to a statement on the memorial page. “Raul was loved by (everybody) around him and in the community and was known to always be there for (everybody) and would put everybody’s needs before his own.
“Esmeralda was a loving wife and mother who devoted her life to her kids and her husband,” the statement continued. “She always put them first above anything and was a true blessing to Raul and her children.”


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Valinda man sentenced for slaying of girlfriend in Monrovia

MONROVIA >> A Valinda man who strangled his girlfriend, sent pictures of her body along with an apologetic message to his mother, and left her body in an SUV parked in her parents’ backyard in Monrovia received a prison sentence of 46 years to life on Thursday, authorities said.
A jury convicted Joel Velazquez, 52, of voluntary manslaughter in May for the Sept. 21, 2014, death of 46-year-old Alice Medina-Kaplan, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. He had initially been charged with murder.
Prosecutors alleged that Velazquez strangled the victim, Ardalani said in a written statement.
“Her body was later discovered inside an SUV parked behind a house owned by her parents on the 200 block of Mauna Loa Drive in Monrovia,” she said.
Shortly after the killing, Velasquez sent text messages to his mother, including photograph of her daughter’s body, along with an apology.
Medina-Kaplan reportedly suffered from schizophrenia. She had been living with Velazquez in the SUV when she was killed.
Velasquez has a prior conviction for making criminal threats in 2011, officials said.

* *NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that the killer sent pictures of the victim’s body to his own mother.

PHOTO: Homicide victim Alice Medina-Kaplan, 46. (Courtesy)

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Women pepper spray Monrovia store security guard while stealing purses

MONROVIA >> Police are seeking two women who they say sprayed a security guard with pepper spray in order to steal purses from a Monrovia discount department store late Friday.
The robbery unfolded just after 8 p.m. at Marshall’s, 564 W. Huntington Drive, Monrovia police Lt. Rob Wilken said.
A security guard noticed two women leaving the store with handbags they hadn’t paid for and confronted them about the theft, he said.
One of the women pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed the security guard, according to the lieutenant.
The women then fled, with the stolen purses, in a red Dodge Charger, he said. They were last seen headed west on Huntington Drive.
A detailed description of the suspects was not available. The security guard was treated by paramedics for pepper spray exposure, but did not require to be taken to a hospital.
Anyone with information can reach Monrovia police at 626-256-8000. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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DUI suspect surrenders to police in the nude following pursuit from Monrovia to Covina

A Covina man allegedly high on drugs led Monrovia police on a pursuit before driving home, barricaded himself inside, taking a shower, then surrendering to police in the buff on Saturday night, authorities said.
The incident just after 8 p.m. when a witness flagged down a Monrovia police officer to report seeing a possible intoxicated driver, Monrovia police Sgt. Glen Coleman said.
Officers soon found the car, driving on the wrong side of the road, and tried to pull it over, he said. The driver refused to yield, initiating a chase.
The fleeing suspect drove through red lights and ultimately made his way into the eastbound 210 Freeway, according to the sergeant.
He exited the freeway and drove to his home along Cloverland Drive, near Mesarica Road, in the unincorporated county area near Covina, officials said.
The driver entered the home and refused officer’s orders to surrender, Coleman said. He took a shower, then surrendered to police about 45 minutes later, wearing only a towel.
Brian Robert Borland, 28, who was suspected to be under the influence of an unknown drug, was booked on suspicion of DUI and evading police, Coleman said.
Police in Sierra Madre had pulled Borland over a short time before the chase began in Monrovia, but he fled from officers and was not found, authorities said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Borland was being held in lieu of $155,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Gunman in skeleton mask robs Monrovia motel

MONROVIA >> A gunman wearing a skeleton mask robbed a Monrovia motel late Thursday, police said.
The crime unfolded just after 9 p.m. at the Oak Tree Inn, 788 W. Huntington Drive, Monrovia police Lt. Robert Wilken said.
The robber entered the lobby of the hotel, brandished a pistol and demanded money from an employee, the lieutenant said.
He fled with several hundred dollars and was last seen getting into a light-colored sedan parked in front of the motel, which sped away noth on Encino Avenue toward Huntington Drive.
Police described the robber as a black man between 35 and 40 years old, about 6 feet 3 inches tall, 250 pounds, wearing a skeleton mask.
No injuries were reported.
Anyone with information can reach Monrovia police at 626-256-8000. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Duarte, Monrovia community rallies for peace in wake of shootings

Dozens of community members, including several families who have lost loved ones to violence, marched through the streets of Duarte and Monrovia on Saturday to respond to recent shootings in the area with a message of peace.
The Duarte-Monrovia Peace March, organized by the Community Mediation Team, drew demonstrators of all ages to Duarte City Hall before they made a 1.5-mile trek to the Mary Wilcox the Mary Youth Center in Monrovia. Marchers wore white clothing and carried signs reading, “Peace & Unity,” and “Love Conquers Hate.”
Monrovia police Chaplain Steve Martinez had a message for the family members of slain loved ones who took part in the event
“I know it’s been difficult for you. It could have weeks ago, months ago, years ago, but you’re here today, and we are here to support you, and show love to your family and to honor the memory of the person that you lost and that you still love,” he said.
“And this is also a sign to show people in the community that we want to do something. We want to make a change.”
The Monrovia-Duarte community has seen four people killed and four others wounded in a space of at least eight shootings reported since January.
Among them was 39-year-old Kirinda Morehead of Duarte, who was shot to death on Feb. 18 as he arrived home with his fiancee and two young children in the 2300 block of Bashor Street.
“As he got out of his truck, someone shot him 12 times,” said Diane Myrick, the mother of Morehead’s fiancee. Though the couple was not yet married, she said she already thought of Morehead as her son-in-law.
“He was a hard-working, loving, family-loving, Christian man who did not deserve to be gunned down in the street like that in front of his children and his fiancee,” she said.
“All we can do now is just hope and pray that the person who perpetrated this act this act upon this family (is caught),” Myrick said.
“And we just want to thank the city of Duarte for all that you’re doing to ensure that the these streets are safe,” she said. In 25 years living in the area, “I’ve never experienced anything like we have in the past few months.”
“It’s a struggle day-by-day,” Myrick said. “These shooters just pull up, and they have no clue what they’re leaving behind. No clue. But God is able, and we’ll get through this together.”
The family of 18-year-old Oscar Garcia, who was shot to death in his hometown of Monrovia on April 22, carried pictures of the slain Canyon Oaks High School as they marched.
Garcia was visiting with friends in a residential garage in the 100 block of West Cypress Street while visiting friends when an attacker opened fire on the group of teens. Garcia was mortally wounded and another teenage boy was seriously injured in the shooting, but survived. Investigators suspect the shooter was looking someone else when he encountered and shot the teens.
“Without any though, he just went ahead and shot my brother,” David Garcia said. “He was a good kid.”
Garcia was an avid skateboarder who loved spending time at the Monrovia Skate Park, family members said.
To honor Garcia’s memory, loved ones have begun circulating a petition to formally rename the park after him. The petition is available online at
The family of 18-year-old Malcolm Mency of Duarte also added their voices to the march.
Mency, who had just become a father, was shot to death at Broderick and Felberg avenues, in an unincorporated county area between Duarte and Monrovia, as he walked home from work on Dec. 22.
“I have in my heart a long list of families impacted that have not made the headlines,” said CMT Co-Chair and former Duarte Mayor Lois Gaston, who hosted the event.
Representatives from numerous local churches, organizations and government agencies took part in the assembly.
Capt. David Flores of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Temple Station, which patrols Duarte and nearby unincorporated county areas, said he was glad to see the strong show of community involvement.
“My heart goes out to all of you who have lost someone or know someone who was lost,” he said.
“It’s good that we’re here,” the captain added. “This comes down to citizenship and making a stand for what’s right and coming together for the community, so I’m so happy to see everyone here. When the community comes together and we partner together, good work can be done. And truly this a great step in that direction.”

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Suspect sketch released in Monrovia shooting that left one teen dead, another wounded

MONROVIA >> Determined homicide investigators and devastated family members reached out to the public on Thursday to help find the gunman who killed one teenager and wounded another in an attack inside a Monrovia garage last month.
Eighteen-year-old Canyon Oaks High School senior Oscar Andrew Garcia died in the late-night shooting on April 22 in the detached garage of a back house in the 100 block of West Cypress Street, just west of Myrtle Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said.
A 17-year-old boy was wounded in the shooting, and a teenage girl escaped injury.
Garcia and the other shooting victim did not live at the home, but were visiting the girl when the shooting took place, officials said.
“All three entered the garage and were hanging out as most teenagers do,” Lt. Joe Mendoza of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. “Suddenly, and without provocation, the suspect appeared at the garage door and pointed a handgun toward them. A brief verbal exchange occurred and the suspect opened fire.”
Detectives declined to discuss what words were spoken in the moments before the shooting.
Paramedics pronounced Garcia dead at the scene. “His male friend was struck by gunfire but miraculously survived his injuries,” Mendoza said.
Following the shooting, the gunman fled through an alley running behind the property, according to officials.
In hopes of generating leads in the investigation, authorities released a composite sketch of the suspect.
The killer is described as a Latino man between 20 and 25 years old, about 6 feet tall, of medium build, Mendoza said. He had a light complexion, brown eyes, short black hair and a goatee, and he wore a black baseball cap with an unknown logo emblazoned on it.
The motive in the shooting remained a mystery, and detectives knew of no reason anyone would target Garcia or his friends, Mendoza said.
While it appeared the garage in which the victims were hanging out was targeted by the shooter, “We don’t believe the victims were the targets of the assault,” Mendoza said. Investigators had not ruled out the possibility of mistaken identity.
Garcia was scheduled to graduate high school in June, Mendoza said. He then planned to study photography at Pasadena City College.
The young man was a lifelong Monrovia resident.
“He enjoyed skateboarding, taking photos, attending church with family and he played soccer for his high school team,” the lieutenant said.
Garcia was often seen holding up two fingers in a “peace” sign, his mother, Guadalupe Castaneda said.
“It’s been so hard for me and my family. We miss Oscar,” she said. “He loved his family, loved his friends. He would always go to extra mile to help others. He didn’t deserve to end this way, or any other way.”
“My son was an excellent kid. He loved skateboarding. That was his passion. That’s how he met a lot of friends,” Castaneda said. “He touched everyone in the community.”
Castaneda and Mendoza both implored anyone with information on the case, or anyone who recognized the composite sketch of the suspect, to come forward.
“No family deserved to go through this,” Castaneda said. “Please, please, someone knows something… don’t be afraid. Love has to overcome all of this. No violence please.”
In addition to his mother, Garcia is survived by five siblings, nieces and a nephew.
Donations to benefit Garcia’s family are being collected online at
Anyone with information is urged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

SUSPECT SKETCH/VICTIM PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Car-to-car shooting reported near Duarte

DUARTE >> A car-to-car shooting in an unincorporated county area near Duarte on Friday afternoon left one vehicle riddled with bullets, but no injuries were reported, officials said.
The shooting took place about 3:45 p.m. in the area of California Avenue and Camino Real Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Erick Martinez said. Two people were inside the car that was struck with a volley of gunfire, but both escaped injury.
“(The victims’) vehicle was parked on the side of the road. Another vehicle pulled up alongside of it, at which time a number of rounds were fired,” Martinez said. “The victims’ vehicle was struck six times.”
The shooter was believed to be a lone man in an older model, silver, four-door Nissan Sentra he said. The car was last seen heading west on Camino Real.
Sheriff’s gang detectives were handling the investigation into the attack.
Monrovia, Duarte and the unincorporated county area that separates them have seen at least 10 shootings since January, leaving four victims dead and five more wounded.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man wounded in shooting near Duarte

DUARTE >> A man suffered a leg wound in a shooting in an unincorporated county area between Duarte and Monrovia on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The shooting too place about 5 p.m. in the 2400 block of Lincoln Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Harris said.
Deputies responding to the incident encountered a man in his early-20s who had been shot in the lower calf with a large-caliber pistol bullet, the sergeant said. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The shooter fled the scene in a red sedan, the sergeant said. A detailed description of the attacker was not available.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple City Station at 626-285-7171. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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