Whittier man arrested after leading West Covina police on chase in stolen car

WEST COVINA >> Police jailed an alleged car thief following a chase Sunday after using a LoJack system to track him to the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant, officials said.
Police ultimately jailed Eric Gonzales, 38, of Whittier on suspicion of auto theft, evading police and resisting arrest, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
The incident began about 9:30 a.m. when police detected a LoJack signal emitted from a 2005 Acura Integra reported stolen in Montebello earlier in the day, the lieutenant said.
With help from a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter, officers followed the signal to a McDonald’s restaurant on Vincent Avenue, just south of the 10 Freeway, where they spotted him waiting in line at the drive-thru, Patton said.
Once the Acura exited the restaurant, officers tried to pull the car over, he said. “Initially the suspect yielded, but abruptly took off at a high rate of speed.”
Gonzales led officers on a chase down the 10 and 605 freeways before abandoning his car at the Whittier Boulevard offramp of the 605, Patton said. The suspect continued fleeing on foot, but was quickly chased down and captured by an officer.

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$10,000 reward offered in deadly Montebello hit-and-run


MONTEBELLO >> City officials announced a $10,000 reward Wednesday for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a driver who fatally struck a 24-year-old Montebello man along Whittier Boulevard before fleeing the scene.
Steven Garcia rode his bicycle west along Whittier Boulevard about 10 p.m. on July 8 when he was struck by a white, 2000-2005 Ford F-150 pickup truck which was also heading west, according to Montebello police and Los Angeles County coroner officials said.
Garcia was severely injured in the collision, and the pickup truck sped away, officials said. It was last seen heading south on Third Street from Whittier Boulevard.
Garcia fought for his life for two days before succumbing to his injuries at a hospital July 10, coroner’s officials said.
The pickup truck struck Garcia with its passenger-side and left its side-view mirror behind at the scene, Montebello police Capt. Luis Lopez said in a written statement.
Police have conducted an extensive investigation but have yet to locate the truck and driver, Lopez said. The Montebello City Council authorized a $10,000 reward at their July 22 meeting.
“This collision took place at a time that Whittier Boulevard was well-traveled with vehicle and pedestrian traffic,’ the captain said. Any witnesses, or anyone with information, was asked to contact Montebello police Cpl. R. Yap at 323-881-1212, ext. 337.

PHOTO: Montebello police are seeking a white, 2000 to 2005 Ford F-150 pickup truck, similar to the one pictured, that struck and fatally injured 24-year-old Steven Garcia of Montebello at Whittier Boulevard and Bluff Avenue in Montebello on June 8, 2015. City officials have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the hit-and-run driver. (Courtesy of the Montebello Police Department)

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Three additional suspects charged with 2002 kidnapping, slaying of Montebello teen


MONTEBELLO >> Prosecutors have charged three additional suspects in connection with the alleged rape and murder of a 15-year-old Montebello girl on her way to school more than 12 years ago.
The three men join a woman who is already awaiting trial on charges related to the Oct., 2002, slaying of Brenda Sierra, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Eddie Chavira, 20, Daniel Cervantes, 35 and George Barraza, 35, were added to a felony complaint alleging murder and other charges already filed against Rosemary Chavira, 28, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Rosemary Chavira, Cervantes and Barraza are each charged with murder, conspiracy to dissuade a witness and forcible rape, along with the special circumstance of murder during the commission of a kidnapping to benefit a street gang, court documents show.
Eddie Chavira faces charges of murder and conspiracy to intimidate a witness.
Sierra was on her way to Schurr High School in Montbello when she was kidnapped on Oct. 18, 2002.
“She was raped and killed,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Her body was found the following day in the Crestline area of the San Bernardino Mountains. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.
Sierra had no gang ties, investigators said. But she may have been killed so send a message to the community to keep quiet about gang violence.
In the days before Sierra’s kidnapping and slaying, “Eddie Chavira was in custody for a shooting witnessed by victim Brenda Sierra’s relative,” the district attorney’s office statement said. “Chavira told a fellow Lott gang member that he was going to have other Lott gang members take care of a witness. About the same time, he contacted his (then-)15-year-old sister, Rosemary Chavira, to assist in getting other gang members to take care of witnesses.”
Eddie Chavira and Daniel Cervantes are each serving prison time for previous convictions, authorities said. Investigators arrested Rosemary Chavira in February. Barraza remains a fugitive.
Rosemary Chavira has pleaded not guilty to her charges and is due back in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.
Arraignment dates were yet to be scheduled for Eddie Chavira and Cervantes.
Because Rosemary Chavira was herself a teen at the time of the killing, she faces a maximum penally of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charges, prosecutors said. Eddie Chavira faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Cervantes and Barraza’s alleged crimes make them eligible for the death penalty under California law, however authorities have not yet determined whether to seek capital punishment in the case.

PHOTO of Brenda Sierra – courtesy

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Woman charged with murders of two alleged accomplices following botched restaurant robbery in Montebello

MONTEBELLO >> Prosecutors charged a woman with two counts of murder and one county of robbery in connection with the robbery of a Montebello restaurant in which her two alleged accomplices were fatally shot by the business owner, who was also wounded in the shoot-out.
Toni Danielle Lopez, 21, of Los Angeles entered no plea when she appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Her arraignment hearing was postponed to Aug. 6.
She’s charged with the murders of Kevin Fierro, 23, and Roger Soriano, 21, who died in a botched robbery shortly after midnight Saturday at a restaurant in the 2100 block of West Whittier Boulevard, according to prosecutors and Montebello police officials.
She served as a getaway driver in the restaurant robbery, in which the business owner exchanged gunfire with Fierro and Soriano, killing them both, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. The victim suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound during the gunfight.
Additionally, detectives suspect Lopez also accompanied Fierro and Soriano when they carjacked a Toyota Camry in East Los Angeles, then robbed man of his wallet, cellphone and headphones in the minutes prior to the Montebello robbery and fatal shooting, Montebello police Lt. Andy Vuncannon said.
Investigators found and arrested Lopez Tuesday afternoon, still in the carjacked Camry believed.
Lopez’s bail was set at $2 million, Risling said.

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UPDATED — Police: Montebello business owner shot during robbery fatally shoots two suspects

MONTEBELLO >> A Montebello restaurant owner shot during a robbery along Whittier Boulevard shot back at his two assailants, fatally wounding both early Saturday, police said.
Montebello police said the robbery and shooting unfolded about 12:15 a.m. at a restaurant in the 2100 block of West Whittier Boulevard, which had already closed for the night.
“The preliminary investigation has determined both suspects were armed with handguns attempted to rob the victim,” police said in a written statement.“During the robbery, one of the suspects fired multiple shots at the victim, striking the victim once. The victim, a local business owner, returned fire striking both suspects.”
The business owner, a man estimated to be in his 30s, was expected to survive his injuries, Lt. Michael Bergman said.
Officers found one of the wounded suspects at the scene suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, according to the statement. The second suspect was found around the corner in the 100 block of North Wilcox Avenue suffering from a single gunshot wound.
Both suspects died from their injuries at the scene, Bergman said.
The names of the suspects had not been released Saturday pending notification of their family members, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Joyce Kato said. Both were initially described as men in their 20s.
The business owner’s identity was being withheld due to concerns for his safety, police said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Montebello police Detective C. Adams or Detective P. Antista at 323-887-1313.

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UPDATED: Cache of drugs and guns seized, two suspects arrested, after police stop car for speeding in Montebello


MONTEBELLO >> Police who stopped a car for speeding in Montebello on Monday ended up seizing two assault weapons, two pistols, more than 10 pounds of drugs and about $20,000 in cash, police said.
Ramon Alberto Enciso, 45, of Montebello, and girlfriend Wendy Peralta, 35, of La Habra, were arrested in the traffic stop turned drug bust about 1 a.m. in the 400 block of North Wilcox Avenue, according to Montebello police and Los Angeles County booking records.
“A Montebello Police Officer conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle that was speeding through a residential neighborhood in Montebello,” police said in a written statement. “Upon contacting the driver, the officer observed a rifle next to the driver’s leg.”
0716_NWS_WDN-L-DRUGS2Police ordered the couple out of the car and discovered a TEC-9-style machine pistol beneath Enciso’s seat, a loaded .40-caliber Glock pistol in Encino’s waistband and another loaded .380-caliber pistol was found in the panel of the driver-side door, police said. The AR-15-style rifle that first caught officers’ attention was fitted with a loaded, 30-round magazine.
“Also located inside the vehicle was approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine, 45 grams of heroin, 31 grams of cocaine, 14 grams of marijuana and approximately $20,000 in U.S. currency,” the statement said.
Enciso was scheduled to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday afternoon to answer to 16 drug- and weapon-related charges, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said. His arraignment was postponed to Thursday.
Encino, a gang member who is on probation under AB 109 guidelines due to a previous conviction, was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to police and records. Peralta posted $105,000 bond the day of her arrest and was released from custody pending her initial court appearance.
Enciso has a criminal record dating back to 1992, Los Angeles County Superior Court records show.
He’s been convicted three times for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, three times for drug possession, twice possession of drugs for sales, once for transportation of drugs, once for being a felon in possession of ammunition, twice for domestic abuse and once for battery, records show. And at the time of his arrest Monday, Enciso already had a case pending against him for allegations of shooting at an inhabited building or vehicle, being a felon in possession of a gun and drug possession, records show.

PHOTOS of seized drugs and guns (above) and suspects Ramon Enciso and Wendy Peralta (below) courtesy of the Montebello Police Department.

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Bicyclist killed in Montebello hit-and-run

MONTEBELLO >> A 24-year-old Montebello man injured in a hit-and-run while riding his bike earlier this week died from his injuries Friday, officials said.
Steven Garcia died early Friday morning from injuries suffered when he was struck by at least one car about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bluff Road and Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said. His city of residence was not available.
A description of the hit-and-run vehicle or vehicles was not available Saturday.
Garcia was hospitalized at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries at 12:40 a.m. Friday, Smith said.
In a Facebook post, the organization Ghost Bikes L.A. announced plans Saturday for an 8 p.m. candlelight vigil at the crash scene in honor of Garcia.
Garcia’s own Facebook page indicates he lived in Montebello, had attended Montebello High School and worked at a local painting and sandblasting business.
A fund to help Garcia’s family has been set up at www.gofundme.com/z275dnw.

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Prosecutors decline to charge Montebello police officer arrested for DUI in Diamond Bar

POMONA >> Prosecutors have declined to file a case against a Montebello police officer arrested in May on suspicion driving under the influence of prescription painkillers following a solo-vehicle crash in Diamond Bar in May, officials said Wednesday.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station arrested Montebello police Sgt. Christopher Cervantes, 43, in the early-morning hours of May 6 after the vehicle he was driving crashed into a tree.
Cervantes was scheduled to appear in court Monday for an arraignment hearing, but the hearing was cancelled after officials decided not to pursue a criminal charge against the officer.
After reviewing the case, “We declined a case against Mr. Cervantes June 29 due to insufficient evidence,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The case was declined because the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials have no expert to provide an opinion regarding Cervantes’ alleged impairment.
“(Cervantes) stated he swerved to avoid a collision with another vehicle and struck a tree,” according to his district attorney’s office charge evaluation worksheet. “He exhibited objective symptoms of being under the influence of a drug at the scene and was arrested.”
“(Cervantes) provided a blood sample which tested positive acetaminophen/butalbital/codeine and morphine, a prescription drug. (He) has a valid prescription for this medication,” according to the document.
But prosecutors said they could take the case no further.
“There is no expert testimony available through our crime lab to offer a quantitative or qualitative opinion of impairment based upon the facts set forth,” according to the charge evaluation worksheet. “The (field sobriety tests) and driving are insufficient to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that suspect operated a motor vehicle while impaired. Prosecution is declined based upon insufficient evidence.”
Both Montebello police and sheriff officials have declined to discuss details of the allegations against Cervantes, including whether the vehicle involved in the crash was city-owned, or whether the officer was on-duty at the time of the crash.
Montebello police have also declined to say whether Cervantes was placed on leave or remained on normal duty during the investigation.


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Montebello firefighter awarded nearly $940,00 for racial harassment, retaliation

LOS ANGELES >> A jury awarded a black Montebello firefighter who sued the city nearly $940,000 Wednesday for racial harassment and retaliation, but did not find true his allegation of racial discrimination, officials said.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury sided with Vernon Creswell in two of his three accusations in the case, which was first filed in September 2013.
Creswell was awarded $750,000 for racial harassment and about $189,000 for retaliation, according to attorney Jeff Stockley, one of the lawyers representing Montebello. But the jury sided with Montebello regarding the racial discrimination claim.
“We appreciate hat they considered all the evidence,” Stockley said. It was not immediately clear whether the city would appeal the decision.
“We’re currently evaluating our options,” Stockley said.
“We want the citizens of Montebello to know that the city is dedicated to combatting discrimination,” he added.
According to the court documents, Creswell encountered hostility almost immediately after joining to the Montebello Fire Department in 2008 as the department’s only black firefighter.
Attorneys for Creswell did could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
Creswell’s lawsuit claimed that then-battalion chief Greg Mowad, who has since reportedly been terminated, repeatedly used racial slurs. Creswell also accused other members of the department of harassing him based on his race, or failing to act when he reported the behavior.
Mowad and another supervisor have, “openly told Plaintiff’s fellow firefighters to take Plaintiff ‘out back’ to teach him a lesson,” the lawsuit states.
Supervisors constantly criticized Creswell for minor issues concerning his performance and the manner in which he wore his uniform, the claim alleges.
And Creswell claimed he was denied a deserved promotion to the rank of captain, both because of his race, and because he had complained about alleged discrimination and harassment. The lawsuit claims that Creswell was given a different and more grueling test process for the captain position than three competitors, who were not black.
“Plaintiff’s supervisors have made it clear by actions that the Plaintiff will never promote to the rank of Captain in the Montebello Fire Department and that he is not welcome in the department, all on account of his race,” according to the lawsuit.

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Man shot to death in Montebello identified

MONTEBELLO >> Authorities Sunday released the identity of a 19-year-old East Los Angeles man who was shot to death in an apartment complex courtyard in Montebello Friday afternoon.
Gabriel Vargas Jr. died at the scene of the shooting, which took place just after noon in the 500 block of Via Altamira Drive, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corrall said.
Officers responding to reports of gunfire to find Vargas lying in a courtyard between two apartment complexes, mortally wounded.
Vargas was talking with a small group of acquaintances just before the shooting, Montebello police officials said.
“It was during this time the suspect approached the victim on foot and fired several times, striking him multiple times,” police said in a written statement.
The shooter was described only as a man.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Montebello Police Department.

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