MONTEREY PARK — Law enforcement officials and prosecutors are teaming with the victims’ advocacy groups this weekend to host their first-ever crime victim’s clinic and unsolved homicide summit.
The summit, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau, 4700 Ramona Boulevard in Monterey Park, will feature panel discussions and presentations centering on the issue of unsolved slayings, organizers said.
“If you have an unsolved homicide or are interested in unsolved homicides, you need to be at this event,” organizers said in a written statement.
“Families need closure,” said Jeanette Chavez of Justice for Homicide Victims, whose 16-year-old daughter Sammantha Salas was fatally shot in an unincorporated county area between Monrovia and Duarte on Jan. 26, 2008. The case was unsolved for more than a year before two Monrovia men were arrested, convicted and sentenced for the crime.
“I know the feeling of not having our case solved for 14 months. It’s pressure. You can’t function. Some people have lost their jobs. They don’t know what to do next. They’re lost. I know that feeling.”
The summit is designed to empower and educate affected families regarding the law, their rights and the grieving process, she said.
“We look forward to helping victims’ families in getting a better understanding of how the process works,” Chavez said. “They have every right to be their victims’ voices.”
Speakers represent a variety of perspectives with regard to the issue of homicide, from professionals to regular people unwillingly familiarized with the issue through the murder of a loved one.
Sheriff Lee Baca and other high-ranking police and sheriff’s officials will take part, along with family members of homicide victims, media representatives, federal investigators, activists and prosecutors.
And the dialogue was intended to be two-ways, Chavez said.
“Hopefully, this event will shed some light for victims families, an also for the officials who will be there to better understand how we feel,” she said.
At the meeting, “We’ll discuss how we’re going to come together. How do the policies and procedures work? What are the methods. How can we think out of the box to get these cases solved?”
For example, Justice for Homicide Victims has several steps members would like to see taken when it comes to following up on unsolved homicide investigations, Chavez explained.
Law enforcement should do a better job of informing victims of their rights under Marsy’s Law, also known as the Victims Bill of Rights, Chavez said. Victim’s families should be routinely read the law, much like suspects are read their Miranda rights when arrested, she said.
Another suggestion offered by the group is to print decks of playing cards with the images of and information from unsolved homicides to distribute to inmates in county jails and state prisons, Chavez said. Such measures have had success in other states in helping solve cold cases.
Another idea promoted by JHV is to establish some form of second opinion in Los Angeles County and statewide to review unsolved cases with “fresh eyes,” after the initial law enforcement investigators and prosecutors.
“Our goal is to get these cases solved, to get these criminals off the street so they won’t harm another family,” Chavez said.
MONTEREY PARK – A large fire Saturday damaged a house and sent a man to the hospital with burns, authorities said.
The fire was reported just after 3 p.m. in the 500 block of South Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim said.
The first firefighters on-scene quickly declared the blaze a second-alarm fire and called for reinforcements, Verdugo Fire Communications Center dispatch supervisor Lynda Sims said.
Dozens of firefighters extinguished the blaze in less than half an hour, Monterey Park Fire Department Capt. Neal Martin said.
A resident estimated to be about 40 years old was taken to a hospital for treatment of first-degree burns to his face and second-degree burns to his chest, the captain said. It was not clear how he suffered the burns.
The fire was contained primarily to a back room of the home and a patio area that contained fuels such as cabinets and mattresses, Martin said.
He estimated that the fire caused more than $50,000 worth of damage.
Between seven and nine residents were displaced from the home as a result of the fire, Martin said. The Red Cross was summoned to help them find temporary lodgings.
A home just south of the one that caught fire sustained minor damage, however the residents were not displaced
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
MONTEREY PARK — Two young men and a teenager are accused of burglary after a South Alhambra resident reported seeing them breaking into a neighbor’s home earlier this week, officials said Thursday.
Michael Smyer, 23, of Riverside, Rafiki Smith, 19, of Los Angeles and the juvenile suspect were arrested shortly after the burglary, which took place just before 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the 300 block of South Alhambra Avenue, according to Monterey Park police Lt. Carrie Mazelin.
Smith was already on probation for an assault conviction, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
A witness reported seeing three people hopping a fence as they fled from a neighbor’s home, Mazelin said.
The witness provided police with a description of the suspects’ car, which was found and stopped by officers a short distance away, the lieutenant said.
“Further investigation revealed the suspects were in possession of property stolen from the burglary,” she said.
Smyer and Smith were both released following their arrests pending their initial court appearances after posting bonds, records show.
PHOTOS of Michael Smyer and Rafiki Smith courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department
ROSEMEAD — A convicted felon already on Post-Release Community Supervision for weapons violations has been arrested twice this month on suspicion of illegal gun possession, police said.
Phillip Santa Anna, 23, of Rosemead was charged Tuesday with a count of being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
He was being held in lieu of $65,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment July 9 in Alhambra Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records. Following his arrest Friday, he was also immediately sentenced to 10 days in jail for violating parole.
Santa Anna’s most recent arrest took place at his home in the 2400 block of South New Avenue after members of the multi-agency West San Gabriel Valley Anti-Crime Task Force carried out a probation compliance, Monterey Park police Lt. Carrie Mazeline said.
“During a probation search, a stolen handgun was found in his residence,” Mazeline said.
The officers had gone to the home to check on the convicted felon following his arrest one week earlier on the same charge, officials said.
Monterey Park police jailed Santa Anna on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a loaded gun near his home on June 7, Mazeline said.
He was released from jail later in the day after posting $20,000 bail, booking records show.
A charge had not yet been filed in connection with the June 7 arrest when Santa Anna was again caught with a loaded gun, officials said.
When he returns to court next month, Mazeline said police plan to seek a sentence-enhancing special allegation that the crimes were gang-related.
County records also showed that Santa Anna had been arrested March 23 and convicted two days later of carrying a switchblade knife on his person, according to booking records and D.A.’s spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales.
A probation revocation hearing held in March resulting in additional jail , records show. He was released from custody April 12 after serving less than three weeks of a 210-day sentence.
Prior to the switchblade arrest, the defendant was already on Post-Release Community Supervision through the Los Angeles County Probation Department as part of the California prison realignment plan of 2011 for a previous weapons-related conviction, Mazeline said.
Officers also arrested Santa Anna’s brother, 28-year-old Raymond Santa Anna of Rosemead, during Friday’s search due to an outstanding warrant for violating his probation, police said.
He was being held without bail pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in El Monte Superior Court, according to booking records.
He was arrested April 24 and pleaded no contest May 3 to assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and misdemeanor battery, Davila-Morales said.
According to county records, Raymond Santa Anna was released from jail June 4 after serving just under six weeks of a 180-day sentence.
PHOTOS of Phillip Santa Anna and Raymond Santa Ana courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department.
MONTEREY PARK — A fight inside a barbershop escalated into a shooting Saturday, however both the shooter and victim fled the area before police arrived, officials said.
The incident was reported about 1 p.m. at a barbershop in the 2300 block of South Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim said.
“Two people inside got into an argument, then a fight,” the lieutenant said. “One of the two pulled out a gun.”
Several shots were fired, Kim said, however there was no evidence found that the other man had been struck by the gunfire.
Both combatants had left when police arrived, and both the attacker and victim were described only as men.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY — Authorities Friday released the name of a 19-year-old Santa Monica College Student accused of prompting school lockdowns throughout the county by threatening to shoot up campuses Thursday.
Neiman Jerome Smith was booked on suspicion of making criminal threats, a felony, following Thursday’s incidents, Los Angeles Police spokesman Richard French said. Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials described him as a Los Angeles resident.
He was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to county booking records.
Dozens of schools in Monterey Park, Santa Monica and Los Angeles were placed on lockdown after Smith allegedly made at least one cell phone call shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday to the California Highway Patrol saying he planned to shoot up schools with an assault rifle before killing himself, according to sheriff’s and Santa Monica police officials.
East Los Angeles City College was evacuated, as the cell phone call was believed to have originated from the East Los Angeles-Monterey Park area, according to Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim.
Santa Monica College, where Smith was ultimately arrested about an hour and a half after the threatening phone calls were made, was locked down prior to the arrest, though it was not evacuated.
All 19 schools in Monterey Park was placed on lockdown following the threat, authorities said. Another two were locked down in Santa Monica, while six schools and a maintenance facility in Los Angeles.
Smith was arrested by Santa Monica College campus police after showing up at the campus’ psychiatric services center, Santa Monica police Sgt. Richard Lewis said. He was not armed.
A motive was not available.
Police arrested a 19-year-old student Friday at Santa Monica College after telephoned threats of school shootings prompted widespread school lockdowns in Santa Monica and Monterey Park, authorities said.
East Los Angeles College was evacuated and 19 other schools within Monterey Park were locked down in response to a phone call threatening violence against a school in Monterey Park shortly before 8 a.m., according to Monterey Park police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials. Similar threats were made against Santa Monica College.
“He called in a telephone threat and said that he had a gun and was en route to a college in Monterey Park,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
Officials Wednesday released the names of two men and a woman killed in two separate motorcycle crashes Tuesday in Hacienda Heights and Monterey Park.
Both fatal crashes involved riders being thrown from motorcycles and subsequently being struck by big rigs, according to the California Highway Patrol. One of the involved big rigs left the scene and was being investigated as a hit-and-run.
Kenneth Carnero and his girlfriend Misty Quinones, both 20 and of Los Angeles, died in a crash at 11:03 a.m. on the transition road from the northbound Long Beach (710) Freeway transition road to the westbound 10 (San Bernardino) Freeway in Monterey Park, according to CHP Officer Doris Peniche.
Quinones was a passenger on the 1998 Honda CBR 600 when Carnero attempted to pass vehicles along the right shoulder.
“He failed to negotiate the curve and lost control,” Peniche said. Both rider and passenger were thrown from the motorcycle, “and into the direct path of the tractor trailer wheels.”
Carnero and Quinones both died at the scene, officials said.
Investigators Wednesday continued seeking the big rig that ran over the couple, Peniche said. It was described as a gray box truck.
The investigation continued, she said. In the meantime, “We’re treating it as a hit-and-run.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact the East Los Angeles office of the CHP at 323-980-4600 during regular business hours. After hours, tipsters can reach the CHP at 800-835-5247.
Johannes Blankenhorn, 37, of Tujunga, died in a crash 20 minutes earlier on the westbound Pomona (60) Freeway, just west of the Barford Avenue pedestrian overcrossing in Hacienda Heights, California Highway Patrol Officer Matt Arnone said in a written statement.
Blankenhorn was riding a 1978 BMW R100 motorcycle at an unknown speed when he rear-ended a 2004 Lexus ES 330 that was slowing in front of him in the No. 2 lane, officials said.
“(Blankenhorn) was ejected off his motorcycle and into the path of (a big rig),” Arnone said. The truck had been driving next to the Lexus in the No. 3 traffic lane at about 60 mph.
“(Blankenhorn) was then run over by the tractor trailer,” he said.
Paramedics performed CPR on the rider, however he was pronounced dead from his injuries, Arnone said.
The 60 Freeway crash was being investigated by officers from the CHP’s Santa Fe Springs office.
MONTEREY PARK — Police are seeking a wanted parolee and a second man in connection with a series of auto break-ins targeting the cars of parents as they drop their children off at San Gabriel Valley day care centers, authorities said.
Brian Gilbert Renteria, 25, and Jerry Angelino Ristich, 27, have been linked to three such burglaries at Alhambra day care centers in January and February, and were being investigated in connection with additional crimes in other cities including Arcadia and Chino, Monterey Park police Lt. Carrie Mazelin said. Renteria is described as a transient believed to be staying in San Gabriel Valley motels, while Ristich is a Monterey Park resident.
Renteria, who has previously been convicted of kidnapping, has absconded from parole supervision and is considered armed and dangerous, officials said.
An alleged accomplice of the men, 20-year-old Tamara Rios of West Covina, was arrested Feb. 13 in connection with one of the auto burglaries, which took place in the 300 block of North Alhambra Avenue, according to Monterey Park police and Los Angeles County booking records. She has since been released on bond.
In the day care center burglaries, the thieves smashed the windows of vehicle of parents whowere escorting their kids to day care and left valuables, such as designer purses, in plain sight, Mazelin said.
After identifying Renteria and Ristich as suspects in the crimes, police recently found and impounded Renteria’s 1999 Dodge Durango, in which more apparently stolen property was recovered, Mazelin said. Police were still working to locate the victims.
After stealing items from cars, the suspects used stolen credit cards throughout the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
Renteria is described as Latino, 6 feet 2 inches tall, 230-300 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes, police said. He has the letters “SSG” tattooed on the right side of his face.
Ristich is described as Latino, 5 feet 9 inches tall, 190 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information is advised not to approach the men, but to call police immediately.
PHOTOS of Brian Renteria and Jerry Ristich courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department.
MONTEREY PARK – A man wearing blue clothing and armed with a handgun robbed a gas station of $300 Thursday morning, police said.
The suspect hit the Chevron station, 2301 S. Atlantic Blvd., at 12:39 a.m.
Monterey Park Police Lt. Tina Montoya said the employee at the gas station reported the robbery.
She said the suspect was described as a black man, about 30, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 220 pounds. He wore blue jeans and a blue plaid shirt.
- Ruby Gonzales