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
MONTEREY PARK — Police investigating a Valentine’s Day disturbance between a boyfriend and girlfriend shot and killed an Ontario man early Friday after he allegedly brandished a gun, authorities said.
Emmanuel Franco, 25, died at the scene of the officer-involved shooting, which took place just after midnight in the 400 block of South Atlantic Avenue, Lt. Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner said.
Monterey Park police officers responded to a report of a disturbance between a boyfriend and girlfriend at a motel, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
On arrival, the officers were directed to a vehicle that was leaving the motel, officials said. Two patrol cars pulled the vehicle over at Atlantic Boulevard and Harding Avenue.
“The suspect vehicle stopped and a male passenger exited the vehicle,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “After the suspect brandished a handgun, an officer involved shooting occurred.”
The man — later identified as Franco — died at the scene, officials said, and a handgun was recovered, officials said.
It was not clear how many officers fired, how many shots were fired or how many times the suspect was struck. Also not released was whether the driver of the vehicle the suspect had been riding in was the girlfriend mentioned in the initial call to police.
No officers were injured in the incident, officials added.
A phone number listed in public records as belonging to Franco was disconnected Friday.
A search of San Bernardino and Los Angeles County booking records turned up numerous prior convictions for Franco, all of them traffic cases primarily involving driving on a suspended license.
Franco’s license was suspended following an August, 2006 drunken driving conviction, according to court documents.
A domestic violence case Franco was dismissed in November of last year, and he had no conviction for violent crimes in Los Angeles or San Bernardino counties.
Monterey Park police officials deferred all comments to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is assisting in the investigation. Handling detectives could not be reached for comment.
Officials shut down the intersection of Atlantic Boulevard and Harding Avenue as they investigated the scene until about 9:30 a.m.
No further details were available.
City officials cited at least a dozen unlicensed business this week which were operating as illegal boarding homes and commercial nursing facilities during a joint investigation with police and state officials, the city manager said.
The illicit businesses were visited Tuesday and Wednesday by code enforcement officers, Monterey Park police officers and officials from the California Medical Board, Monterey Park City Manager Paul Talbot said.
On Tuesday, code enforcement officers cited four homes that had been illegally converted into unlicensed boarding homes, Talbot said.
In some cases, “There were maybe 20 to 30 people living in a two- to three-bedroom home,” he said. Additionally, the homes showed signs of numerous unpermitted modifications.
Investigators Wednesday visited another 8 to 10 homes operating as “commercial nursing homes,” Talbot said.
They primarily appeared to cater to new mothers recovering from childbirth, he said. The exact number was not available Thursday.
No arrests were made during the two-day operation, Talbot said.
The two-day operation resulted in citations and orders for the illegal business to shut down, however no one was arrested, Talbot said.
“They’re all code enforcement items,” he said.
Police deferred all comments to the city manager’s office.
The California Medical Board also declined to comment on the agency’s presence in Monterey Park this week.
“All investigations are considered confidential by law,” California Medical Board spokeswoman Jennifer Simoes said in an email.
MONTEREY PARK — A driver who asked for directions ended up being carjacked by two armed pedestrians Thursday.
Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim said the carjacking happened at 11:30 a.m. on Atlantic Boulevard and 1st Street.
“The victim pulled over to ask a pedestrian for directions,” Kim said, adding that the pedestrian pulled out a gun.
“A second suspect approached the driver’s door and pointed a gun at the driver’s head. They ordered him out of the vehicle.”
The suspects pulled the victim out and drove off with the vehicle.
Descriptions of the suspects weren’t available Thursday night.
- Ruby Gonzales
GLENDALE – A jury on Thursday awarded a Monterey Park police sergeant and his wife $2.23 million after he was injured in a 2009 on-duty motorcycle crash involving an Athens Services truck.
Sgt. Scott Wiese suffered two fractured wrists and a torn urethra. He said he now has metal plates on both wrists.
“It’s been a long time,” Wiese said. “The jury process works, and we feel very vindicated in this.”
MONTEREY PARK — An electrical fire at a Monterey Park condominium led police to find an indoor marijuana growing operation Thursday, officials said.
Firefighters responded to a fire shortly before 3 p.m. at 528 N. Chandler Avenue, Monterey Park police officials said in a written statement.
Upon dousing the flames and checking the condominium for possible victims, officials discovered “a large number” of grown marijuana plants, along with chemicals and other items used to grow the pot, according to the police statement.
The number of plants uprooted was not available Sunday.
The fire was determined to be electrical in nature, police said. The electrical system of the home had been illegally re-wired to bypass the electrical meter.
No one was at the home when officials arrived, and the investigation was ongoing.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials team was called to the scene to identify and dispose of any potentially dangerous materials being used at the marijuana grow site.