Norwalk man charged with series of bank robberies in Whittier, South Gate, Norwalk

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Prosecutors Thursday charged a Norwalk man the FBI has dubbed the “Cold Blooded Bandit” in connection with three bank robberies over the past two months in Whittier, South Gate and Norwalk, officials said.
Mario Marques LLanes, 27, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Bellflower Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
He was charged Thursday with three counts of robbery and three counts of commercial burglary for the alleged spree of bank heists, officials said.
Llanes turned himself in Monday to police in Whittier, where the most recent robbery occurred Sept. 17 at a Union Bank branch inside the Quad at Whittier shopping center, Whittier police Officer Brad White said.
The robber handed a teller a note demanding money before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash, Whittier police Cpl. Carlos Arroyo said at the time.
The serial bandit used similar tactics in the other robberies, which occurred July 7 at a Union Bank branch in South Gate and June 30 at a Union Bank branch in Llanes hometown of Norwalk, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The FBI nicknamed the serial bank robbery suspect the “Cold Blooded Bandit” prior to his arrest due to the heavy winter clothes he wore during the summertime robberies.

PHOTO: Mario Marques Llanes, 27, of Norwalk, is accused of being a serial bank robber the FBI has dubbed the “Cold Blooded Bandit,” linked to bank robberies in Whittier, South South Gate and Norwalk since late June. The bandit is pictured in this bank surveillance photo during a robbery at a Union Bank branch in Whittier on Sept. 17, 2014.
(Courtesy of the FBI)

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Man fatally shot at Norwalk home identified; investigation ongoing

NORWALK >> Officials have released the name of a man who was fatally shot at a Norwalk home last week, as the search for his killer continued.
Michael Ochoa, 27, died at a hospital following the 3:45 p.m. Sept. 15 shooting in the 12700 block of Rexton Street, Lt. Ed Hernandez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
Ochoa was believed to be a Los Angeles County resident, however his hometown was not clear Wednesday, the lieutenant said.
No suspect had been arrested or identified Wednesday, as detectives continued following up on leads, conducting interviews and re-canvassing the neighborhood for clues, he said.
Detectives were also sorting through conflicting information given by witnesses.
Ochoa went to the home to visit a friend or girlfriend, Hernandez said. He became involved in an argument with a man in the backyard of the home.
“There was some time of struggle between the suspect and the victim,” Hernandez said. “That struggle escalated into the suspect retrieving handgun and shooting the victim.”
A description of the gunman was unavailable, and no getaway car was reported by witnesses in connection with the crime.
Detectives were still looking into the circumstances of the shooting and Ochoa’s connection to the home, as well as the shooters. Ochoa was not believed to have gang ties.
Witnesses reported hearing arguing and a gunshot coming from the Rexton Avenue home before seeing a wounded man stumbling to the street from the backyard, according to Deputy Amber Smith of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau. He walked toward the east for about a block before collapsing.
Paramedics rushed the man to the University of Southern California, Irvine Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries, Lt. Cynthia Chavez of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Serial bank robber dubbed ‘Cold Blooded Bandit’ pulls 3rd heist in Whittier

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WHITTIER >> A serial bank robber the FBI is calling the “Cold Blooded Bandit” carried out his third heist Wednesday at a bank branch inside a Whittier supermarket, authorities said.
The serial robber, who was given his nickname due to the heavy winter clothing he has worn during his summertime heists, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The robber operated by passing notes demanding money to bank tellers, she said.
“In his demand notes, he indicates a partner is outside watching to intimidate the tellers,” Eimiller said.
Officials said the Cold Blooded Bandit’s most recent caper took place Wednesday afternoon at a Whittier Union Bank branch inside of a Ralphs grocery store, 8510 Painter Avenue.
Whittier police Cpl. Carlos Arroyo said the a man approached a teller just after 4:30 and displayed a demand note.
The teller complied and handed over an undisclosed amount of money, Arroyo said. He was last seen fleeing the area on foot. No weapon was seen.
0920_NWS_WDN-L-COLDBLOOD4The Cold Blooded bandit previously robbed a Union Bank branch on Garfield Avenue in South Gate on July 7, as well as a Union Bank branch on South Street in Norwalk on June 30, Eimiller said.
In the first crime in Norwalk, the bandit left behind a “hoax device” before fleeing, “presumably to threaten an explosion,” Eimiller said. A description of the hoax device was not available Friday.
The FBI described the serial bandit as white or Latino, between 21 and 28 years old, between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing about 145 pounds.
In the most recent robbery in Whittier, witnesses reported the robber had tattoos on his arms and on the left side of his neck.
Anyone with information can reach the FBI’s Los Angeles Division at 310-477-6565.

PHOTOS taken from bank surveillance cameras courtesy of the FBI.

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Norwalk sandwich shop worker attacked after interrupting car burglary

NORWALK >> A Long Beach man attacked a sandwich shop employee after she caught him stealing items from her car Saturday morning, officials said.
Deputies arrested Jose Antonio Garcia, 19, on suspicion of robbery and drug possession following the incident, which was reported shortly after 7 a.m. in a parking lot in the 12300 block of Imperial Highway, just east of Norwalk Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Eric Smitson said.
A woman working inside a Subway sandwich shop heard her car alarm sounding in the parking lot and went to see what was happening, Smitson said.
She encountered a man, later identified as Garcia, rummaging through her car, the lieutenant said.
The woman confronted Garcia, and the two briefly struggled before the robber punched the woman three times and ran off, Smitson said.
The woman was not seriously injured, the lieutenant said. Garcia stole items from the car such as headphones and a phone charger.
Deputies found Garcia in the area and arrested him in connection with the burglary-turned-robbery, Smitson said. He’s also accused of drug possession after deputies found a small amount of suspected methamphetamine on his person.
Garcia was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in Bellflower Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records.

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Norwalk man shot in the hand

NORWALK >> A man showed up at a hospital with a gunshot wound to his hand late Friday, officials said.
The gunshot victim, a 20-year-old Norwalk man, arrived at a hospital about 7:30 p.m. for treatment, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Arias said.
He told investigators he had been shot at Rosecrans and Shoemaker avenues by a passenger in a passing white pickup truck, Arias said. But deputies found no witnesses who reported hearing or seeing a shooting near the busy intersection, nor did they find any bullet holes or other physical evidence of the shooting.
The investigation was ongoing.

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Telephonic bomb threats made against Norwalk businesses

NORWALK >> Deputies responded to two simultaneous bomb threats at two Pico Rivera businesses Friday afternoon, but found the telephoned threats to be unfounded, authorities said.
Two phone calls from the same phone number reported the threats about 6:30 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Cynthia Chavez said. One of the calls claimed a bomb had been placed at a Subway sandwich shop, 15925 Pioneer Blvd., and another at Walmart, 11729 Imperial Highway, the lieutenant said.
Deputies went to both businesses and found nothing suspicious, she said. No evacuations were ordered.

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Hundreds march in honor of slain sheriff’s Explorer in South Whittier

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SOUTH WHITTIER >> Hundreds of people took part in a vigil in South Whittier late Thursday to commemorate the third anniversary of the fatal shooting of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Explorer and lifelong Whittier resident Cesar Rodriguez.
The observance included a march to the scene of the shooting that claimed the life of Rodriguez, 19, and friend Larry Villegas, 24, of Whittier on Aug. 28, 2011.
Loved ones placed candles at the shooting scene outside a home in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue in South Whittier before continuing on to Amelia Mayberry Park.
The march was led by fellow Explorers from the sheriff’s Norwalk Station, where Rodriguez had volunteered for four years. And his legacy lives in.
“He was my inspiration to become an Explorer,” Alejandra Garcia, 16, said as she participated in the march while carrying a framed photograph of Rodriguez.
IMG_5398The fatal shootings of Rodriguez and Villegas remain unsolved, and no description of the killer or killers is known, investigators said.
Though officials initially reported a white Scion vehicle was being sought in connection with the crime, the car has since been located and found not to be involved, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

PHOTOS by James Carbone

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Vigil planned for sheriff’s Explorer slain in South Whittier drive-by shooting

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SOUTH WHITTIER >> Family members and loved ones of a 19-year-old Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Explorer Scout plan to gather for a vigil Thursday to mark the third anniversary of his unsolved slaying.
Cesar Rodriguez, a lifelong Whittier resident who had spent his last four years volunteering as an Explorer at the sheriff’s Norwalk Station, was gunned down along with friend Larry Villegas, 24, in the early-morning hours of Aug. 28, 2011 in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue, according to sheriff’s investigators and family members.
He’s survived his parents Jorge and Lupe Rodriguez, as well as older brothers George and Hector Rodriguez.
“We’re trying to stay strong,” George Rodriguez said.
Thursday’s vigil will be held at 7 p.m. at Laurel and Beaty avenues, near the shooting scene in South Whittier.
Community support has continued to grow in the three years since Cesar Rodriguez’s
At a march held last year on the second anniversary of the shooting, nearly 300 people attended, he said. About 150 people marched in a similar gathering in 2012.
Cesar Rodriguez and Villegas were shot as they left a party, sheriff’s officials said. The shots were believed to have been fired from a passing vehicle, though no specific description was available.
A white Scion initially described by investigators as a suspect vehicle has been found and determined not to have been the killer’s car, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
Rodriguez and Villegas died at the scene.
Patrick Maxwell, who served as captain of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station while Rodriguez volunteered there and has since been promoted to the rank of commander, described Rodriguez as a selfless and eager young man who was always polite and respectful. he has a lifelong dream of becoming a sheriff’s deputy, Maxwell said, and had turned in his application to join the sheriff’s department as a deputy a week before his killing.
At Rodriguez’s funeral, then-sheriff Lee Baca said Rodriguez was an exemplary Explorer Scout and a leader who was on a “noble path.”
Rodriguez was buried in his Explorer uniform.
The search for the killer or killers of Rodriguez and Villegas continues, and detectives have followed up on new clues in the case in recent months, Corina said.
A motive was not known with certainty, however Corina said investigators suspected the killings stemmed from a gang shooting.
George Rodriguez said the family remained hopeful the case would be solved, and Cesar Rodriguez’s killer or killers will be brought to justice.
Former sheriff Baca had promised the family the investigation would be a top priority of the sheriff’s department, George Rodriguez said. The brother said he hoped that would remain true under the department’s new leadership following the November runoff election for sheriff between Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.
Anyone with information on the double-fatal shooting is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

PHOTO of Cesar Rodriguez courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Mountain lion spotted in Norwalk

NORWALK >> In a highly unusual incident for the city, a mountain lion was spotted strolling through a residential Norwalk neighborhood earlier this week, officials said Thursday.
A home surveillance camera mounted in the 11000 block of Tina Street caught the large cat on video about 3:45 a.m. Tuesday, Los Angles County sheriff’s Lt. Cynthia Sanchez said.
“The video shows a mountain lion strolling across the front of the informants property,” Sanchez said.
Officials from the California Department of Fish and Game were notified, she said, however the animal was not spotted in the flesh.
It was unclear where the lion originated from, and how it ended up so far from the wilderness.

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Chevrolet Impala sought in fatal Norwalk hit-and-run

NORWALK >> Investigators are seeking a white Chevrolet Impala that fatally struck a 36-year-old Norwalk woman outside a house party before speeding away early Saturday, officials said.
Belen Nieves died at a hospital within an hour of being struck about 12:50 a.m. in a residential neighborhoods in the 11900 block of Hopland Street, Orange County coroner’s officials said in a written statement.
Deputies first began responding to the area after receiving calls of a loud party, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Navares said. While en route, officials received additional calls reporting bottles were being thrown and a possible assault.
“When (deputies) arrived, they saw a female victim lying in the street,” Navares said. She was taken to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center where she succumbed to her injuries.
Investigators determined the woman had been struck by a white Chevrolet Impala being driven by a Latino man in his 20s, Navares said. The car fled west on Hopland Street after striking the woman and had not been found Sunday.
It was not clear Sunday whether Nieves had attended the party near the site where she was struck.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff’s Norwalk Station at 562-863-8711.

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