Armed robbery reported at Norwalk market

NORWALK — A gunmen escaped with cash and lottery tickets following a robbery at a market late Thursday, officials said.
The crime took place just after 9:45 p.m. at Cora’s Market, 16109 Norwalk Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
The robber was armed with a handgun when he entered to store and stole an undetermined amount of both cash and lottery tickets, Sgt. Don McMinn of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said. A detailed suspect description was not available.
No injuries were reported, McMinn said.

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Man wounded in second shooting in Norwalk neighborhood in a week

NORWALK — For the second time in a week in the same residential neighborhood, a man was wounded early Friday in a shooting, officials said.
The man was wounded in the leg in the most recent shooting, which took place about 1:54 a.m. in the 12000 block of Lowemont Street, just east of Elaine Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Cynthia McDaniel said.
“Somebody walked up to him and shot him,” according to Lt. Cynthia McDaniel of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station.
The attacker asked the victim about gang affiliation just before opening fire, Deputy Bill Lockridge said. It was not clear how, or if the victim, a man in his mid-20s, responded.
Officials described the shooter as a Latino man of about 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds and wearing dark pants and a Los Angeles Dodgers cap. After the shooting, he got into a white, 4-door Toyota Corolla which possibly had a driver waiting inside, Lockridge said. The car was last seen fleeing east on Lowemont Street.
The wounded man was taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood for treatment. McDaniel said the man’s injury was not considered to be “non-life threatening.”
The incident was the second shooting reported in the neighborhood in just under a week.
Paramedics said a man
Another man was lucky to be alive after being shot in the head early Saturday at Lowemont Street and Elaine Avenue, according to sheriff’s and fire department officials.
A man in his late-20s was approached by a vehicle containing four male attackers, McDaniel said. Someone inside opened fire.
The bullet struck the man in the head, however it travelled along his skull without penetrating it before exiting his skin, fire Capt. Steven Kumasharo said.
A description of the attackers or their car was not available.

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UPDATED: Man struck in head in early-morning drive-by shooting in Norwalk

NORWALK — A man was lucky to be not only alive, but seemingly avoid serious injury after being struck in the head in a drive-by shooting early Saturday, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 8 a.m. on Lowemont Street near Elaine Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Cynthia McDaniel said.
The victim was described as a man in his late-20s.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Steven Kumasharo said.
A bullet struck the man in the head, but traveled along his skull and exited without penetrating, officials said.
He was conscious and “very stable” when taken to a hospital for treatment, the captain said.
The shots came from a passing vehicle occupied by four male attackers, McDaniel said. No further description was available.

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UPDATED: Meth lab found in residential neighborhood in Norwalk

NORWALK — Deputies dismantled a methamphetamine lab and arrested two alleged illicit chemists at a Norwalk home Friday afternoon, authorities said.
The bust took place just before 1 p.m. in the 11900 block of Beaty Avenue, between Pioneer and Norwalk boulevards, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Jason Skeen said.
Arrested were Alfonso Rubio Gonzalez, 24, of Pico Rivera and Steve Esparza, 32, of Norwalk, sheriff’s officials said.
“We became aware of the possible existence of narcotics activity in the area,” the lieutenant said. Deputies knocked on the front door of the home and spoke with someone inside.
“They determined the existence of a meth lab due to a strong odor,” Skeen said.
Officials obtained a search warrant within the hour and returned to the home, along with sheriff’s narcotics detectives and a hazardous materials team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, he said.
Nearby homes were initially evacuated, but neighbors were allowed to return to their homes once investigators entered and determined the methamphetamine manufacturing operation was “relatively small,” Skeen said. It was unclear if any finished methamphetamine was seized during the raid.

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Car-to-car shooting reported in Norwalk

NORWALK — Deputies found no one injured late Wednesday following a shoot-out between two vehicles in a residential neighborhood, officials said.
The shooting was reported about 10:30 p.m. in the area of Angell Street and McRae Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Jason Skeen said.
Witnesses reported gunmen inside a gray sedan and a green pickup truck trading fire, the lieutenant said. Bullet casings were found in the area, however no gunshot victims were found either at the scene or at area hospitals, Skeen said.
Further details were not immediately available.

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Norwalk man found shot to death at La Mirada bus stop identified

LA MIRADA  — Coroner’s officials Wednesday released the name of a Norwalk man found shot to death near a La Mirada bus stop Sunday evening.
Frank Mario Sainz, 46, was pronounced dead shortly after he was found lying in a pool of blood about 6:10 p.m. Sunday in the 14300 block of Alondra Boulevard, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Capt. John Kades said.
An autopsy determined he died from “multiple gunshot wounds,” Kades said. The death was ruled a homicide.
He was believed to have been seated on a bus stop bench when he was shot, according to Lot. Dave Coleman of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. He was first spotted early Sunday by a bus driver.
No information regarding a shooter or a motive was available.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Members of sheriff’s youth organization clean up blighted section of railroad tracks

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NORWALK — More than a dozen young members of a sheriff’s program for at-risk youths took it upon themselves to clean up a blighted section of train tracks Saturday, officials said.
The volunteers from the Personal Responsibility in Development and Ethics (PRIDE) Youth Intervention Program of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Norwalk Station, Sgt. Brian Doyle said.
The targeted area runs adjacent to a set of railroad tracks between the San Gabriel riverbed and Hoxie Avenue.
“There was so much trash that I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to complete the task, but the students really stepped up and got the job done” Doyle said. “I was impressed by all the students, by their hard work and willingness to give back.”
And the community seemed to appreciate the effort, he added.
“We received so much praise from the shoppers at (a nearby) Target who saw what we were doing. The staff at Target also came out and provided us with water, snacks, rakes and trash bags. It was truly a good day,” he said. “We cleaned up that entire area, so now the community won’t have to look at the mess.”
The PRIDE Youth Intervention Program is a 12-week program for at-risk young people between 12 and 17 years old.
The program consists of two components: one focusing on a “scared straight” philosophy highlighting the consequences of their choices, followed a second component focusing on “positive alternatives,” Doyle explained.

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Officials announce arrest of alleged Norwalk predator pastor

Jorge CastroSheriff’s officials Thursday announced the arrest of a Norwalk associate pastor accused of molesting as many as 20 female church members over the past eight years.
Jorge Juan Castro, 54, of Norwalk is charged with six felony counts in connection with the alleged sexual assaults of four women between ages 18 and 39 while he worked as an associate pastor and counselor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church, 11910 Alondra Boulevard, Sgt. Al Garcia of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau said.
The alleged crimes took place between 2004 and 2012, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.
He was placed on leave in April, immediately after 20 women came forward to report to a church official that they had been sexually assaulted by Castro, Garcia said.
“Multiple victims reported the sexual abuse to a church official, who in turn, reported it to us,” the sergeant said.
But only four of the women were willing to speak with detectives as of Thursday, Garcia said.
Castro’s alleged victims were primarily Spanish-speaking, undocumented immigrants, the sergeant said.  He was believed to have threatened them not to come forward.
“The suspect, after the assaults, threatened to have the them deported,” Garcia said. “He also threatened to subject them to public ridicule.”
Castro also worked as an associate pastor at an affiliated church, the Oasis Community Church in Moreno Valley, Garcia said. Authorities in Moreno Valley have been notified of the situation, however no victims from Riverside County have been identified, Garcia said.
After more than five months of investigation, deputies served an arrest warrant and took Castro without incident Sept. 13 at his Norwalk home, Garcia said.
Prosecutors charged him the same day with one count of rape, four counts of oral copulation by force and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales. The charges involve two victims, and the charged crimes occurred in January of 2004 and April of 2010.
“The criminal complaint includes a special allegation of multiple victims and states that the defendant committed the offenses by use of force, violence, duress, menace and fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury,” Davila-Morales said.
Castro started working for the Las Buenas Nuevas church in Norwalk shortly after immigrating to the U.S. from Argentina in 2004, Garcia said.
Garcia said Castro took advantage of his position of authority to sexually assault the women. Some of the alleged attacks took place as he visited the women.
“Some crimes occurred at the church, some crimes occurred at the victims’ homes,” Garcia said.
Detective encouraged the 16 other alleged victims already identified, as well as any others who may not have come forward, to cooperate with investigators to bring Castro to justice.
“We’re here to tell the victims, and other potential victims, that law enforcement is here to help them. We will not report (them to) immigration. We’re not going to deport them.” Garcia said. “We want to help them deal with these heinous crimes and prevent him from doing it again.”
Garcia said Castro had no criminal history in the United States that investigators were aware of, however he did not know if he had a record in Argentina.
Castro was initially scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court for an arraignment the day of his arrest, however the hearing was continued to Oct. 16, Davila-Morales said.
According to county booking records, Castro was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

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Man wounded in leg in Norwalk shooting

NORWALK — A man suffered a gunshot wound to the leg in a confrontation in a residential neighborhood late Tuesday, authorities said.
A 32-year-old man was walking about 9:15 p.m. in 11900 block of Nava Street, three blocks west of Norwalk Boulevard, when he was approached by two attackers described only as male, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Bill Evans said.
There was an exchange of words before one of the assailants opened fire, striking the man in the leg, Evans said.
The wounded man was taken to an area hospital with an injury not considered to be life-threatening, the lieutenant said.
The two attackers were last seen fleeing the area in a beige or silver Toyota Camry, he said. Investigators suspected the shooting was gang-related.

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Reward in fatal Norwalk hit-and-run increased to $10,000

DANIEL ORTIZ, 20, NORWALKNORWALK — Following a fundraiser, Family members of a young man struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver earlier this year have increased the reward they are offering in the case to $10,000, according the young man’s sister.
Family members of Daniel Ortiz, 20, of Norwalk have been working to find the driver that fatally struck him and left him to die in the street about 4:20 a.m. Feb. 9 at Studebaker and Foster roads. He was riding his skateboard within a crosswalk when struck, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Family members initially offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the capture and conviction of the hit-and-run driver, according to Ortiz’s sister, Teresa Macias
But following a successful fundraiser on the six-month anniversary of the fatal collision in which family members and friends sold buttons bearing Ortiz’s image at the crash scene, Macias said the family has doubled the reward.
The vehicle that struck and killed Ortiz has been described by sheriff’s investigators as a dark metallic blue Nissan Titan pickup truck, model year 2003 to 2006.
Anyone with information was asked to call the sheriff’s Norwalk Station at 562-863-8711. The family has also established an anonymous tip line at 562-261-5556.

PHOTO of Daniel Ortiz courtesy of family members.

Previous stories:

Clues sought, reward offered in hit-and-run that killed 20-year-old Norwalk man

Fundraiser planned to increase reward for capture of Norwalk hit-and-run driver

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