Norwalk man and woman killed in Santa Fe Springs car crash

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Authorities Wednesday continued investigating a two-vehicle crash that claimed the lives of a Norwalk man and woman early Saturday.-
The collision took place about 12:09 a.m. Saturday along Norwalk Boulevard at Smith Avenue, Whittier police Officer Brad White said.
Killed were Daniel Mata, 23, and Jazmin Gomez, 19, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Elissa Sleak said. Autopsies determined both died as a result of “multiple blunt traumatic injuries,” and both deaths were ruled accidental.
Mata was at the wheel of a Nissan Sentra that collided with a Jeep Laredo, according to coroner’s and Whittier police officials. Gomez was riding as the front passenger.
A Whittier woman in her late-teens who was riding in the rear of the Nissan Sentra was thrown from the car from the crash. She was taken to a trauma center in critical condition.
Preliminary investigation determined the Sentra was south on Norwalk Boulevard when, for an unknown reason, the car veered toward the right, White said.
The Sentra struck the west curb, “causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle and cross into northbound traveling lanes,” he said.
“It was broad-sided by a Jeep Laredo, travelling northbound, who was unable to avoid the Nissan,” White said.
Mata and Gomez were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, White said.
Two people riding inside the Jeep Laredo suffered minor injuries in the crash, he said.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation, however no arrests or citations were initially made, the officer said.
The incident was the second fatal car crash on the same stretch of road in less than three weeks.
Manuel Diaz Campos, 26, of Whittier died in the early-morning hours of Feb. 13 after the Scion he was driving at a high rate of speed crashed into a traffic signal, shearing the vehicle in half, Whittier police and coroner’s officials said.
The Feb. 13 crash remained under investigation.

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Deputies arrest auto theft suspects after short pursuit in Norwalk

NORWALK — Deputies jailed two alleged auto thieves following a short car chase and a neighborhood search Wednesday, officials said.
Scott Catalano, 21, of Norwalk was booked on suspicion of auto theft following the incident, along with Luis Magallanes, 25, of Norwalk, who was jailed on suspicion of auto theft, assault on a peace officer, burglary and evading police, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Jason Skeen said.
A deputy tried to pull over a black Hyundai for a traffic violation just before 1 p.m. on Alondra Boulevard near Norwalk Boulevard, the lieutenant said. Deputies discovered the car had been reported stolen.
The driver of the car — later identified as Catalano — exited the vehicle and ran, Skeen said. Deputies quickly captured him nearby.
Magallanes, who had been the passenger of the stolen car, slid over to the driver’s seat and fled, leading police on short chase two blocks north to Nava Street, where he abandoned the car and ran, Skeen said.
Deputies set up a search perimeter to hunt for Magallanes, he said. About two hours later, he again ran from deputies and fled through homes as they closed in on his hiding spot in a residential neighborhood
He was subdued following a fight with a deputy, Skeen said. The deputy suffered minor injuries. The suspect was taken to a hospital for treatment prior to being booked into jail.
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court records and county booking records, Catalano has been free from jail for less than a month after serving time for vandalism, resisting or obstructing police, receiving stolen property and carrying a concealed dirk or dagger.
He was convicted of the crimes in November of 2013, sent to jail and released Jan. 28, records show. It was unclear how much time he spent behind bars. Catalano was also convicted in March of 2013 of carrying a switchblade knife.
Magallanes had to existing arrest warrant stemming from a previous pursuit case, as well as a gun possession case, Skeen said.
Records indicated Catalano was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail pending his arraignment, scheduled Friday in Bellflower Superior Court. Magallanes was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending a Friday arraignment in Bellflower Superior Court.

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Man accused in child molestation, child pornography case pleads not guilty

NORWALK — A Norwalk man who’s recently being staying in Bassett has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing two young girls and trading in child pornography online, officials said Wednesday.
Manuel C. Montes, 43, was arrested Feb. 13 at a friend’s home in Norwalk following a month of investigation by detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau. In addition to trading in images of child pornography on the Internet, Montes is also charged with sexually abusing two girls under the ages of 14 in Whittier between 2006 and 2013.
He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Norwalk Superior Court to four counts of committing a lewd act upon a child, one count of possession of child pornography, one count of distributing child pornography and one count of using a minor for sex acts, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s official said in a written statement.
And detectives believed at least one additional girl had been victimized by Montes based on recovered images, though she was yet to be identified, Sgt. Peter Hahn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said.
He was being held in lieu of $460,000 bail pending his next court appearance, scheduled for March 17 in Norwalk Superior Court.
His brother, 46-year-old Lorenzo Montes of Claremont, as well as Manuel Montes’ ex-girlfriend Stacey Marie Oropeza of Bellflower were also arrested Feb. 13 and have been charged with acting as accessories after the fact, officials said.
Lorenzo Montes has entered a not guilty plea and was being held without bail pending his next scheduled appearance, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records. Oropeza, who was released from jail Friday after posting $20,000 bail, was yet to appear in court.
Sheriff’s detectives began looking into Manuel Montes in January after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that he had uploaded images of child pornography to the Internet, Hahn said.
Detectives seeking Manuel Montes encountered Lorenzo Montes near his brother’s Bassett residence Feb. 12, Hahn said.
“Lorenzo Montes claimed he did not know Manuel,” according to the D.A.’s office statement.
The investigation began with a visit to Oropeza’s home in Bellflower, where Manuel Montes had allegedly uploaded child pornography prior to moving out a month or two before investigators showed up, Hahn said.
“Oropeza is also purported to have tipped off Manuel Montes that authorities were looking for him,” according to the statement.
When detectives searched a building where Manuel Montes was believed to have been staying on the lot of a commercial property in the 1800 block of Workman Mill Road in Bassett, they discovered a rear room which they referred to as a “trophy room,” Hahn said.
It was full of child-related paraphernalia, as well as a collage featuring photos of children in various stages of undress, the sergeant said. Investigators also recovered hundreds of images of child pornography stored on hard drives and compact discs from the home.
If convicted as charged, Manuel Montes faces up to 16 years in state prison.

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5 Freeway through Norwalk to close this weekend

NORWALK — Motorists are advised to make alternate travel plans this weekend as officials shut down both directions of the 5 Freeway through Norwalk as part of an ongoing Santa Ana Freeway South Corridor Improvement Project, officials said.
The northbound and southbound 5 Freeway will be shut down from 12:01 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday morning, Caltrans officials said in a written statement.
Northbound motorists will be directed to exit at Carmenita Road, then prompted by detour signs to re-enter the freeway.
Southbound drivers will exit at Rosecrans Avenue and be detoured past the closure to get back on the 5 Freeway.
Beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, the Rosecrans Avenue onramp to the southbound 5 Freeway will be closed, along with the Carmenita Road onramps and offramp to the southbound 5 Freeway, according to Caltrans.
Also beginning Saturday at 7 p.m., the northbound 5 Freeway onramp at Carmenita Road will be shut down, as well as the offramp from the northbound 5 Freeway at Rosecrans Avenue.
The connector road from the westbound 91 Freeway to the northbound 5 Freeway will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Saturday 8 a.m. Sunday, and the connector road from the southbound 605 Freeway to the southbound 5 Freeway will be closed from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sunday.
“On Sunday morning, Feb. 23, the travelling public will begin driving on three newly-paved southbound I-5 lanes just before Carmenita Road,” according to the Caltrans statement. A new lane transition will be installed.
Construction work in the area will continue, however.
“Caltrans reminds the public to drive safely and undistracted through the new transition lanes.

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Employees, patron robbed at Norwalk nail salon

NORWALK — A man with a bandana covering his face robbed two employees and a patron at a nail salon at gunpoint Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime took place about 3 p.m. when a man entered Yvonne’s Nails, 11661 Firestone Blvd., just east of Woods Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Eric Smitson said.
The robber brandished a handgun and ordered the victims to turn over their money, the lieutenant said. He fled on foot with about $50.
Officials described the robber as a white man in his late-20s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 160 pounds. He wore all black clothing, which included a bandana that partially covered his face.

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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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