LA PUENTE >> More than three-dozen family members and friends gathered with candles last weekend to mark the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of a La Puente man who officials said fled from a traffic stop while armed with a handgun.
Ceaser Joe Mendoza, 24, died at a hospital soon after he was shot and wounded by a sheriff’s deputy about 9:50 p.m. June 22 along Loukelton Street just west of Ballista Avenue, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
“Even several weeks after he was gone, I kept walking around thinking I’d seen him,” sister-in-law Joeie Martinez said.
“He was the happiest person ever. He would always make the best of any situation,” she said. “He was so giving. If you needed something, he’d find a way to give it to you.”
Mendoza was a passenger in a car with two other men when it was pulled over by a sheriff’s patrol car for running a stop sign, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials. One deputy remained with the two men in the stopped car, while Deputy Chad Sessman chased after Mendoza.
Authorities allege he reached for a 9mm handgun that was tucked into his waistband while fleeing, Sessman to open fire.
Shortly after the shooting, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement that Mendoza twice faced Sessman and reached for the handgun while running, though detectives said he never fully removed it from his pants.
Family members conceded that Mendoza was armed and that he ran from deputies, but have said they don’t believe he assaulted a deputy, or intended to. And the autopsy report confirmed the family’s assertion that Mendoza had been shot in the back.
Officials at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office ultimately determined the deputy-involved shooting was lawful self-defense.
Another passenger of the Nissan Altima told investigators that Mendoza became “extremely nervous” when the car was pulled over by deputies, and said that he had a gun on him and needed to run, according to the district attorney’s office report on the shooting.
“As Mendoza ran from Sessman, he tripped and fell onto the ground landing on his buttocks facing Sessman,” according to the report. “Sessman saw that Mendoza had a chrome handgun in his waistband. Mendoza looked directly at Mendoza, reached for his waistband and grabbed the handgun with both hands. Believing Mendoza was preparing to draw the firearm and shoot him, Sessman drew his service weapon and fired at Mendoza.”
Mendoza returned to his feet and continued running west on Loukelton Street, officials said.
“As Mendoza ran, he kept his arms in front of him near his waist. Mendoza was moving his hands near his waist and periodically looking over his left shoulder toward Sessman,” the district attorney’s report said. “Sessman moved into position behind a concrete fence post and fired a second salvo at Mendoza.”
“Sessman believed Mendoza was attempting to draw his firearm from its holster and scanning over his left shoulder for Sessman. Believing that Mendoza was preparing to shoot him, Sessman fired his weapon again to end what he perceived to be a deadly threat,” according to the district attorney’s report.
The district attorney’s report differed from the initial statement released by the sheriff’s department, which stated that Mendoza, “turned around a second time reaching for his waistband.”
Mendoza fell wounded and was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries less than an hour later, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Sessman fired five shots, according to the district attorney’s office.
Mendoza was struck by three .45-caliber bullets, according to the coroner’s autopsy report. The fatal wound was to the center of his back. Another bullet struck him struck him on the left, rear side of his up, and third penetrated through the back of his right arm.
The district attorney’s investigation into the shooting was completed on April, concluding that , “LASD Deputy Chad Sessman acted lawfully in self-defense. We are closing out file and will take no further action in this matter.”
PASADENA >> Police shot and killed a charging pit bull and arrested four people Wednesday while carrying out a parole search at a Pasadena home, authorities said.
The incident unfolded about 11 a.m. at a house in the 1700 block of El Sereno Avenue, Pasadena police officials said in a written statement. Uniformed detectives went to the home to check up on a parolee.
“Officers were standing in the driveway conversing with the occupants and directing them to control their loose dogs, when a large adult male pit bull charged at the officers from the open front door,” according to the police statement. “When the aggressive dog came within three feet of attacking the officers, police shot the dog.”
The dog died at the scene, however no people were hurt, police said.
Four occupants of the home were arrested in connection with the police visit.
Salvador Hernandez, 19, was arrested on suspicion of violating his parol; Jose David Moreno, 35, was arrested on suspicion of resisting or obstructing police; Emmanuel Hernandez, 21, was arrested on suspicion of resisting or obstructing police; and Mayde Banuelos, 33, was arrested due to an outstanding misdemeanor warrant, police said.
Police released no further details regarding the encounter Wednesday.
MONTEBELLO >> Details slowly continued to emerge over the weekend after a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent shot and wounded an unarmed suspect as he fled from a Montebello home Friday afternoon.
DEA special agents were teamed with Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies when the shooting took place about 1:50 p.m. Friday behind a home in the 700 block of Carmelita Place, according to DEA and sheriff’s officials.
“The special agents were conducting a narcotics investigation and were in the process of contacting the occupants of a residence when several individuals ran out the back of the house,” Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said in a written statement.
“One suspect, a 35 year-old man, jumped a fence and ran through neighboring yards before encountering other DEA special agents who were positioned on the next street over,” Corina said. “At that point, an officer-involved shooting occurred.”
The suspect was struck once by gunfire and was taken to a hospital where he was expected to survive, Corina said.
“A gun was not recovered from the scene, but the investigation is ongoing,” the lieutenant said.
Sheriff’s officials withheld the suspect’s name, and it was unclear if he was to face any charges. No further details were released Sunday.
As in all Los Angeles County officer-involved shootings, a parallel investigation is also being carried out by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, officials said.
MONTEBELLO >> A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent shot and wounded a suspect at a Montebello home Friday afternoon, authorities said.
Little information was initially released regarding the officer-involved shooting, which was reported at 1:47 p.m. in the 700 block of Carmelita Place, Deputy Amber Smith of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said.
No information regarding the condition of the suspect was released Friday evening. There were no initial reports of any injuries to law enforcement officers.
“A Drug Enforcement Administration agent was involved in a shooting at a residence in Montebello, California, during a joint narcotics enforcement operation with our local counterparts,” DEA Special Agent Vijay Rathi said.
The DEA agents were partnered with deputies from the sheriff’s Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Apprehension Crime Taskforce, also known as L.A. IMPACT
Rathi deferred all further comment to the sheriff’s department, which is spearheading the investigation.
Sheriff’s detectives routinely assist Montebello police in investigating officer-involved shootings in their jurisdiction.
Dozens of DEA, Montebello police and sheriff’s officials responded both to to the scene of the shooting at a beige, single-story home, and at a large command post set up around the corner at a Montebello Unified School District facility.
No further details were available.
AZUSA >> Police shot and wounded a man late Friday who they said pointed a weapon at officers responding to a report of domestic violence.
The officer-involved shooting took place about 8:15 p.m. at a home in the 700 block of South Citrus Avenue, between Arrow Highway and Gladstone Street, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
Azusa police officers went to the home after receiving a call reporting domestic violence, Deputy Amber Smith of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau said in a written statement issued late Saturday.
“When they arrived, the suspect opened the door and pointed a handgun at them and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” she said. “The suspect was struck once in the upper torso. He was transported to a local hospital and is expected to survive.”
Authorities withheld the identity of the wounded suspect Sunday, and no further details were released.
An officer was heard exclaiming, “He’s got a gun,” over police radio just prior to the shooting.
Radio traffic also indicated that the suspect remained confrontational and combative, even after handcuffed.
“A handgun was recovered at the scene,” smith said. “Neither the officers or the second person at the residence were injured.”
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau are assisting Azusa police in the investigation.
EL MONTE >> More than nine months after police walked passed “beware of dog” signs, entered an El Monte family’s front yard and then fatally shot the family’s pet German shepherd when it charged at one of the officers, El Monte police have announced an internal investigation found no wrongdoing or policy violations on the part of the involved officers.
Detective Arlen Castillo and then-officer Ken Fraser, who has since been promoted to the rank of sergeant, responded to the home in the 4700 block of Maxson Road in El Monte on the afternoon of June 19 to collect a photograph of the teenage son of Cathy Luu and Chi Nguyen, whom they had previously reported had run away from home. The boy came home a short time later.
Video footage of the incident captured by the family’s home surveillance system depicts Fraser casually open a gate and enter the family’s front yard, followed closely by Castillo. The officers stood in front of the family’s front door before the family’s pet pit bull approached Fraser, and he petted the dog.
The family’s 2-year-old German shepherd then emerged from the back yard of the home, began barking and charged toward Castillo, who was standing at the home’s front door. Castillo shot and wounded the dog.
“The full incident was investigated, including both officers’ actions, with no sustained policy violations found,” El Monte Police Chief Steven Schuster said in an email.
Both Castillo and Fraser remain on active duty, police officials added.
“The El Monte Police Department has strict policies in place that describe the procedures in place to protect residents’ pets,” Schuster said. “This was an unfortunate and isolated situation in which, upon responding to a call from the residents asking for police assistance, the officers felt that their safety was compromised due to the dog.”
In a written statement, police officials said the department remains “committed to continued development” of policies regarding encounters between officers and dogs.
The department has “already integrated these procedures into our officer training,” according to the statement. No specific examples were given.
Following the shooting, police officials said the officers noted the “beware of dog” signs, shook the fence and looked around for the presence of dogs before entering the family’s yard.
But the video tape depicts the officers arriving in their patrol car, then opening the gate and entering the yard without breaking stride.
Schuster acknowledged the “discrepancy” between the account provided by the officers and the video of the incident, but the department found no policy violation on the part of the officers.
“The initial statement included information that was known to the reporting officer at the time, which was prior to knowledge of video evidence,” the Chief said. “As we learned about the discrepancy, we corrected the statement to the media and public and asked for the original video file to assist in our investigation. We completed a full investigation on this matter, and determined there were no sustained violations.”
In addition to the death of their dog, family members also initially complained of the manner in which they were treated after their dog was shot.
Police immediately seemed to begin investigating the family, demanding to see license paperwork for the wounded animal and other dogs at the home before providing veterinary help, family members said at the time. The video shows the dog lying wounded for more than an hour before being picked up by animal control officials.
Police also initially promised to pay for the dog’s medical care, but rescinded the offer after learning of the $7,000 price tag for the medical procedures, Luu said. The dog was eventually euthanized.
“We have apologized to the family numerous times for the loss of their beloved pet and we have worked with the family to try to rectify the situation,” Schuster said.
El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero said he empathized with the family and hoped police would use the incident, “as a learning experience.”
“It’s my understanding that they did review their policies and make sure going forward there’s additional training,” the mayor said. He added he was concerned about both the safety of residents’ pets, as well as the safety of police officers.
“I’m hoping, on a moving forward basis, that we’re going to be able to have no more incidents like this.”
Quintero said he was satisfied with the internal police investigation into the shooting.
“I believe they did review all the different aspects that they could,” he said.
Luu said she did not wish to comment on the findings Friday.
Mayor Quintero said he and then-acting city manager and current Assistant City Manager Jesus Gomez has met with the family and listened to their concerns.
“They were very kind, very gracious,” he said.
The family has not filed a claim against the city or the police department seeking damages.
Nonetheless, Quintero said, if the family was interested in getting a new dog, “I would do whatever I could to make sure that happened. I think everyone at city hall empathizes with the loss of a pet in those circumstances. Not a replacement, but a new pet to help them heal.”
BALDWIN PARK — A police officer shot a dog, wounding it the foot, after it charged toward a fellow officer late Tuesday, officials said.
The incident unfolded about 11 p.m. as two officers were responding to an unrelated report of a disturbance in the 13200 block of Francisquito Avenue, just west of Frazier Street, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Darryl Kosaka said.
“A dog came after one of the officers,” he said. “A second officer, to prevent the dog from biting the one officer, fired two shots. One hit (the dog) in the foot.”
No officers were hurt.
Police found the dog’s owners and turned the animal over to them for any veterinary treatment, Kosaka said.
Police described the animal as a “large dog,” however the breed was not available Wednesday afternoon.
Deputies shot and killed a robbery suspect Thursday following a pursuit from Walnut to West Covina, authorities said.
The identity of the man who died in the 5:15 p.m. deputy-involved shooting in the 19100 block of Elberland Street remained unclear late Thursday as detectives continued investigating multiple scenes Thursday night.
The incident began shortly before 5 p.m. when a man called 9-1-1 to report an apparent home-invasion robbery in the area of Lemon Avenue and Amar Road in Walnut, Lt. Steve Jauch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“A man said his mother was having money demanded from her,” Jauch said. The caller reported the man was armed with a handgun, and that a black car was parked in front of the home.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut Station responded to the alleged robbery.
“As they neared the residence, a black vehicle matching the suspect description heads at them at a high rate of speed,” Jauch said. Deputies began chasing the car, which they later learned was occupied by a woman and a 5-year-old girl, in addition to the suspect.
The chase led to the parking lot of the Bestway Supermarket, 19050 La Puente Road, officials said, where the fleeing car crashed into a truck, destroying one of its tires.
The suspect got out of the car and ran in the front of the market and out of the back, Jauch said.
Deputies detained the woman in the parking lot and took the child into protective custody.
The man fled east into a nearby neighborhood, making his way through residential backyards, according to Jauch.
When the suspect encountered deputies in the back yard of a home at the corner of Elberland Street and Abelian Avenue, “a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” the lieutenant said. Further details regarding what prompted deputies to open fire were not clear.
More than one deputy was involved in the shooting, Jauch said, however the number of involved deputies was not available.
No weapon had been recovered from the scene late Thursday, he said, though deputies continued scouring the area and the pursuit route.
The woman detained at the end of the pursuit was considered criminal suspect, however it was not yet known exactly what crimes she was to be booked on suspicion of, Jauch said. Her name was not released.
The relationship between the man, woman and child was also unclear.
Nearby residents said they saw a group of deputies converge on the neighborhood from several directions just prior to the shooting.
Eugenia Montiel said as deputies approached the home, she saw a shirtless man come walking, not running, out of the backyard before apparently being chased back into the yard by deputies and cornered.
She then heard a string of gunshots in rapid succession, and saw the flash from the barrels of deputy’s pistols.
“I told my daughter, ‘Get down on the floor,’” she said.
Estimated given by neighbors of the number of shots they heard ranged from half a dozen to 18.
The investigation is being handled by detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
SOUTH WHITTIER — Police shot and wounded a carjacking suspect early Sunday at an apartment complex in unincorporated South Whittier, officials said.
The officer-involved shooting took place at 1:07 a.m. in the 14100 block of Mulberry Drive, according to Deputy Mark Pope of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.
Prior to the shooting, police had been seeking two men involved in a carjacking that had occurred earlier in Whittier, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter detected a Lo-Jack signal being broadcast by the stolen car, and directed officers to it, officials said. The vehicle had been abandoned.
“During a search of the area, Whittier police officers located one of the suspects, who was armed with a handgun, in an apartment complex at the 14100 block of Mulberry Drive, (unincorporated) Whittier, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred.
“The suspect was wounded in the left arm and transported to a local hospital where he is listed in stable condition,” the sheriff’s department statement said. No officers were injured during the incident.
Officials withheld the identity of the wounded suspect Sunday afternoon. The second alleged carjacker remained at-large.
The carjacking was reported at 12:37 a.m., and the stolen Honda Accord was spotted via Lo-Jack almost immediately, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
Further details regarding details regarding the shooting or the alleged carjacking that preceded it were not available.
As is common practice in officer-involved shootings by Los Angeles County police agencies, the investigation is being spearheaded by the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
EL MONTE — An unarmed El Monte man shot and wounded by a police officer after allegedly reaching for his waistband early last month was released from jail earlier this week after serving a month in jail for a probation violation, according to officials and records.
Raymond Alvarado, 34, was released from custody Tuesday after one month in custody following the Dec. 6 officer-involved shooting in the 3500 block of Cogswell Road, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
He admitted a probation violation during a Jan. 6 hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court and was sentenced to 45 days in county jail, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said. Further details about the probation violation were not available Friday, and it was unclear if Alvarado was released based on credit for time already served in jail.
Police encountered Alvarado just before 4 a.m. Dec. 6 after responding to reports of a man seen armed with a gun, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Guillermina Saldana said in a written statement. Alvarado matched the description of the person described by the caller.
As officers approached him, Alvarado reached into his waistband, Lt. Dave Dolson of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. One of several officers on scene opened fire, striking Alvarado an undisclosed number of times.
Alvarado was hospitalized for treatment of his injuries, Saldana said. No weapon as recovered at the scene.
The name of the involved officer was not released.
Public records indicate Alvarado lives around the corner from where the shooting took place. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
A search of Los Angeles County Superior Court records reveals an extensive criminal history.
Alvarado was convicted in 2010 of the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. In 2009, he was convicted of burglary, grand theft and receiving stolen property. Alvarado was convicted of drug possession in 2009 and domestic battery in May of 2007, records show.
Alvarado was convicted of violating a protective order in 2007. In 2006 six, he was convicted of violating a protective order, making criminal threats and violating a court order. He has two convictions for driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license in 2005, and another in 1999.