NORWALK >> A Pico Rivera man accused of fatally stabbing a tow truck driver as he replaced his mother’s minivan battery appeared in court Friday and denied a murder charge, officials said.
Tobias Ruben Cabrera, a 40-year-old transient, pleaded not guilty in Norwalk Superior Court to one count of murder in connection with the June 2 stabbing of Raymond Zabala, 35, of East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
The fatal stabbing occurred after Zabala, a tow truck driver for AAA contractor Petra Towing & Auto Repair in Montebello, arrived at the home of Cabrera’s mother in the 8200 block of Buhman Avenue to replace the battery on her Honda Odyssey, Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators said.
Following the seemingly unprovoked attack, Zabala ran to a neighboring home to seek help but ultimately succumbed to his wounds at the scene, authorities said. Cabrera allegedly fled the scene on a bicycle before being apprehended three days later.
Friday was Cabrera’s second arraignment. After initially pleading not guilty to murder shortly after his arrest, a judge determined Sept. 11 that there is sufficient evidence to order Cabrera to stand trial.
Cabrera, who had prior criminal convictions and is accused of the special allegation of personally using a knife in the killing, faces 37 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged.
He was ordered back to Norwalk Superior Court Oct. 26 for a pretrial hearing.
A man fatally shot by deputies after carjacking a woman in West Whittier, firing shots and taking hostages inside a Downey barbecue restaurant last week was being sought for questioning in connection with the slaying of a woman found dead inside her burning East Los Angeles home in August, authorities said.
Eddie Tapia, 41, died shortly before 9 p.m. Sept. 10, when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau deputies stormed the Chris’ & Pitt’s restaurant on Lakewood Boulevard in Downey where he had held four people hostage for more than an hour and shot him, according to county sheriff’s and coroner officials. The hostages were freed unharmed.
The standoff began after Tapia was spotted driving in a stolen car in the Pico Rivera area, then carjacked a woman in West Whittier before firing shots from a handgun as he fled into the crowded Downey restaurant, officials said.
As the investigation continued into Tapia, an ex-convict released from jail four months prior to the deputy-involved shooting, detectives revealed he had ties to 46-year-old Rocio Vasquez, who was found dead inside her home in the 700 block of Brady Avenue in East Los Angeles home early Aug. 8, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“Initially, the preliminary consensus was that the fire may have been accidental, but additional investigation, as well as an autopsy, would be necessary to confirm how the victim died,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“It was determined during the autopsy that Victim Vasquez had not died as a result of the fire, but she had been shot and killed prior to the fire being set,” according to the statement.
Though not named a suspect in the slaying, Tapia was one of several persons of interest detectives have been seeking in connection to their investigation into Vasquez’s slaying.
“He was a person we wanted to talk to,” Corina said.
“He was her friend,” the lieutenant said, adding that Tapia was known to frequent the victim’s home.
Tapia’s city of residence was unclear.
No arrests in have been made in Vasquez’s slaying.
— Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
PHOTO [ABOVE] by Keith Durflinger [BELOW] photo of Eddie Tapia courtesy of the California DMV.
Coroner’s officials identified the armed carjacking suspect who was fatally shot by deputies inside a Downey restaurant following a car chase through several communities and taking hostages inside the eatery.
Eddie Tapia, 41, died at the scene after being shot by SWAT deputies at the conclusion of Thursday night’s standoff, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operation Ed Winter said. His city of residence was unknown.
Sheriff’s officials said the man took four people hostage inside the Chris’ & Pitt’s BBQ restaurant at 9243 Lakewood Blvd.
• Related: Suspect shot and killed after chase, standoff
Deputies shot Tapia when he didn’t comply with orders to put down his weapon and “posed as an imminent threat to the hostages”, according to a sheriff’s department statement. The department didn’t say how many deputies were involved in the shooting.
• Video: Sheriff’s press conference
Four hostages were rescued, and the suspect’s handgun was recovered. Lt. Darren Harris said the hostages weren’t injured.
“He posed a great risk to the public, and deputies made a split-second decision,” Harris said,
Deputies shot and killed a man with a gun after he burst into a crowded Downey barbecue restaurant Thursday sending patrons and employees fleeing.
The standoff and deputy-involved shooting came at the conclusion after the suspect led police on a wild pursuit and firing a gun into the air authorities said.
FULL STORY WITH PHOTOS, VIDEO
The pursuit began shortly before 7 p.m. in the Whittier area, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
A sheriff’s helicopter flying over the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station spotted a Honda Civic that had been reported stolen and was emanating a LoJack tracking signal, sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike Parker said.
“As patrol deputies from Pico (Rivera) station were headed to that location, the helicopter pilot and observer watched as the suspect carjacked a person at gunpoint,” Parker said.
The carjacking took place in unincorporated West Whittier.
Deputies as well as CHP officers chased the suspect as he fled along surface streets and freeway lanes through Montebello, Monterey Park, East Los Angeles, and Downey, Parker said. He was involved in at least one hit-and-run collision during the chase.
Pursuing officers used a PIT maneuver to bringing the chase to an end in the 9200 block on Lakewood Boulevard in Downey, officials said.
After crashing his car into another vehicle, the suspect fired a handgun into the air as he fled from his crashed car and ran into a nearby Chris’ & Pitt’s restaurant at 9243 Lakewood Blvd, Parker said.
Patrons and employees could be seen fleeing from the building as heavily armed deputies took positions around the restaurant. It was not clear whether the gunman had any hostages.
… FULL STORY WITH PHOTOS, VIDEO
PICO RIVERA >> Deputies are planning to screen drivers for sobriety and valid licenses during a checkpoint Friday, officials said.
The checkpoint will be held from 7 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within the city, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective Jose Marquez said in a written statement.
Funding for the checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Traffic Safety.
LOS ANGELES >> A Hacienda Heights man accused of laundering drug money through nightclubs he owns in Pico Rivera and Moreno Valley has agreed to plead guilty to a charge that could send him to prison for 25 years, according to authorities and court documents.
Edgar De Dios Fragoso, 38, has agreed to enter a guilty to a single federal charge of money laundering, according to a plea agreement filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles.
Under the plea arrangement, six additional counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy are to be dismissed, according to the document.
Fragoso pleaded not guilty to the eight-count federal indictment in March.
A hearing at which Fragoso will formally change his plea was yet to be scheduled, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said.
Fragoso is expected to receive a sentence of 25 years in federal prison, court records show.
He also agreed to forfeit his liquor license, Mrozek said.
“This brings some amount of closure to the case,” he said.
Prosecutors allege Fragoso laundered more than $35,000 in U.S. proceeds from methamphetamine sales on behalf of a drug dealer operating out of Mexico, and also collected $200,000 in payments from undercover federal agents posing as representatives of a drug-trafficking organization, according to the indictment.
Fragoso, who was arrested Feb. 23, is free on a $100,000 bond.
PICO RIVERA >> Deputies jailed a parolee and sought a second suspect who ran from a solo-car crash Friday, leaving behind the wrecked car with a loaded assault rifle inside, authorities said.
The incident began shortly after 8 p.m. when a deputy noticed a car driving erratically, then crashing into a pedestrian bridge, along Rosemead Boulevard, just north of Crossway Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Vasquez said.
A man and woman ran from the car, and deputies set up a search perimeter to seek them out, he said. Deputies also found a loaded AR-15 rifle inside the car.
Deputies found and arrested the man in a nearby apartment complex, Vasquez said. The woman was not found.
Gregory Leyva, 22, of Pico Rivera was booked on suspicion of possession of an illegal assault weapon, Vasquez said.
He was recently paroled from prison following a February, 2013, conviction for carrying a concealed firearm, according to sheriff’s officials and Los Angeles County Superior Court records.
Leyva, who also has previous convictions for carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, vandalism and being under the influence of drugs, was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A passenger died and the driver fled following a solo-car crash on a freeway on-ramp late Friday which investigators suspect may be connected to a shooting that had just occurred in Pico Rivera, officials said.
The rollover crash took place just before 9:40 p.m. on the northbound Rosemead Boulevard on-ramp to the eastbound 60 Freeway, near the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, California Highway Patrol Officer Tony Polizzi said.
An unidentified driver had two passengers in a 2006 Mitsubishi Galant headed north on Rosemead Boulevard at an unknown speed just prior to the crash, CHP Sgt. T. Kinzler said in a written statement.
The driver lost control and the car struck the curb along the west side of the on-ramp, he said.
“(The Mitsubishi) traveled down the dirt embankment and overturned,” Kinzler said.
The driver fled from the wreck wand was not found, officials said. Two guns were discovered inside the crashed car.
Paramedics pronounced one of the passengers, a man estimated to be 20 years old, dead at the scene, CHP officials said.
His identity was not available Saturday morning pending positive identification and notification of family, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
A second passenger also rode inside the Mitsubishi, officials said, though it was not initially clear whether that person remained at the crash scene or fled along with the driver.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives are also looking into the fatal crash and its possible connection with a shooting minutes earlier.
Prior to the crash, deputies responded to a local hospital after a gunshot victim arrived seeking treatment, officials from the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
“While they were at the hospital investigating, deputies received a traffic collision call of a rolled over vehicle with a man found dead inside,” the statement said. “They responded to the scene and found two firearms inside the vehicle.”
“Detectives are investigating reports that the occupants in the vehicle that rolled over may have been involved in some type of altercation with the gunshot victim from the hospital,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “It is unknown at this time if the two incidents are related.”
No further details were released as detectives continued their investigation Saturday morning.
Both the northbound and southbound Rosemead Boulevard on-ramps to the eastbound 60 Freeway, remained shut down overnight, as well as the Rosemead Boulevard off-ramp of the eastbound 60 Freeway.
PICO RIVERA >> A man shot at two gas company employees with what ultimately turned out to be a pellet gun Wednesday as they performed work at his mother’s Pico Rivera home, authorities said.
Deputies arrested Raul Zardenetta, 68, of Pico Rivera on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon following the bizarre, unprovoked attack shortly after 8:30 a.m. at a home near Arma Street and Acacia Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva said.
Two Southern California Gas Company employees were performing work at the home of the suspect’s elderly mother prior to the incident, the lieutenant said.
For unknown reasons, Zardenetta appeared with what was later determined to be a pellet gun and began shooting at the workers, who fled from the home, Villanueva said. Neither was struck by the projectiles, which they believed at the time to be bullets, rather than airgun pellets.
Deputies evacuated nearby homes before ordering Zardenetta to come out and surrender, Villanueva said. The suspect complied and was taken into custody without a struggle.
According to county booking records, Zardenetta was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Wednesday in Downey Superior Court.
PICO RIVERA >> A legally blind Pico Rivera man suffered a gunshot wound to his chest in a drive-by shooting late Friday, officials said.
The shooting took place just before 10 p.m. in the 9500 block of Bradhurst Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva said.
The victim, a 24-year-old documented gang member, was in the front yard of a home when shots were fired from a passing car, the lieutenant said.
The attackers were described only as two male suspects in a red, four-door sedan.
An update on the victim’s condition was not available.