WEST WHITTIER >> A masked gunman held up a motel in the unincorporated county area of West Whittier on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime was reported about 1:40 p.m. at Travelodge, 11530 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
The robber entered the store, brandished a handgun and demanded cash, the lieutenant said. The gunman also stole room keys stored in the front lobby before fleeing.
He got into a white pickup truck, which was last seen speeding west on Hadley Street, he said. Deputies described the gunman as a Latino man in his 40s, betwee 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall, wearing a plaid shirt, blue bants, a gray baseball cap and some sort of mask or bandanna covering his face.
The man working at the motel at the time was unhurt.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
SOUTH WHITTIER >> A Montebello jail administrator accused of fatally shooting his ex-wife and wounding her boyfriend during a child custody exchange at her South Whittier home is due to appear in court this afternoon to face charges that could send him to prison for more than 75 years, officials said.
Prosecutors charged Efrem Ruben Lozoya, 38, of Pico Rivera with murder and attempted murder in connection with Saturday’s 11:15 a.m. shooting at an apartment in the 13900 block of Coteau Drive, in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
He entered no plea, she said. His arraignment was continued to July 18 in the Downey branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Lozoya is also accused of the special allegation that he personally used a gun in the crimes, causing great bodily injury.
Killed was 33-year-old Nereida Villanueva, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials. Her boyfriend was wounded.
“Lozoya and his ex-wife, Nereida Villanueva, have two children together and had been divorced for several years,” Ardalani said in a written statement.
The suspect showed at his ex-wife’s apartment to drop off one of their children, officials said.
“Shortly after entering Villanueva’s residence, Lozoya allegedly shot his ex-wife and her boyfriend, who also was in the apartment,” Ardalani said. Lozoya then fled the scene.
Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the sheriff’s Information Bureau described the children as 7 and 9 years old. They were not injured in the shooting.
Lozoya, who works as a contracted jail administrator at the Montebello Police Department’s jail, turned himself in to authorities several hours later.
“If convicted as charged, Lozoya faces a possible maximum sentence of 75 years to life in state prison,” Ardalani said.
Lozoya was initially held in lieu of $2 million bail following his arrest. During Wednesday arraignment hearing, the judge granted a prosecution request that bail be increased to $5 million, Ardalani said.
PICO RIVERA >> A man died after being struck by a Union Pacific freight train in Pico Rivera late Friday, authorities said.
The incident took place just after 11:40 p.m. on a set of tracks near Durfee Avenue and Stephens Street, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials.
The man’s identity was not released Saturday pending notification of his family, coroner’s Lt. David Smith said. He was described as being in his 50s.
An autopsy was pending. No further details were available.
PICO RIVERA >> Two quick-thinking deputies grabbed hold of a distraught teenage girl who was poised to jump from a train bridge in Pico Rivera on Tuesday, officials said.
The incident began shortly after 11 a.m. p.m. near Rivera Road and Passons Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Deputies Cuauhtemoc Gonzalez, Michael Stocz, Brandon Longoria and Daniel Padilla responded to a report of a young woman possible preparing to jump from the bridge when they encountered the girl, “Who was leaning over a 25-foot drop to the street below,” Lt. Alex Villanueva said in a written statement. Gonzalez blocked traffic in the area as Stocz and Longoria approached the troubled teen from one side of the bridge, while Padilla approached from the other.
The young woman perched precariously on the outside of the safety railing.
“After waiting for a train to pass, deputies Stocz and Longoria approached, asking her if they could move closer to talk to her,’ Villanueva said.
After getting within about 50 feet of the distraught teen, Stocz began speaking with her. They talked for about 10 minutes, and the girl relayed she was suicidal due to the recent death of a close friend.
After young woman tossed a piece of paper onto the railroad tracks, later determined to be a suicide note, Stocz asked her for permission to read the note, and she agreed, allowing him an opportunity to move within a few feet of her.
“At this point, the young woman had her arms fully extended, eyes closed and her face was looking upwards,” Villanueva said. “Deputy Stocz lunged forward and grabbed both of her arms. Deputy Longoria moved quickly to assist Deputy Stocz, and they were able to pull her over the railing and on to the ground, where she was detained. “
Officials took the teen to receive help at an area hospital.
The incident was captured on the dash cam of a patrol car.
Sheriff’ Jim McDonnell praised the deputies for their actions.
“Every day, our deputies perform acts of quiet courage and compassion that are rarely seen and almost never captured on video,” he said. “This is a positive reminder of the commitment that law enforcement makes every day to save the lives of others”.
VIDEO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
PICO RIVERA >> Suicide is suspected after a man was struck by a freight train on a bridge spanning the San Gabriel River in Pico Rivera on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
Deputies first received a report at 3:29 p.m. that a person had been spotted on the train tracks near a bridge spanning the river just south of Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
Officials soon received a second call indicating the person on the tracks had been struck by a westbound Union Pacific freight train, the lieutenant said.
The impact through the pedestrian from the bridge and down into the shallow waters of the San Gabriel River below, he said. Paramedics pulled the man from the river and pronounced him dead at the scene.
The train was traveling at about 49 mph when the pedestrian was firs spotted, Garcia said. No injuries to personnel on the train were reported.
The identity of the dead man had not been determined Wednesday evening. He was estimated to be in his 30s.
PHOTO by Keith Durflinger
WHITTIER >> A robbery suspect led police on a high-speed chase through several cities that began and ended in Whittier late Wednesday, officials said.
The incident began about 5:50 p.m. when Whittier police received a report that a witness had spotted a suspicious person at Whittier Boulevard and Broadway who may have been connected to a prior crime reported to the neighboring sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station, Whittier police Lt. Aaron Ruiz said.
As police approached the white GMC pickup truck, it fled from officers, initiating a pursuit.
The pickup truck traveled at high speeds, and at some points on the wrong side of the road, under the helicopter-mounted cameras of local TV news helicopters as it made its way north to Hacienda Heights via surface streets, then back into Whittier.
A dispatcher reportedly made contact with the suspect by phone before he stopped the truck and surrendered along Pickering Avenue, just south of Mar Vista Street. The driver was taken into custody without a struggle.
A passenger was initially inside the truck with the driver when the chase began, Ruiz said. He exited the car toward the outset of the chase and cooperated with police. He was not arrested.
The driver was expected to be booked on suspicion of evading police and driving on a suspended license, Ruiz said. His identity was not available pending the booking process.
Detectives in Pico Rivera were looking the man’s suspected connection with a robbery reported in their jurisdiction, sheriff’s officials said. Further details regarding the robbery case were not available Wednesday night.
PHOTO by Keith Durflinger
Prosecutors filed a murder charge, 14 attempted murder charges and other allegations on Thursday and a man and woman they say embarked on a random shooting spree in the Whittier area over the weekend that left one man dead and three others wounded.
Alejandro Lazo, 21, and his girlfriend Reyna Gomez, 26, both of Whittier, who themselves were shot and wounded under mysterious circumstances following Saturday’s mobile rampage, have previously been considered “persons of interest,” in the series of violent crimes. Both suspects are self-described gang members with criminal records.
But Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau Capt. Christopher Bergner announced Thursday that the couple has been formally arrested in connection with the crime spree.
And the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed one count of murder, 14 counts of attempted murder and one count of carjacking against each defendant, according to district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling. Gomez was additionally charged with torture for allegedly shooting a man in the groin during the bizarre attacks that unfolded in Whittier, La Mirada and Pico Rivera.
There was no known motive or explanation for the rampage, Bergner said.
“These were senseless acts of violence, acts committed on innocent people that were merely enjoying the day, running errands, in what they believed to be a safe area,” the captain said. “The individuals that were victims of this crime, these were random targets of violence that were unprovoked.”
The investigation continues, and detectives are seeking additional suspects believed to have played roles in portions of Saturday’s crime spree, Bergner said. He declined to comment further regarding any outstanding suspects.
In addition, “They’re also reviewing similar crimes in the area to see of the suspects were also involved in any additional crimes that we haven’t yet reported,” Bergner said.
The spate of violence began about 1 p.m. Saturday in the 10000 block of Carmenita Road in South Whittier, where a man was wounded in the leg in a drive-by shooting. The attackers, later identified as Lazo and Gomez, were in a white Kia Rio when they carried out the Carmenita Road shooting.
The suspect turned up again about 2:15 p.m. in the 11100 block of Rosehedge Drive in Pico Rivera, where they carjacked a man at gunpoint and fled in his green Nissan Pathfinder SUV, Deputy Lilian Peck of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. The victim was unhurt.
Just over an hour later, another shooting linked to the couple was reported behind a Starbucks coffee shop at Whittier Boulevard and Colima Road, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said. Gomez is accused of shooting a man in the groin from as he walked down the street, resulting in the torture charge filed against her, officials said. The victim, a man in his 50s, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The suspects then headed down Colima Road in the carjacked Pathfinder and opened fire at two motorists who were stopped at a traffic light near Lambert Road, Peck said. No one was injured in the car-to-car attacks.
The shooters continued south to Imperial Highway and La Mirada Boulevard, where they shot a man in the arm as he was sitting in a car about 4 p.m., according to Peck.
“Norwalk Sheriff’s Station deputies responded to the La Mirada shooting but quickly learned another shooting occurred just south of them, at the intersection of Santa Gertrudes Avenue and Alicante Road, La Mirada,” Peck said.
“The fourth victim, Jose Ricardo Sahagun, a 44-year-old father of two little boys, was struck multiple times with gunfire as he sat in his car, waiting at a traffic light. Other victims in nearby vehicles were also fired upon indiscriminately, but Jose cwas the only person injured and he was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Sahagun succumbed to his injuries at a hospital.
The search for the killers continued for more than two hours before deputies found the carjacked Nissan Pathfinder abandoned at Amelia Mayberry Park in South Whittier shortly after 6 p.m.,Peck said. “It was there the suspects unloaded the vehicle they used as a mobile gun turret,” she said.
But gunfire erupted again about 8 p.m., this time outside a motel in the 15000 block of Carmenita Road, authorities said. This time, it was the suspects who had been wounded in a shooting.
“Both suspects were shot in the torso and when they realized the gravity of their injuries, they flagged down a concerned citizen and asked her to dial 911 for them,” Peck said.
Lazo and Gomez were found sitting in the white Rio believed to have used in the first shooting of the spree, officials said. A gun was recovered from the car, and has since been linked to the numerous nearby crimes scenes, Bergner said.
The circumstance of the suspect’ shooting remains under investigation by the Whittier Police Department. No suspect description was available.
Family members of Sahagun thanked the police and God for the arrests in the slaying of their loved one, as well as the community for its outpouring of support.
The Compton social worker and former school teacher left behind a wife and two sons, ages 4 and 7.
“While this is a positive step toward justice and closure, there’s no reconciling of the fact that the taking of a n innocent life has devastated both our family, and the community,” Maria Del Rosario Sahagun.
Family members described Jose Sahagun as an example for the community.
A fund to benefit Jose Sahagun has been set up online at www.gofundme.com/jose-ricardo-sahagun.
A viewing for Jose Sahagun has been scheduled for 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdau at the All Souls Mortuary, 4400 Cherry Ave. in Long Beach.
A Mass will take place at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 8545 Norwalk Blvd. in Whittier, to be followed by burial at All Souls Cemetery in Long Beach.
Detectives described both Lazo and Gomez as self-identified gang members but declined to name the gang they belong to.
Both were released from jail late last year after serving time for prior convictions, officials said.
Los Angeles County court records show Lazo pleaded guilty to extortion and assault with a deadly weapon on Feb. 23, 2016. On the same date, he was also convicted of possession of methamphetamine on a separate case. He pleaded no contest to petty theft on Dec. 26. 2014.
Gomez pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia on July 6, 2015. She also pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine on July 9, 2015 and to possession of methamphetamine for sale on Jan. 8, 2014.
Gomez was convicted of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and possession of marijuana for sale on June 11, 2012.
She pleaded no contest to four counts of vandalism on Sept. 23, 2010 and one count of vandalism on Jan. 31, 2011. She was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on Oct. 20, 2009.
According to county booking records, Lazo was being held without bail, while Gomez was being held in lieu of $12 million bail. They were scheduled to make their initial court appearance Friday in the Downey branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
If convicted as charged, the suspects could both spend the rest of their lives in prison.
PHOTOS: (crime scene map and picture of victim Jose Sahagun courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
MONTEBELLO >> A Pico Rivera man began serving an 11-year prison sentence this week after being convicted of manslaughter for the beating death of a homeless man in Montebello in late-2015, authorities said.
Martin Emmannuel Bautista, 34, appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, where he entered a “no contest” plea to a count of voluntary manslaughter, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokesman Ricardo Santiago and Los Angeles Superior Court records. A charge of murder was dismissed.
The case stems from the Nov. 23, 2015, death of Fabian Ramirez, a 54-year-old homeless man, in a parking lot in the .
A motive in the fatal beating was not available. Montebello police Sgt. Julio Calleros has described the crime as “alarming” and “senseless.”
California law defines manslaughter as the killing of another person, “without malice.” Voluntary manslaughter describes a killing done without premeditation, “upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
An autopsy determined Ramirez died from “blunt head trauma” and the death was ruled a homicide, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Bautista was arrested in connection with the killing the day after it occurred. If he had been convicted of murder at trial, as initially charged, he could have faced up to 25 years to life in prison.
A second man initially described by police as an accomplice in the slaying, 29-year-old Eric Daniel DeLeon of Pico Rivera, was arrested following a fight with police in Whittier on Dec. 5, 2015, according to Whittier police officials. He allegedly threw a barbecue at an officer and struck the officer with a chair before being wrestled into custody.
But he was never charged in connection with Ramirez’s slaying, records show.
He pleaded “no contest” to a count of assault on a peace officer in August of 2016 and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison. A charge of attempted murder on the Whittier officer was dismissed.
PHOTO: Martin Bautista (Courtesy)
PICO RIVERA >> Deputies jailed a Pico Rivera woman on Friday morning after she fatally struck a bicyclist on Rosemead Boulevard, then fled the scene, hours earlier, authorities said.
Berta Ramirez, 21, was booked on suspicion of hit-and-run involving a death about 10:20 a.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
The bicyclist, a woman whose identity has not been released, was riding her bike on Rosemead Boulevard south of Rex Road at about 2 a.m. when she was hit, Sgt. Wilson Wong said in a written statement.
The victim, whom the coroner’s office believes was in her 30s, was taken to a local hospital where she died of her injuries, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of Operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
The involved car was described as a dark gray, a 2003-2007 Honda Accord with damage to its front end.
As the investigation continued, deputies patrolling in South Whittier pulled over a “blueish-gray” 2005 Honda Accord for traffic violations shortly after 10 a.m. at Pioneer Boulevard and Saragosa Street, sheriff’s officials said. Ramirez was at the wheel.
“During the investigation, the deputies noticed extensive damage to the front end of the vehicle. It was determined the vehicle matched the description of the vehicle involved in the fatal hit-and-run traffic collision which occurred early in the morning,” Wong said. “Based on further investigation, suspect Ramirez was booked at the Pico Rivera Sheriff Station.”
Deputies obtained a blood sample from Ramirez, which will be analyzed as part of the investigation.
Ramirez was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending her initial court appearance, records show.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station’s Detective Jose Marquez at 562-949-2421.
Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
— Brian Day and Sandra Molina
PICO RIVERA >> A 17-year-old Pico Rivera boy previously charged as an adult in connection with the fatal stabbing of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend is now being tried as a juvenile as a result of the passage of Proposition 57, passed by California owners in November.
Rory Murga is accused of murder for the death of 16-year-old Elena Lillian Moore, who was stabbed to death during the early-morning hours of Aug. 12, 2016, inside her home in the 9800 block of Shade Lane, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. Murga and Moore had dated for about a year and broken up about two weeks prior to the stabbing.
Detectives first labeled Murga a “person of interest” in the slaying. After he was found and taken into custody four days later, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office elected to charge Murga as an adult.
In the month that followed the slaying, California voters approved Proposition 57, which made more convicts deemed “nonviolent” eligible for parole and early release, and also requires that a hearing be held before a juvenile court judge when determining whether a minor will be charged as an adult when accused of a serious crime.
Such a hearing was held Feb. 10, and the case was returned to juvenile court for further proceedings, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
A motions hearing was scheduled in the case in juvenile court on April 27, she said.
But prosecutors plan to again seek that Murga be charged as an adult, according to Ardalani.
Moore’s mother was asleep upstairs when she heard her daughter scream Murga’s during the attack name before making her way upstairs and collapsing in the hallway, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. The girl had been stabbed several times.
It appeared Murga entered and exited the home through the back door, though it was unclear whether he forced his way in or was let in.
Investigators found a steak knife believed to be the weapon used in the slaying at the scene, officials said.
Deputies found and arrested Murga on Aug. 16, 2016, after finding him sitting beneath a railroad underpass along Rosemead Boulevard, near Slauson Avenue, Hernandez said.
A motive in the slaying has not been released.
PHOTO of Rory Murga courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. PHOTO of crime scene by Keith Durflinger.