Sheriff’s checkpoint scheduled Friday night in Pico Rivera

PICO RIVERA — Deputies are planning to check motorists for sobriety and valid drivers’ licenses during a checkpoint Friday.
The checkpoint will take place from 7 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within Pico Rivera, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Well-publicized checkpoints have been shows to decrease alcohol-related crashes by an average of 20 percent, officials said.
Funding for the checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Pico Rivera home struck by gunfire in drive-by shooting

PICO RIVERA — A house occupied by a family, including three children, was struck by gunfire in drive-by shooting Thursday afternoon, though no injuries were reported, authorities said.
The attack took place about 4:230 p.m. in the 8800 block of Coolhurst Drive, just northwest of Rosemead Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Meyer said.
Five to seven shots struck the house, but hit no one inside, the lieutenant said. Five to seven bullets struck the home.
The shots were fired by someone inside a passing white vehicle, Meyer said. No further description was available.
Sheriff’s gang detectives were investigating the shooting, he said.

Officials seek missing Pico Rivera teen

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PICO RIVERA — Authorities asked the public’s help Wednesday in tracking down a missing 17-year-old boy who ran away two weeks ago.
Tyler James Wilson of Pico Rivera was last seen about 7:30 a.m. Nov. 27 at the Northgate Market, 9101 Telegraph Road in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. He has a medical condition for which he requires medication.
He was with his mother at the market when he ran away, officials said.
“Missing person Wilson became upset and walked away from the location, southbound and out of view,” according to the statement. “He has not been seen or heard from since that time.”
While Wilson has run away in the past, he has never gone missing for this length of time, authorities added.
He’s described as white, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He has a scar on his left arm, and was last seen wearing black jeans, a light blue T-shirt with a “Texas” logo in American flag style and black converse shoes.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421.

PHOTO of Tyler James Wilson courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

Checkpoints planned this weekend in Pico Rivera, La Mirada

Sheriff’s officials are planning to screen drivers for sobriety and valid drivers’ licenses during checkpoints Friday and Saturday in Pico Rivera and La Mirada, authorities said.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station are planning a checkpoint from 7 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within Pico Rivera, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Norwalk Station are planning another checkpoint from 7 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday at an undisclosed location within La Mirada, officials added.
The checkpoints are being funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Suspect jailed, others sought in series of car burglaries outside Pico Rivera gym

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PICO RIVERA — Deputies are continuing to hunt for suspects and are seeking the public’s help in connection with a spike of burglaries in the parking lot of a Pico Rivera gym, officials said.
One suspect was jailed Tuesday in connection with one of the 30 or so vehicle burglaries reported over the past six months in the parking lot of L.A. Fitness at Washington and Rosemead Boulevards, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Van Damme said. Eight break-ins have been reported in the past three weeks alone.
Another suspect in the string of burglaries has been recorded on surveillance tape, he said, though detectives asked the public’s help in determining his identity.
Detectives Tuesday jailed a 21-year-old man at his Van Nuys home late Tuesday after he was linked to a Nov. 10 car burglary outside the gym, Van Damme said. Surveillance camera images captured the license plate of his car and his image as he took part in the break-in, along with two other accomplices, the sergeant said.
David Zulalyan was booked on suspicion of auto theft and was released from custody after posting $20,000 bail, according to sheriff’s officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
And detectives Wednesday released images of another man sought for a Nov. 15 burglary in the parking lot as he used a stolen credit card at a Montebello store within hours of the 1129_NWS_WDN-L-FITNESS2crime, Van Damme said. He was described as a Latino man between 18 and 25 years old, and a Chevrolet Uplander SUV was linked to the burglary as well.
Deputies keeping watch over the parking lot Friday afternoon briefly chased two men they spotted burglarizing a car in the L.A. Fitness Parking, however the thieves ultimately eluded deputies during the chase.
Anyone with information was asked to contact sheriff’s Deputy Chris Lopez at 562-949-2421, ext. 5523.

Spate of car burglaries reported outside Pico Rivera gym

PICO RIVERA — Deputies are carrying out extra patrols and advising the public to remain vigilant in response to a spate of more then two-dozen auto burglaries in recent months in the parking lot of a Pico Rivera gym.
About 30 car break-ins have been reported over the past six months outside L.A. Fitness, at Washington and Rosemead boulevards, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Van Damme said. And the trend has been increasing lately, with eight burglaries reported over the past two weeks.
Van Damme and other deputies keeping watch over the parking lot Friday afternoon in an undercover operation spotted two burglars in the act, though the men escaped following a brief pursuit.
Deputies saw two men arrive in a four-door, pewter-colored, 2003 Nissan Maxima and break into a car parked in the parking lot, Van Damme said.
The driver of the Nissan swerved head-on toward a sheriff’s vehicle when deputies tried to pull the car over, then sped away, initiating a chase, Van Damme said.
The car blew through red lights before deputies lost sight of it in the area of Paramount and Whittier boulevards, the sergeant added. The driver was described as a Latino man between 25 and 30 years old, with a stocky build. The passenger was a thin Latino man between 18 and 25.
In addition to the car that fled from deputies Friday, two other different vehicles — a late-model Chevrolet Uplander minivan and a late-model Infinity coupe — have also been connected to the string of break-ins via surveillance cameras, Van Damme said.
The thieves have been smashing windows and forcing locks to access the vehicles, though they primarily appear to be targeting cars with valuables left in plain sight.
Van Damme encouraged the public to always stow valuables out of the sight of opportunistic burglars if leaving them behind in a vehicle.

Armed, wanted man arrested after chase from Pico Rivera to Montebello

PICO RIVERA — Deputies arrested wanted suspected gang member and recovered a gun following a pursuit that led from Pico Rivera to Montebello late Tuesday, authorities said.
Rojelio Jimenez, 21, was accused of evading a police, being a convicted felon in possession of a gun, reckless driving following the incident, which began about 11:20 p.m. when a deputy spotted Jimenez driving recklessly in the area of Whittier Boulevard and Paramount Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said. Jimenez was also being held on two outstanding felony arrest warrants.
A deputy tried to pull over Jimenez for driving erratically, but he refused to pull over and instead lead deputies on a chase north and west into Montebello, Smith said.
He abandoned his car and continued fleeing on foot on Madison Avenue near Poplar Avenue, officials said. He was found hiding in a nearby yard and surrendered once a sheriff’s K-9 started barking at him.
A magazine loaded with ammunition was found in Jimenez’s car, and a handgun was found discarded nearby, Smith said. “There was a live round in the chamber.”
According to county booking records, Jimenez was being held without bail pending a scheduled arraignment Friday in Downey Superior Court.

Man acquitted of slaying woman whose body was found in Pico Rivera sentenced for rapes

A judge earlier this week handed down a prison sentence of 30 years to life to a man acquitted of murdering a woman found slain at a Pico Rivera park 15 years ago, but convicted of raping two other women several years later, officials said.
A Los Angeles Superior Court Jury convicted Shawn Lavaway Rankin, 46, of Los Angeles in May of two counts of rape, as well as one count of forced oral copulation in connection with two attacks that took place in Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001, said Deputy District Attorney Alison Meyers, who prosecuted the case.
But the jury acquitted him of the rape and fatal stabbing of 41-year-old Wyesser Cook of Los Angeles, whose body was discovered in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 1997, at Bicentennial Park in Pico Rivera, Meyers said.
The investigations into both Cook’s slaying and the two rapes all ran cold until 2005, when DNA tied all three crimes together and provided detectives with new clues.
He had been arrested and convicted of a Los Angeles sexual battery in 2000, but at the time, a system was not in place to collect DNA samples from felons, Meyers said. Rankin fulfilled his registration requirements as a convicted sex offender following his conviction and release from prison.
In 2005, detectives announced that the same man’s DNA had been found at the scenes of the slaying and both rapes. But Rankin was not linked to the crimes.
“The case remained unsolved, essentially because Mr. Rankin’s DNA had never been taken and put into the system,” Meyers said.
Interviews with the surviving rape victims allowed LAPD sketch artist Marylin Diaz to create a composite drawing of the suspect, which Meyers described as “one of the best composite’s I’ve seen.”
In the years that followed, a detectives did collect a DNA sample from Rankin and entered it into their database, Meyers explained. Rankin was arrested when his DNA was found to match the profile of that in all three cases in September of 2007, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
His trial began in April and drew to a close in May, when the jury found Rankin guilty of the sex crimes against the two surviving victims, but not guilty of raping and murdering Cook, Meyers said.
He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 15 years to life in prison for each count of rape, officials said, as well as another eight years, to be served concurrently, for the forced oral copulation charge.
In the 2001 attack, Rankin offered a woman a ride in his car, then assaulted her once she was inside, Meyers said. In the 2002 case, you gave a woman a ride home, then returned to her home later in the day to sexually assault her.
Rankin’s defense attorney Lawrence Forbes declined to comment Friday.
Meyers said the murder case was less straight-forward than the rape cases for two primary reasons.
More than one man’s DNA was found in connection with Cook’s body, and a defense witness testified that another man, who is now dead, may have been responsible for the slaying.
Meyers said she believed, “a combination of the two created in the jurors minds a reasonable doubt.”
Meyers said at his sentencing, Rankin offered an apology in court, though the victims were not present to hear it.
“I’d like to think it was sincere,” she added.

Attempted copper theft in Pico Rivera leaves suspect critically injured, causes widespread power outage

PICO RIVERA — An alleged would-be copper thief received a 12,000-volt shock and severe burns while attempting to steal wire from a Southern California Edison breaker station over the weekend, authorities said.
Billy Ray Owens, 51, of Whittier was hospitalized in critical condition after he was found unconscious Sunday morning at the utility equipment site in the 9900 block of Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said.
The failed heist also caused a power outage that affected thousands of SCE customers in Pico Rivera and nearby West Whittier for nearly two hours, the lieutenant said.
The outage affected 20,548 SCE customers, SCE spokeswoman Susan Cox said.
A SCE supervisor went to the site to check on an alarm that had been triggered about 4:40 a.m., Smith said.
“When he arrived, he found the suspect semi-conscious, lying on the ground,” Smith said. The suspect, later identified as Owens, suffered severe burns running up his arm.
It was believed Owens was using a pair of bolt cutters which were found nearby to steal copper wiring when he received a 12,000-volt shock, Smith said. He was hospitalized in critical condition.
Burglary charges were expected to be filed when Owens’ condition improves, Smith added.
SCE workers had to de-energize the breaker station for about two hours to allow for the rescue of the injured man and repair of the damaged circuits, officials said. Smith said the incident caused an estimated $45,000 worth of damage to the SCE site.
All power was restored to affected customers by 6:52 a.m., Cox said. The official cause of the outage remained under investigation by SCE officials.

Men accused of stealing wire from cell tower site in Pico Rivera

PICO RIVERA — Deputies caught two men in the act of stealing wiring from an AT&T cell tower site early Friday, officials said.
William Price and Sean Sheets, both 33 and of Downey, were booked on suspicion of burglary and possession of burglary tools following their arrests shortly after 3 a.m. in the 4500 block of Rosemead Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said.
The sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station received a call reporting a burglary in progress at the cell tower site, comprised of a cell tower and a building housing electrical equipment, the lieutenant said.
Deputies arrived to find a gate surrounding the facility had been forced open.
They entered the building and found two men — later identified as Price and Sheets — lying on the floor, Smith said.
The men told deputies they had been accidentally locked inside the building, he said. But deputies found several locked metal boxes had been ripped open and wiring pulled out, along with bolt cutters and a portable reciprocating saw.
Officials had not yet obtained an estimate of the value of the damage from AT&T Friday morning, Smith said.
Price and Sheets were being held ion lieu of $40,000 bail each pending their scheduled arraignments Tuesday in Downey Superior Court, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.