ROSEMEAD >> Coroner’s officials have identified a 24-year-old man who died in a fiery solo-vehicle crash along Rosemead Boulevard in Rosemead last week.
Eric Salazar Cruz of San Gabriel died in the 12:40 a.m. crash on May 12 in the 4500 block of Rosemead Boulevard, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
He was believed to be driving an SUV at “a high rate of speed” when he lost control and the SUV struck a wall, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John McClure said. The vehicle burst into flames and was fully engulfed when first responders arrived at the scene.
The crash remains under investigation, and Cruz’s cause of death was yet to be determined.
ROSEMEAD >> What began as a probation compliance check in Rosemead on Tuesday led deputies to discover a cache of 2,000 pills and four guns, including two AR-15 rifles, authorities said. Two brothers who live at the home were jailed.
Khamsana Jimmy Phimmasone, 35, who is already on probation for a previous narcotics conviction, was booked on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
His brother, 34-year-old Donny Phimmasone, was booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales.
Deputies visited the home in the 3700 block of Strang Avenue to ensure Khamsana Phimmasone was abiding by the terms of his probation, Sgt. Tony Duong of the sheriff’s Temple City Station said. His younger brother also lives at the home.
“The search resulted in the discovery of narcotics and several firearms including, two AR-15 rifles, a shotgun, a handgun, ammunition and approximately 2000 pills of a controlled substance,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Several varieties of pills were found, Duong said. They were sent to the sheriff’s crime lab for analysis to determine what exactly they contain.
Khamsana was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” following his arrest on Tuesday, which is generally used for felons being supervised under the terms of AB 109 probation. Police officials could not confirm whether he was on AB 109 “post-release community supervision.”
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court records, his past convictions include: possession of restricted or dangerous drugs in 2004; auto theft and recklessly evading police in 2002; as well as possession of methamphetamine, auto theft and burglary in 2001.
According to county booking records, Khamsana Phimmasone was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail, while Donny Phimmasone was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail. Both were scheduled to appear in the El Monte branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
ROSEMEAD >> Police arrested a suspect in Rosemead on Friday in connection with the fatal stabbing of two senior citizens at a Chinatown social club on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Detectives tracked down and arrested double-murder suspect Vinh Quok Dao, 37, about 4:30 p.m. in Rosemead, Los Angeles police officials said in a written statement.
The deadly attack took place about 2:40 p.m. on Thursday at the Hop Sing Tong Benevolent Association club at 428 Gin Ling Way, between Broadway Avenue and Hill Street,
Dao had previously been a member of the club, but had just returned to Los Angeles after being estranged for several years, officials said. He entered the club Thursday afternoon and demanded that one of the members, whom he knew, give him $400 to pay for vehicle impound fees.
“When the member refused to cooperate, Dao exhibited a 6-inch, Buck-style knife and attacked him,” according to the statement. “Another member tried to come to the victim’s aid, but Dao also attacked that person.”
Both victims died from their wounds at the scene.
The attacker fled the scene, initiating a manhunt. A bloodhound was brought into join in the search, but the suspect was not found on Thursday.
The attacker left behind a trail of blood, investigators said. It was not initially clear if the suspect himself was wounded, or if the blood was that of the victims.
“Central Homicide Detectives, along with the support of a joint apprehension task force, located Dao in Rosemead, California, around 4:30 p.m. (Friday) afternoon,” the statement said. “He was taken into custody without incident.”
Further details regarding Dao’s apprehension were not available late Friday.
Dao was expected to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court for an arraignment hearing on Tuesday.
The identities of the two victims, both described as club members in their 60s, were not released Friday pending positive identification and notification of their families, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
“The victims are both of Chinese descent and longtime members of the club,” according to the LAPD statement. “They spent most of their days at the club playing mahjong and visiting with friends.”
Anyone with information can reach LAPD Detective Tricia Hauck at 213-996-1878, or the LAPD’s 24-hour tip line at 877-527-3247. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
PHOTO via the Associated Press
ROSEMEAD >> A man carried out a robbery at a bank branch inside a Rosemead Walmart store on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
The heist took place about 3 p.m. at a U.S. Bank branch inside of the Walmart Supercenter, 1827 Walnut Grove Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Tom McNeil said.
A robber approached a teller and handed over a note demanding cash, the lieutenant said. He also demanded money verbally.
Though he claimed to have a gun, no weapon was seen during the crime, McNeil said.
The robber was last seen fleeing on foot after obtaining an undetermined amount of cash from the teller. No getaway car was seen.
Deputies described the robber as a Latino man, between 35 and 40 years old, wearing a blue plaid shirt, blue jeans and a black hat.
The FBI joined sheriff’s deputies in the investigation.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ROSEMEAD >> A jury convicted a man of fatally stabbing his then-14-year-old girlfriend’s grandparents more than 150 times in their Rosemead home six years ago.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for two days before convicting Rodolfo Lopez of two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Aug. 9, 2010, slayings of Jack Bezner, 71, and Susan Bezner, 64, at their home in the 4200 block of Arica Avenue, according to Los Angeles County District Attorneys’ officials.
His former girlfriend, 20-year-old Sophia Cristo, was convicted in March of 2015 of two counts of first-degree murder, prosecutors said. Jurors also found true the special circumstances of lying in wait and multiple murders, along with the special allegation that she personally used a knife to stab her grandmother, who was wounded 112 times.
Both Jack and Susan Bezner were attacked as they slept in bed, officials said. Evidence indicated they fought for their lives, Deputy District Attorney Scott McPheron told jurors during Cristo’s trial.
Cristo lived with her grandparent prior the brutal slayings, officials said. It was alleged Cristo orchestrated the killings over a dispute with her grandparents.
“The prosecutor argued in his closing that Cristo had been involved in a check forgery scam,” district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
“The grandparents found out. They threatened to put her in juvenile hall,” Ardalani said. Cristo then allegedly decided to kill them.
Cristo and Lopez are both expected to receive life prison terms, without the possibility of parole, when they return to court for sentencing on Jan. 24, Ardalani said.
Cristo was not eligible for the death penalty because she was a juvenile at the time of the crimes, though she was charged as an adult. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Lopez, who was 21 at the time of the double murder, Ardalani said.
Prosecutors argued that Lopez personally wielded the knife in Jack Bezner’s slaying, however jurors did not find that allegation to be true, Ardalani said.
Police apprehended Lopez and Cristo two days after the murders, according to El Paso Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jesse Tovar.
Authorities used a LoJack vehicle anti-theft system to track the suspects down as they drove through Horison City, Texas, in the Bezners’ SUV.
Sightings, rumors and online chatter about menacing, sometimes-armed creepy clowns hanging around near Los Angeles County schools drew police responses on Thursday, but resulted in no arrests or incidents.
Police in Pasadena responded to Wilson Middle School, 300 Madre Street, about 10:45 a.m. in response to a “non-specific threat” involving possible sightings of clowns at the school, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
Officials evacuated the school and searched the campus, ultimately finding nothing unusual, Goodman said.
Students at Willard Elementary School, across the street, “sheltered in place” as police search the area and the Wilson campus, Pasadena Unified School District officials said.
The threat was determined to be “completely unfounded,” Goodman said. No further details regarding the nature of the reported threat were available.
“(Police) thoroughly assessed the entire campus. There was no threat on campus,” Wilson Principal Sarah Rudchenko said in a statement sent to parents.
The school resumed normal operation about 11:45 a.m.
“Teachers will be providing students with an opportunity to discuss and debrief the incident,” Rudchenko said. “Counselors will be on site to assist if needed.”
In Rosemead, an officials Mildred B. Janson Elementary School, 8628 Marshall Street, called deputies about 1:30 p.m. to report seeing what appeared to be someone dressed as a clown near the campus, possibly carrying a handgun, Lt. John McClure of the sheriff’s Temple City Station said.
Deputies searched the area, but did not find any clowns, armed or otherwise, he said.
Police in Montebello were also keeping an eye out after receiving word that social media posts had indicated the creepy clowns would be showing up soon in their city.
Glendora police arrested a 19-year-old Azusa man Wednesday on suspicion of criminal threats after he posted messaged via social media involving clown-related threats against his alma mater, Sierra High School, as well as vague threats in the city of El Monte.
The suspect, 19-year-old William Salazar, indicated to detectives the threats were intended to be a joke.
PHOTO: Pennywise the clown, from Stephen King’s 1990 film, “It.”
ROSEMEAD >> A man was found suffering from stab wounds outside a Rosemead convenience store on Saturday afternoon but refused to tell investigators what had happened, officials said.
Deputies responded to reports of a bleeding man about 4:35 p.m. outside a 7-Eleven store on San Gabriel Boulevard, just south of Hellman Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Frank Ruiz said.
The victim had stab wounds to his shoulder and hand, the lieutenant said. He was hospitalized in stable condition.
But the victim, a man in his 30s who was believed to be intoxicated, would not cooperate with deputies, he said. The circumstances surrounding how the man ended up wounded remained unclear, an no information regarding a suspect was available.
SAN GABRIEL >> Coroner’s officials have identified a 38-year-old Rosemead man who was fatally shot in the back during a gang-related dispute in South San Gabriel last week.
John Daniel Pollerana died at a hospital about 45 minutes after Thursday’s 11:47 p.m. shooting in the 1600 block of Del Mar Avenue, in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
He was among three men who became involved in an altercation with fourth other men in the parking lot of a motel, Lt. Jose Mendoza of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. The dispute was believed to be gang-related.
One of the four men pulled a handgun and shot the victim in the back, according to sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
One of the attackers drove away from the shooting scene in a white, four-door sedan, Mendoza said. The other three suspects fled the area on foot.
Deputies quickly found one suspect — later identified as 31-year-old Juan Luis Colin of Bell Gardens — on foot in the area and detained him, officials said.
Juan Luis Colin, 31, of Bell Gardens, was treated for cuts to his arms he suffered while fleeing from deputies through backyards before being booked on suspicion of murder, Mendoza said.
Investigators determined Pollerana was staying at the motel along with two friends, Mendoza said. The group had ties to a local street gang.
The four suspects, who are tied to an East Los Angeles street gang, had been staying in another room at the motel, he said.
The groups encountered one another in the parking lot and an argument ensued before “at least one” of the suspects pulled a handgun and opened fire.
Pollerana was mortally wounded. Another man who was with him suffered a grazing wound, it was later determined.
The three additional suspects remained at large Wednesday.
According to county booking records, Colin was scheduled to appear in the El Monte branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday for an arraignment hearing. He was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ALHAMBRA >> One day after a viral cell phone video of an Alhambra man confronting a female package thief in front of his home made the suspect an overnight celebrity, police arrested the woman Friday afternoon, officials said.
Rianna Medina, 20, of Montebello was booked on suspicion of grand theft — a felony — after officers found her about 1 p.m. at a motel in Rosemead, according to Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson.
“The woman seen in the now-viral video stealing packages from the front porch of an Alhambra home last Tuesday has been arrested.
•Video: Alhambra resident confronts package thief
The arrest was the result of “tips and social media messages and using what can only be described as ‘old-fashion police work,’ the sergeant said. “She was taken into custody without incident.”
Medina is accused of a package theft caught on camera Tuesday when the resident arrived home in the middle of the crime and confronted the suspect with a cell phone camera in-hand.
The video, which was released by police in hopes of generating clues, quickly spread across the nation via the internet.
“If I was you, I’d put those down,” the homeowner tells the woman, who tried to argue that her mother lived at the home, not the resdient.
But the woman dropped the packaged and walked away immediately once the man told her he was calling the police.
Police thanked those who called in tips or provided information via social media, Johnson said.
“The public’s cooperation greatly assisted our detectives in identifying and locating this suspect,” he said. “It is often times difficult to find people who are willing to come forward and share information. We appreciate everyone’s contribution.”
VIDEO/PHOTO/BOOKING PHOTO courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department
SAN MARINO >> A woman and her daughter will be spending Mother’s Day together, behind bars, after police caught them driving through San Marino with mail stolen from Arcadia, along with a U.S. Postal Service master key and methamphetamine, authorities said.
Estela Castaneda, 48, of Huntington Park and daughter Elizabeth Castaneda, 22, of Rosemead, were arrested just after midnight Friday following what began as a routine traffic stop for a traffic violation in the 1300 block of Bradbury Road, according to San Marino police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Officers soon noticed that the driver, Estela Castaneda, and her daughter had pieces of mail and checks that had been stolen in Arcadia, along with a U.S. Postal Service lock and master key, or “arrow key,” San Marino police Detective Sergeant Timothy Tebbetts said in a written statement.
As police were booking the women into jail at the Alhambra Police Department, jail guards found the mother hiding “a substance resembling methamphetamine,” the sergeant said.
Police booked the mother and daughter on suspicion of crimes including identity theft, possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools, possession of methamphetamine and possession of contraband inside a jail, officials said.
“The mail appears to be stolen out of the city of Arcadia,” Tebbetts said. “San Marino Police are working with Postal Inspectors to locate additional victims. U.S. Postal Inspectors are seeking to file federal charges on both suspects.”
Estela Castaneda was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail, while Elizabeth Castaneda was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, records show. Both were scheduled for arraignment hearings Tuesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Alhambra branch.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Sgt. Tebbetts at 626-300-0722. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.