Three cars destroyed in San Dimas arson fire

SAN DIMAS — Three parked cars were destroyed in an arson fire early Wednesday, officials said.
Officials responded to a vehicle fire just after 3:40 a.m. in the parking lot of a business park in the 600 block of W. Covina Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rebecca Rodriquez said.
All three vehicles were owned by the same person, she added.
One of cars appeared to have caught fire first, before the flames spread to the other two, the sergeant said.
The hood of the first vehicle that caught fire had been stolen, Rodriquez said.
It was unclear if the car had been set afire intentionally, or if it had caught fire while someone was attempting to steal parts from it.
The destroyed cars were valued at about $10,000 in all, she added.
Deputies turned the investigation over to the investigators from the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail.

64-year-old man killed in San Dimas boat racing crash

SAN DIMAS >> A 64-year-old Los Angeles man died Saturday in a speedboat crash during a racing event on the Puddingstone Lake in San Dimas, authorities said.
Gregory Wayne Belda was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which took place about 11 a.m. at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, 120 Via Verde, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Betsy Magdaleno. An autopsy was scheduled Sunday to determine exactly how he died.
The crash took place during a the 5th Annual Lake Puddingstone Sprint Boat Races.
“During one of the events, the lead boat lost control,” Lt. Denise Stephenson of the sheriff’s Parks Services and County Services bureaus said. “The boar traveling directly behind it collided into it.”
Belda was driving the lead boat, Stephenson added.
A man driving the second boat involved in the crash was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries, the lieutenant added.
The cause of the crash was being investigated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division, Stephenson said. Nothing criminal was initially suspected.
Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation officials have reported 15 watercraft-related fatalities since 1968.
Three women lost their lives there in an Oct. 15, 2011, watercraft crash.
Anesia Bautista, 47, of Glendora, Maricon Abello, 34, of San Diego and Aurora Yeso, 53, of the Philippines, died after the Sea-Doo personal watercraft they were riding collided with a 21-foot speedboat, officials said.
The remainder of the weekend races were cancelled following the fatal mishap, Stephenson said.
The races were scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to dusk, according to park officials and the event Facebook page.
Race organizers could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park was open Sunday, however the lake itself was closed, Stephenson said. The lake was expected to reopen for public access Monday.

San Dimas check cashing business robbed

SAN DIMAS — An armed man held up a San Dimas check cashing business Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime took place about 4:15 p.m. when the robber entered Check Into Cash, 865 W. Arrow Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Vicki Gregory said.
The man brandished a handgun as he demanded money, ultimately fleeing with more than $2,000, officials said.
As he left, he ordered the employees and customers to go to the rear of the business, Gregory said. He was last seen running south from the store.
Two employees and a family including two children who were inside the store at the time were unharmed, Gregory said.
Officials described the robber as a white man between 40 and 50 years old, wearing a baseball cap, a hooded sweat shirt and jeans.

- Brian Day and Greg Cappis

Pomona woman badly injured in San Dimas crash

SAN DIMAS — A Pomona woman suffered major injuries Thursday in a solo-car crash along the 10 Freeway in an unincorporated county area just south of San Dimas, authorities said.
The woman, 42, was rushed to a trauma center by helicopter following the 2:55 p.m. crash on the eastbound 10 Freeway, just east of Via Verde Street, California Highway Patrol Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said in a written statement.
She was eastbound on the 10 Freeway in a 2000 Nissan Maxima when she exited at Via Verde Street, went through an intersection at the base of the offramp, then got onto the onramp back onto the eastbound 10 Freeway, Jimenez said.
For reasons that remained under investigation, the Nissan veered toward the left until it went off the side of the onramp, the officer said.
“The Nissan travelled out of control through the uphill embankment, became airborne and landed within the eastbound (10 Freeway) lanes,” Jimenez said.
The car overturned and skidded across traffic lanes, striking the concrete center divider wall coming to a rest on it’s wheels, blocking the two right-hand lanes of the eastbound 10 Freeway, according to Jimenez.
The woman at the wheel of the Maxima suffered major injuries to her head and face, officials said. Officials briefly shut down both directions of the 10 Freeway to allow a rescue helicopter to land.
The two right lanes of the eastbound freeway remained closed for about an hour after the crash.
Officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP are handling the investigation.

Boys accused of stealing money from restaurant in San Dimas

SAN DIMAS — Deputies arrested two teenage resident’s of a San Dimas boys’ home Friday after they allegedly stole money from a table at a restaurant.
The 15-year-old boys, both residents of the McKinley Children’s Center, were booked on suspicion of burglary following the 2:30 p.m. incident at Roady’s Restaurant, 160 W. Bonita Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rebecca Rodriguez said.
One of the boys distracted a waitress while the other snatched about $40 that had been left on a table by a patron to pay a bill, the sergeant said. Both young suspects then ran away.
Responding deputies found both teens in the area and took them into custody, she said. One was apprehended by sheriff’s San Dimas Station Capt. Don Slawson, who was assisting deputies on patrol.
The boys were sent to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey.

Family escapes burning home in San Dimas


SAN DIMAS — A family escaped their burning home unharmed Saturday as a fast-spreading fire engulfed their Via Verde house.
The fire ignited just before 2:20 p.m. inside the attached garage of a single-story home in the 1300 block of Via Verde Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Todd Woods said.
Four residents — a man, his wife and two adult nieces — were shaken following the fire, but relieved that everyone was safe.
A firefighter was hurt when the roof the burning garage partially collapsed on him, Woods said. He was taken to a hospital for treatment of what were believed to be minor injuries.
Resident Anna Solod, 27, first realized something was amiss.
“I heard a crackling noise, like fireworks,” she said. She also noticed light fixtures near the garage were blinking.
When she opened the door leading from the garage, she said found the interior engulfed in flames.
She alerted the other three residents of the fire as she dialed 9-1-1, and the family made it’s way out of their house, which was rapidly being consumed by flames.
The smoke inside the home became heavy, Solod said. “There were flames everywhere.”
Solod’s uncle, Alex Smirnoff, credited her with getting the family out safely.
“She just runs in. She just screams, ‘The house is on fire,’” he said.
“As I ran toward the garage, I could already see the fire around the door. I tried to peek in, but the backdraft was intense,” Smirnoff said. “It was so quick.”
Once the family escaped the home, the fire continued burning, causing severe damage throughout. A dollar-value estimate of the damage was not available Saturday afternoon.
SDfire2Along with the damage to the rental home, two Jaguar cars parked inside the garage were destroyed, and at least one more car parked outside was damaged. Smirnoff described one of the destroyed vehicles, a 1974 Jaguar XKE, as his “pride and joy.” The other Jaguar, an XJ6 belonged to his wife.
Firefighters extinguished the flames in about 40 minutes, Woods said, though smoke continued rising from the house more than an hour later.
“It looks like they stopped the fire really well,” Smirnoff said.
Smirnoff, a graphic designer, was especially glad that firefighters managed to save two computers inside his home which contain his life’s work.
“If it wasn’t for them, I probably would be out of work,” he said.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, Woods said. Nothing suspicious was initially noted.


Sobriety checkpoints planned this weekend in La Verne, San Dimas, La Puente

Police officers and sheriff’s deputies will be screening drivers for sobriety and valid drivers’ licenses during three checkpoints planned this weekend in La Verne, San Dimas and La Puente.
The La Verne Police Department will hold a DUI/Drivers License checkpoint Friday.
The checkpoint will run From 6 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location in the city, police officials said in a written statement.
Also Friday, sheriff’s deputies will be holding a checkpoint from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. the following morning at an undisclosed location within San Dimas, authorities said.
And deputies from the sheriff’s Industry Station plan to hold a checkpoint from 7 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. the following morning within La Puente, officials added.
Funding for the operations is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Alleged burglar found hiding in closet of Via Verde home

SAN DIMAS — Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Fontana man for burglary early Sunday after finding him hiding in the closet of a Via Verde home, sheriff’s officials said.
Kaleb Cooper, 18, was booked on suspicion of burglary following his 8:15 a.m. arrest at a home on Paseo Marlena, just east of Via Esperanza, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
Officials first received a report of a possible trespasser in a nearby backyard just after 6:45 a.m., however he was gone when deputies arrived, sheriff’s Sgt. Rebecca Rodriguez said.
But a woman called the sheriffs San Dimas Station about an hour later to report hearing noises in her home, and finding a screen had been removed from a window, the sergeant said.
Authorities advised the women to get out of her home, which she did. Rodriguez said. Deputies then searched the house and found Cooper hiding in a closet.
He was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in Pomona Superior Court, records show.

San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team recruiting new members

SAN DIMAS — San Dimas Mountrain rescue team recruiting members
The San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team is recruiting new volunteer members interested in outdoor adventure and serving their community.
Founded in 1955 and part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the team is called upon to search for and rescue missing, trapped or injured hikers; rescue accident victims in the mountains; assist with evacuations during disasters and a host of other duties, team officials said in a written statement. Team members are on call 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
“Team members continually train in search an tracking, mountaineering, climbing, rapelling, map and compass usage, helicopter extraction and other types of evacuation techniques, snow and ice rescue, swiftwater rescue and more,” according to the statement.
Each members also becomes a reserve deputy sheriff and is trained as a certified emergency medical technician.
An information meeting is planned at 8 a.m. Dec. 7 at the Mountain Rescue Station, 114 East First Street in San Dimas.
No experience is necessary, and all training is provided, officials said. Volunteers must be at least 21 years old, in good health, be a full-time student or have steady employment and have a clear background.
For an application, for more information and to RSVP for the informational meeting, visit

$10,000 reward offered for info on bags, badges stolen from sheriff’s deputies at Raging Waters in San Dimas


SAN DIMAS — A law enforcement union announced a $10,000 reward Thursday for information leading to the arrest of a 19-year-old El Monte man accused of stealing two bags containing sheriff’s badges and identification cards from the Raging Waters park in San Dimas in September.
Randy Sandoval has been identified as one of two suspects in the Sept. 22 theft at the amusement park, which was closed to the public for a private gathering of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department employees, Lt. Janice Banks of the Sheriff’s Parks Bureau said. The two bags stolen belonged to off-duty deputies assigned to the sheriff’s Palmdale Station.
He was identified via a surveillance photo obtained at a store where a credit card taken in the theft was used within hours of the crime, officials said. A photograph of Sandoval, whose identity was not known at the time, along with a female accomplice was first published by sheriff’s officials Oct. 17.
Help from the public results in the arrest of a 17-year-old girl in connection with the crime, as well as the identification of Sandoval, officials from the Sheriff’s Parks Bureau said in a written statement.
In hopes of tracking down the remaining suspect and getting back the stolen items, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff’s, which hosted the September event at Raging Waters, has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Sandoval.
The bags were taken from inside an employee break room in front of the park’s security office, Banks said.
In the three hours that followed, a credit card stolen from one of the off-duty deputies was used to rack up about $670 in charges at businesses in San Dimas, West Covina and Baldwin Park.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Banks at 661-294-3544, or 213-276-8108

PHOTO of Randy Sandoval, 19, of El Monte courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.