Whittier serial robbery suspect arrested in Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A tipster helped police capture a man in Santa Fe Springs on Thursday who they have been seeking in connection with two robberies at the same Whittier convenience store, as well as a failed robbery at a Whittier jewelry store last month, officials said.
Officers found and arrested Esteban Manuel Garcia, 23, about 4:45 p.m. at a Starbucks coffee shop, 13248 Imperial Highway, Whittier police Lt. Steve Dean said.
Police were tipped off by a witness who recognized the suspect from surveillance camera images from the crimes released by police and circulate in the media, according to the lieutenant.
Though they didn’t know his name until Thursday, deputies had been seeking Garcia for a month.
He is suspected of holding up employees of a Whittier ampm store at Lambert Road and Greeneleaf Avenue on May 24.
The robber pulled a gun on the clerk and fled with about $200, Dean said.
The same tattoo-faced robber then reappeared exactly one week later on May 31, Dean said. He displayed a handgun and demanded money from a worker at a jewelry store in the 13500 block of Whittier Blvd.
But the worker refused, and the robber fled empty-handed.
The same armed man then returned to the ampm store robbed a week before about two hours after the failed jewelry store heist and held it up once more, Dean said. He escaped with about $250.
Garcia was taken into custody without a struggle, Dean said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Garcia was being held in lieu of $105,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

SURVEILLANCE PHOTO: Courtesy, Whittier Police Department.

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14-year-old girl fatally struck by train in Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A 14-year-old girl died after she was struck by an Amtrak train in Santa Fe Springs on Friday night, authorities said.
The collision was reported just after 8:45 p.m. along the 11300 block of Rivera Road, between Pioneer and Norwalk boulevards, Whittier police Lt. Steve Dean said.
The girl was believed to be sitting on the tracks, listening to a radio or other device, when the train approached, officials said. She apparently did not see the train in time to get out of its way.
The train braked prior to striking the girl, but could not stop in time, Dean said.
“The victim was flown to a local hospital where she died,” Whittier police said in a written statement.
The identity of the teenage victim was not available Saturday pending positive identification and notification of family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
No further information regarding the circumstances of the incident was available Saturday.
An audio device is also suspected to have played a role in another train accident last weekend in Montebello.
A man was seriously injured when he was clipped by a Union Pacific freight train about noon Sunday near the 400 block of South Vail Avenue, according to Montebello police Lt. Julio Calleros.
The man was listening to headphones and did not hear the train approaching and blaring its horn, he said.

PHOTO courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.

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Man and woman charged with Whittier-area random shooting rampage

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.


— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.

PHOTOS: (crime scene map and picture of victim Jose Sahagun courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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UPDATED: Man and woman wounded in Santa Fe Springs shooting being investigated in connection with Whittier-La Mirada shooting rampage


A man and woman were found shot in a stolen car in the parking lot of a Santa Fe Springs motel late Saturday, four hours after a shooting rampage that left one man dead and another wounded in Whittier and La Mirada, officials said.
The man and woman wounded in the Santa Fe Springs shooting were being held on suspicion of auto theft and gun possession Sunday as detectives continued investigating whether they were connection to the earlier shooting spree, according to Whittier police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials. Their identities were not released.
The couple matched the general description of the man and woman being sought in connection with the spate of shootings, Sgt. Vincent Plair of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. The suspect description has not been disclosed.
“It is unclear whether the detained individuals are the suspects in the earlier shooting,” Plair said. “Homicide Bureau investigators are following up on all possible leads and working with Whittier Police Department to solve these crimes.
“As of now there have not been any arrests made in connection with these incidents,” he said.
Officers responded to reports of “shots fired” at 8 p.m. at the Budget Inn, 13420 Firestone Blvd., according to Whittier police Sgt. Ramos, who declined to give his first name.
The circumstances of the shooting were unknown and no suspect description was available, Ramos said.
Both the man and woman were taken to the University of Southern California, Irvine Medical Center for treatment, the sergeant said.
The woman was shot once, he said. Her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
The man suffered multiple gunshot wounds. An update on his condition was not available.
Police soon learned that the car the man and woman were in had been reported stolen, Whittier police Lt. Brian Ellis said. Officers also recovered a gun from the couple.
Without a suspect description, it was unclear whether the shooting was related to a spate of three shootings in Whittier and La Mirada Saturday afternoon that left one man dead and another man wounded.
The violence began about 3 p.m. with a carjacking carried out by a man and woman in Pico Rivera, according to sheriff’s officials.
The carjacked Nissan Pathfinder showed up at a Starbucks coffee shop at Whittier Boulevard and Colima Road in Whittier about 30 minutes later, Ellis said.
The suspects opened fire on a man in his 50s in an alley to the rear of the coffee shop. He was wounded in the leg.
Within minutes, the occupants of the SUV again opened fire at the intersection of Colima and Lambert roads, Ellis said. A car was struck, but the people inside were unhurt.
A third shooting believed to involve the same carjacked SUV and suspects unfolded about 4 p.m. at Santa Gertrudes Avenue and Alicante Road in La Mirada, sheriff’s officials said.
The victim, 44-year-old Jose Shagun of Norwalk, succumbed to his injuries at the University of California Medical Center, Irvine, at 4:51 p.m., according to Orange County coroner’s records.
Deputies found the Nissan SUV believed to have been used in the three shootings shortly after 6 p.m., abandoned at Amelia Mayberry Park in South Whittier.
Anyone with information can reach 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.

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Santa Fe Springs men jailed in $35 million cocaine bust sentenced to prison

LOS ANGELES >> Two Santa Fe Springs men arrested in a jailed in a 672-pound cocaine bust linked to the Sinaloa drug cartel received prison sentences of more than two decades each last week, authorities said.
Eddie Perez, 43, and Jose Garcia Samano, 41, have been behind bars since June 2, 2015, when a Los Angeles County sheriff’s task force carried out a raid at a home in the 11400 block of Charleseworth Road in Santa Fe Springs, where deputies seized 562 pounds of cocaine.
The bust took place a day after deputies arrested two other men linked to the drug ring after pulling over their car in their hometown of Victorville and discovering 110 pounds of the drug in the trunk of their vehicle, according to officials from sheriff’s Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, or L.A. IMPACT. The large-scale drug-dealing operation was believed to be linked to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Investigators valued the seized cocaine at $35 million.
•Photos: Santa Fe Springs/Victorville cocaine bust
At their sentencing hearing on March 9, Perez received a prison term of 23 years, while Samano was sentenced to 27 years in state prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
Perez had pleaded guilty to selling a controlled substance, conspiracy to commit a crime and two counts of possession of a controlled substance, Risling said. Samano pleaded guilty to selling a controlled substance and conspiracy.
The two other defendants in the case, who were arrested during the traffic stop in Victorville, are already serving time for their roles in the cocaine ring.
Eligio Alvarez Manriquez, 27, received a sentence of 22 years in state prison in February after pleading “no contest” to selling a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy, according to Risling. Jose Manuel Lopez, 25, was sentenced to three years, to be served in county jail, in November after pleading guilty to a single charge of conspiracy.
A woman who was initially arrested along with Manriquez and Lopez was ultimately released without charges due to a lack of evidence of her involvement, officials said.

FILE PHOTOS by Melissa Masatani

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Santa Fe Springs woman denies charges in stabbing; father’s cause of death still unknown


SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A Santa Fe Springs woman arrested on suspicion of stabbing her father and her father’s girlfriend last week, after which the father died of undetermined causes, is awaiting trial on assault and other charges as coroner’s officials continue investigating what killed the man, officials said.
Janette Buena, 27, pleaded not guilty Dec. 22 to one count of assault with a deadly weapon on her father’s girlfriend, three counts of brandishing a knife at police while resisting arrest and one count of cocaine possession, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
No charge had been filed in connection with the death of her father, identified by coroner’s officials as 63-year-old Manuel Buena.
Manuel Buena suffered an apparently minor stab wound to his hand and declined medical treatment, Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said. But minutes later, he collapsed and was rushed to a hospital, where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
Manuel Buena’s officials cause of death is yet to be determined by Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner investigators.
The incident unfolded about 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 20 at a mobile home the three shared in the 8000 block of Sorensen Avenue, according to Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller.
Buena allegedly attacked her father and his 46-year-old girlfriend with at least one large knife, police said in a written statement.
The father’s girlfriend suffered stab wounds to her head, hands and arms, police said. The father suffered a stab wound to his right hand.
Police said the victim’s locked themselves in the bathroom of the mobile home and called 911.
Responding officers encountered Janette Buena at the doorway, still armed with a knife, officials said. She retreated back into the mobile home and tried to force her way in to the bathroom where the two injured victim’s were.
Police fired three bean bag rounds at the suspect, but she refused to drop the knife, according to police. Officers then used a Taser to subdue her and take her into custody. Two 8- to 10-inch-long kitchen knives were recovered at the scene.
Janette Buena suffered a broken wrist during the incident, likely from the bean bag rounds, police added.
Manuel Buena’s girlfriend was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, Miller said.
The lieutenant said Manuel Buena declined medical treatment of what appeared to be a relatively minor injury to his hand.
But about 15 minutes later, he collapsed in cardiac arrest, officials said. He soon died at a hospital.
Police initially arrested Janette Buena on suspicion of the murder of her father.
But as Manuel Buena’s cause of death remained unclear, prosecutors charged her only in connection with the stabbing of her father’s girlfriend, as well as brandishing knives at police and possession of cocaine.
According to county booking records, Janette Buena was being held in lieu of $106,500 bail. She is scheduled to appear Friday for a pre-preliminary hearing in the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Man shot while sitting in parked car with girlfriend in Santa Fe Springs


SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man suffered wounds to his head and back after attackers inside two different cars opened fire on him as he sat in a parked car with his girlfriend near a park early Sunday, officials said.
The victim, a 20-year-old Whittier man, was expected to survive his injuries following the shooting, which took place about 1:10 a.m. in the 13200 block of Lakeland Ave., in front of Amelia Mayberry Park on the border between Santa Fe Springs and South Whittier, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The man and his girlfriend were sitting in a parked car when two dark-colored cars pulled up next to them.
“There was a little bit of dialogue between them,” Ellis said. “The vehicles that pulled up fired several rounds.”
Bullets struck the victim in his head and back, Ellis said. He was taken to a hospital where he was listed in stable condition.
Ellis said the victim’s girlfriend was unhurt.
The suspect vehicles were described only as a possible Dodge Dart with three people inside and a possible Honda Civic.
It was unclear what was said before the attackers opened fire, and the motive in the shooting remained under investigation, Ellis said.
Anyone with information can reach the Whittier Police Department, which provides police services to Santa Fe Springs, at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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2 gunmen sought in Santa Fe Springs insurance agency robbery


SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Police are seeking two gunman who robbed a Washington Boulevard insurance agency Tuesday afternoon, officials said.
The crime unfolded about 4:20 p.m. at Fred Loya Insurance, 11418 Washington Blvd., in Santa Fe Springs, Whittier police Lt. Jay Tatman said.
Three women were working inside the business when the two robbers entered office, pointed handguns and the workers and demanded money, the lieutenant said.
They fled with an undetermined amount of cash, he said. No injuries were reported.
Police described the robbers as two Latino men in their mid-20s, both about 5 feet 6 inches tall and of thin build. Both wore baggy hooded sweat shirts and dark jeans, and both carried handguns.
They were last seen fleeing from the business on foot, Tatman said. No getaway car was observed.
Detectives were working to obtain surveillance camera footage of the crime, he added.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Santa Fe Springs man sentenced for sexually abusing child at mother’s daycare business

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A judge sentences a 34-year-old Santa Fe Springs man to 10 years in prison Wednesday for sexually molesting a 5-year-old girl at his mother’s home-based child care business more than a decade ago, authorities said.
Robert Andres Martinez pleaded “no contest” in May to two felony charges: committing forcible lewd acts on a child and committing lewd acts on a child, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Prosecutors charged Martinez with child sex crimes in January following an investigation by the Whittier Police Department.
In addition to his prison term, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Porras also ordered Martinez to register as a sex offender for life during the sentencing in the Norwalk courthouse, Ardalani said.
Martinez’s mother ran a child care center out of her Santa Fe Springs at the time of the molestations in 2005, officials said.
“In the afternoons, the children would have naptime in the living room,” Ardalani said. “It was during naptime that Martinez lured one of the children, a 5-year-old girl, into his bedroom and sexually abused her.”
The victim did not report the abuse at the time, officials said.
“The victim, who is now in high school, recently revealed to her mother about the molestation, which prompted the parent to call authorities and report the sexual abuse,” Ardalani said.

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Santa Ana teen shot to death in Santa Fe Springs identified


SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Authorities have identified a 17-year-old Santa Ana boy found shot to death along a set of railroad tracks in Santa Fe Springs Wednesday morning.
Arturo Morelos was pronounced dead shortly after he was found suffering from gunshots wounds about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday along a set of railroad tracks near the 13700 block of Carmenita Road, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
No information regarding the circumstances of the shooting, or the shooter, was available.
A nearby worker called 911 to report a “man down” before officers arrived to find the teen had been shot, Whittier police Lt. Aaron Ruiz said.
It was unclear exactly what time the shooting took place.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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