HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> A man accused of shooting his girlfriend to death in 2011 and dumping her body in Turnbull Canyon in Hacienda Heights before fleeing to Mexico appeared in a Pomona courthouse this week to answer to a murder charge, authorities said.
Francisco Nila Rojas, 39, of La Puente pleaded not guilty Tuesday in connection with the February 11, 2011, slaying of Claudia Tecuautzin, 41, of La Puente, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. He’s also accused of the special allegation of personally using a gun in the crime.
“Rojas allegedly shot his girlfriend in the head and left her body near Turnbull Canyon Road and Skyline Drive in Hacienda Heights,” Ardalani said in a written statement.
Tecuautzin had been reported missing by her family before her body was discovered about 10 feet down an embankment in Turnbull Canyon, near Skyline Drive, on March 2, 2011, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials said. But due to the condition of her body, identification was delayed, and she was officially listed as a Jane Doe in the weeks following the slaying.
An autopsy found that Tecuautzin died from a gunshot wound to the head, and the death was ruled a homicide, coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Rojas was quickly identified as the suspect in Tecuautzin’s slaying. Prosecutors filed a murder charge against him in April of 2011, Ardalani said.
But Rojas, a Mexican national, fled to Mexico shortly after the fatal shooting, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
He remained a fugitive for more than three years, but investigators never gave up searching for him.
Officials tracked him down in Mexico in 2014, where he was jailed for about a year before being extradited back to the Unites States to face trial in October of last year, Ardalani said.
Rojas and Tecuautzin first became acquainted about a year before the slaying, Corina said. Both worked for the same company vending snacks from push carts.
The co-workers began a romantic relationship several months before Tecuautzin vanished.
Worried family members reported her missing and began a search themselves, sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. A family member searching the area discovered remains, later identified as those of Tecuautzin.
Coroner’s officials worked until the following day to carefully collect the remains.
Homicide detectives and prosecutors declined to discuss the specific motive in the killing Wednesday.
Rojas was ordered back to court June 23 for a pre-preliminary hearing, according to district attorney’s officials. If convicted as charged, he faces up to 50 years to life in state prison.
BALDWIN PARK >> Sheriff’s SWAT deputies conducted a search operation in Baldwin Park Sunday in connection to the shooting of a West Covina police officer over the weekend as the wounded officer was released from the hospital, authorities said.
The manhunt began immediately after Friday’s 11:20 p.m. gunfight between a West Covina officer and 47-year-old suspect Jose Luis Chavez Friday on Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street in West Covina.
Police officers and deputies from throughout the region searched the neighborhood en masse in the hours following the shooting, but came up empty-handed.
But the investigation continued, ultimately leading officials to a home in the area of Durness Street and Vineland Avenue in Baldwin Park on Sunday, where heavily armed and specially trained deputies from the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau conducted a search for the suspect, according to sheriff’s and Baldwin Park police officials.
Authorities announced the search was concluded about 6 p.m., but the suspect remained at large.
“We are actively investigating and searching for this suspect,” Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said. “He is armed and dangerous.”
Meanwhile, the injured officer was recovering well after suffering a through-and-through wound to his abdomen, West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
“Our officer was released from the hospital this afternoon and is home resting,” the chief said via Twitter.
The officer approached Chavez, who was riding a bicycle, when Chavez began shooting, according to Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The officer was struck in the torso but returned fire, officials said. It was unclear whether Chavez was wounded before he fled the scene and escaped.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is spearheading the investigation, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTOS [Above] – Baldwin Park search operation on Sunday, May 22, 2016. (Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departrment) [Below] – Shooting suspect Jose Luis Chavez, 47. (Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
WEST COVINA >> A manhunt continued Saturday for a gunman who shot and wounded a West Covina police officer Friday night, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 11:20 p.m. along Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street.
“There is an officer down. He was struck by gunfire,” Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
The officer had approached the gunman as he rode a bike through the neighborhood, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“The contact (led) to a gun fight between the officer and the suspect,” Schrader said. “At that time, the officer sustained a gunshot wound to the upper torso.”
It was unclear whether the assailant — later identified by sheriff’s investigators as 47-year-old Jose Louis Chavez, had been wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
Sheriff’s deputies, as well as officers from police agencies throughout the region rushed to the scene to help in a search for the suspect, who remained at large Saturday afternoon. Police K-9s, bloodhounds, helicopters and three SWAT teams joined in the search.
“We had help from pretty much every agency in the San Gabriel Valley,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
Officials wound down their neighborhood search Saturday afternoon. The suspect remained at large.
Chavez is described as Latino, 6 feet 1 inch tall, 225 pounds, with his left eyebrow pierced, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “He should be considered armed and dangerous.”
The wounded officer, a 9-year law enforcement veteran with more than an year on-duty with the West Covina Police Department, was expected to survive, Faulkner said.
The bullet struck the officer in the abdomen, beneath his bullet-proof vest, the chief said. It penetrated through the officer and exited his body.
Remarkably, “The round didn’t hit any of his major organs,” the chief said.
“At this point, certainly, I can say that God was on his side.”
Initial plans for emergency surgery were placed on hold, and possibly cancelled, after it was discovered the officer’s major organs were spared by the bullet, he said.
The officer was conscious, alert and in good spirits at a hospital Saturday, accompanied by family members, Faulkner said. His identity was not released.
“He’s experiences, respected and he did a great job under the circumstances,” Faulkner said of the wounded officer.
The chief also praised the work of officers and deputies in the aftermath of the shooting and thanked the community for an outpouring of support.
Further details, including a detailed suspect description, were not available.
Badillo Street remained shut down between Sunset and Orange avenues, as well as Sunset Avenue at Badillo Street, as the investigation and manhunt continued Saturday afternoon.
Anyone with information can reach sheriff’s homicide detectives, who are assisting West Covina police in the investigating, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> A man died following a shooting in a residential neighborhood in Rowland Heights Thursday night, authorities said.
Deputies responded to reports of gunfire about 11:40 p.m. in the 18400 block of Desidia Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“When they arrived, they were directed to the alley of the location where they discovered the victim had been shot,” Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. Paramedics pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
“Witnesses said that the victim and two acquaintances were inside the garage of the location when two male Hispanics in their early-20’s confronted them,” she said. “During the confrontation, one suspect produced a handgun and started firing at all three individuals, striking the victim at least once in the upper torso.”
The two others inside the garage were not hurt, officials said.
The attackers were last seen running east through the alley, officials said. A detailed suspect description was not available.
A motive had yet to be determined, and it was unclear whether the shooting was gang-related.
Anyone with information is 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.
BASSETT >> Gunfire in a Bassett neighborhood left one man wounded and a car riddled with bullets late Saturday in the community’s second shooting in less than 24 hours, authorities said.
Details of the shooting remained unclear Sunday as detectives continued sorting through conflicting accounts of the incident, which unfolded about 11:20 p.m. in the area of Nelson and Milbury avenues in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Arthur Scott said.
Deputies were summoned to Kaiser Permanente’s Baldwin Park Medical Center after a man in his late-teens to early-20s showed up at the emergency room with gunshot wounds to his upper torso, the lieutenant said.
The victim, a documented Bassett Grande gang member, told deputies he was walking past a house party on Nelson Avenue when a group of others started arguing and gunshots rang out, Scott said. The party was taking place at a known gang hangout.
About the same time, deputies responded to another report of gunfire just around the corner, at Milbury Avenue and Flagstaff Street, Scott said.
Three young men from Baldwin Park told officials they were heading north on Milbury Avenue in a car when they were confronted by attackers in an Orange Honda, Scott said. The passenger then exited the Honda and opened fire on the victim’s car.
Bullets shattered the front and rear windshields, and one pierced a headrest inside the car, but none of the three occupants were injured, Scott said.
Investigators suspected the two incidents were related. The investigation was ongoing.
The gunfire took place less than 24 hours after a 1:45 a.m. shooting about a mile away, in the 900 block of Feather Avenue, Lt. David Indante said. A car was damaged, but injuries were reported.
BASSETT >> A bullet pierced a parked car in a residential neighborhood in Bassett early Saturday, but no injuries were reported, officials said.
Deputies patrolling in the area heard gunshots ring out about 1:45 a.m. from the 900 block of Feather Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Bassett, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. David Infante said.
They rushed to the scene to find a parked car that had been struck by a single bullet, but no victims or witnesses of the shooting, the lieutenant said.
The owner of the car told deputies he did not know what had occurred, and the motive in the shooting was unclear.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322.
AZUSA >> Police arrested a Glendora man after he shot and wounded another man within earshot of police officers in Azusa early Sunday, officials said.
Jonathan Louis Rojo, 20, was booked on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with the 4:46 a.m. shooting, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Azusa officers were handling an unrelated disturbance call when they heard gunshots ring out from just east of them, in the 100 block of West 10th Street, Azusa police Sgt. John Madaloni said in a written statement. Officers rushed to the scene, where they spotted a possible suspect running from the area.
Azusa and Glendora police set up a search perimeter to look for the gunman.
Meanwhile, “officers also located an adult, male victim two blocks north of the scene, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to one arm and his pelvic region,” Madaloni said. Paramedics took the wounded man to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
Officer found the suspect, later identified as Rojo, hiding on a residential property just south of the shooting scene about 6:30 a.m., according to police and booking records.
“Rojo was arrested without incident and a loaded handgun was found nearby,” the sergeant said.
The motive and circumstances of the shooting remained under investigation, Madaloni said.
Police declined to release the victim’s age or city of residence.
Rojo was being held in lieu of $1.1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, records show.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Azusa police detectives at 626-812-3200. Tips may also be submitted
The Azusa Police Department is seeking the assistance of any persons who may have witnessed, or have information regarding, this shooting. Witnesses are encouraged to contact the Azusa Police Department Detective Bureau at (626)812-3200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
SAN GABRIEL >> A jury convicted a Rosemead gang member and former fugitive of murder and conspiracy Wednesday for the mistaken-identity slaying of a Gabrielino High School senior in 2005.
The Pasadena Superior Court jury deliberated for less than one day before finding Daniel Guerrero, 29, guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the April 27, 2005, shooting death of Ryan Dasalla, 17, of Rosemead, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. The jury also found true the special, sentence-enhancing allegations that he personally used a gun in the killing, and that the murder was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Two accomplices, including Guerrero’s brother and a then-17-year-old girl, have already been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their roles in the fatal shooting. Daniel Guerrero, who was 23 at the time of the killing, was the alleged gunman.
Daniel Guerrero’s brother, then-18-year-old Gabriel Guerrero, and Sarah Toledo were arrested shortly after the slaying. But Daniel Guerrero fled to Mexico, where he was captured in 2013 before being returned to the U.S. to face justice.
He was ordered back to court June 14 for sentencing, court officials said.
The Guerrero brothers were out for revenge the day of the murder after their younger brother was beaten up the night before, according to prosecutors and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Toledo pointed out Dasalla to the brothers, under the mistaken belief that he was a member of the tagging crew involved in the fight involving their brother, officials said.
The group then approached Dasalla about a block away from Gabrielino High School, along Gladys Avenue near Scott Avenue, according to witness testimony from Toledo’s trial. Gabriel Guerrero fought with Dasalla before Daniel Guerrero pulled out a “big gun.”
The gunman inadvertently shot and wounded his own brother before fatally shooting Dasalla, Risling said.
“Daniel accidentally shot his brother, Gabriel, while Gabriel was on the ground, holding (Dasalla)down,” Risling said. The extent of Gabriel Guerrero’s injuries were not clear.
Gabriel Guerrero has since been sentenced to 84 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him in 2010 of first-degree murder, and found true allegations the crime was for the benefit of a criminal street gang — Varrio Nueva Estrada — and involved a gun.
Toledo was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison in late 2011 after a jury convicted her of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, along with gang and gun enhancements.
LA HABRA >> A man remained hospitalized Sunday with a gunshot wound to his face following shooting in a residential neighborhood in La Habra Friday night, officials said.
The circumstances of the 10:05 p.m. shooting in the 700 block of West Rye Avenue remained unclear, La Habra police Sgt. Clint Angle said.
The wounded, a 24-year-old La Habra man, suffered a gunshot wound that shattered his jaw, but was expected to survive, officials said. But his medical condition prevented investigators from communicating with him.
Police first responded to the neighborhood and found the victim after receiving several reports of an argument and a gunshot heard, Angle said.
Witnesses indicated the victim had been chasing two others — described as male teens in dark clothing — down the street prior to the shot ringing out, the sergeant said.
But it remained unclear whether the teens who were being chased fired on their pursuer, or if the man accidentally shot himself, he said.
A single spent bullet casing was found at the scene, but no gun.
Investigators suspected the incident was gang-related.
Anyone with information can reach La Habra police at 562-383-4300.
BASSETT >> Sheriff’s homicide detectives are investigating a gun battle outside a Bassett restaurant that left a man dead and a woman wounded Tuesday, authorities said.
Dominick Gonzales, 38, of Palmdale died at the scene of the shooting, Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner Coroner said.
Lt. Joe Mendoza of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Gonzalez also had a home address listed in Pacoima.
The shooting took place just after 9 p.m. in the 13100 block of Valley Boulevard, in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Deputies responding to a report of a shooting encountered a man wounded in the upper torso, and a woman who had been shot in her lower body, Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“The male adult was pronounced dead at the scene,” Schrader said. “The female adult was transported to a local hospital to be treated for her injuries.”
An update on the wounded woman’s condition was not available.
The victims were eating near a taco truck parked in front of the El Jalisco Cafe when the gunfire erupted, officials said.
“During the investigation, detectives learned there was a gunfight between at least two individuals at the location,” Schrader said.
The wounded woman appeared to have been an innocent bystander who got caught up in the crossfire, Lt. Joe Mendoza of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
It was not clear Wednesday whether Gonzales the shooting was also a bystander, or an intended target of the gunfire.
The motive in the shooting remained under investigation, and no suspect descriptions were available.
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.
Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO by Keith Durflinger