Gang member charged in slaying of Whittier police officer, cousin

WHITTIER >> Prosecutors filed capital murder and other charges Wednesday against a gang member and probationer accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding another last month after gunning down his cousin in East Los Angeles, authorities said.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles faces two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of carjacking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shootings, which took place on the morning of Feb. 20 in East Los Angeles and in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
Mejia could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer, the murder of his cousin, Roy Torres, the wounding of Whittier officer Patrick Hazell, as well as the carjacking of his cousin and the alleged weapons violation, officials said.
“A decision on whether to seek capital punishment will me made at a later date,” Risling said in a written statement.
Mejia, who was shot and wounded himself by police before being apprehended, was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Thursday in the Bellflower branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Risling said. But it was unclear if his medical condition would force the hearing to be postponed.
Mejia has remained hospitalized in a jail ward since the shooting, records show. He was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” for violating the terms of his probation under the terms of AB 109 pending the filing of charges in connection with the deadly shootings. The 10-day, automatic sentence is set to expire Thursday.
Mejia first shot and killed Torres inside the converted garage he was using as a bedroom at his home in East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Mejia then stole his slain cousin’s car and made his way to Whittier.
A little under three hours later, Mejia was involved in a minor traffic collision with two other motorists at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, investigators said.
“Police responded to the crash and when they ordered Mejia to get out of his car the defendant is accused of pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and firing at two officers,” Risling said. Boyer was killed and Hazell was also wounded. Hazell has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home.
Mejia has prior felony convictions for robbery in 2010 and auto theft in 2014, Risling said.
Since being released from custody for the auto theft conviction in April of 2016, Mejia was arrested five times for probation violations, records show. Each time, he received a 9- or 10-day “flash incarceration” before being turned loose again.
The case has prompted outrage from law enforcement and questions from politicians and community members over recent efforts to empty California’s overpopulated prisons, such as AB 109, also knows as the Public Safety Realignment of 2011, and Proposition 47 of 2014, which reduced some felony crimes to misdemeanors.
Memorial services for Boyer are scheduled Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Boyer, who was 53, was a a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department. He is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty since 1979.
A public viewing will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Whittier Area Community Church, 8100 Colima Road in Whittier.
The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Calvary Chapel Downey, 12808 Woodruff Ave. in Downey, followed immediately by a procession and graveside ceremony as Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.

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Three men arrested, gun recovered following Pasadena shooting


PASADENA >> Police arrested three suspect and seized a handgun after gunshots rang out late Tuesday, striking at least one car but resulting in no injuries, authorities said.
The shooting, which was possibly a two-way gun battle, took place about 9:30 p.m. in the 1100 block of North Garfield Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Pete Hettema said.
Officers responding to reports of shots fired spotted three men running from a car, which had been struck by gunfire, he said.
Police immediately captured on of the fleeing occupants nearby on Los Robles Avenue, according to Hettema. He was found to have a semi-automatic handgun.
Police set up a search perimeter and soon captured the two additional suspects seen abandoning the bullet-struck car.
Jaron Lamar Taylor, 25, of Pasadena, who had the gun, as well as Dejon Marcel Ogletree, 24, of Pasadena and Dalonte Andrews, 26, of Altadena, were booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
All three suspects were being held without bail.
Investigating officers also encountered a man who had crashed his car into another parked car while fleeing from he gunfire, Hettema said. He suffered no significant injuries. It was not immediately clear whether any gunfire had struck his car.
Police suspected the shooting may have been a two-way gunfight between the three suspects and another shooter or shooters, Hettema said. But no other possible suspects were found.
No victims turned up at local hospitals with gunshot wounds connected to the incident, he added.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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La Puente man convicted of killing girlfriend, dumping body in Hacienda Heights


HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> A La Puente man who lived as a fugitive in Mexico for three years before his capture is guilty of murdering his girlfriend in 2011 and dumping her body in Hacienda Heights, a jury found Friday.
A jury at the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court deliberated for less than a day before convicting Francisco Nila Rojas of first-degree murder for the Feb. 18, 2011, slaying of 41-year-old Claudia Tecuautzin of La Puente, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
The jury also found true the special allegation that Rojas personally used a gun. He faces up to 50 year to life in state prison at his sentencing, scheduled Monday, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
After shooting Tecuautzin in the head, he dumped her body down an embankment along Turnbull Canyon, near Skyline Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. A passer-by discovered her remains on March 2, 2011. It took coroner’s investigators several weeks to identify the body, due to the condition in which it was found.
“According to evidence presented at trial, Rojas stole money from Tecuautzin’s bank accounts before and after she was killed,” according to Ardalani.
“Additionally, a Ford Explorer that Rojas and the victim co-owned contained remnants of the victim’s blood. Also, the car’s passenger floor was bleached.”
Further cementing Rojas’ guilt, prosecutors learned that Rojas had purchased a gun on Feb. 12, 2011, less than a week before the slaying took place, Ardalani said. “The same gun was consistent with bullet fragments recovered from the victim’s head, according to expert testimony.”
But by the time the victim and suspect had been identified, the killer had fled the country.
Rojas, a Mexican national, fled to Mexico five days after the killing, according to Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
He was captured in Mexico in 2014, then extradited back to Los Angeles County to face trial in October of 2015.

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Man wounded in Norwalk drive-by shooting


NORWALK >> A drive-by shooting in a Norwalk residential neighborhood left one man wounded, authorities said.
A man was walking south along Horst Avenue, approaching 165th Street, when shots were fired from a passing car, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jaime Alvarez.
The victim suffered a gunshot wound to his abdomen, the sergeant said. He was taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
The attackers were described as four men in a blue Toyota or Honda sedan, Alvarez said. “The victim did not provide additional information.”
A motive in the shooting had not been determined.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Norwalk Station at 562-863-8711. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man critically wounded in El Monte shooting

EL MONTE >> A man suffered serious injuries but is expected to survive after he was found shot in the backyard of an El Monte home early Thursday, authorities said.
Residents called police to report gunfire about 8:30 a.m. along Rio Hondo Parkway, just east of La Madera Avenue, El Monte police Lt. Ernie Kramer said.
Thje victim, a man estimated to be in his 20s, was found in the backyard of a home suffering from three gunshot wounds, the lieutenant said.
Paramedics took the wounded man to hospital, where he was listed in critical-but-stable condition after undergoing emergency surgery, Kramer said.
No further details, including a suspect description or a motive, were available Thursday afternoon.
A black car was seen leaving the area about the time of the shooting, but it was not yet clear if that car had been involved.
Anyone with information can reach the El Monte Police Department at 626-580-2110.

PHOTO by Leo Jarzomb

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Pasadena gang member pleads guilty in police shooting


PASADENA >> A Pasadena gang member accused of shooting at a police officer before being wounded himself and arrested pleaded guilty to three felony charges in connection with the incident, authorities said Wednesday.
Francisco Flores, 23, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of assault on a peace officer with a firearm, discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of methamphetamine while armed with a handgun, with allegations the crimes gang-related, Pasadena police officials said in a written statement. He’s expected to be sentenced to 35 years in prison when he returns to Los Angeles County Superior Court for sentencing on March 17.
He was a passenger in a car two officers tried to pull over about 9:15 a.m. on April 8, 2016, at Buckeye Street and Los Robles Avenue. The car came to an abrupt stop at Buckeye Street and Adena Avenue, where Flores ran from the vehicle.
An officer followed Flores, according to the police statement. “While running, suspect Flores looked back at (the pursuing officer), pointed a gun at the officer and fired three rounds, fortunately missing.”
The officer returned fire, striking Flores, police said. Flores was treated for his wounds and has since recovered.
Flores was already out on bail pending an illegal gun possession case at the time of the shooting, officials said.

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Suspect in deadly Whittier police shootout still in ICU, surviving officer released from hospital

Members of the community place flowers in memory of slain Whittier Police officer Keith Boyer at the Whittier Police Department’s Police Officer Memorial in Whittier, Calif. on Tuesday February 21, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)

WHITTIER >> The gang member accused of killing a Whittier police officer and another man on Monday, as well as wounding another police officer, remained hospitalized in a intensive care unit Wednesday as detectives continued gathering evidence and the community continued mourning and seeking answers.
Investigators were yet to interview Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles, as he continued receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the back sustained in Monday morning’s gunfight with the Whittier, Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau said. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
The tight-knit Whittier community has rallied around the family of Officer Keith Boyer, a 53-year-old Whittier resident, 28-year lawman, father, grandfather and classic rock drummer.
Officer Patrick Hazell, who was wounded in the abdomen in the shootout, was released from the hospital and continuing his recovery at home, Corina said. His father said the wounded officer did not wish to comment at this time.
Mejia, a documented gang member who was on felony probation, or “Post-Release Community Supervision,” under the terms of AB 109, is also accused of gunning down his cousin about 5:30 a.m. in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in East Los Angeles, less than three hours before the violent encounter with police in Whittier.
Family members said Mejia showed up the Torres home and confronted Torres inside the converted garage the victim used as his bedroom.
The men possibly became involved in an argument prior to the shooting, relatives said. Following the shooting, Mejia allegedly fled in Torres car, which he soon crashed in Whittier.
An autopsy determined Torres died from a single gunshot wound to the head, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. The death was ruled a homicide.
No further details of the East Los Angeles slaying, including a motive, have not been released.Mejia was driving a stolen car when became involved in a minor crash with two other vehicles at Colima Road and Mar Vista Avenue about 8 a.m., Corina said.
Police arrive at the scene after the other drivers had helped Mejia push the car he was driving to the side of the road.
“They asked him to get out of the car. That’s when the shooting occurred,” Corina said.
Mejia suddenly drew a semi-automatic handgun and opened fire, striking both officers.
One of the officer managed to return fire and wound Mejia, who was taken into custody at the scene by fellow officers, officials said.
It was unclear which of the officers wounded the suspect. Corina declined to discuss whether one, or both, of the officers fired their weapons.
Mejia’s gun was recovered at the scene, Corina said.
The involved officers were not wearing body camera, and Corina said he was not aware of any video recordings of the deadly encounter between Mejia and Whittier police.
Mejia was expected to be charged in connection with the case once he’s out of the hospital, the lieutenant said.
Mejia had prior convictions for robbery, and most recently, auto theft, officials said.
He as been re-arrested for probation violations five times since being released from prison for the auto theft conviction, each time resulting in 9- or 10-day “flash incarcerations,” under the terms of AB 109, also known as the “California Public Safety Realignment” of 2011, records show.
Details regarding the circumstances of each arrest were not available, however none resulted in the filing of a new criminal case.
At least one of the arrests was for possession of methamphetamine, Corina said.
Possession of methamphetamine had traditionally been a felony in California, punishable by a year or more in prison, but was reduced to a misdemeanor by Proposition 47, passed by California voters in 2014.
Mejia’s criminal record has raised concerns of law enforcement officers, politicians and others, who are questioning whether Mejia should have been behind bars, rather than out on the street, on Monday.
A documented gang member, and an apparently proud one, Mejia bears the letters “W” and “G” tattooed prominently across his face in capital letters. The same abbreviation, which stands for an East Los Angeles street gang, is also tattooed on Mejia’s neck in lower-case letters.
Services for Boyer have not been announced.
The Whittier Police Department is accepting donations to benefit Boyer’s family. He’s survived by a fiancee, four children and two grandchildren.
Checks can be made out to “WPOA Benevolent Fund,” and reference account No. 488879. Contributions can be dropped off in person at the Whittier Police Department, 13200 Penn Street, in person at the Credit Union of Southern California at 8028 Greenleaf Ave. or mailed to the Credit Union of Southern California, WPOA Benevolent Fund, attention David Valencia, PO Box 200, Whittier, CA 90608.
Any witnesses, or anyone with information, regarding Monday’s incident is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

PHOTO of Michael C. Mejia courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departement

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UPDATED: Two women killed, toddler wounded in Covina shooting; parolee jailed

COVINA >> A parolee is suspected of killing two women and seriously wounding a toddler in a shooting at a Covina home early Sunday, authorities said.
The incident was first reported just after midnight, when Lucas Doi Fick, 36, of Covina knocked on a door of a home in the 700 block of Rancho Sinaloa Drive, Covina police Lt. Ric Walczak said. He had an injured 2-year-old boy with him.
“(He) said that ‘something bad’ had happened, and to call the police,” the lieutenant said.
“Responding officers went into residence and discovered two adult females decease from apparent gunshot wounds,” Walczak said. Their identities were not available.
Officials also discovered that the young boy had been shot in the back, he said.
“The child underwent emergency surgery,” Walczak said. His injuries were serious, but he was expected to survive.
Police recovered several guns from the scene, he said.
Fick, a parolee fitted with a GPS ankle monitor due to a lengthy prior criminal record, was taken into custody, police said.
He was initially booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of firearms and violating his parole as the investigation continued, Walczak said. But investigators considered him a suspect in the double-slaying of the two women and the attempted murder of the boy.
No further details, including the relationships between the suspect and victims and the motive, were available Sunday afternoon.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Fick was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Wednesday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Los Angeles County Superior Court records show Fick’s extensive rap sheet includes convictions for attempted possession of ammunition by a felon in 2016; burglary and resisting or obstructing police in 2015; possession of a gun by felon, possession of ammunition by a felon and theft in 2014; theft in 2013; dissuading a witness in 2012; possession of drugs for sales in 2009; drug possession in 2008; possession of methamphetamine in 2007; assault with a deadly weapon in 2004; possession of an illegal knife on a college campus in 2002; and criminal threats in 2001.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Covina Police Department Detective Bureau at 626-384-5612. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.


PHOTO of Lucas Fick courtesy of the Covina Police Department

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UPDATED: Duarte man gunned down in front of home


DUARTE >> A man died after he was shot as he arrived home with his wife and children in Duarte on Saturday night, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 8:20 p.m. in the 2300 block of Bashor Street, according to Deputy Kelvin Moody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Information Bureau.
Kirinda Lavar Morehead died at the scene of the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
“Detectives have learned that the victim, a 39-year-old man, parked his car behind his wife’s car at the location. The victim and his wife exited their cars and were preparing to walk to their residence on Mount Olive Drive,” Moody said in a written statement.
“A white vehicle driving westbound on Bashor Street pulled up alongside the victim,” the deputy said. “An occupant opened fire striking the victim multiple times. The victim’s wife was uninjured.”
The car was last seen heading north on Mount Olive Drive, officials said.
Paramedics pronounced Morehead dead at the scene.
No further details, including a description of the attacker or attackers, were available.
A neighbor, who asked that his name be withheld, said he was inside his home with his mother and teenage sister when eight to nine shots rang out in rapid succession.
“We hurried into the back room of our house,” he said.
He said he then heard the sound of a woman’s anguished voice calling out for help.
“Call 911,” she exclaimed, according to the neighbor. “My baby. I can’t live without him. His two kids need him.”
The neighbor said he emerged to look around after he could hear that police had arrived in the neighborhood.
He saw the victim lying next to his truck, which was parked on the street and pierced with at least three bullet holes.
The two children, who were with their mother only yards away when the shooting occurred, were asking where their father was, he said.
The motive in the fatal attack was not yet clear.
Anyone with information is urged 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.

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Killer in triple-fatal Pasadena AK-47 rampage sentenced to 181 years behind bars

SMITH

PASADENA >> A Pasadena man who fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, her father and a neighbor who tried to help, then opened fire on a responding police officer, during a 2014 assault weapon rampage will spend the rest of his life in prison after receiving a sentence of nearly two centuries in state prison on Wednesday, authorities said.
John Izeal Smith, 46, received a sentence of 181 years to life in state prison in the Burbank branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, in connection with the Jan. 12, 2014, triple-murder in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
The sentence was agreed upon under a plea arrangement reached in December, when Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second degree murder, as well as charges of attempted murder and assault with an assault weapon on a police officer.
Killed in the AK-47 shooting spree were Smith’s ex-girlfriend, 59-year-old Maria Aguiar, with whom he still lived; her 91-year-old father Luis Aguiar; and 31-year-old neighbor 31-year-old Jose Hernandez Iribe, according to Los Angeles County coroner and Pasadena police officials.
“Smith got into a domestic altercation with (Aguiar), grabbed an assault rifle and opened fire,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “Aguiar was killed along with her elderly father.”
Smith then fatally shot Iribe as he rushed toward the gunfire to help Maria Aguiar as she lied wounded in the sidewalk, according to Pasadena police.
Smith then barricaded himself inside the home and called 911 to report the shooting.
He opened fire on the first officer to arrive at the scene, Officer John Woo, who took cover behind his patrol SUV to escape the barrage of gunfire, officials said. Fellow officers used an armored vehicle to rescue Woo from the line of fire.
More than 40 rounds were fired by Smith during the rampage.
Two other people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries following the incident, officials said.
The special circumstance of multiple murders could have made Smith eligible for the death penalty, however prosecutors chose not to seek capital punishment for the crimes.

PHOTO: Johh Izeal Smith, 46, of Pasadena. (file)

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