UPDATED: Duarte man accused of murder after fatal shooting of neighbor, pursuit

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DUARTE >> A Duarte man shot and killed his neighbor Friday night before leading police on a chase that ended with his arrest in Azusa, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 7:55 p.m. in the 2100 block of Broach Avenue, Deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, 35, died in the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Luis Valdes-Santillan, 40, was booked on suspicion of murder, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
De La Torre and Valdes-Santillan lived in separate homes on the same lot, Hernandez said. Both attended a party being held at another neighbor’s home.
“At some point during the party, the victim and the suspect began to argue,” she said. “The suspect then entered his residence, retrieved a handgun, exited, and fired multiple rounds at the victim, striking him.”
De La Torre died at the scene.
Witnesses told deputies the shooter had fled in a white Toyota work truck, officials said.
Deputies soon spotted the truck nearby. The driver refused to pull over, initiating a pursuit.
The chase headed down Duarte Road and Huntington Drive before ultimately making its way onto the eastbound 210 Freeway, according to sheriff’s radio traffic.
A helicopter joined in the pursuit before Valdes-Santillan stopped and surrendered on the Azusa Avenue offramp in Azusa.
“A weapon was recovered inside the suspect’s vehicle,” Hernandez said.
The man was taken to the sheriff’s Temple Station for questioning, officials said. He was ultimately booked on suspicion of murder.
Valdes-Santillan was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Alhambra branch, records show.
No further details were released as the investigation continued Saturday.
De La Torre’s brother-in-law, Bobby Serna, said De La Torre is survived by his wife and three step-daughters who he had helped raise. The youngest of his step-daughters is a teenager.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Serna said. “He took a really good man that I looked up to. I loved him, I really did.”
Serna, who was not present when the shooting occurred, said his brother-in-law was gathered with family members behind his home, along with Valdes-Santillan.
It was unclear what angered Valdes-Santillan and prompted him to retrieve a gun from his home.
The suspect made a statement to the effect of, “Who wants it first?” before opening fire, Serna said.
Until the gunshots were fired, “Nobody even knew it was happening,” he said.
Serna said he did not know whether De La Torre was specifically targeted in the shooting.
“He was such a good man,” Serna said of his brother-in-law.
De La Torre migrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager and had been working as a subcontracting electrician, he said. De La Torre’s white work van with a ladder affixed to the top remained parked in front of the home Saturday.
He was saving money and planning to obtain his contractor’s license, so he could start his own contractor business, Serna said.
“He would help anybody,” Serna said. “He really valued family. He loved kids. He was a hard worker.”
De La Torre’s personality was “quiet but humorous,” he said.
“My daughters are devastated. They loved their uncle,” Serna said.
Funds to benefit De La Torre’s family are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/2ksz74hg.
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.

PHOTO: Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, courtesy

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West Covina police officer wounded in gunfight returns to duty

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WEST COVINA >> A West Covina police officer wounded in a gunfight with a suspect returned to duty this week after recovering from his injuries.
Officer Kenny Benitez was allegedly shot by 47-year-old Jose Luis Chavez during a May 20 confrontation on Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street, according to West Covina police and Los Angeles Count sheriff’s officials. Chavez, who was also wounded in the encounter, was captured in nearby Valinda following a six-day manhunt, faces charges of attempted murder of a police officer, assault on a police officer with a semi-automatic firearm and possession of a gun by a convicted felon.
The West Covina Police Department’s briefing room was extra crowded Thursday night as fellow officer and other colleagues attended the briefing to welcome Benitez back to his first shift after three months of recovery, West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
“Ken was severely injured when he was shot in May and his quick recovery is nothing short of miraculous under the circumstances,” the chief said.
0820_NWS_SGT-L-OFFICER2“Officer Benitez is a strong young man and was driven to return back to work in support of his fellow officers in the field,” Faulkner said. “We are very proud of Officer Benitez and how he handled this injury. Ken has set a solid example for our personnel for many years to come.”
Benitez has been a police officer for nine years, and had worked with the West Covina Police Department of a little over a year at the time of the shooting.
Benitez approached Chavez as he walked with a woman, pushing a bicycle, when Chavez pulled a handgun and opened fire multiple times, officials said. Benitez was wounded but returned fire.
The alleged shooter, later identified as Chavez, initially escaped the scene but was captured by a sheriff’s SWAT team the following week in the unincorporated county area of Valinda. He was found to have a days-old gunshot wound to his arm.
Chavez has yet to enter a plea to his charges in connection with the shooting of Benitez.
His arraignment hearing has been postponed four times, and his now scheduled to take place Sept. 6 in West Covina Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Chavez is also scheduled to be sentenced for another criminal case on Sept. 6, she said. He pleaded “no contest” in April to possession of drugs for sale, bringing contraband into a jail and possession of a switchblade knife. That case was first filed in December of 2015.

PHOTOS: [ABOVE] West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner, left, welcomed Officer Kenny Benitez back to duty on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, on his first night of patrol following after being wounded in a gunfight with a suspect three months ago. [BELOW] Jose Luis Chavez (Courtesy, West Covina Police Department)

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One suspect released, the other charged in fatal Covina shooting

Police have Clearman's North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

COVINA >> Authorities have released one of two suspects in the weekend slaying of a 20-year-old Covina man stemming from an alleged robbery and filed charges against the other, officials said Wednesday.
Covina police arrested Christopher Avila, 20, and Adam Hernandez, 21, both of Covina, on suspicion of murder the day after Saturday’s late-morning shooting in a restaurant parking lot that left Isaac Urena dead.
But prosecutors declined to file a case against Avila, sending the case back “for further investigation,” according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
Avila was released from jail Tuesday morning, Los Angeles County booking records show.
District attorney’s officials filed a county of acting as an accessory to the killing after the fact, Ardalani said.
A scheduled arraignment hearing for Hernandez on Tuesday was postponed to Monday.
According to booking records, Hernandez was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Covina Police Department Jail.
The fatal shooting took place shortly before noon after Urena was driven by a friend to the parking lot of Clearman’s North Woods Inn, along San Bernardino Road, just east of Azusa Avenue.
Urena had arranged to sell some jewelry via the online app OfferUp, according to police.

A man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. Police have the victim's body covered by a tent awaiting the Coroner Department's arrival. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

But the transaction turned deadly, and Urena was fatally shot, Peterson said.
His friend drove across the city border to the parking lot of Faith Community Church in West Covina where paramedics pronounced Urena dead, officials said.
Despite Avila’s release without charges, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said he remains the suspect in the fatal shooting of Urena.
“We’re confident we’ve identified the people responsible,” he said.
No additional suspects were being sought, he added.
Hernandez is accused of driving the car that brought the gunman to the scene, and Avila is suspected of wielding the gun, Peterson said.
Detectives will continue building their case, gathering evidence and conducting witness interviews
“We’ll continue working with detectives, and with the District Attorney, to ensure charged are filed when warranted,” Peterson said.
Detectives recovered a handgun while serving search warrants at the suspects’ homes, Peterson said. The results of forensic tests to determine whether the seized gun is the same one that killed Urena were still pending Wednesday.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS by Leo Jarzomb

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Two suspects jailed in fatal shooting of 20-year-old Covina man during alleged robbery

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COVINA >> Police have arrested two suspect in the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old Covina man while allegedly trying to rob him of jewelry after arranging a meeting online, officials said.
Isaac Urena died in Saturday’s 11:50 a.m. shooting in the parking lot of Clearman’s North Woods Inn, at San Bernardino Road and Azusa Avenue in Covina, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator A. Lopez said.
After following leads and serving search warrant through the night and into Sunday morning, Covina police detectives, aided by SWAT officers, arrested Adam Hernandez, 21, and Christopher Avila, 20, both of Covina, on suspicion of murder and robbery, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
“These guys were relentless in their pursuit of these suspects…working, literally, around the clock,” he said.

Police have Clearman's North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Police have Clearman’s North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Urena was the passenger in a Honda Civic, with a friend at the wheel, when the shooting took place, according to police.
He had made an arrangement online to sell some jewelry, and had gone to the restaurant parking lot to meet the prospective buyer, the sergeant said.
But the transaction turned into a robbery, and Urena was shot and mortally wounded, Peterson said.
The driver of the car Urena was riding in fled from the shooting scene and drove west along San Bernardino Road, coming to a stop in the parking lot of Faith Community Church across the city border in West Covina, police said.
It was there that paramedics pronounced Urena dead, officials said. The driver, also a young man, was not wounded in the shooting.
Detectives had yet to determine of the alleged killers successfully stole the jewelry they were after, or fled empty-handed, Peterson said.
As investigators pursued leads in the case, they identified Hernandez and Avila as suspects in the fatal shooting.
Police served a search warrant in the 1400 block of Armel Drive in Covina, where they apprehended Hernandez, Peterson said.
“As the investigation continued, it led us to the 1200 block of O’Malley Avenue (in Covina), where we served a search warrant with our Special Response Team,” Peterson said. Avila was taken into custody.
Police recovered a handgun during the searches, he said, but police were yet to determine it if was the weapon used in the slaying.
According to county booking records, Hernandez and Avila were being held in lieu of $1 million bail each pending their initial court appearances, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court. Police planned to seek an increase in bail to $2 million, Peterson said.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628, Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

BOOKING PHOTOS of Christopher Avila (left) and Adam Hernandez (right) courtesy of the Covina Police Deparmtent.

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Man found shot to death at West Covina church following Covina attack

A man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. Police have the victim's body covered by a tent awaiting the Coroner Department's arrival. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

A man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. Police have the victim’s body covered by a tent awaiting the Coroner Department’s arrival. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

WEST COVINA >> A young man died after he shot in the passenger seat of a friend’s car in Covina while meeting someone to sell property via an online advertisement, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 11:50 a.m. in the parking lot of Clearman’s North Woods Inn, at San Bernardino Road and Azusa Avenue, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
Immediately following the shooting, the driver of the car drove away from the shooting scene, heading west across the city border into West Covina, the sergeant said.
“After the shooting, the victim’s friend drove away from the location and into the parking lot of Faith Community Church in the City of West Covina,” Peterson said.
It was there that first-responders encountered the victim.
“When fire department personnel arrived, he was in full arrest,” West Covina Fire Department Captain Esteban Rodriguez said.

Police have Clearman's North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Police have Clearman’s North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Police, and then paramedics performed CPR on the wounded man, but he was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene, according to the captain.
The black Honda Civic in which the victim was riding came to a stop within a painted parking stall at the northwest end of the sprawling church property, 1211 E. Badillo Street.
Police covered the body with a sheet and a tent as they awaited the arrival of coroner’s officials.
The driver of the Honda, also a young man, spoke with investigators at the church Saturday afternoon.
He declined to comment and appeared angered by the presence of media.
The victim’s identity was not released Saturday.
The investigation remained in its early stages Saturday, however it initially appeared the victim and his friend had gone to the parking lot in Covina to sell some property after arranging the transaction online, Peterson said.
Police declined to say exactly what was being sold, but said the transaction did not involve contraband.
The shooter was described only as male, Peterson said. It was unclear if he was alone, or if was accompanied by accomplices.
No further details were available.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628, Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: One killed, one wounded in shooting at West Covina house party


WEST COVINA >> Gunfire erupted at a West Covina house party Friday night, leaving a La Habra man dead and another victim wounded, authorities said.
Jose Melendez, 21, died in the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Acting Lt. B. Kim said.
The shooting took place about 10:15 p.m. in the 800 block of East Michelle Street, West Covina police Lt. Travis Tibbetts said.
Officers responded to reports of gunshots when they encountered people fleeing from a house party, he said.
Paramedics found Melendez in the backyard and administered CPR at the scene, but ultimately pronounced him dead.
The second victim, described only as male, was also found nearby, Tibbetts said. He suffered injuries not initially believed to be life-threatening.
Officials initially believed a third person had been injured in the shooting, but that turned out not to be true, Tibbetts said.
No additional details, including a suspect description, were available as the investigation continued Saturday.
Anyone with information can reach West Covina police at 626-939-8500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man wounded in La Puente car-to-car shooting


LA PUENTE >> A car-to-car shooting in La Puente left a man wounded late Thursday, officials said.
The gunfire erupted about 10:40 p.m. in a residential neighborhood in the 16900 block of Turk Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. David Infante said.
A shooter or shooters in a car opened fire on the victim, a man in his late teens, as he was driving in his own car, the lieutenant said.
The victim’s car was struck six times, and one bullet struck the man in the shoulder, he said.
No further details of the shooting, including a suspect description, were available, Infante said.
The wounded man did not appear to be cooperating with investigators, he said.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Officials: Resident shoots knife-wielding intruder in Norwalk


NORWALK >> A Norwalk man shot and wounded a knife-wielding intruder who broke into his home while his family was inside early Sunday, officials said.
The break-in and shooting took place about 2:30 a.m. at a house in the 14400 block of Graystone Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rene Garcia said.
A woman at the home was firs alerted by noises coming from the front of the house, the sergeant said. Children were also present at the home.
“The suspect proceeded to go to the rear of the residence, where he broke through french doors armed with a knife,” Garcia said.
The male resident shot the armed intruder in the torso, he said.
“The suspect fled from the scene, however, he was taken into custody about a block away,” Garcia said.
Officials took the wounded suspect to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, he said. His identity was not available pending the booking process.
None of the family members inside the home were hurt, according to the sergeant.
The resident who shot the burglar was not arrested as detectives continued investigating what initially appeared to be self-defense, he said.

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Shots fired in Baldwin Park neighborhood


BALDWIN PARK >> Bullets struck a parked car, but injured no one, during a drive-by shooting in a residential neighborhood in Baldwin Park Saturday afternoon.
The shots were fired about 4:30 p.m. in the 13200 block of Francisquito Avenue, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Shawn Blackburn said.
Officers found a car that had been struck by gunfire, but no gunshot victims either at the scene or at area hospitals, he said.
A silver vehicle was seen fleeing the area immediately after the shooting, he said. No further details were available.

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Man wounded in Norwalk shooting


NORWALK >> A Norwalk man was hospitalized in critical-but-stable condition after he was shot multiple times during an argument outside a Norwalk strip mall Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The shooting took place about 1:55 p.m. in the 15000 block of Pioneer Boulevard, just south of Excelsior Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robin Limon said.
The victim, a man in his mid-30s, became involved in an argument with another man, the lieutenant said. It was unclear what the dispute was about.
The argument escalated into a fight, and the attacker pulled a handgun and fired 10 rounds from a 9mm handgun, she said. The victim was struck multiple times in the torso and legs.
Paramedics took the wounded man to a hospital, where he was expected to survive his injuries.
The shooter was described as a Latino man in his 30s, last seen driving north on Pioneer Boulevard in a tan, four-door sedan, Limon said.
The motive was not immediately clear, however sheriff’s gang investigators were spearheading the investigation.
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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