UPDATED: ‘Emergency situation’ briefly shuts down Sierra Madre Police Department

SIERRA MADRE >> The Sierra Madre Police Department ceased handling calls for about an hour Sunday in response to an “emergency situation” at the police station, reportedly after someone brought a grenade to the facility.
Few details were initially available regarding the incident, which began about 4 p.m. at the police department, 242 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre police announced via Facebook that police services, both emergency and non-emergency, were being handled by the Monrovia Police Department, “Due to an emergency situation at the station.”
Sierra Madre police could not be reached for comment.
Officials did not confirm initial reports that the incident stemmed from someone bringing a grenade to the police station.
City officials announced the station has safe and police services returned to normal shortly after 5 p.m.

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Alleged thieves arrested after being confronted by Sierra Madre man


SIERRA MADRE >> A Sierra Madre man confronted a trio of burglars in front of his home early Wednesday, chasing them off before police arrested the suspects, officials said.
A man heard noises about 4 a.m. coming from the front of his Grove Lane home, Sierra Madre police officials said in a written statement. He looked out his window to see someone breaking into his car.
“The resident went outside and confronted the suspect, who was now inside his vehicle, and a brief struggle ensued,” according to the statement. “The suspect had a large silver object in his hand which the resident felt was a gun. Fearing for his safety the resident backed away from the suspect allowing the suspect flee southbound to a dark-colored SUV.
Another suspect ran out from another nearby home and jumped into the SUV, which sped away, police.
0514_NWS-PSN-L-SMARREST2Police quickly found and stopped a vehicle matching the reported description and arrested three suspects after finding them in possession of suspected stolen property and drugs, according to the police statement. Police were still looking for the rightful owners of some of the property.
“We discourage residents from confronting suspects for their safety but are glad the victim is okay,” Sierra Madre Police Larry Giannone said.
Jesus Rojas, 20, Geovany Martinez, 19, and Aaron Vazquez, 33, all of El Monte, were booked on suspicion of attempted robbery and possession of stolen property, police said. They were being held in lieu of $50,000 each pending their initial court 0514_NWS-PSN-L-SMARREST3appearances.

PHOTOS [top to bottom]: Jesus Rojas, 20, Geovany Martinez, 19, and Aaron Vazquez, 33, all of El Monte. (Courtesy of the Sierra Madre Police Department)

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Sierra Madre woman found safe after vanishing under suspicious circumstances

SIERRA MADRE >> A Sierra Madre who disappeared Thursday morning after she withdrew thousands of dollars from her bank account to give to scammers posing as IRS agents was found safe Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The woman 70, received a phone call about 9 a.m. claiming to be from an IRS representative who told her she owed money to the agency, Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said. But police believe the caller was a con-artist.
The woman’s husband reported that she went to her bank and withdrew $5,000 at the request of the caller, Giannone said. She was to be given further instruction on how to send or deliver the money to the scammers. It was unclear what those arrangements may have been.
She then vanished, police said.
Police announced shortly after 6 p.m. that the woman had been found safe, but released no further details regarding what had taken place.
The woman was victimized by a common scam that re-emerges each tax season and has been seen throughout the nation, but Sierra Madre was hit especially hard Thursday as the con artists targeted the foothill community.
More than 50 Sierra Madre residents who reported receiving similar calls on Thursday, the chief said.
Residents lost about $6,000 in total to the scammers, police said.
The phone call received by Bargen came from the same phone number that called other Sierra Madre residents Thursday in the IRS scam.
Giannone declined to discuss the phone number in more detail, citing the ongoing investigation.
Neighboring police agencies reported receiving sporadic reports of the IRS scam in their cities, but not the type of surge in scam attempts seen Thursday in Sierra Madre.

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ROP teacher at Gladstone High School in Covina accused of sex with student


Police arrested a female Regional Occupational Program teacher Thursday on suspicion of having sex with a male Gladstone High School student, officials announced Friday afternoon.
East San Gabriel Valley ROP teacher Eddee Kovacs Kolos, 50, of Sierra Madre turned herself in to police about 4 p.m. Thursday, according to Sierra Madre police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
(Detectives) interviewed her. At the conclusion of their interview, they determined there was enough evidence for an arrest,” Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said.
Police booked her on suspicion of having sexual intercourse with a minor, .
The allegation came to light about noon, when a 16-year-old Gladstone High School student reported the encounter to a school officials, the chief said.
Kolos posted $20,000 bail and was released from custody Thursday night, records show. She could not be reached for comment Friday.
Representatives of the East San Gabriel Valley ROP also could not be reached for comment after hours Friday.
Giannone said the alleged misconduct occurred within recent months, but declined to provide a specific time-frame.
It was unclear what subject Kolos taught through the ROP program.
Covina police initially investigated the allegation, but turned the case over to their counterparts in Sierra Madre after determining the alleged crime took place in that city.
Giannone declined to say exactly where the alleged molestation occurred.
“The cooperation of the Azusa Unified School District, the Covina Police Department, and the quick work of Sierra Madre Police Department detectives were instrumental in bringing this case to a quick conclusion and the arrest of the suspect within four hours of school authorities being notified,” Giannone said.
Upon learning of the alleged misconduct, the district immediately notified authorities, and also contacted ROP officials to have the teacher removed from campus and placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, Azusa Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Corey James said in a written statement.
“Azusa Unified takes very seriously any allegation about inappropriate relations between a student and teacher, regardless of whether they are an AUSD employee.  While this teacher was not a direct employee, AUSD holds this individual and all other guests on our campus to the same high standards to which we hold our own teachers,” James said.
“Our students’ safety is our first priority,” James said. “We are cooperating with law enforcement to facilitate a speedy resolution to this issue.  On behalf of our student, AUSD will call for immediate prosecution to the full extent of the law.  In the meantime, we are providing counseling for our student.”
Kolos was scheduled to appear for arraignment in Pasadena Superior Court on April 3, officials said.

PHOTO of Eddee Kolos, 50, of Sierra Madre, courtesy of the Sierra Madre Police Department

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Glendale men accused of planting skimmer at Sierra Madre gas station


Police arrested two Glendale men, including one already under investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, after they were caught installing a skimming device on a gas pump at a Sierra Madre gas station early Saturday, authorities said.
Edvard Martirosyan, 27, and Aram Manasaryan, 22, were arrested shortly before 3 a.m. outside the Valero gas station, 4 N. Baldwin Ave., Sierra Madre police officials said in a written statement. They’re accused of several felony charges for allegedly trying to install the device in order to capture credit card numbers of unsuspecting customers.
The U.S. Secret Service, which has already filed a separate case against Martirosyan, is spearheading the investigation into the two suspects, officials said.
The arrests came after police officers were responded to an alarm at the gas station.
“The officers’ quick response to the alarm call allowed us to catch the suspects in the act,” 0608_NWS_PSN-L-SKIMMER2Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said. “Officers were on scene within one minute of being dispatched to the call and caught the suspects as they were attempting to leave.”
In the suspects’ car, police found other skimming devices, laptop computers, counterfeit credit cards and other tools used to break into gas pumps, officials said.
Martirosyan was out of custody on bond in his pre-existing federal case when he was arrested along with Manasaryan Saturday, officials said. He was arrested in August in connection with an alleged identity theft ring operating skimmers at gas stations in and around the San Fernando Valley.
The incident was the second time in recent weeks police have investigated possible tampering at the gas station.
Police cautioned the public to be wary late last month after learning someone had tried to break in to the gas pumps at the Valero station May 23, police said.
But station owner Edgar Artenyan said an expert had examined the pumps and determined no customer information had been compromised in the crime, which was thwarted by an alarm.
It was unclear if Martirosyan and Manasaryan were also suspected in the May incident.
Officials again asked customers of the station who purchased gas at the pumps using a credit or debit card between May 22 and June 6 to watch their financial accounts for suspicious activity, “just to be on the safe side,” according to the police statement.
“At this point, we cannot be 100 percent certain that some personal information was not captured,”
According to county booking records, Martirosyan and Manasaryan were being held in lieu of $500,000 bail each at the Pasadena Police Department’s jail pending their initial court appearances.

PHOTOS of Edvard Martirosyan (top) and Aram Manasaryan (below) courtesy of the Sierra Madre Police Department.

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Gas station owner: Customer info not compromised in failed break-in at Sierra Madre gas pumps

An attempted break-in at the pumps of a Sierra Madre gas station did not compromise any customer information, the owner said Wednesday.
Police advised customers who had purchased has between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday at Valero, 4 N. Baldwin Ave., to pay extra attention to their bank and credit card receipts after discovering someone had tried to break into the pumps during the early-morning hours, Investigators said at the time that it was unclear if anyone’s personal information had been compromised as a result of someone tampering with the pumps.
But station owner Edgar Artenyan said no customer’s information had been jeopardized by the break-in, which was stopped short by an alarm system.
A company specialist inspected the pump and determined “everything’s safe, nothing is wrong,” he said. “Everything is clear. They couldn’t get in.”
Sierra Madre police officials confirmed the department had received no reports of identity theft related to the gas station since Friday.
The investigation into who tried to break into the pump, and why, was ongoing.

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Police: Gas pumps possibly tampered with at Sierra Madre gas station; Friday’s customers urged to monitor bank accounts

SIERRA MADRE — Police warned those who filled up at a Sierra Madre gas station Friday to watch their bank accounts for suspicious financial activity after discovering someone had tampered with the gas pumps.
Investigators Friday learned of a break-in during the early-morning hours at the gas pumps at Valero, 4 B. Baldwin Avenue, Sierra Madre police officials said in a written statement.
The gas pumps “may have been compromised,” the statement said.
Anyone who purchased gas at the station using a credit or debit card at a pump between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday were urged to closely monitor their financial accounts for unusual activity, and report anything suspicious to police as soon as possible.

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Suicide suspected after man found fatally shot at crowded Sierra Madre park


SIERRA MADRE >> A man was believed to have fatally shot himself at a Sierra Madre park filled with families on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Police received numerous calls just after 12:30 p.m. reporting gunfire at Bailey Canyon Park, 451 W. Carter Avenue, Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said.
“Officers arrived on scene and found a male down on the ground,” the chief said.
A doctor who happened to be nearby heard screaming and rushed to help, Giannone said. The doctor was performing CPR when first responders arrived, however paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.
The identity of the man had not been determined Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said. Police described him as appearing to be in his 50s.
A gun was recovered near the body, Giannone said.
The investigation was ongoing, he said, however initial indicators pointed toward suicide.
The shooting took place near picnic tables and a hiking trail as more than a dozen people, including young children, were recreating in the park, Giannone said.
In addition to the loss of life involved in the incident, “This was an unfortunate tragedy for our community,” Giannone said. “The park was filled with visitors and hikers, several who witnessed this tragic incident”.
Officials continued scouring the scene for clues and interviewing witnesses. Coroner’s investigators were also summoned to the scene. Police also examined a black Toyota RAV4 SUV in the parking lot that the unidentified man was believed to have arrived at the park in.
It was not clear Sunday afternoon whether the screams reported by the doctor came from the man who ultimately died, or others who witnessed the incident or its aftermath.

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UPDATED: Downed wires reported on Pasadena-Sierra Madre border

PASADENA >> Officials urged drivers to avoid the intersection of Sierra Madre Boulevard and Michillinda Avenue due to fallen power lines.
The wires fell to the street about 10 a.m. on the borderline between Pasadena and Sierra Madre, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
About 900 Pasadena Department of Water and Power customers lost electricity as a result of the fallen wires, however the power was restored shortly before noon, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. Work crews remained in the the area making repairs into the afternoon.
The outage turned out the traffic signals at the intersection, and prompted officials to shut down one lane of westbound Sierra Madre Blvd, officials said.
The mishap was believed to be caused when a car struck a power pole on rain-slickened roads.

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Suspect jailed following Sierra Madre break-in

SIERRA MADRE — Police jailed a 32-year-old Sierra Madre man Sunday after he broke into an occupied home in the middle of the night, officials said.
Benjamin Charles McMillan was booked on suspicion of burglary following his arrest shortly after 1 a.m. in the 400 block of East Highland Avenue, Sierra Madre Police Chief Larry Giannone said.
Police received a call from a woman reporting that there was an intruder inside her home, the chief said.
“Officers actually arrived in less than a minute and set up a containment,” he said.
About the same time, the woman’s husband encountered the intruder inside the home, and the alleged burglar ran out the back door.
Officers searched the area and found McMillan hiding in the backyard of the home. He was taken into custody without a struggle.
It was determined he accessed the home through an unlocked side door, the chief added.
According to county booking records, McMillan was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

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