UPDATE: Driver killed in crash on 60 Freeway in South El Monte identified as Walnut woman

SOUTH EL MONTE >> A driver killed after her car crashed in to a disabled big rig on the 60 Freeway in South El Monte on Thursday has been identified as a 49-year-old Walnut woman, authorities said.
Tiffany Chiali Yi Ching died in the 1:40 p.m. crash along the westbound 60 Freeway, just east of Santa Anita Avenue, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
She was at the wheel of a 2018 BMW heading west on the 60 Freeway at an unknown speed just prior to the crash, Officer J. Calder of the CHP’s East Los Angeles-area office said in a written statement.
Ahead of her was a tractor-trailer stopped along the right shoulder of the freeway, near the Santa Anita Avenue offramp, due to a mechanical breakdown, the officer said.
“(The BMW driver) made a turning movement to the right toward the Santa Anita Avenue offramp,” he said. “The BMW struck the right, rear corner of the stopped commercial trailer, continued in a westerly direction, collided a second time into the commercial trailer and the redirected to the north and came to rest on the right shoulder of the offramp.”
Paramedics pronounced Ching dead at the scene at 1:54 p.m., Winter said.
An autopsy determined Ching died from “traumatic injuries” and the death was ruled accidental, he said.
The big rig driver suffered no injuries, according to Calder.
Any witnesses, or anyone with information, can reach the CHP’s East Los Angeles-area office at 323-980-4600.

PHOTO by Keith Durflinger

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Woman killed in crash on 60 Freeway in South El Monte


SOUTH EL MONTE >> A woman died in a crash between a big rig and a car on the 60 Freeway in South El Monte on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The deadly crash took place about 1:40 p.m. on the westbound 60 Freeway at Santa Anita Avenue, California Highway Patrol Officer Alex Rubio said.
“It appears to be a two-vehicle collision,” he said. Initial reports indicated the crash involved a big rig and a BMW sedan.
One woman was pronounced dead at the scene, Rubio said. No further description of the victim was available.
A Sig Alert was issued for the Santa Anita Avenue offramp of the westbound 60 Freeway as the investigation continued.

PHOTO by Keith Durflinger

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South El Monte elementary school teacher denied molesting students

A South El Monte elementary school teacher accused of inappropriately touching five female students denied five criminal charges in court on Thursday, officials said.
Joseph Alfred Baldenebro, 54, of Montebello has served as a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in South El Monte for the past 21 years, according to Lt. Todd Deeds of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau.
Prosecutors charged him in June with one felony count of committing a lewd act upon a child and four misdemeanor counts of child molestation for alleged crimes against the students, which took place on school grounds between August of 2015 and May of 2017, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. He served as a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher at the time of the alleged crimes.
Following his arrest on June 21, Baldenebro posted $102,000 bail on July 1 and was released from custody pending the trial process, Los Angeles County booking records show.
He pleaded not guilty Thursday during an arraignment hearing in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, authorities said.
Mountain View School District officials said Baldenebro was placed on administrative leave once the allegations came to light.
If convicted as charged, Baldenebro could face up to 12 years in state prison.

PHOTO of suspect Joseph Baldenebro courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Man shot to death in El Monte identified


EL MONTE >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a 20-year-old man who died in a shooting that also left a teenage boy wounded in El Monte on Tuesday night.
Esteban Bustamante of South El Monte died following the 11 p.m. attack at Garvey and Durfee avenues, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
He was riding as a rear passenger in a car, as was the teenage victim who survived his wounds, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. A woman driving the victims’ car, as well as a second woman riding as a front passenger, escaped injury.
The victims were stopped at a red light, facing north on Durfee Avenue, when a gray compact car driven by the killer pulled up alongside their car, Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“A verbal interaction occurred between the occupants of both vehicles,” Schrader said. “During the course of the verbal interaction, a male Hispanic exited the driver side of the suspect’s vehicle, approached the victim’s vehicle and shot multiple rounds into the rear passenger compartment.”
The shooter then got back into his car and sped away.
The woman at the wheel of the victim’s car drove the wounded man and boy to Greater El Monte Community Hospital in South El Monte, Schrader said.
Bustamante died within minutes of arriving there, coroner’s Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
No further information, including a detailed suspect description, have been released.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is assisting El Monte police in the investigation, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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SWAT team arrests South Gate carjacking suspect following chase from West Whittier to South El Monte

A man led deputies on a chase from West Whittier to South El Monte in a carjacked car before being captured by a sheriff’s SWAT team on Sunday morning, officials said.
Robert Larry Gutierrez, 34, was jailed following the pursuit, which began about 7:30 a.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva said. His hometown was not available.
Deputies patrolling over the unincorporated county area of West Whittier in a helicopter detected a signal from a LoJack vehicle tracker in the area of Washington and Norwalk boulevards, the lieutenant said. The vehicle had been reported carjacked in South Gate earlier in the morning.
“It looked like he was going to pull over initially, but then he took off,” Villanueva said.
Gutierrez led deputies on a 6-mile chase that ended when he abandoned his car along Peck Road at the 60 Freeway in South El Monte and fled into a nearby brush area, according to Villanueva.
Deputies summoned a sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau SWAT Team to track down the suspect in the dense vegetation. A sheriff’s helicopter landed on the freeway in order to rush deputies to the scene.
The SWAT deputies, aided by a K-9, soon found Gutierrez hiding in the brush and took him into custody.
He was being booked on suspicion of driving a car without the owner’s consent, felony evading and possession of cocaine, Villanueva said. The earlier carjacking was being investigated by the South Gate Police Department.
The westbound lanes of the 60 Freeway were closed down for nearly half-an-hour as deputies searched for and apprehended the suspect.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Two suspects and dog burned fire at alleged ‘honey oil’ lab at South El Monte motel

SOUTH EL MONTE >> Two men and a dog suffered burns when a fire broke out at a hash oil extraction lab operating out of a South El Monte motel early Sunday, authorities said. A third, possibly injured suspect was believed to be at large.
Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters responding to reports of a structure fire about 12:40 a.m. encountered several rooms ablaze at the Motel 6, 1228 Durfee Ave., according to Deputy Lisa Jansen of the sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames, she said. Two men, as well as a dog, suffered burns in the fire.
One of the men suffered major burn injuries, while the second man’s injuries appeared less severe, Sgt. James Long said. An update on their conditions was not available.
“Detectives from Arson-Explosives Detail responded and, based on recovered evidence, determined there was a possible ‘honey oil’ marijuana extraction laboratory at the location,” Jansen said in a written statement. Deputies seized equipment associated with the alleged hash oil extraction.
Officials took the two suspects to a hospital to receive treatment prior to facing potential criminal charges, officials said. The injured dog was taken to a veterinary hospital in unknown condition.
“Investigators believe another suspect, with possible burn injuries, may have left the location prior to their arrival,” Jansen said.
Deputies found scorched clothing believed to have been shed by the third suspect before fleeing the scene, Long said. No description of the man was available.
Officials estimated that the fire caused $80,000 worth of damage to the motel.
Detectives from the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force’s Clandestine Laboratory Team responded to the scene and is spearheading the investigation.
Anyone with information is urged to contact LA IMPACT at 323-869-6874. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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UPDATED: Domestic violence suspect arrested after SWAT standoff in South El Monte


SOUTH EL MONTE >> A SWAT team arrested a domestic violence suspect believed to be armed with a knife holed up inside a South El Monte home following a six-hour standoff on Sunday, authorities said.
The incident began about 1:20 p.m. in the 9600 block of El Poche Street, Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“Deputies contacted the suspect’s girlfriend at the location who informed them that during an argument, the suspect threatened her with a knife and made statements of setting the house on fire,” she said.
The suspect refused orders to come out of the home and surrender, officials said.
Officials evacuated nearby homes, shut off the natural gas supply to the home and summoned a sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau SWAT Team, as well as crisis negotiators, to the scene.
After hours of attempts talk the man into surrendering, deputies forced their way into the home and took the man into custody shortly after 7 p.m., officials said.
Martin E. Hernandez, 51, was booked on suspicion of felony spousal assault and making criminal threats, Navarro-Suarez said.
“The weapon, a knife, was recovered,” she added.

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Deputy who died in line of duty in 1964 honored with memorial in Temple City

TEMPLE CITY >> More than 52 years after a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy lost his life in the line of duty in South El Monte, family members, officials and fellow law enforcement officers gathered to give the fallen lawman an overdue honor with the dedication of a memorial at the sheriff’s Temple Station on Wednesday, authorities said.
Deputy John M. Slobojan, 31, died on Nov. 7, 1964, after suffering a heart attack while chasing a robbery suspect in South El Monte.
“During the chase, Deputy Slobojan collapsed. CPR was administered and he was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead,” according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He had served as a deputy for five years.
But as the decades passed, the story of Deputy Slobojan became lost to history, Capt. David Flores of the sheriff’s Temple Station said.
The sheriff’s department has recently embarked on a mission to identify any fallen deputies who may have not been properly honored in the past. “It’s a proactive effort to honor these fallen heroes,” Flores said.
In recent months, a Temple Station sergeant learned about Slobojan and began researching the deputy.
The effort culminated in Wednesday’s ceremony, where Slobojan’s wife, brothers, two sons and daughter joined in unveiling a portrait, plaque and flag to commemorate the deputy, Flores said.
Slobojan’s memorial took its place between those of two other deputies who lost their lives while serving the sheriff’s Temple Station: Deputy Harold Stephen Blevins, who was gunned down on Oct 12, 1957, and Deputy David William March, shot to death on April 29, 2002.

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Woman attacked and sexually assaulted while jogging in the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area


SOUTH EL MONTE >> Detectives cautioned the public and sought information after a man pulled a female jogger into some bushes and sexually assaulted her before she fought him off at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte on Thursday afternoon.
The attack unfolded about 5:30 p.m. in the park, in the 500 block of Durfee Road, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
A woman was jogging when the man approached her from behind, Rouzan said.
“He pulled her into the bushes and sexually assaulted her,” he said. “The victim was able to fight the suspect off and escape. The suspect rode off on his bike toward Durfee Road and out of view.”
Deputies described the attacker as a Latino man between 20 and 30 years old, with light skin, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, 175 pounds, with a black fade haircut. He wore a black T-shirt and black sweatpants, and had a teardrop-shaped tattoo under his left eye.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Coroner: Man found dead in San Gabriel River in South El Monte drowned


SOUTH EL MONTE >> The death of a man whose body was found floating in the San Gabriel River in South El Monte over the weekend has been ruled an accidental drowning, coroner’s officials said Friday.
The body of Alex Giovanne Castillo, 23, described as transient, was first spotted by a dog-walker about 1:15 p.m. Sunday, floating face-down in the river near Peck Road and Durfee Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said.
Investigators conducted an autopsy and determined Castillo drowned, and the death was ruled accidental, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records show.
Further information regarding the circumstances of the drowning were not available Friday. But the body was found the same day that a Spring storm dropped scattered rainfall, and even hail, across the Southland.

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