SOUTH EL MONTE >> A suspect is behind bars and accused of murder in connection with a solo-car crash that killed his passenger last week, which detectives say occurred as the occupants of the car were fleeing the scene of a shooting they had just committed.
Anthony James Rojas, 20, is being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records. His city of residence was not available.
He’s suspected of murder for the death of 19-year-old Jonathan William Loaiza of Bell Gardens, who died in the June 26 crash on the northbound Rosemead Boulevard on-ramp to the eastbound 60 Freeway, sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. Loaiza was pronounced dead at the scene after the 2006 Mitsubishi Galant he was as a passenger in crashed and overturned.
The driver fled the scene, officials said. Two handguns were found inside the wrecked Mitsubishi, and a second passenger was detained.
“Detectives now believe the occupants in the Mitsubishi that flipped over shot at the occupants in another vehicle as they traveled north on Rosemead Boulevard,” Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. A man was struck by the gunfire and remained hospitalized Friday, Rouzan added. The shooting was believed to be gang-related.
“Detectives believe, that as the suspects in the Mitsubishi fled the scene, (Rojas) lost control of the vehicle causing it to flip and crash,” Rouzan said.
Paramedics pronounced Loaiza dead at the scene.
Detective identified the driver as Rojas and arrested him Wednesday, according to officials and booking records. Sheriff’s officials announced the arrest Friday.
Under a California law known as the felony-murder rule, a defendant can be charged with murder if an accomplice dies as the result of a felony.
Rojas was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Monday in Downey Superior Court.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A passenger died and the driver fled following a solo-car crash on a freeway on-ramp late Friday which investigators suspect may be connected to a shooting that had just occurred in Pico Rivera, officials said.
The rollover crash took place just before 9:40 p.m. on the northbound Rosemead Boulevard on-ramp to the eastbound 60 Freeway, near the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, California Highway Patrol Officer Tony Polizzi said.
An unidentified driver had two passengers in a 2006 Mitsubishi Galant headed north on Rosemead Boulevard at an unknown speed just prior to the crash, CHP Sgt. T. Kinzler said in a written statement.
The driver lost control and the car struck the curb along the west side of the on-ramp, he said.
“(The Mitsubishi) traveled down the dirt embankment and overturned,” Kinzler said.
The driver fled from the wreck wand was not found, officials said. Two guns were discovered inside the crashed car.
Paramedics pronounced one of the passengers, a man estimated to be 20 years old, dead at the scene, CHP officials said.
His identity was not available Saturday morning pending positive identification and notification of family, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
A second passenger also rode inside the Mitsubishi, officials said, though it was not initially clear whether that person remained at the crash scene or fled along with the driver.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives are also looking into the fatal crash and its possible connection with a shooting minutes earlier.
Prior to the crash, deputies responded to a local hospital after a gunshot victim arrived seeking treatment, officials from the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
“While they were at the hospital investigating, deputies received a traffic collision call of a rolled over vehicle with a man found dead inside,” the statement said. “They responded to the scene and found two firearms inside the vehicle.”
“Detectives are investigating reports that the occupants in the vehicle that rolled over may have been involved in some type of altercation with the gunshot victim from the hospital,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “It is unknown at this time if the two incidents are related.”
No further details were released as detectives continued their investigation Saturday morning.
Both the northbound and southbound Rosemead Boulevard on-ramps to the eastbound 60 Freeway, remained shut down overnight, as well as the Rosemead Boulevard off-ramp of the eastbound 60 Freeway.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A SWAT team arrested a person of interest Thursday in the fatal shooting of a man in the same neighborhood a month ago, authorities said.
Deputies responded to a home in the 2500 block of Continental Avenue after the wanted man was spotted about 3:30 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jorge Marchena said.
Officials evacuated nearby homes before ordering the suspect to surrender, which he did just under two hours later, the sergeant said.
“He surrendered peacefully,” Marchena said.
Rigoberto De Leon, 24, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, officials said.
De Leon was arrested in connection with an assault on his father that took place last week, but was also wanted for questioning in the May 11 slaying of Humberto Nava, 31, which occurred on the same street, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. Nava lived in a nearby apartment.
While Corina stopped short of labeling De Leon a suspect in the slaying, “We’re looking at him as possibly being involved in the murder,” he said. “We’re going to talk to him about it.”
Deputies initially responding to the scene described De Leon as a murder suspect.
De Leon and Nava were neighbors and belonged to the same El Monte street gang, Corina said.
Further details regarding last week’s alleged assault were not available Thursday evening.
Nava was found shot behind an apartment complex about 5:30 a.m. May 11, Corina said. He had been shot once in the torso and died at the scene.
Witnesses reported hearing an argument just before the gunfire, the lieutenant said.
Anyone with information was 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.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A Rosemead man died after he was struck by two vehicles, both of which fled the scene, while riding his bicycle along Rosemead Boulevard early Saturday, authorities said.
Los Angeles County coroner’s officials identified the victim as 47-year-old Heriberto Ruiz.
He died at the scene of the series of collisions that unfolded about 2:50 a.m. in the southbound lanes of Rosemead Boulevard, just north of the 60 Freeway, Officer T. Olson of the California Highway Patrol’s East Los Angeles Station said in a written statement.
The two vehicles that struck him and their drivers remained at large.
Ruiz was riding a bike in the right-hand lane when he was struck by an unknown vehicle, Olson said.
The initial impact was believed to be fatal, the officer said. No description of the vehicle that struck Ruiz was available.
Another driver stopped alongside Ruiz after spotting him lying in the roadway, Olson said. A white, late-2000s-model minivan then struck Ruiz and the stopped car before speeding away.
The driver of the stopped car was unhurt, CHP Officer Monica Posada said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the CHP’s East Los Angeles office at 323-980-4600.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> Three people died and three suspects are being sought for a firebombing Saturday at a tire shop that also injured a firefighter responding to the blaze, authorities said.
The alleged attack took place about 5:30 a.m. at Cheque Tires, 1252 Santa Anita Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“We received a call from an informant that he saw three males throw a Molotov cocktail at a business,” Sgt. Jim Dexter said.
Deputies and firefighters found the building “fully engulfed” in flames, he said.
“Deputies and fire department personnel saw a man within the business compound and behind the heavily locked gates of the location, badly burned and trying to escape the fire,” according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
“Despite rescue personnel’s efforts to rescue the victim, he was overcome by flames and succumbed to his injuries,” she said.
As the investigation continued, officials discovered to additional bodies inside the charred business Saturday afternoon, Deputy Ryan Rouzan said. The two additional victims were initially described only as adults.
The deaths were being investigated as homicides.
A firefighter suffered second-degree burns to his face while battling the fire, Dexter said. The injury was not believed to be serious.
More than 65 firefighters worked for about 45 minutes to extinguish the flames, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Brian Jordan said.
They also rescued a dog from the property, which was turned over to animal control officials, he said.
The suspects were last seen fleeing south on Santa Anita Avenue from the scene of the fire in a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, sheriff’s officials said. No further suspect description was known.
The victim’s name was not released Saturday pending positive identification and notification of his family, Saldana said.
The motive in the fatal firebombing remained a mystery.
Santa Anita Avenue remained closed to traffic as sheriff’s and fire officials continued working at the scene Saturday afternoon.
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.
PHOTOS by James Carbone
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A man died after he was found stabbed in the neck in the front yard of a South El Monte home late Saturday, authorities said.
Deputies responded to the 11200 block of Broadmead Street about 11:30 p.m. after receiving word from Los Angeles County fire officials that a 42-year-old man had been found bleeding from a stab wound, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Long said.
Coroner’s officials had not yet identified the victim Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corrall said.
Paramedics rushed the man to a hospital, but he ultimately succumbed to his injuries, Long said.
“Detectives learned that evidence related to this incident was discovered in a residence in the 11200 Block of Broadmead Avenue,” Deputy Mike Barraza of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
A SWAT team was positioned in front of the involved home Sunday morning into the early afternoon.
Deputies placed a handcuffed woman in the back seat of a patrol car and quickly drove away from the scene just after noon. A second person was also placed into a squad car and driven away from the scene.
Long confirmed the SWAT team had entered the home and detained two people. Their potential connections to the slaying were unclear.”
“At approximately 12 p.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau assisted homicide detectives with the service of a search warrant in which several individuals were detained,” Barraza said. “Detectives are trying to ascertain what their involvement is, if any, regarding the earlier stabbing. “
No arrests had been made Sunday afternoon, and no further details were released, officials said.
Deputies shut down traffic on nearby Durfee Road as the SWAT team kept the home surrounded Sunday morning. Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off a city-block-long section of Broadmead Street.
Neighborhood residents watched over the commotion but said they did not know what had taken place, or who had been killed.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A deputy shot at, but did not strike, an auto theft suspect who officials said rammed a patrol car with a pickup truck Thursday afternoon.
Allan Sanchez, 22, of South El Monte was ultimately captured during a neighborhood, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Loy McBride said. He was expected to be booked on suspicion of auto theft and assault on a peace officer. Additional charges were possible as well.
The incident began about 4:10 p.m. at Garvey and Seaman avenues, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Mackenzie said.
Deputies spotted a pickup truck parked along the roadside that had been reported stolen, the sergeant said.
Deputies approached the truck, with a driver later identified as Sanchez at the wheel, McBride said.
Sanchez accelerated, ramming a patrol car and at least one additional car, the lieutenant said. A deputy shot at Sanchez, striking the pickup truck but not the suspect.
McBride said the pickup truck sped away, leading officers on a very brief chase before crashing into a wall. He then exited the truck and ran.
The wanted man surrendered once deputies had him cornered. Mackenzie said.
He was taken to a hospital for examination before being booked into jail, McBride added.
The deputy in the patrol car allegedly rammed by the pickup truck suffered an apparently minor injury, he said. No other injuries were reported.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A man in a wheelchair pepper sprayed another man during a failed robbery Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime took place just before 5 p.m. in the parking lot of Alberto’s Mexican Food, 2740 Rosemead Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Long said.
A Latino man in his 20s who was using a wheelchair approached the victim, a man in his 30s, and asked for money, Long said.
As the victim pulled money out of his pocket and counted it, the robber lunged for the cash and sprayed the victim with pepper spray, the sergeant said.
The victim managed to hang on to the money, he said. The robber fled empty-handed.
Long said the robber got into a Honda Civic, with the wheelchair, and drove off. A Latina woman was riding as a passenger.
The victim suffered no serious injuries, Long said.
It was not clear whether the would-be robber was genuinely disabled, or merely used the wheelchair as a ruse.
Detectives suspect a former Catholic school music teacher and choir director of molesting a female student 12 years ago while working at a South El Monte Catholic school, officials said.
Investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau jailed Elohim D’Leon, 43, of El Monte Thursday afternoon on suspicion of 10 counts of committing lewd acts on a child younger than 14 years old, according to sheriff’s officials county booking records.
D’Leon, who more recently worked at Holy Angels school and parish in Arcadia from 2004 to 2013, is accused of committing the crimes in the 2003-04 school year while working as a music teacher at Epiphany Catholic School in South El Monte, Holy Angels school and sheriff’s officials said.
“The girl was a fifth grader. He was her music teacher,” Detective Michael Silva said.
“There was inappropriate touching that would occur after school,” Silva said. “These incidents would occur in a classroom.”
Silva said the victim, who is now an adult, first reported the crimes in early February, triggering an investigation.
D’Leon also served as the choir director for the Epiphany school and parish “and has had some involvement in other music activities in the Archdiocese over the years,” Holy Angels school Principal Ted Carroll and Holy Angels parish Pastor Michael Evans said in an email sent to parents
The suspect worked at Epiphany school and parish from 2001 to 2004.
In addition to D’Leon’s work at Epiphany and Holy Angels, he “provided music for some liturgies and regional events in the Archdiocese,” Archdiocese of Los Angeles spokeswoman Monica Valencia said.
It was not clear how or why is employment with the Archdiocese ended in 2013.
“Law enforcement has advised that he has no prior criminal record and that they are not aware at this time of any misconduct with any other minors, but their investigation is ongoing,” the statement said. “The Archdiocese and Holy Angels continue to cooperate with authorities in their investigation. We express our gratitude to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for making this case a priority.”
Holy Angels officials could not be reached for direct comment Saturday.
Holy Angels and sheriff’s officials ask anyone with information to contact Detective Silva at the Sheriff’s Special Victim’s Bureau at 877-710-5273. Archdiocese of Los Angeles Coordinator of Victims Assistance Ministry Suzanne Healy also is available at 213-637-7650.
“We also ask that you keep everyone impacted by this sad situation in your thoughts and prayers,” the emailed statement said.
D’Leon was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Monday in Pomona Superior Court, records show.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A young man and woman fled Sunday after plowing a car through ha South El Monte house, officials said.
The crash occurred just after 5 p.m. in the 11200 block of Michael Hunt Drive, just east of Maxson Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ignacio Somoano said.
The Honda smashed into and through the home, nearly exiting the other side, the lieutenant said.
“Luckily, it looks like it was unoccupied, possibly under renovation,” he said.
At least two occupants ran from the wrecked Honda, Somoano said. They were described as a man and woman in their 20s, both wearing leather jackets.
They hit-and-run suspects were last seen just west of the crash seen, running in the area of Michael Hunt Drive and Maxson Road, Somoano said.
Officials were looking into who owned the car as the search for the suspects continued.