LOS ANGELES >> A former gang member from Baldwin Park received a 24-year prison sentence this week for his role in a federal drug trafficking conspiracy in which he admitted personally executing another gang member from Valinda who failed to pay “taxes,” or extortion payments, to the Mexican Mafia, authorities announced Thursday.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, a former 18th Street gang member with ties to Baldwin Park and El Sereno, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Los Angeles to a charge of participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine as part of a federal case targeting the Mexican Mafia-controlled Puente 13 street gang.
As part of his plea agreement, Garcia admitted to luring and fatally shooting David Dragna, 44, of Valinda at an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Prichard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
“Garcia admitted that in 2006 he and two members of Puente 13 lured another gang member to an apartment complex, where Garcia executed the victim with a bullet to the head,” Mrozek said.
Garcia carried out the killing on the orders of leaders of Puente 13, who accused Dragna of keeping extortion payments on drug proceeds, or “taxes,” intended for the Mexican Mafia, officials said. Dragna was a member of the Townsmen gang, which also operates in the Valinda Corridor in the central Can Gabriel Valley.
“This defendant killed another human being in cold blood to further his own criminal credentials and to further his drug trafficking career,” U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker said. “While he may have believed he could get away with murder, the hard work and dedication of law enforcement and prosecutors in my office ensured that he was held accountable. This case is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of gang violence on our community and the severe consequences that will result from participating in those criminal enterprises.”
At the time of Garcia’s plea deal, the prosecution and defense in the case agreed to recommend Garcia be sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald opted for the high end of the range, sentencing Garcia on Monday to 24 years behind bars, as well as eight years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term.
The two Puente 13 gang members who joined Garcia in the killing have since pleaded guilty to the slaying, Mrozek said. Angel “Smiley” Torres is serving a 15-and-a-half-year prison term, and Steven “Flaco” Nunez is serving a 10-year sentence.
As part of the same investigation into Puente 13, which began in 2008, longtime gang leader Rafael “Cisco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 42, of La Puente and his brother, Cesar “Blanco” Munoz-Gonazalez of Rowland Heights, received life sentenced in federal prison in 2013 after being convicted at trial of violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act, as well as committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, weapons charges and other offenses.
The investigation into Puente 13 has resulted in four indictments and the convictions of about five-dozen gang members and associates, officials said.
LA PUENTE >> A meeting previously planned by sheriff’s officials are to discuss La Puente’s gang injunction later this month has been cancelled.
The meeting, which has been scheduled for Oct. 25 at the St. Louis of France Catholic Church, 13935 E. Temple Ave., will be rescheduled for sometime early next year, organizers said.
At the annual meetings, sheriff’s officials, prosecutors and crime analysts meet with the community to discuss and answer questions regardingLa Puente’s gang injunction.
In addition to La Puente, the injunction against the Puente 13 and Bassett Grande street gangs also covers portions of West Covina and nearby unincorporated county areas such as Valinda and Bassett.
VALINDA >> A Valinda man died and a Rowland Heights woman suffered injuries in a two-vehicle crash on Valinda Avenue late Wednesday, California Highway Patrol officials said.
The crash was reported shortly after 7 p.m. on Valinda Avenue, south of Maplegrove Street, CHP Officer Michelle Bond of the CHP’s Traffic Management Center said.
A 45-year-old Valinda man was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck north along Valinda Avenue when his truck veered into opposing traffic and struck a 2009 Toyota Venza being driven by a 35-year-old Rowland Heights woman, according to Sgt. M. Hammond of the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office.
“(He) suddenly allowed the Chevrolet Silverado to cross over the solid double-yellow lines and travel into the southbound No. 1 lane,” the sergeant said.
The driver of the Toyota veered to the right but was unable to avoid a collision, she said. The front of the truck struck the driver-side of the Toyota.
Firefighters rushed the truck driver to a hospital but he succumbed to his injuries, officials said. His identity was not available.
The woman at the wheel of the Toyota suffered injuries Hammond described as minor.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer C. Jones at the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office at 626-338-1164.
FONTANA >> A memorial service is planned today for a Fontana man who died after his girlfriend allegedly intentionally ran him down with a car in Valinda.
A service in memory of Randolph “Randy” John Morales, 51, is planned for 1 p.m. at Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, 9112 Oleander Ave., daughter Priscilla Morales said. The family only recently received his ashes.
Randolph Morales died after his girlfriend, 52-year-old Sharon Hood of La Puente, struck him with a car during an argument during the early-morning hours of May 8 outside a motel in the 500 block of North Azusa Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Hood is being held in lieu of $2 million bail pending trial, records show. Her next court appearance was scheduled Aug. 30 in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In addition to his daughter, Morales is survived by son Randy John Morales, mother Doralene Weitz, father Richard Morales, brothers Richard and Raymond Morales and sister Yvette Guerrero
EAST VALINDA >> Gunfire erupted following a house party in East Valinda early Saturday, leaving one man dead and another hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.
The slaying was the sixth deadly shooting reported in Los Angeles County in less than 12 hours.
The deadly shooting took place just before 2:50 a.m. in the 400 block of Shipman Avenue, in the unincorporated county area between La Puente and West Covina, according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Both victims had just attended a house party.
“As the party ended and the guests dispersed, the victims were leaving the location but were confronted by an unknown suspect,” Saldana said in a written statement. “The suspect produced a handgun and opened fire fatally striking one victim in the upper torso. He died at the scene.”
The man’s identity was not released pending positive identification and notification of family, coroner’s officials said.
The second victim suffered gunshots to his “upper and lower torso,” she said. He was taken to a hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
No suspects were in custody, Saldana said. Investigators sought a white SUV seen speeding away from the shooting scene. It was last seen heading west on Northam Avenue.
No further details were available.
The attack was the last of six deadly shooting reported within 12 hours in Los Angeles County. Five men and one woman lost their lives in the afternoon and overnight violence.
Three of the deadly shootings occurred in the same neighborhood surrounding Franklin D. Roosevelt Park in an unincorporated county area just east of Los Angeles, officials said.
A man died in a 1 a.m. shooting in the 7600 block of Miramonte Avenue in an unincorporated county area just east of Los Angeles, according to the sheriff’s department.
“The victim was working on a car parked along the curb in front of a residence when an unknown suspect approached him,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “The suspect produced a firearm and opened fire striking the victim.”
The victim succumbed to his injuries at a hospital, authorities said.
Another man died in a 12:30 a.m. shooting in at Union Pacific Avenue and Bonnie Beach Place in East Los Angeles, Saldana said.
Deputies responding to reports of “shots fired” encountered a man lying on the sidewalk suffering from a gunshot wound, she said. He died at a hospital. No further details were available.
A woman died in an ambush attack in a 12:10 a.m. at Carson Street and Evonda Avenue in Carson, authorities said.
“…the victim was walking west on Carson Street when an unknown suspect approached her from behind,” according to a statement issued by the sheriff’s Information Bureau. “The suspect produced a firearm and opened fire striking the victim. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Two men were shot, one fatally, three hours earlier in the 1900 block of East 78th Street, less than a mile from the scene of the Miramonte Avenue shooting.
The victims were standing in a driveway with several other people when two men approached on a minibike, Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
“One of the men on the minibike produced a handgun and opened fire. Following the shooting, the suspects rode away westbound and out of view,” according to Schrader.
Two men were struck by the gunfire, she said. One of them succumbed to his wounds at a hospital, while the other was hospitalized with injuries described as “serious.”
Friday’s violence began with a 3:47 p.m. shooting in the 7500 block of Compton Avenue in unincorporated Los Angeles, around the corner from the shooting on Miramonte Avenue.
The victim was riding his bike along the sidewalk when his attacker exited a white car parked along the curb and began shooting, Schrader said.
“The suspect got back into the vehicle and drove away southbound Compton Avenue to eastbound 76th Street and out of view,” she said.
The victim, who was shot multiple times, died at a hospital.
No suspects were in custody, and no suspect descriptions were available in any of the shootings.
And in Boyle Heights, a young girl, reportedly 10 years old, was wounded in the head by an errant bullet from a nearby shooting.
A male suspect in a vehicle shot at a bicyclist, also described only as male, about 6 p.m. Friday at Chicago Street and Rogers Avenue, Los Angeles police Officer Rosario Herrera said.
The gunfire missed the intended target, but a bullet struck the girl in the head, officials said.
An update on the girl’s condition was not available Saturday, but her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Herrera said.
Anyone with information on any of the deadly shootings is asked contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anyone with information regarding the Boyle Heights shooting can reach the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station at 323-342-4100.
Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
VALINDA >> Prosecutors charged a La Puente woman with murder Tuesday for running over and killing her boyfriend with a car outside a Valinda motel over the weekend, officials said.
Sharon Kay Hood, 52, is accused of killing her boyfriend of six years, 51-year-old Randolph “Randy” John Morales of Fontana, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and coroner’s officials.
The alleged vehicular slaying took place about 2:25 a.m. Sunday in the parking lot of a motel in the 500 block of North Azusa Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda.
Morales had rented a room for the couple, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Hood and Morales got into an argument, and Hood abruptly left the room, officials said.
“Morales reportedly followed the defendant out of the room to her car where the two continued to quarrel, according to the statement. “At that point, Hood allegedly ran over Morales with her car.”
The 2015 Nissan Altima backed over Morales, said Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. Paramedics pronounced Morales dead at the scene.
An autopsy found he died from “blunt force injuries of the head,” and the death was ruled a homicide, Winter said.
Investigators formally arrested hood in connection with her boyfriend’s death about 10:45 a.m. Sunday, county booking records show. But sheriff’s officials initially declined to discuss the case, and the arrest was not made public until prosecutors filed charges Tuesday.
Hood entered no plea at her appearance in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Ardalani said. Her arraignment hearing was postponed until June 8, and bail was set at $2 million.
In addition to murder, prosecutors accuse Hood of the special allegation that she personally used a deadly weapon — a car — in the attack, Ardalani said.
If convicted as charged, Hood faces up to 26 years to life in state prison.
Morales left behind two devastated children: a daughter, 28, and son, 23, from a prior marriage of 26 years, his daughter Priscilla Morales said.
“He was my best friend,” she said.
“He was a people person. He got along with everybody,” she said.
Born in Los Angeles, Randy Morales grew up in the La Puente area, his daughter said. He then moved to Orange County before settling in Fontana about 5 years ago.
Randy Morales had a sarcastic and silly sense of humor, often quoting a line from “I Love Lucy” and telling loved one’s, “Don’t get too crazy,” Priscilla Morales said. “He was kind of a nerd.”
“He was my musical soulmate,” she added. Priscilla Morales said her father loved classic rock, such as Led Zeppelin, and classic blues such as Roger Johnson and Muddy Waters.
Randy Morales had an encyclopedic knowledge of music history and trivia, Priscilla Morales said. The father and daughter enjoyed attending concerts together, and spent countless hours at the old Tower Records store in West Covina.
Randy Morales has worked as a plumber, a contractor and recently graduated school for welding, his daughter said. He was working in a warehouse at the time of his death.
“He was a big Rams fan,” she added. “He was so excited they were coming back to L.A. We were talking about going to the games.”
But all of the family’s plans changed Sunday morning.
“He’s not going to see me get married. I don’t have kids yet,” Priscilla Morales said through tears. “He always told me he wanted me to have a big wedding.”
Family member are still watching the investigation and waiting to learn exactly what took place in Valinda on Sunday.
“It seems weird… I have no anger. I just want to know what happened.”
Randy Morales and Hood had a “tumultuous relationship,” and Priscilla Morales described the woman as “very angry,” and “possessive.”
The couple argued often, and Hood would sometimes slap her Randy Morales, his daughter said.
On one occasion several years ago, Hood slashed all four tired of his car on the day he was supposed to begin a new job, Priscilla Morales said. He lost the job as a result.
But although she said she didn’t think the relationship was healthy, she never imagined Hood was capable of the violence of which she’s now accused.
When she was first informed of her father’s death, her first question was whether Hood was with him, and whether she was OK, Priscilla Morales said. The daughters said she was “shocked” to learn Hood was accused in the killing.
Fund to help the Morales’ family lay Morales, known to loved ones as Randy, to rest are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/23xmagx4.
PHOTOS: [TOP] – Randolph “Randy” Morales, pictured with daughter Priscilla Morales. (Courtesy) [BELOW] – Randy “Randolph” Morales, 51, of Fontana. (Courtesy)
VALINDA >> Homicide detectives are investigating the death of a man in Valinda early Sunday.
Few details were initially available regarding the circumstances of the death, first reported about 2:25 a.m. in the 500 block of North Azusa Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda, Deputy Lisa Jansen of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
The victim, described only as a “male adult,” was pronounced dead at the scene, Jansen said.
No further details were released, and it was unclear whether foul play was suspected in the death.
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.
VALINDA >> A man raped and robbed a woman at knifepoint behind a Valinda shopping center Wednesday, authorities said.
Deputies apprehended a suspect several hours after the 6:45 p.m. attack at a small shopping center in the 1400 block of Valinda Avenue, just north of Maplegrove Street in the unincorporated county area of Valinda, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. David Cortinas said.
The suspect approached the woman and ordered her behind a building at knifepoint, the sergeant said. He sexually assaulted the woman and robbed her of her cell phone before fleeing.
The victim, a woman in her 20s, was taken to a hospital for treatment, Cortinas said. She suffered no life-threatening injuries.
Deputies searching the area and following up on leads found and arrested the suspect — a man in his mid-20s — without a struggle in the area shortly before midnight, Cortinas said.
His identity was not available pending the booking process.
EAST VALINDA >> Deputies arrested a carjacking suspect after he led them on a chase, which ended in a crash in East Valinda Wednesday, authorities said.
The incident began shortly before 2 p.m. when deputies spotted a suspect wanted in connection with a carjacking driving in the unincorporated county area of East Valinda, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials. The SUV has been reported carjacked in Hawthorne, Lt. David Infante said.
“The suspect was considered armed and dangerous,” the lieutenant said.
Aided by a helicopter, deputies chased the SUV along surface streets for about 15 minutes before the driver crashed into a tree along McLaren Street, between Jellick Avenue and Trafalgate Avenue in East Valinda, and continued to flee on foot, officials said.
Deputies captured the suspect as he was pounding on or trying to kick in the door of a nearby home, Infante said. The home may have been that of a relative of the suspect.
The name of the suspect was not available Wednesday afternoon pending booking.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
WEST VALINDA >> A shooting at a house party left an El Monte teenager dead and a second victim wounded late Saturday, authorities said.
The shooter remained at large following the 11:50 p.m. shooting at a home in the 14100 block of Barrydale Street, in the unincorporated county area of West Valinda, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Enrique Ortiz Jr., 17, of El Monte died in the shooting, Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said.
The gunfire erupted during a party, officials said.
“Detectives have learned that during a gathering at a residence, a male Hispanic adult suspect produced a firearm and shot one victim in the upper torso,” according the statement.
The gunman shot a second victim in the hand before fleeing, officials said. No suspect description was available.
The wounded victim, described by sheriff’s officials as a man, was taken to a hospital for treatment. An update on his condition was not available.
Barrydale Street remained closed off between Puente and Maryland Avenues as detectives and crime scene investigators continued working at the scene Sunday afternoon.
Investigators appeared to be focusing their interest on an area behind a single-story, wood-sided home as they took measurements and photographs.
Authorities were looking into the possibility the shooting was related to another gunshot victim who showed up at a West Covina hospital early Sunday morning.
A man in his 20s arrived at Citrus Valley Health Partners – Queen of the Valley Campus in West Covina about 1 a.m. with a gunshot wound to his leg, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said. But the victim refused to cooperate with police, other than to say he was shot while on his way to a party, Patton said. No solid link between the two incidents had been established Sunday as the investigation into both incidents remained ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be provided anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.