San Gabriel Valley cops brighten holidays for disadvantaged kids

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Throughout the San Gabriel Valley and beyond, cops have been working to brighten the holidays of needy and disadvantaged kids.
Police and California Highway Patrol Officers, as well as Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, have been busily playing the roles of elves distributing toys, food and cheer to young people in need of some holiday spirit.
1223_NWS_SGT-L-COPCHRISTMAS-WHITTIERThe California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have run large-scale toy drives to collect gifts for kids who might otherwise go without this holiday season.
And sheriff’s officials even brought Santa Claus, via helicopter, to meet with kids in Compton Saturday as deputies took them on a special Target shopping trip. Sheriff’s deputies also hosted an annual party Dec. 7 for abused and neglected children.
Police officers from both the Irwindale and Covina police departments have delivered toys to the young patients at the City of Hope in Duarte this month.
1223_NWS_SGT-L-COPCHRISTMAS-LAPUENTEPolice agencies including those in Whittier and West Covina, as well as some sheriff’s stations, joined Target stores for the “Heroes & Helpers” program, in which officers take needy youths shopping for gifts, officials said.
In La Puente, deputies visited schools and churches and neighborhood to hand out about 300 bags full of groceries Friday, sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said. And more food giveaways are planned this week.
1223_NWS_SGT-L-COPCHRISTMAS-BALDWINPARKBaldwin Park police attracted an estimated 2,000 kids to their police station Friday as they handed out more than 3,500 toys, according to the Baldwin Park Police Association. And of course, Santa Claus was on-hand as well.

 

 

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PHOTOS: (top to bottom) 1.)Covina police officials deliver toys to children at the City of Hope in Duarte on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (Courtesy) 2.) Whittier police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (Courtesy) 3.) Principal Mona Diaz of Workman Elementary School in La Puente stands in front of a patrol car as Sgt. John Suh unloads bags of groceries to be handed out to families to help out for the holidays on Friday, Dec. 18, 2014. (Courtesy) 4.) Children meet with Santa Claus at the Baldwin Park Police Station as the Baldwin Park Police Association handed out more than 3,500 toys. (Courtesy) 5.) Irwindale police and city officials from Irwindale and La Puente deliver donated toys to City of Hope in Duarte on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. From left to right: La Puente City Councilman David Argudo, Irwindale police Officer Shawn Cory, Irwindale police Officer Diego Cornejo, Irwindale police Detective Jose Vargas, Irwindale police Capt. Ty Henshaw and Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda. (Courtesy) 6.) West Covina police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (Courtesy)

 

 

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West Covina teen killed in West Valinda shooting identified

WEST VALINDA >> Coroner officials Saturday identified a 17-year-old West Covina boy who was shot to death in West Valinda Friday.
Erik Sainz died in the 11:40 p.m. shooting at Amar Road and Millbury Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
He was standing with acquaintances in the driveway of a home when two attackers approached on foot, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
One of the assailants pulled a handgun and opened fire, striking Sainz several times in the “upper torso,” Deputy Ruan Rouzan said in a written statement.
The killers fled the area in a blue or green vehicle, officials added. No further suspect description was available.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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So Cal businesses accused of selling cosmetic contact lenses without prescriptions; some lenses tainted with dangerous bacteria

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LOS ANGELES >> Federal prosecutors charged 12 people and businesses this week with selling illegal and potentially dangerous cosmetic contact lenses, including some contaminated with a virulent strain of bacteria capable of blinding wearers, authorities said.
The charges stem from an investigation into the sales of cosmetic contact lenses without prescriptions in the weeks leading up to Halloween dubbed “Operation Cat Eyes,” Assistant United States Attorney Amanda Bettinelli said.
“The goal was to protect consumers in advance of Halloween,” Bettinelli said.
Cosmetic contact lenses used to change the wearer’s eye color have been growing in popularity, officials said. They range from subtle color changes to ornate designs. But while contact lenses are illegal to sell without a prescription, non-presciption, or “misbranded,” lenses have been increasingly popping up in beauty salons and costume stores.
“They’re so easily available, and they can do horrific injury to your eye in a short period of time,” Bettinelli said.
1108_NWS-SGT-L-LENSES1Without being properly fitted to each individuals eyes, contact lenses have the potential to cause abrasions, lesions and other serious injuries, Bettinelli explained.
There are no guarantees regarding the quality of the lenses or the conditions in which they are manufactured, which are sometimes “filthy,” she said. And in some cases, the lenses and the fluid they are stored in have been found to be contaminated with dangerous pathogens.
Mike Honabach, 45, of Highland is accused of selling lenses contaminated with a “particularly insidious” strain of bacteria at a booth at the recent Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona called Halloween and Party Discounters Inc., Bettinelli said.
Lenses seized from the booth in September, sold under the brand name “I Color Complete,” were found to be contaminated with the bacteria Bacillus cereus, the prosecutor said. No injuries had been directly linked to the contaminated batch of contact lenses.
“The Bacillus cereus bacterial strain can cause severe infections that, even with prompt treatment, can lead to blindness,” U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Honabach is charged with introducing adulterated devices into interstate commerce, receipt of bacteria-adulterated contact lenses and sale of misbranded products. Honabach’s supplier, Intertrade Imports Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida, along with Intertrade manager Eunju Kang Savvidis, 53, of Jacksonville, are charged with introducing adulterated devices into interstate commerce, Mrozek said.
1108_NWS-SGT-L-LENSES2Eight other people and businesses are names as defendants for allegedly selling misbranded contact lenses to undercover investigators in the series of cases resulting from “Operation Cat Eyes.”
Doris Owusa Ansah, 53, of West Covina, who owns Sunset Beauty Salon in West Covina, is charged with selling misbranded contact lenses; CKL Fashion, Inc., a Corona company that operated a business called “T-Shirt Mart in Glendale, along with manager Young Kim, 51, of of La Cresenta is accused of selling misbranded contact lenses; Jung Rae Jo, 60, of Cerritos, who owns Fashion Young in Westminster, is accused of selling misbranded contact lenses; Halloween Superstore in Glendale, as well as owner Zinaida Khrimyan, 25, of Glendale and manager Patrick Abedi, 30, of Glendale, are accused of selling misbranded contact lenses; and Hong Kong-based Aspirational International Inc. is accused of selling misbranded contact lenses online.
All 12 people and businesses are scheduled to appear for arraignment hearings in federal court in Los Angeles Dec. 9, Mrozek said. If convicted, each defendants faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and for each count, along with a $100,000 fine for individuals and $200,000 fine for corporations.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Consumer affairs took part in the investigation.

PHOTOS courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice

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Rialto men acquitted of murder, convicted of DUI for fatal Christmas Day crash in West Covina

LOS ANGELES >> A jury acquitted two men of murder but convicted them of drunken driving-related charges Friday in connection with an alleged street racing crash that left a 90-year-old West Covina woman dead on Christmas Day in 2012, authorities said.
Vincent Lopez, 31, and Victor Hugo Sanchez, 36, both of Rialto, were each charged with murder, along with DUI, in connection with the crash at Lark Ellen and Merced avenues that claimed the life of Celia La Torre, who was riding as a passenger in a van driven by her son after picking her up from a local hospital. La Torre, who was sitting in a wheelchair in the van being driven by her son, was thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, West Covina police officials said.
Lopez and Sanchez were believed to be racing each other when a Mitsubishi Eclipse being driven by Lopez blew through a stop sign and slammed broadside into the van containing La Torre and her son. The son suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The jury Friday found both defendants not guilty of murder, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
But the jury convicted Lopez of drunken driving causing injury or death, as well as driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08 percent, Ardalani said.
He was ordered back to Los Angeles Superior Court Nov. 17 for sentencing, she said. Under state law, Lopez faces a maximum sentence of 3 years and 6 months.
After finding Sanchez guilty of a misdemeanor count of drunken driving, the judge immediately sentenced him to 730 days in jail, Ardalani said. He has already served the time and was expected to be released Friday afternoon.
Both defendants were being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending the trial process.
Lopez, who suffered a broken leg in the crash, was arrested at the scene, officials said. Sanchez, who was driving the Ford Escort Lopez was racing, fled the scene and was arrested early the following morning in Pomona.

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Shots fired in West Covina; no injuries reported

WEST COVINA >> A man escaped injury in a shooting in a residential neighborhood early Saturday, police said.
The attack took place just after 1 a.m. in the 1700 block of West Eldred Avenue, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
The victim had just dropped off two friends in the neighborhood when a car drove past slowly and came to a stop just in front of the victim’s car, the lieutenant said. The suspect vehicle was described as a black, older-model car similar to a Ford Crown Victoria.
A passenger got out of the black car and walked toward the victim while racking the slide of a handgun to chamber a round, Patton said.
The victim abandoned his car and ran to an adjacent street, where he asked residents to call the police, Patton said. He heard gunshots as he ran, but was not struck by gunfire.
Police found bullet casings in the area, however the suspects were not located.
The motive in the shooting remained under investigation.

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Police: Drunken hit-and-run driver strikes pedestrians, another car in Covina, West Covina

COVINA >> An Azusa man was allegedly drunk when he struck two pedestrians, then another car, in two separate hit-and-run crashes late Saturday.
Police booked Maximo Miguel Sarco, 37, on suspicion of felony drunken driving, felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor hit-and-run after he was ultimately arrested about following the series of crashes, which began about 9:45 p.m., Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
A 17-year-old West Covina girl and 19-year-old Covina woman were crossing Citrus Street at Puente Street, within a crosswalk, when they were struck by a Ford Mustang that had run a red light on southbound Citrus Street, the sergeant said.
The young women were hospitalized with injuries not believed to be life-threatening, Peterson said. Their exact conditions were unclear.
But the driver of the Mustang, later identified as Sarco, continued driving after striking the pedestrians, he said.
Minutes later, Sarco rear-ended a car being driven by a Hacienda Heights man at Citrus Street and Garvey Avenue South in West Covina, Peterson said. Again, Sarco fled the scene, but the driver of the car he crashed into followed him and called the police.
The Hacienda Heights man followed the Mustang to the 500 block of South Montezuma Way in West Covina, where he parked in a driveway and went inside a house.
Police found Sarco inside the home, which was determined to be that of his in-laws, Peterson said. Officers arrested him without a struggle, and he was treated for minor injuries suffered in the second crash prior to booking.
Sarco was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County booking records.

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San Gabriel Valley first responders hone skills in mock West Covina terror attack


WEST COVINA >> Dozens of San Gabriel Valley first responders took part in a large-scale active shooter training scenario simulating a terrorist attack on a West Covina shopping mall Sunday.
Six local law enforcement agencies, federal officials and firefighters took part in the mock terror attack at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall, which was held early in the morning, before mall business opened for the day.
0929_NWS_SGT-L-TRAINING1“We take the safety of our visitors and our residents very seriously,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said. “There have been several incidents that have happened on the east coast — one happened last week — that certainly have raised our awareness that we need to be prepared. And in my view, we need to be ready for something and hope it never happens, (rather) than to respond to something we weren’t prepared for.”
A blast from a flash-bang grenade intended to simulate a bomb detonation signalled the beginning of the intensive drill at the mall, where three West Covina police officers played the role of heavily armed gunmen bent on creating carnage. Within minutes, the sounds of simulated gunshots echoed through the mall as police engaged the mock terrorists in a gunfight.
0929_NWS_SGT-L-TRAINING5Two of the pseudo suspects carried assault rifles, while the third carried a shotgun.
Participating first responders were not told ahead of time what they would be facing in the drill, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez explained.
“Each officer involved in this has to determine how to best handle the situation,” he said.
Police simultaneously hunted for the gunmen and rescued mock victims who wore makeup to simulate injuries. Some officers carried their standard duty sidearms, while others were armed with rifles.
Patrol officers called in a SWAT team after the attack turned into a hostage situation.
0929_NWS_SGT-L-TRAINING3Practicing a technique known as “fast-roping,” West Covina police SWAT members slid down a rope from a hovering Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter to join in the operation.
The West Covina Police Department’s recently acquired rescue vehicle, a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle acquired from the U.S. Department of Defense, was used to evacuate victims.
After a scenario that lasted about an hour, the three suspects had been killed in shoot-outs with officers. Three civilians had also been killed during the scenario, and many more wounded.
0929_NWS_SGT-L-TRAINING7Police officers from West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park and Irwindale police departments were joined by California Highway Patrol officers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials, FBI agents, West Covina firefighters and mall security officials in responding to the mock attack, Lopez said. While West Covina has hosted similar training scenarios in the past, Sunday’s training session was their biggest.
0929_NWS_SGT-L-TRAINING11About 75 law enforcement officers participated, along with about 60 volunteers playing the part of victims or bystanders, officials said. The volunteers were primarily police Explorers from the West Covina, Glendora and Ontario police departments.
“Whether this incident happens in West Covina, or happens in Irwindale or Covina, we’re familiar with working with each others’ team,” the chief said. “We might be in different uniforms, but in the end, we’re all in one uniform when it comes time to deal with a critical incident.”
After watching the exercise unfold at the mall, West Covina City Councilman Fred Sykes said he approved.
“A place this large, it’s unfathomable for us not to look at what to do in this type of situation,” he said.
The costs and planning associated with massive drill is a wise investment, as it may help save lives down the road, Sykes said.
“This is extremely important for our community,” the councilman said.
Just like in sports, he added, “The battles are won in practice.”



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West Covina man killed in motorcycle crash

WEST COVINA >> A West Covina man died early Thursday morning when he apparently lost control of his motorcycle and hit a chain link fence.
Joseph Louis Surita, 25, was pronounced dead at 1:53 a.m. at the scene of the crash at Barranca Street and Cameron Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said.
The fatal, solo-vehicle crash was first reported at 1:43 a.m. by a passerby who spotted Surita and his motorcycle lying on the ground, West Covina police Sgt. Keith Shishido said. No witnesses to the crash had been found Thursday afternoon, and police were seeking anyone who saw what happened.
Police said Surita was riding a Suzuki GSX-R south on Barranca Avenue at “a high rate of speed” prior to the crash.
“As he approached the intersection with Cameron Avenue, he somehow lost control of the motorcycle,” Shishido said.
The sergeant said the motorcycle tipped over and slid, along with the rider, through the T-intersection, the sergeant said. He struck a the curb along the south side of Cameron Avenue, then a chain link fence bordering the South Hills Country Club.
“He was ejected at some point and time,” Shishido said.
Coroner’s Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said the coroner’s office took the body away before students arrived at nearby South Hills High School.
Police are looking for witnesses to the crash. Though it was unclear exactly what time the crash took place, Shishida said because the intersection where the crash occurred is heavily travelled, the crash likely did not go unreported for long.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Cpl. Mike Weathermon of the West Covina Traffic Department at 626-939-8589.

- Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day

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Man escapes West Covina carjacking, robbery attempt

WEST COVINA >> A man who agreed to give a woman a ride in West Covina Tuesday ended up face to face with an armed man who demanded his wallet and car, police said.
The incident began shortly before 5:10 a.m. when the victim was approached by a woman in the parking lot of a gas station at Cameron and Glendora avenues, West Covina police Lt. Dave Lee said.
The woman asked the man for a ride, and he agreed, the lieutenant said. He drove the woman a short distance to the 1100 block of Wescove Place.
Once they arrives, the victim was approached by a man who brandished a handgun, demanded his wallet and ordered him out of his car, Lee said.
The victim refused, Lee said. “He was able to accelerate the vehicle away from the suspect.”
Police described the female suspect as a white woman between 35 and 40 years old, with blonde hair and blue eyes. The gunman was described as a black man between 40 and 50 years old, about 6 feet tall and 210 pounds.

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West Covina man arrested following Baldwin Park bank robbery

BALDWIN PARK >> A robbed a Baldwin Park bank branch Saturday before quickly being captured by police, officials said
Todd Edward Campbell, 48, of West Covina was arrested within minutes of the 11:14 a.m. bank robbery at a U.S. Bank branch inside a Walmart store, 3250 Big Dalton Avenue, Baldwin Park police Lt. Doug Parnell said.
Campbell approached a female teller at the bank and displayed a note demanding money, the lieutenant said. The teller handed over about $2,000 and the suspect fled, running north from the bank, Parnell said. A bank employee triggered a silent alarm during the robbery.
An officer rushing to the scene of the crime spotted Campbell, who matched the description of the robber, at Merced and Puente avenues, Parnell said.
Though he had discarded is shirt in an attempt to change his appearance, Campbell was found carrying a bag containing the stolen money, and the note used in the robbery was found in his pocket, Parnell said.
The suspect, who has a lengthy criminal history out of state,admitted to the robbery, Parnell said. Campbell told police he committed the robbery because he needed money for drugs.
The FBI was assisting Baldwin Park police in the investigation.
According to Los Angeles County Booking records, Campbell was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

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