Authorities have identified a man who was found dead inside a car in West Covina following a shooting in Whittier on Friday morning.
Austin Louis Jimenez, 28, of Rancho Cucamonga was pronounced dead shortly after 4 a.m. in a shopping center parking lot at Workman Avenue and Citrus Street, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
He was wounded in a 3:15 a.m. shooting at Penn Street and Newlin Avenue in Whittier before being driven to the parking lot by at least two companions, according to Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis. The driver and fellow passenger of the car, which had been struck by bullets, then drove to West Covina and called for help.
Paramedics were unable to revive the Jimenez and pronounced him dead at the scene, officials said.
No further information regarding the circumstances of the shooting, including a suspect description, have been released.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
A man was found dead inside a car in West Covina parking lot following an early-morning shooting in Whittier on Friday, authorities said.
Police in Whittier first responded to reports of gunfire about 3:15 a.m. in the area of Penn Street and Newlin Avenue, Whittier police officials said in a written statement. But officers found no physical evidence of a shooting.
That changed shortly after 4 a.m., when officials in West Covina received reports of a shooting victim found inside a vehicle in the parking lot of a shopping center at the southwest corner of Workman Avenue and Citrus Street, Whittier and West Covina police officials said.
“Upon arrival, officers discovered a deceased male adult, West Covina police said in a written statement.
The mortally wounded man was a passenger in the bullet-pierced car, which also contained at least two other young men, officials said.
Further investigation revealed the victim in West Covina had been wounded in the Whittier shooting, officials said.
His identity was not available Friday pending notification of his family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operation said. He was estimated to be in his 20s.
Police summoned a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau SWAT team after receiving information that the shooter may have gone into a nearby barbershop at Penn Street and Comstock Avenue, according to Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis.
The SWAT team searched the building but did not find the culprit, he said.
No further details, including a motive or description of the shooter, were available as the investigation continued Friday afternoon. Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Investigators in the San Gabriel Valley jailed a Fontana man Thursday on suspicion of carrying out an “elaborate scheme” to steal the homes of the elderly and families of recently deceased people, authorities said.
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’ Department’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Detail, Real Estate Fraud Unit, arrested Vo Hoang Ho, 38, about 6:30 a.m., according to sheriff’s officials and booking records. Officials described Ho as a Fontana resident, though public records also indicate a recent address in West Covina.
The arrest stems from a warrant issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Sept. 1, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the sheriff’s Information Bureau sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Ho carried out the fraud over the past three months, at least, officials said.
“The scheme was perpetrated by way of the suspect committing identity theft on either the deceased owners of the property or living elderly victims, forging the victims’ names on various fraudulent real estate documents, and having those documents recorded at the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office,” Rouzan said. He offered the properties for sale to victim investors who had no idea about the fraud.
It was unclear Thursday how many alleged victims were involved,or how much property Ho is alleged to have swindled in the alleged con, which Rouzan described as “elaborate.”
Fraud investigators advised homeowners to periodically check their properties’ history for accuracy. “If discrepancies are noticed in the title chain, contact a real estate professional for advice,” according to Rouzan. If something suspicious is seen, homeowners are advised to contact their local law enforcement agencies.
“Los Angeles County residents should also be aware that every time a real estate document gets recorded with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office a notice gets sent to the property owner advising them of such,” Rouzan added. “This service is provided to make home owners aware that activity is taking place with their property.”
According to booking records, Ho was being held in lieu of $1.15 million bail pending his initial court appearance.
Anyone with information can reach Sgt. Alex Gilinets of the Real Estate Fraud Unit at 562-946-8250. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
WHITTIER >> A massive convoy of law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California escorted the flag-draped casket of U.S. Marine Ruben Velasco of West Covina to his final resting place on Friday night.
Velasco, a 19-year-old private first class and lifelong San Gabriel Valley resident, perished along with two fellow Marines on Aug. 5 in an MV-22 Osprey tilrotor aircraft crash off the coast of Australia.
His devastated family met the airplane carrying Velasco’s body at LAX before a sea of law enforcement officers from throughout the region, joined by Patriot Riders and elected officials, accompanied the family in a silent tribute to Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier.
West Covina police, Covina police, South Pasadena Police, Santa Ana police, Los Angeles police, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and federal agents were among those taking part in the escort.
Grateful Americans and fellow military veterans lined the route outside the cemetery with flags and saluted the young warrior’s casket as it passed.
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills, 3888 Workman Mill Road., followed by a funeral Thursday at 11 a.m.
PHOTOS/VIDEO of escort courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. PHOTOS of Ruben Velasco courtesy of family.
Police arrested two cousins from San Gabriel on Thursday in connection with a West Covina bank robbery the previous day, and were looking into the possibility the suspects were also responsible for another bank heist in Baldwin Park last week, authorities said.
Ruben Edward Mora, 48, and James Vincent Luevano were booked on suspicion of bank robbery following their arrests on Thursday afternoon, according to West Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The investigation began after a robbery unfolded about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Cathay Bank, 2672 E. Garvey Ave. South, West Covina police Sgt. Tony Cortina said.
A man entered the bank and gestured as if he had a gun, though none was seen, the sergeant said. He threatened to shoot a teller and demanded cash.
He fled the bank after obtaining $1,900, Cortina said. He was last seen getting into a car, which sped away.
“Our patrol officers canvassed the area for witnesses and evidence,” Cortina said. The obtained surveillance camera images depicting both the suspect and the getaway car.
As they continued their investigation, detectives found the car pictured in the surveillance images parked in the driveway of a home in the 5000 block of North Rosemead Boulevard in San Gabriel, police said.
They watched the car until a man exited the home and drove away in it, according to Cortina. Police pulled over the car and soon determined the driver, Luevano, had acted as the getaway driver in Wednesday’s bank robbery, he said.
Police also determined that the second suspect, who carried out the robbery, Mora, was inside the home, Cortina said. Officers ordered him out of the home and took him into custody without a struggle.
Officials recovered the allegedly stolen cash from the home, which is shared by the two cousins.
Investigators also found that Mora strongly matched the description of a robber who carried out a robbery at the HomeStreet Bank, 3119 Baldwin Park Blvd. in Baldwin Park, Cortina said. Authorities were looking into the West Covina robbery suspect’s possible connection to the Baldwin Park crime.
According to booking records, Mora was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail his initial court appearance, while Luevano was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail.
A jury convicted a A Valinda man of drunken driving and leading West Covina police on a pursuit that ended in a crash that left 10 people hurt, officials said.
The Pomona jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Robert Anthony Lopez, 27, guilty of fleeing police in a motor vehicle resulting in serious bodily injury, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury within 10 years of a previous DUI offense and driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08 percent causing injury within 10 years of a previous DUI offense, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in an email. He pleaded “no contest” earlier to driving on a suspended or revoked license following a previous offense.
Nine innocent bystanders, as well as Lopez himself, suffered injuries in the July 18, 2016, crash at Francisquito and Walnut avenues, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda.
He faces up to 24 years behind bars when he returns to the Pomona Branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Ardalani said.
The chase started in West Covina, where police tried to pull Lopez over in an Acura for speeding and blowing through a stop sign, Ardalani said in a written statement.
Lopez ultimately crashed into a Nissan Maxima, which spun out of control and struck a Ford Expedition,
A woman inside the Nissan and her to young daughters were hurt, along with a drive and five passengers inside the Ford, California Highway Patrol officials said.
Firefighters had to free freed Lopez from his mangled car, officials said.
According to prosecutors, Lopez was previously convicted of reckless driving and driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08 percent in 2015.
PHOTO courtesy Saul Sanchez
COVINA >> The community is invited to join Covina and West Covina cops for a night of festivities as the police departments host their National Night Out event early next month.
Officers will join law enforcement agencies throughout the nation in setting aside time to get to know their neighbors with community events. National Night Out is traditionally held on the first Tuesday of August, which falls this year on Aug. 1.
Covina’a event will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Heritage Plaza Park, Heritage Plaza Park, 400 N. Citrus Ave., police said in a statement.
It will feature food, station and vehicle tours, a K-9 demonstration and meet-and-greet with K-9 Jarno, kids’ activities, information booths and more, organizers said.
Live classic rock music will be provided by “Thief.”
For more information, visit www.covinaca.gov.
Next door in West Covina, officials are planning to kick off their National Night Out event at 5 p.m. at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall, 112 Plaza Drive.
“Plaza West Covina values its partnership with the West Covina Police Department, and that we have the opportunity to do our part in helping the fight against crime,” Plaza West Covina Marketing Director Lisa Avakian said in written statement. “The police officers welcome all questions from the community and will be on hand to give safety tips on ways West Covina a safer place to live.”
A DJ, raffles and giveaways will be part of the festivities, organizers said.
“In West Covina, we have approximately 15 different venues who will sponsor National Night Out events, including apartment complexes and neighborhood watch groups,” then-West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said in a written statement. “This year, we are happy to team up with Plaza West Covina and that it is a family-friendly event.”
For more information on West Covina’s National Night Out event, contact Gilbert Amis or Renee Schultzl at 626-939-8515, or visit www.westcovina.org/departments/west-covina-national-night-out.
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct start time and contact persons for the National Night Out event in West Covina.
WEST COVINA >> A judge sent two men to prison for the rest of their lives on Friday for fatally shooting a man visiting the U.S. from Hong Kong during a robbery after following him and his brother to a West Covina restaurant from a downtown Los Angeles jewelry store, authorities said.
Michael Quiroga Castiblanco, 25, and Juan Alejandro Cortez, 28, each received sentenced of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Feb. 1, 2013, murder of 29-year-old Sheron Khemlani in a parking lot in the 100 block of North Barranca Avenue in West Covina, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
A jury convicted them Monday of first-degree murder and second-degree robbery, along with the special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed during a robbery, and the special allegation that a gun was used in the crime, Ardalani said in a written statement.
“According to evidence presented at trial, the two defendants were part of an organized criminal group that targeted jewelers and individuals who made large cash withdrawals from banks,” Ardalani said. “Moreover,the group followed the Khemlani brothers from downtown Los Angeles to West Covina with the intent to rob them.”
Khemlani and his 32-year-old brother were in the jewelry industry and visiting from Hong Kong at the time of the slaying.
They had gone just conducted some business in the jewelry district in downtown Los Angeles prior to the fatal robbery, Ardalani said.
They were on their way to Las Vegas, but decided to stop in West Covina for lunch, according to police and prosecutors.
“When the brothers returned to their vehicle, they were attacked by a group of men,” Ardalani said. “During the assault, Sheron Khemlani was fatally shot in the head before the attackers fled the scene in a vehicle.”
The victim’s brother was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Stolen was a bag containing $9,000, Ardalani said.
The case remained unsolved for more than a year until investigators identified Castiblanco and Cortez as suspects in the deadly robbery, officials said. Detectives released composite sketches of the suspects in hopes of generating leads prior to the apprehension of the killers.
Prosecutors filed charges against them in March of 2014, and they were both arrested in May of 2014, records show.
Details of the suspect’s capture were not available.
Castiblanco also has a pending case with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to booking records.
West Covina, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Torrance, Cypress and Evanston, Illinois, police took part in the investigation, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
WEST COVINA >> Detectives arrested two men and dismantled a large-scale drug distribution ring operating out of a home in an affluent West Covina neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
An ongoing narcotics investigation led investigators to show with a search warrant about 5 p.m. at the home in the 2700 block of South Citrus Street, in the South Hills neighborhood, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
There, officers discovered 120 pounds of methamphetamine, 17.6 pounds of cocaine and 110 pounds of marijuana, he said.
The massive amount of drugs seized at the “very sophisticated drug operation” required a truck to transport, the according to the lieutenant.
Packaging materials and other evidence of a large-scale drug sales operation were also found at the home, officials said.
Two men were arrested at the home without a struggle, police said.
Ceasar Eduardo Santiesteban, 24, of Los Angeles and Erik Alejandro Martinez, 41, of Fresno, were booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
They were being held in lieu of $2 million bail each pending their initial court appearances.
INDUSTRY >> Detectives following up on an Industry attempted burglary investigation arrested two men and seized two pounds of methamphetamine, a large amount of marijuana, cocaine, three guns and stolen property while carrying out a search warrant in West Covina on Tuesday, authorities said.
The bust took place in the morning at a home in West Covina, Capt. Tim Murakami of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Industry Station said.
Detectives had obtained a search warrant from the home as part of an investigation into a burglary attempt that took place in Industry about a week earlier, the captain said. Would-be burglars had rammed a rental car into the roll-up door of a business in an unsuccessful attempt to break in.
While serving the warrant, investigators found more than they had bargained for.
Recovered was a sawed-off shotgun, two stolen handguns, about two pounds of methamphetamine, a large amount of marijuana, cocaine, stolen property and a ski mask, according to Murakami.
In addition, deputies seized equipment used to both grow marijuana, as well as process it into concentrated “honey oil,” he said.
Two men at the home were arrested on suspicion of multiple felony gun and drug charges, Murakami said. Their identities were not available Wednesday afternoon.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department