UPDATED: Suspect subdued with Taser during fight with police in West Covina

WEST COVINA — A man was believed to be high on methamphetamine Saturday when he fought with police, who ultimately subdued him with a Taser, officials said.
Two police officers suffered minor injuries in the incident, West Covina police Lt. David Lee said.
Johnny Rangel, 24, of Baldwin Park was arrested on suspicion of assault on a peace officer, resisting arrest and being under the influence of narcotics following the incident, which unfolded just before 2:30 a.m. in the 2000 block of East Garvey Avenue, Lee said.
A woman called police to report that Rangel, who she knew, was banging on her door and causing a disturbance while apparently under the influence of methamphetamine, the lieutenant said.
When officers arrived, Rangel became, “immediately combative,” Lee said.
They struggled with him before ultimately using a Taser to take him into custody, police said. He was taken to a hospital for examination prior to booking.
Two police officers suffered minor injuries during the fight and were also treated at a hospital before being released, Lee said.

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West Covina man guilty of murder in wife’s slaying

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A West Covina man is guilty of fatally beating and stabbing his wife before leaving her body in the trunk of her car in the parking lot of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, a jury found Wednesday.
Tomas Infante, 62, killed his wife 57-year-old Charito Tolentino of West Covina Jan. 11, 2013, after a woman with whom he had been having an affair on his wife with learned he was married, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The Pomona Superior Court jury deliberated for about two hours before convicting Infante of first-degree murder, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
“During the trial, the defendant’s son testified that his father that his father told him he had killed his stepmother,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Additionally, surveillance video at the casino, cell phone records and blood evidence at the home linked Infante to the crime.”
Prosecutors said Infante killed his wife the day after the woman he had been seeing learned he was already married and broke up with him.
“A day after the breakup, Tolentino went missing,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Infante reported his wife missing Jan. 12, telling authorities she had never returned home from work, according to Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Worried family members began searching for Tolentino, and with help from her cell phone provider, was able to find her SUV in the parking lot of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, the lieutenant said. The family notified sheriff’s deputies, who then found Tolentino’s body in the trunk of her vehicle.
An autopsy determined Tolentino had suffered three stab wounds to her neck and chest area, five lacerations on her head and multiple bruises on her head, face, hands and right forearm, face and he
Detectives arrested Infante Jan. 14, after carrying out a search of the West Covina home he shared with his wife and their 17-year-old daughter.
Investigators found blood inside the attached garage of the home, amid other evidence, Ardalani said.
Infante faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison when he returns to Pomona Superior Court to be sentenced by Judge Mike Camacho July 8.

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Gunman dissatisfied with amount of money in register during West Covina pharmacy robbery, tells clerk to ‘Keep it’

WEST COVINA — An armed man abandoned a pharmacy robbery Sunday morning after he was apparently disappointed by the amount of cash in the register, authorities said.
The incident, which was being investigated as an attempted robbery, took place about 9:40 a.m. at a CVS Pharmacy at 702 N. Azusa Avenue, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
A man entered the store and approached a clerk with a bottle of water, as if he was about to purchase it, the lieutenant said.
He then lifted his sweatshirt to expose a black, semi-automatic handgun tucked into his waistband, Patton said. “He demanded money from the clerk.”
The employee removed placed 20-, 10- and 5-dollar bills from the register, but the would-be robber turned his nose up at the cash.
After asking if that was all the money the clerk had, he stated, “Keep it,” before leaving the store empty-handed, Patton said.
Police searched the area with help from a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter, but were unable to find the suspect, he said. The gunman was described as a black man with a light complexion between 25 and 30 years old, about 6 feet 1 inch tall, 180 pounds and clean-shaven. He wore a black hat with a white logo on the front, a light gray zip-up hooded sweatshirt, black sweatpants and black shoes.

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UPDATED: Suspect shocked with Taser and arrested after chase from Pomona to West Covina, crash

Deputies subdued a fleeing, wanted suspect with a Taser Saturday after he tried to run deputies off the road in Pomona, then led them on a freeway chase which ended in a crash in West Covina, authorities said.
Eddie Mendez, 30, of Pomona was arrested following the pursuit, which began about 11:30 a.m., according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records. He is on felony probation or Post Release Community Supervision under AB 109 of 2011, also known as prison realignment, following drug-related convictions.
At least one civilian car was also run off the roadway during the chase, Lt. Andy Berg of the sheriff’s San Dimas Station said. No injuries were reported to deputies or civilians.
Two deputies were driving in a patrol car at Gillette Road and Dudley Street in Pomona when a blue Chevrolet HHR with no license plates exited the parking lot of a nearby motel, sheriff’s officials said.
The driver, later identified as Mendez, “looked straight at them and drove toward them as if trying to strike them,” Berg said. “He tried to run them off the road.”
The deputy driving the patrol car managed to avoid a collision, turned around and began chasing the SUV.
As the fleeing SUV entered the westbound 10 Freeway, it pulled in front of a civilian car, forcing it off the road, Berg said. Officials were also looking into a report that a second civilian vehicle may have been struck by the suspect’s SUV during the chase.
Mendez continued weaving in and out of traffic as he sped down the 10 Freeway, Berg said. He soon crashed in West Covina.
“Eventually, in his weaving, he lost control. He hit the center divider near Azusa avenue,” the lieutenant said.
Mendez ran across eastbound traffic lanes and tried, but failed, to climb over a sound wall, Berg said.
Deputies chased after Mendez on foot and caught up with him as he was making a second attempt to scale the wall about 100 yards to the west.
Deputies shocked Mendez with a Taser, which disabled him and allowed them to place him in handcuffs without further struggle, Berg said.
Deputies determined Mendez was wanted on a “no bail” warrant due to a violation of parole or probation, Berg said.
After being examined at a hospital, Mendez was expected to be booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, evading police and hit-and-run, as well as the outstanding warrant.

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UPDATED — Police: Suspect in bizarre West Covina rampage admits using bath salts, methamphetamine

WEST COVINA >> A man believed to be high on bath salts and methamphetamine threatened passers-by with a gas can, doused himself in the flammable liquid and bit a police officer before finally being wrestled into custody by police early Saturday, authorities said.
Juan Carlos Urrutia, 24, of West Covina was arrested in connection with the incident, according to West Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The bizarre series of event unfolded shorty after 7 a.m. in the area of West Covina Parkway and Glendora Avenue.
Police received numerous calls of a man — later identified as Urrutia — of about 19 years old walking in the middle of the street with a gasoline can in-hand, “threatening motorists to light them on fire,” West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
Callers further reported that the man had doused a bush, as well as himself, in gasoline, and had been seen carrying both a lighter and a crowbar, the lieutenant said.
Officers arrived and confronted Urrutia, who was still carrying the gas can, as well as some jumper cables and paper towels that had been soaked in gasoline, Patton said. He appeared highly intoxicated.
“He disobeyed call commands,” Patton said.
But because the man was soaked in flammable liquid, officer were unable to use a Taser to subdue Urrutua for fear of igniting a fire, police said. So police wrestled him into custody.
“It took multiple officers to get this guy into custody,” Patton said.
Urrutia bit an officer in the arm during the struggle, breaking the skin and causing a “significant injury,” Patton said. The officer was treated and released at a hospital.
The suspect told officials that he had consumed bath salts and methamphetamine, he said. He was taken to a hospital for examination.
Bath salts is a term used to describe a family of synthetic stimulants often sold as items such as bath salt, labeled not for human consumption.
After being examined at a hospital, Urrutia was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, resisting arrest and being under the influence of drugs, police said.
According to county booking records, Urrutia was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his arraignment, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

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UPDATED — Walnut carjacking suspect arrested after hit-and-run, burglaries in West Covina

A Walnut carjacking suspect fleeing the scene of a crash broke into two homes, startling residents, and was trying to break into a third when police arrested him Thursday, authorities said.
Joseph Zavala, 24, of North Hollywood was ultimately arrested on suspicion of carjacking, felony hit-and-run, burglary and possession of stolen property, West Covina police Lt. Pat Cirrito said.
The incident kicked off about 2:40 p.m. when the suspect grabbed a set of keys from a woman at a gas station at Pierre Road and Valley Boulevard in Walnut, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Saleeby said. He fled with the woman’s Toyota sedan, he said. The woman was not injured.
About five minutes later, police in West Covina received a report of a hit-and-run car crash at Grand Avenue and Cortez street, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said. A woman had suffered a minor injury in the collision when the suspect struck her vehicle, then ran from the scene.
Officials soon linked the car Zavala had been driving to the earlier carjacking, Patton said.
Zavala arrived at a home in the 500 block of Grand Avenue, the lieutenant said. “He removed the window screen and entered the residence, where he was confronted by the homeowners.” The residents managed to chase the intruder away, however further details of the encounter were not immediately available.
Patton said the fleeing suspect then showed up at a second home in the 600 block of Ferrari Way, “…where he broke a window of that residence. He entered into that structure, where he confronted the female resident, who feared for her safety and fled from her residence.”
Zavala helped himself to the woman’s refrigerator before continuing to run, Patton said.
Officers caught up with the man as he was breaking a window of a garage in the 600 block of Wrede Lane, Patton said. He was taken into custody without a struggle.
Officials took Zavala to a hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the crash and the break-ins prior to booking him into jail, Patton said.
Investigators were also looking into the possibility the suspect was under the influence of methamphetamine during the incident.

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UPDATED: Real estate agents discover marijuana growing inside West Covina home

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WEST COVINA >> Police uprooted about 700 marijuana plants valued at $1.5 million Saturday after real estate agents visiting a home for sale in West Covina stumbled upon a large marijuana growing operation Saturday, officials said.
The illicit garden was found about 1:30 p.m., concealed within a home in the 2400 block of Felicia Street, just southwest of Amar Road and Nogales Street, West Covina Police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
“The home is apparently up for sale,” the lieutenant said. Real estate agents who stopped by the home notified police of the pot plants growing inside.
Police obtained a search warrant before removing the plants and equipment from the house.
The home, which Patton described as “an exceptionally large marijuana grow,” was outfitted with extensive lighting and irrigation equipment.
No arrests had been made Saturday afternoon, and police were still looking into who was responsible for the home Sunday.
20140426_191224 (1)It initially appeared the home was owned by an absentee landlord who was unaware of the marijuana growing operation, Patton said.
One neighbor, who asked not to be identified for fear of possible retaliation, said she didn’t recall seeing anyone at the home, but the interior lights were often on in the middle of the night.
“We don’t see anybody there going in and out, even cars,” the neighbor said.
“It’s scary,” she added. “We don’t know who our neighbors are.”

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UPDATED: Man pronounced dead after solo-car crash in West Covina


WEST COVINA >> A man died at the scene of a solo-car crash in West Covina early Sunday, officials said.
The crash took place about 9 a.m. at Francisquito and Sunset avenues, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
The driver had not been positively identified, however he was believed to be a West Covina man in his mid-40s, West Covina police Sgt. Keith Shishido said.
“It appears that he was traveling westbound on Francisquito Avenue,” Patton said.
20140413_111944 (1)After traveling through the intersection, the older-model Toyota Camry struck brick wall in front of a home along the north side of Francisquito Avenue, just west of Sunset Avenue.
The car slid along the brick and metal gate, narrowly squeezing between the wall and a traffic signal pole and a tree before slamming into another tree along the sidewalk, Shishido said.
Paramedics found the badly injured driver slumped over the steering wheel, Patton said. “He was pronounced dead at the scene by fire personnel.”
“We’re relatively certain the speed had something to do with it,” Shishido said.
“There was a witness. The witness was indicating that the vehicle did appear to be traveling a little higher-than-normal rate of speed,” he said.
Police had not yet determined whether intoxicated driving was a factor in the fatal crash, Shishido.
No other vehicles were believed to be involved in the crash, the sergeant added.

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West Covina Sizzler robbed

WEST COVINA — Three masked men robbed a Sizzler restaurant early Thursday, officials said.
The crime took place shortly before 10 a.m. at the eatery in the 1100 block of West West Covina Parkway, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez said.
Three robbers had at least one gun when they entered the restaurant and demanded money, Lopez said. They ultimately fled with an unknown amount of cash from the business’ safe.
The robbers were last seen running east from the restaurant, Lopez added. No getaway car was seen.
Police described them as three black men between 18 and 25 years old. All wore dark ski masks, hats and sunglasses, and all wore dark clothing.
Further details were not immediately available.

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St. Patrick’s Day weekend DUI crackdown: checkpoints planned in Whittier, Pico Rivera, Arcadia, Pasadena unincorporated West Covina

LOS ANGELES COUNTY >> Law enforcement officers throughout Los Angeles County are gearing up for checkpoints and extra patrols seeking intoxicated drivers this St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Checkpoints in Whittier, Pico Rivera, Arcadia, Pasadena and the unincorporated county area of West Covina are just five of the 13 checkpoints taking place this weekend in the county, along with 87 roving DUI patrols, according to representatives of the task force of law enforcement agencies collectively known as “Avoid the 100.”
“When you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, just be smart about it,” Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said in a written statement. “If you know you’re going to drink, whether with friends at a pub or attending a party designate a sober driver ahead of time or call a taxi to make sure you get home safely.”
According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one person died every 53 minutes in a DUI-related crash in the United States in 2011.
“Most of these crashes involved drunk drivers who had blood-alcohol concentrations of .15 or higher, almost twice the legal limit of .08,” the task force statement said.
Whittier police are planning a checkpoint Friday night into Saturday morning within Whittier, according to Whittier police Sgt. Rob Hanson.
Pasadena police are also planning checkpoint Friday, as well as extra patrols to seek DUI drivers on St. Patrick’s Day, Pasadena police Lt. Pete Hettema said.
Arcadia police have announced plans to hold a checkpoint late Saturday into early Saturday within that city, Arcadia police Sgt. Brett Bourgeous said.
Sheriff’s deputies in Pico Rivera and California Highway Patrol officers in the unincorporated county area near West Covina will also hold a checkpoint late Saturday into Sunday, according to officials from each agency.
All of the checkpoints and additional patrols are being funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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