UPDATED: West Covina police arrest man and woman following bizarre pursuit, crash in Bassett

WEST COVINA >> In a strange seemingly illogical series chain of events, a man and woman called police on themselves to falsely report a carjacking Friday before leading West Covina police on a chase that ended with a crash in Bassett that injured two bystanders, including a little girl, authorities said.
Britanny Benquenchea, 26, and Joshua Rodriguez, 27, both of Victorville, were accused of crimes including evading police and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the bizarre episode, which began just after 7 p.m. at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall, West Covina police Lt. Travis Tibbetts said. Both are on parole for robbery, and Benquenchea wears a GPS tracking device.
Police first responded to the mall, 112 Plaza Drive, after a woman called 911 to report she had been carjacked of her 2015 Toyota Corolla at gunpoint by a man and woman, the lieutenant said.
Responding officers spotted a car matching the description of the stolen Toyota, containing a man and woman matching the description of the carjackers, driving just south of the mall.
Benquenchea, who was driving, refused to pull over for police, initiating a high-speed chase.
The pursuit ended minutes later when the fleeing car struck a civilian vehicle at Amar Road and Willow Avenue, Tibbetts said.
Both suspects were detained at the scene, he said. Police used a K-9 to help apprehend the male suspect, who refused to comply with officers’ commands.
An 8-year-old girl who was riding in the car struck by the fleeing suspects was initially hospitalized in critical condition, but was expected to survive, Tibbetts said. A woman in the vehicle, described only as an adult, was also hospitalized. Neither victims injuries were believed to be life threatening.
The investigation then took an unexpected turn.
Officers determined Benquenchea herself had called the police to falsely report being carjacked, Tibbetts said.
After being involved in a fight and getting escorted from the mall by security guards, Benquenchea and Rodriguez became involved in a confrontation with security before speeding away from the mall, police said.
The suspects may have struck a parked car as they left, he said. The details of the incident at the mall remained unclear late Friday.
“Apparently, they decided to call and report a carjacking, describing themselves as the suspects,” Tibbetts said.
The call appeared to be some sort of ill-thought-out ruse to divert police attention from the mall incident, he said. Although Benquenchea gave descriptions matching herself and Rodriguez as that of the phony carjackers, she reported the purported carjackers had fled in the opposite direction.
Benquenchea gave her real first name while reporting the carjacking, Tibbetts added. And when police called back the number, Benquenchea’s phone rang through the Toyota’s wireless audio system.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Tibbetts said.
Witness Christopher Morales posted footage of the male suspect being taken into custody with the help of a police K-9 on the social media network.
Another witness, April Aguirre, posted video of the aftermath of the collision in which firefighters can be seen treating an injured patient on Twitter.
The female suspect appeared to be wearing a GPS ankle bracelet, she said. “When they brought her out she seemed like she was on drugs,” the witness added.
In an email, Aguirre said she did not see the crash itself, as she arrived afterward.
“When I got there they had a male on a gurney taking him away. Then a couple minutes later they had a female in the video in handcuffs & she could barely walk or she was resisting it seemed like,” she said.
The woman yelled out, “Please don’t leave me,” and other phrases as firefighters treated her injuries, Aguirre said.
Both suspects were hospitalized prior to booking, Tibbetts said.

VIDEO: Courtesy of Christopher Morales

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UPDATED: Two dead in fiery crash on 10 Freeway in West Covina

WEST COVINA >> Two people died in a fiery three-vehicle crash on the 10 Freeway in West Covina early Friday, authorities said.
The crash was reported about 1:10 a.m. on the westbound 10 Freeway, just east of Citrus Avenue, according to California Highway Patrol logs.
Two patients were pronounced dead at the scene, CHP Officer Patrick Kimball said. One more person was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in unknown condition.
One of the two involved vehicles caught fire, and “multiple explosions,” were reported, according to CHP logs.
The source of the explosions was unclear, Kimball said.
Bryan Garcia said he was on his way home with his wife when the collision unfolded behind him in the westbound lanes.
“A car lost control then I saw a fireball behind me,” he said.
It appeared one vehicle struck another, then hit the center divider and burst into flames, Garcia said.
Witness Lauren Walton described a similar scenario via Twitter, but from a vantage point behind the crash.
“I watched the car drift, collide, then a huge explosion. Called 911,” she posted on the social media network.
“I watched the last few minutes of someone’s life tonight… that’s heavy. I feel for the one lady that got out,” she wrote.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the crash were immediately available.
Officials issued a Sig Alert, shutting down all westbound lanes of the 10 Freeway, officials said. The closure was expected to remain in effect past 5 a.m.

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Cops visit dozens of San Gabriel Valley parolees, probationers; 4 arrested, weapons and drugs seized


SAN GABRIEL VALLEY >> San Gabriel Valley sheriff’s deputies and police officers arrested four suspects and recovered weapons and drugs Tuesday when they teamed up for a compliance sweep targeting parolees and those under AB 109 felony probation in the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
More than 40 law enforcement officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park took part in the early-morning operation, joined by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, state parole agents, county probation officers and representatives from the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, according to sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro, who oversees law enforcement for the city of La Puente.
After visiting more than 30 homes of convicts, officials arrested a parolee for being a felon in possession of a loaded handgun in La Puente, Cacheiro said.
Officials arrested three AB 109 probationers in West Covina, he said. One was arrested for possession of a Taser by a felon, one was jailed for possession of ammunition by a felon and one is accused of possession of methamphetamine for sales.
The task force operation, “exemplified out community policing strategies,” Cacheiro said.
La Puente City Manager David Carmany commended the effort in a written statement. “
“Our local law enforcement strives to maintain our communities safe and provide quality services to our residents,” he said.

Law enforcement officers from agencies throughout the San Gabriel Valley prepare for parole and probation compliance sweep at their command post at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (Courtesy, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

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SWAT team searches in Baldwin Park for suspect in shooting of West Covina police officer


BALDWIN PARK >> Sheriff’s SWAT deputies conducted a search operation in Baldwin Park Sunday in connection to the shooting of a West Covina police officer over the weekend as the wounded officer was released from the hospital, authorities said.
The manhunt began immediately after Friday’s 11:20 p.m. gunfight between a West Covina officer and 47-year-old suspect Jose Luis Chavez Friday on Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street in West Covina.
0522_NWS_SGT-L-WCOISPolice officers and deputies from throughout the region searched the neighborhood en masse in the hours following the shooting, but came up empty-handed.
But the investigation continued, ultimately leading officials to a home in the area of Durness Street and Vineland Avenue in Baldwin Park on Sunday, where heavily armed and specially trained deputies from the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau conducted a search for the suspect, according to sheriff’s and Baldwin Park police officials.
Authorities announced the search was concluded about 6 p.m., but the suspect remained at large.
“We are actively investigating and searching for this suspect,” Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said. “He is armed and dangerous.”
Meanwhile, the injured officer was recovering well after suffering a through-and-through wound to his abdomen, West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
“Our officer was released from the hospital this afternoon and is home resting,” the chief said via Twitter.
The officer approached Chavez, who was riding a bicycle, when Chavez began shooting, according to Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The officer was struck in the torso but returned fire, officials said. It was unclear whether Chavez was wounded before he fled the scene and escaped.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is spearheading the investigation, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS [Above] – Baldwin Park search operation on Sunday, May 22, 2016. (Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departrment) [Below] – Shooting suspect Jose Luis Chavez, 47. (Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

WCOIS flyer

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UPDATED: West Covina police officer wounded in gunfight; gunman sought


WEST COVINA >> A manhunt continued Saturday for a gunman who shot and wounded a West Covina police officer Friday night, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 11:20 p.m. along Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street.
“There is an officer down. He was struck by gunfire,” Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
The officer had approached the gunman as he rode a bike through the neighborhood, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“The contact (led) to a gun fight between the officer and the suspect,” Schrader said. “At that time, the officer sustained a gunshot wound to the upper torso.”
0522_NWS_SGT-L-WCOISIt was unclear whether the assailant — later identified by sheriff’s investigators as 47-year-old Jose Louis Chavez, had been wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
Sheriff’s deputies, as well as officers from police agencies throughout the region rushed to the scene to help in a search for the suspect, who remained at large Saturday afternoon. Police K-9s, bloodhounds, helicopters and three SWAT teams joined in the search.
“We had help from pretty much every agency in the San Gabriel Valley,” West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
Officials wound down their neighborhood search Saturday afternoon. The suspect remained at large.
Chavez is described as Latino, 6 feet 1 inch tall, 225 pounds, with his left eyebrow pierced, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “He should be considered armed and dangerous.”

Suspect's bicycle on it's side on Yaleton Ave. a few yards north of Badillo St. in West Covina, Saturday, May 21, 2016. This was during a large manhunt for a suspect who shot a West Covina Police officer the night before. (Mike Mullen photo)

Suspect’s bicycle on its side on Yaleton Ave. a few yards north of Badillo St. in West Covina, Saturday, May 21, 2016. (Mike Mullen photo)

The wounded officer, a 9-year law enforcement veteran with more than an year on-duty with the West Covina Police Department, was expected to survive, Faulkner said.
The bullet struck the officer in the abdomen, beneath his bullet-proof vest, the chief said. It penetrated through the officer and exited his body.
Remarkably, “The round didn’t hit any of his major organs,” the chief said.
“At this point, certainly, I can say that God was on his side.”
Initial plans for emergency surgery were placed on hold, and possibly cancelled, after it was discovered the officer’s major organs were spared by the bullet, he said.
The officer was conscious, alert and in good spirits at a hospital Saturday, accompanied by family members, Faulkner said. His identity was not released.
“He’s experiences, respected and he did a great job under the circumstances,” Faulkner said of the wounded officer.
The chief also praised the work of officers and deputies in the aftermath of the shooting and thanked the community for an outpouring of support.
Further details, including a detailed suspect description, were not available.
Badillo Street remained shut down between Sunset and Orange avenues, as well as Sunset Avenue at Badillo Street, as the investigation and manhunt continued Saturday afternoon.
Anyone with information can reach sheriff’s homicide detectives, who are assisting West Covina police in the investigating, at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Masked gunman holds up West Covina gas station

WEST COVINA >> Police are seeking a masked gunman who robbed a West Covina gas station late Thursday, officials said.
The crime took place about 9:35 p.m. at a 76 Station at 2010 W. Pacific Ave., West Covina police Lt. Travis Tibbetts said.
A robber, initially described only as a man wearing a mask from the 1990s “Scream” film series, entered the store, brandished a revolver and demanded money from the clerk, the lieutenant said.
After obtaining about $200, the robber was last seen fleeing the area on foot, he said. No injuries were reported.
Anyone with information can reach West Covina police at 626-939-8500.

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UPDATED: Two men fatally struck by vehicles in separate collisions in West Covina

WEST COVINA >> Two pedestrians died after being struck by cars in two separate collision in West Covina late Thursday and early Friday, officials said.
The first fatal collision took place about 9 p.m. Thursday along Azusa Avenue, just south of Fairgrove Avenue, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
Victor Gurrola Aguirre, 62, of Covina died at the scene, Winter said.
Aguirre was walking or running across traffic lanes, not within a crosswalk, when he was struck by a sedan heading south in the left=hand lane, West Covina police Lt. Travis Tibbetts said.
The driver, a man, remained at the scene and cooperated with police, Tibbetts said. No crime was initially suspected.
Another man was struck by a pickup truck shortly after 7 a.m. Friday while crossing Sunset Avenue at Rowland Avenue, officials said.
The victim, described as a man in his late 50s or early 60s, was walking within a marked crosswalk when he was struck by vehicle heading south on Sunset Avenue, West Covina police Lt. Pat Benschop said.
His identity was not released Friday afternoon pending positive identification and notification of family members, Winter said.
Paramedics rushed the injured man to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, he said.
The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with police, and the incident initially appeared to be a “tragic accident,” Benschop said.
Both collisions remained under investigation.

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Driver leads police on chase through West Covina, abandons stolen car on 10 Freeway

WEST COVINA >> A car thief led police on a chase through West Covina late Sunday before heading the wrong way on the 10 Freeway, abandoning the stolen car on the freeway and escaping into Covina Hills, authorities said.
An officer spotted a stolen car just before 7 p.m. in the area of Azusa and Vine avenues, West Covina police Lt. Travis Tibbetts said.
The driver refused to pull over, initiating a chase.
Officers chased the Honda Accord as it got onto the eastbound 10 Freeway, exited at Barranca Street, then re-entered the freeway heading the wrong way in westbound lanes, the lieutenant said.
Police cancelled their pursuit as the suspect entered the busy freeway heading in the wrong direction, he said.
They soon found the car crashed into the center divider west of Via Verde, Tibbetts said. But the driver had continued fleeing on foot, north across freeway lanes and into the Covina Hills.
Police and CHP officers searched for the suspect, with help from a helicopter, but he suspect was not found.
A detailed description was not available.

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Missing West Covina woman with dementia found safe in Norwalk

WEST COVINA >> Police found a 62-year-old woman with dementia safe in Norwalk after she went missing from her West Covina home Thursday morning.
Christine Morris was last seen about 5 a.m. at her home in the 1900 block of East Tillie Court, according to West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez. She was reported missing at about 7 a.m.
“Christine has dementia (and) knows her name and birthday but cannot recall her address,” Lopez said in a written statement.
Morris walks with a shuffle, “as she uses a walker which was left behind.”
Police searched the area around Morris’ home, as well as local parks, malls, transportation hubs and hospitals, to no avail, Lopez said.
Officials announced Thursday afternoon that Morris had turned up safe in Norwalk.

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Teen accused of graffiti vandalism in front of Covina police station

COVINA >> Police arrested a West Covina teen Wednesday hours after he scrawled graffiti on a flagpole and newly installed parking meter dispenser outside the Covina Police Department, officials said.
The teen had gone to the Covina Police Department, 444 N. Citrus Ave., for unrelated business about 9 a.m. and decided to scrawl graffiti with a marker on the flagpole and parking machine as he left, Covina police Lt. Ric Walczak said.
After noticing the damage, police reviewed station surveillance cameras, which had captured the crime on video, he said.
Investigators identified the teen and arrested him about 9 p.m. Wednesday, the lieutenant said.
He was cited for vandalism and released to his parents pending his initial court appearance.

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