Passenger killed, driver accused of DUI following West Covina crash

WEST COVINA >> A man is accused of drunken driving in connection with solo-car crash that killed on of his passengers and injured a second passenger and himself late Saturday, police said.
The name of the passenger who died in the crash was not released Sunday pending notification of his family, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Larry Dietz said. He was initially described as a man in his mid-20s.
The name of the driver, also a man in his 20s, was not available as he remained hospitalized at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment of major injuries, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
The crash was first reported about 10:50 p.m. at a curve in the road where Hollenbeck Street becomes Casa Grande Drive, police said. It involved a Dodge sedan.
“A solo car had overturned after striking a palm tree,” Patton said. “It appears the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed.”
A passenger in the Dodge died at the scene, while the driver was hospitalized with major injuries and a second passenger was treated for injuries described as moderate, the lieutenant said.
Investigators determined the driver was under the influence of alcohol and placed him under arrest, Patton said.

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West Covina sculpture of late Yankees pitcher, San Gabriel Valley resident Cory Lidle destroyed by metal thieves

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WEST COVINA >> A bronze sculpture of Cory Lidle — a Yankees pitcher and San Gabriel Valley resident who died in a New York airplane crash in 2006 — was destroyed in a theft attempt by suspected metal thieves early Friday, authorities said.
The thieves were unable to remove the 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the entrance of the Big League Dreams sport complex, 2100 S. Azusa Ave., however they toppled and badly damaged in the attempt, West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez said. The statue was valued at about $100,000.
0222_NWS_SGT-L-STATUE2But they did get away with three bronze plaques that were on display at the memorial to Lidle, which was installed by West Covina to honor the fallen pitcher in October of 2007. The larger-than-life statue depicted Lidle, in his Yankees uniform, in mid-pitch.
While it remained unclear if the badly damaged statue could be repaired, “It’s never going to be the same,” Lopez said.
Lidle died October 11, 2006, when the small airplane he was flying in crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper. The Glendora resident was a standout player for South Hills High School in West Covina before becoming a professional baseball player.
Also killed in the crash was Lidle’s friend, 26-year-old Tyler Stanger of Walnut.
“It’s a horribly act of vandalism, and I hope they catch the people that did this,” West Covina Mayor Steve Herfert said. As a city councilman at the time, Herfert was involved in selecting the artist when the statue was first commissioned.
0222_NWS_SGT-L-STATUE3“This is a memorial to Corey Lidle, who grew up here in West Covina. It’s very disturbing,” the mayor said. “What a senseless act. It stuns me how someone could do something like that to a beautiful statue like that.”
Police reached out to the public Friday afternoon for clues regarding the identity of the thieves, as well as the location of the stolen plaques, officials said. They also notified area metal recyclers to be on the lookout for the unique plaques.
The theft took place between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., Lopez said.
It appeared whoever was responsible used heady-duty tools to cut into the large, bronze statue, Lt. Dennis Patton said. But they were apparently unable to make off with the massive sculpture.
The statue weighs about half-a-ton, according to the Texas-based foundry that cast it, the Stevens Art Foundry.
The City of West Covina commissioned the late Texas artist Don Hunt to sculpt the monument in 2007. Hunt died in 2011 at age 70.
Though the detailed statue was valued at $100,000, officials said the vandals were likely only after the value of recycled metal it was made of.
And at a current price of $3.27 per pound for copper — the primary component of bronze — the metal itself is worth less than $7,000.
Big League Dreams Executive Board Member John Giambi, father of Lidle’s former Yankees teammate and longtime friend Jason Giambi, described the incident as “disheartening” and “discouraging.”
“It’s disappointing that someone in the community would have the disrespect to do it,” John Giambi said.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 visitors have passed by the sculpture as they enter Big League Dreams each year since its installation, he said.
“It’s about pride. It’s about the community, It’s about what the city has done,” John Giambi said.
In addition to honoring the life of Lidle, the monument was a source of pride for the city, Herfert said.
“The community will rally around,” he said. “We will repair, or replace, or whatever we have to do.”
“I promise our residents this act of vandalism will not deter us from our goal of fulfilling dreams at our Big League
Dreams facility,” the mayor added. “The statue will be repaired and we will be stronger in our resolve to stop crime and vandalism.”

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Police plan pedestrian safety campaign Monday in West Covina

WEST COVINA — Police are planning an enforcement campaign targeting pedestrian safety issues Monday, officials said.
The pedestrian safety crackdown will take place at several undisclosed West Covina intersections throughout West Covina, West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez said.
It will target both drivers and pedestrians who violate traffic laws, he added.

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Robbery suspect fatally shot by deputies after chase from Walnut to West Covina

Deputies shot and killed a robbery suspect Thursday following a pursuit from Walnut to West Covina, authorities said.
The identity of the man who died in the 5:15 p.m. deputy-involved shooting in the 19100 block of Elberland Street remained unclear late Thursday as detectives continued investigating multiple scenes Thursday night.
The incident began shortly before 5 p.m. when a man called 9-1-1 to report an apparent home-invasion robbery in the area of Lemon Avenue and Amar Road in Walnut, Lt. Steve Jauch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“A man said his mother was having money demanded from her,” Jauch said. The caller reported the man was armed with a handgun, and that a black car was parked in front of the home.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut Station responded to the alleged robbery.
“As they neared the residence, a black vehicle matching the suspect description heads at them at a high rate of speed,” Jauch said. Deputies began chasing the car, which they later learned was occupied by a woman and a 5-year-old girl, in addition to the suspect.
The chase led to the parking lot of the Bestway Supermarket, 19050 La Puente Road, officials said, where the fleeing car crashed into a truck, destroying one of its tires.
The suspect got out of the car and ran in the front of the market and out of the back, Jauch said.
Deputies detained the woman in the parking lot and took the child into protective custody.
The man fled east into a nearby neighborhood, making his way through residential backyards, according to Jauch.
When the suspect encountered deputies in the back yard of a home at the corner of Elberland Street and Abelian Avenue, “a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” the lieutenant said. Further details regarding what prompted deputies to open fire were not clear.
More than one deputy was involved in the shooting, Jauch said, however the number of involved deputies was not available.
No weapon had been recovered from the scene late Thursday, he said, though deputies continued scouring the area and the pursuit route.
The woman detained at the end of the pursuit was considered criminal suspect, however it was not yet known exactly what crimes she was to be booked on suspicion of, Jauch said. Her name was not released.
The relationship between the man, woman and child was also unclear.
Nearby residents said they saw a group of deputies converge on the neighborhood from several directions just prior to the shooting.
Eugenia Montiel said as deputies approached the home, she saw a shirtless man come walking, not running, out of the backyard before apparently being chased back into the yard by deputies and cornered.
She then heard a string of gunshots in rapid succession, and saw the flash from the barrels of deputy’s pistols.
“I told my daughter, ‘Get down on the floor,’” she said.
Estimated given by neighbors of the number of shots they heard ranged from half a dozen to 18.
The investigation is being handled by detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.

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Parolee, passenger jailed after high-speed chase from West Covina to El Monte

A man and woman from El Monte were behind bars Saturday after leading West Covina police on a high-speed chase in a stolen car during which the driver rammed a police car, authorities said.
Driver and parolee William Paul East, 30, was booked on suspicion of auto theft, driving a stolen car, assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and felony evading of police following the pursuit, which began about 11:10 p.m. Friday in West Covina before officers stopped it with a PIT maneuver in El Monte, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
His passenger, 32-year-old Jenny Anne Lao, was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine, the lieutenant said.
East was being held without bail and was scheduled to appear in West Covina Superior Court Feb. 20, according to county booking records. He was already being sought for absconding from parole supervision when the chase took place, officials said.
Lao was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail and was scheduled to appear Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
The incident began when a man called police to report seeing his compact Toyota sedan, which had been stolen in El Monte, driving through West Covina, Patton said.
“He happened to come across his vehicle and notified West Covina police,” he said. It was not immediately clear when the car had been stolen.
The caller directed police toward where he had spotted his stolen car, and officers caught up with it in the area of Valinda Avenue and Maplegrove Street, on the western border of West Covina, Patton said.
“Officers proceeded to attempt to stop the vehicle, when the vehicle abruptly fled at a high rate of speed and a pursuit was initiated,” Patton said.
The fleeing car led officers along side streets before getting onto the westbound 10 Freeway, where it reached 105 mph, he said.
As the car exited at Peck Road, East lost control and the Toyota spun out, Patton said. Lao got out of the car and fled on foot, but was quickly apprehended. East continued fleeing in the car.
Police continued chasing the car south on Peck Road until it crashed into a car parked in a used car lot at Peck Road and Valley Boulevard, Patton said.
“After that impact with a parked vehicle at the auto dealership, the driver put the vehicle into reverse and intentionally rammed a police vehicle,” he said. The officer was not injured, and the damage appeared minor.
When East tried to continue driving, officers used a PIT maneuver to bring the chase to an end, according to Patton. East then surrendered.

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West Covina man who died following Walnut car crash identified

WALNUT — Coroner’s officials Sunday released the name of a 47-year-old who died at a hospital earlier in the week after he was found unresponsive in his car following a solo-vehicle crash.
Randy Matlock died at San Dimas Community Hospital a little more than an hour after his car went over a curb and struck a utility pole about noon Thursday along Grand Avenue at Mountaineer Road, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Larry Dietz said.
The crash did not appear major, and there was no trauma immediately apparent on Matlock’s body, leading officials to suspect he may have suffered a medical problem prior to the crash, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Robert Seals said.
An official cause of death had not been determined Sunday, Dietz said.
The crash was under investigation by deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station.

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Unwanted guns collected at West Covina’s first buyback program

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WEST COVINA — Police collected an exotic arsenal of unwanted weapons Saturday during the West Covina Police Department’s first-ever gun buyback program.
From pocket pistols to a World War II-era Japanese sniper rifle, police traded $50 Target gift cards for each unwanted weapon dropped off at the police station by area residents, no questions asked.
“It’s totally anonymous and it’s up to the residents,” West Covina police Cmdr. Richard Bell said.
The event offered area residents an opportunity to safely and anonymously dispose of unwanted guns that may be collecting dust in the back of a closet, Bell explained. And if unwanted guns are disposed of, they cannot fall into the wrong hands and be used in a crime.
“In the first hour, we had 22 guns turned in,” he said.
By the end of the five-hour collection event, officers had collected a total of 44 guns — 24 handguns and 20 rifles.
Participants were advised to bring their weapons unloaded and in the trunks of their vehicles as they entered the parking lot of the police station through a designated driveway.
Within a matter of a few minutes, police checked to make sure the guns were unloaded, stowed them away, and sent the participants on their way with gift cards in-hand.
One West Covina man who did not wish to give his name during the anonymous event dropped of five .22-caliber rifles.
“I had these old rifles sitting in the garage. I figured this was a good time to get rid of them,” he said.
Weapons turned in included World War II-era M-1 rifle, an 1894 Remington shotgun and dozens of other handguns and long guns, as well as some ammunition.
If weapons of historical value are turned in, they may be given to a museum rather than destroyed, officials said.
Elizabeth Ramos, 80, of Covina brought in a .22-caliber rifle with an unusual story that she had stored for more than 30 years.
Ramos said her son found the rifle underwater while SCUBA diving off the coast of Catalina as a young man in the late 1970s. He cleaned and polished the weapon, but never fired it.
When she heard about West Covina’s gun buyback, Ramos decided it was time for the old firearm to go.
And with the gift card she received in exchange, she added she was off to get some new bedroom slippers.
Ramos said she supported the idea of the gun buyback.
“There’s too much crime right now,” she said. “We need to take care of our youth. We’re getting too many guns.”

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West Covina restaurant robbed

WEST COVINA — Two robbers fled with a little more than $200 after robbing a Carrows restaurant late Thursday, officials said.
The two men entered the restaurant, 101 S. Azusa Avenue, just before 8 p.m., West Covina police Lt. Pat Cirrito said.
One of them motioned as if he had a gun in his pocket as the robbers demanded cash, however no weapon was seen, he said.
They were last seen running west from the restaurant, the lieutenant added.
Both robbers were Latino men in their 30s or 40s, Cirrito said. One had a shaved head and wore a gray sweat shirt and a black cap. The other had short hair and wore a black sweat shirt and jeans.

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Motorcycle deputy hurt in 10 Freeway crash

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WEST COVINA – A motorcycle deputy suffered injuries Thursday in a crash that snarled the afternoon commute through the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
The crash took place just after 3 p.m. on the eastbound 10 Freeway, just east of Puente Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Boese said.
The deputy was on his way home from work at the Los Angeles County sheriff’s West Hollywood Station and riding in the No. 2 lane just prior to the crash, California Highway Patrol Officer Jaime Rosas said. A Ford Expedition SUV being driven by a West Covina woman in her 30s was eastbound in the No. 1 lane.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation by the CHP, however the SUV began to merge toward the right when the two vehicles collided, according to Boese and Rosas.
“That caused the deputy to fall off his motorcycle and land in traffic lanes,” Boese said.
The dazed deputy radioed in the crash, Rosas said, prompting a massive response from rescuers fearing the worst.
A Metro Freeway Service Patrol crew happened to be just behind the crash and helped the injured deputy reach the side of the road, Boese said.
Paramedics took the deputy to hospital for examination and treatment, Rosas said.
The woman at the wheel of the SUV was not injured, officials added. She remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators.
The deputy’s motorcycle continued travelling without a rider for about 100 feet before crashing into a chain-link fence along the right shoulder,
Officials briefly shut down the three right lanes of the eastbound 10 Freeway following the crash, causing traffic to back up past the 605 Freeway.

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Fire scorches West Covina home

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WEST COVINA — A fire blamed on a roofing mishap damaged a West Covina home and displaced the family that lived inside it Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
No injuries were reported in the fire, which broke out about 1:15 p.m. and scorched a two-story home in the 1000 block of West Puente Avenue, just west of Vincent Avenue, West Covina Fire Department Chief Rick Genovese said.
Officials estimated the damage to the home and it’s contents at more than $100,000, however the residents all escaped unharmed, the chief said.
A resident was carrying out roofing work on an eve between the first and second floors when the fire ignited, Genovese said.
“He was using a propane torch to heat up roofing material,” he said. “It appears at this point the insulation caught first.”
Genovese said the resident ripped up shingles and attempted to extinguish the fire himself, but called 9-1-1 as it continued to spread through the roof of the home and into the walls.
The man, along with his wife and children, had gotten out of the burning home before firefighters arrived, which was within four minutes of the initial 9-1-1 call, Genovese said.
The Red Cross was summoned to help the displaced family find temporary lodging, he added. The families pet dogs appeared to have run off during the commotion, but were not believed to have been injured in the fire.

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