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.”
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.
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.
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.
WEST COVINA — An elderly West Covina man died late Thursday after he was struck by a pickup truck while crossing Hollenbeck Avenue, officials said.
The man, initially described as 80 years old, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 9:10 p.m. collision at Hollenbeck Avenue at Garvey Avenue South, West Covina police Lt. Pat Cirrito said.
He was walking west across the street within a crosswalk when he was struck by a southbound pickup truck, the lieutenant said.
The cause of the collision remained under investigation, however the driver of the truck remained at the scene and was cooperating with investigators, Cirrito said.
WEST COVINA — Police, aided by a news reading tipster, arrested a transient who struck a gardener in the head with a rock in an unprovoked attack Friday, officials said.
Andrew Lopez, a 24-year-old transients known to frequent the West Covina area, was arrested Friday afternoon in connection with the alleged assault with a deadly weapon, which took place about 10 a.m. at Amar Road and Woodgate Drive, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
A landscaper was using a leaf blower when he spotted another man out of the corner of his eye, Patton said.
“Without provocation or any exchange of words, the subject throws a rock at him, striking him in the area of his forehead,” the lieutenant said.
The gardener suffered a half-inch cut but declined to be hospitalized via ambulance, Patton said. He was taken by his employer for medical treatment.
The suspect was not found when police searched the area, but the gardener was able to provide officers with a detailed description of the attacker.
A local apartment manager saw the attacker’s description in a report on the San Gabriel Valley Tribune’s website and recognized him as a man who had just been in the area, Patton said.
Officers responded to the area where the tipster reported last seeing the man and found him in the area, Patton said. He was detained without a struggle, and arrested once identified by the gardener as his attacker.
Based on the unprovoked violence exhibited by the suspect, Patton said police were relieved to have him in custody before he potentially injured someone else.
A motive in the alleged attack was not clear.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Lopez was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail at the West Covina Police Department’s jail Friday pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.
ROSEMEAD — A West Covina woman accused of fatally striking a senior citizen with her SUV before fleeing the scene has turned herself into sheriff’s deputies, authorities said late Tuesday.
Janet Ngo Bowman, 32, was booked on suspicion of hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence after she showed up at the Sheriff’s Temple Station lobby about 11:30 a.m. Monday in connection with Sunday’s 6:20 p.m. hit-and-run at Marshall Street and Greendale Avenue in Rosemead, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
“Temple Station traffic investigators recovered the suspect’s vehicle, a 2007 Nissan Murano, and it is being held as evidence,” Lt. Carlos Marquez said in a written statement.
Killed was Qingrong Chai, 69, of Rosemead, who would have turned 70 Thursday, according to Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter.
Chai was crossing Marshall Street when she was struck by an eastbound SUV with no headlights on, sheriff’s officials said. The did not stop, and paramedics pronounced Chai dead at the scene.
According to county booking records, Bowman was released early Tuesday after posting $50,000 bail.
She was scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 28 in El Monte Superior Court.
Thanks to donations from the community, the West Covina Police Department has added a new four-legged officer to its roster, officials announced Saturday.
Reiko, am 18-month-old Belgian Malinois raised in Slovakia, along with his human partner Officer Bryan Rodriguez, graduated from a basic K-9 training course Dec. 20, according to West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez.
Reiko joins two other police dogs already on duty with the department. West Covina police are now able to field a police dog every day.
“The third police dog position represents seven-day-per-week coverage and a significant enhancement to the safety of the community an our police officers,” Lopez said in a written statement.
Reiko was purchased and trained entirely through community donations, officials added.
Police work is Reiko’s second career, Lopez explained.
“Reiko was initially selected by a United States Military Special Forces group because of his high drive, intelligence and superior abilities,” Lopez said. “However, it turns out that Reiko did not much care for jumping out of high-flying aircraft.”
While currently trained for routine patrol duties, officials plan to have Reiko certified to detect explosives as well, Lopez added, “an effort that will greatly enhance the safety and security of our schools, malls and places of worship.”
The WCPD’s K-9 unit began in 1983 and won national recognition for outstanding performance in 2012 and 2013.
Donations to support the K-9 unit are accepted on an ongoing basis. For more information, Lt. Pat Benschop can be reached at 626-939-8684.
ARCADIA — An elderly West Covina man died Wednesday after being struck by an SUV while crossing Santa Anita Avenue, police said.
Hao Liang, 81, died at the scene after being struck about 5:30 p.m. on Santa Anita Avenue at La Sierra Drive, Arcadia police and Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said.
He was crossing west across the avenue when he was struck in the No. 2 lane by a later-model SUV that was southbound, Lt. Tom Cullen said.
The driver of the SUV, a 36-year-old Monterey Park woman, stopped at the scene and cooperated with investigators, officials said. Nothing criminal was initially suspected.
“Arcadia paramedics treated the pedestrian at the scene, but unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries,” Lt. Mike Castro said in a statement.
There is no marked crosswalk at the intersection where the elderly man was struck, and only east and westbound traffic is regulated with stop signs.
Detectives from the Arcadia Police Department’s Major Accident Investigation Team are handling the investigation.
IRWINDALE — West Covina police arrested two men and fatally shot a pit bull early Wednesday while serving a search warrant to seize guns at the home of a known outlaw motorcycle gang member in Irwindale, authorities said.
“Known, dangerous Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang member” and ex-convict Ralph Rodriguez, 38, of Irwindale was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of firearms, resisting arrest and possession of false identification, according to West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez. He was the person targeted in the search warrant.
Also arrested in the 3:30 a.m. raid at a home in the 4600 block of Nora Avenue was Robert Ghiloni, 28, of West Covina on suspicion of possession of a dagger, resisting arrest and an outstanding traffic warrant, Lopez said.
The arrests were the result of an ongoing investigation by the West Covina Police Department, officials said.
After arriving at the home and ordering the occupants out via loudspeaker repeatedly, Ghiloni eventually emerged from the home and was taken into custody, Lopez said. He had a dagger on his person.
But Rodriguez remained holed-up inside the home, police said.
“After two hours of repeated announcements, SWAT then initiated an entry into the residence,” according to Lopez. “During the search, (Rodriguez) was located hiding in the attic. He surrendered to officers without further incident.
While serving the warrant, SWAT officers encountered a pit bull, which Lopez said became aggressive toward them.
“The dog began to attack, forcing officers to fire upon it,” he said. “The dog died as a result.”
The number and type of guns sized from the home was not available late Wednesday.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Rodriguez was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Friday in West Covina Superior Court. Ghiloni was being held in lieu of $10,995 pending his arraignment, also scheduled Friday in West Covina Superior Court.