WEST COVINA >> Detectives Thursday arrested the second of two suspects accused of robbing a taxi cab driver after ordering a ride to Galster Park in West Covina.
The crime took place about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday at the park, along Aroma Drive at Galster Way, West Covina police Lt. Jerry Pearman said.
The suspects ordered a taxi ride in another city and had the driver take them to the secluded park, he said.
“It was a set-up,” Pearman said. The suspects allegedly pulled a gun and demanded the driver’s property, including his money and cell phone.
The lieutenant said the driver turned over the items and was not injured. The robbers fled, and police searching the area did not find them.
But detectives continues working the case and were able to use the stolen cell phone to track the male suspect to a neighborhood not far from the park, Pearman said. They watched as the man tried to drive away, then pulled over his car and took him into custody.
Detectives found and arrested the female suspect while serving a search warrant on Thursday, he said.
Both suspects were booked on suspicion of robbery, Pearman said. Their identities were not available Thursday afternoon.
WEST COVINA >> Police arrested three alleged burglars, as well as the resident, following an attempted break-in Wednesday at a house containing an indoor marijuana farm, officials said.
Police first responded to the home in the 1800 block of David Court about 1 p.m. when a neighbor reported a possible burglary in progress, West Covina police Lt. Jerry Pearman said. The witnesses reported seeing several people, one of them armed with a handgun, smashing windows and trying to get into the home.
Officers found and detained three alleged suspects in the area, Pearman said. They were arrested on suspicion of burglary, and detectives continued investigating the trio late Wednesday for possible additional charges.
The ultimate intentions of the suspects, had the crime not been interrupted by police, remained unclear.
Officers also arrested the home’s resident after finding about 30 marijuana plants growing inside the home, Pearman said.
It appeared many more plants had been recently harvested at the home, he added.
The suspects names were not immediately available.
BALDWIN PARK >> Three young men suffered gunshot wounds in a car-to-car attack in Baldwin Park early Sunday morning, authorities said.
Two suspects were arrested following a pursuit that originated in Baldwin Park about the same time as the shooting took place, and detectives were investigating the possibility the two incident were related.
The shooting occurred about 2 a.m. in the area of Ramona Boulevard and Badillo Street, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Shawn Blackburn said.
The three young men, along with a teen who was not struck by the gunfire, were riding in a car when gunshots rang out from another vehicle, officials said.
Blackburn said the car continued driving east for about three miles before coming to a stop at Badillo Street and Phillips Avenue, across the city border in West Covina.
One of the victims was hospitalized in critical condition after undergoing emergency surgery, he said. The other two victims were in stable condition.
All three wounded men were in their late teens or 20s, West Covina Fire Department Capt. Esteban Rodriguez said.
Just before authorities received word of the shooting, Baldwin Park officers were involved with a pursuit of a pickup truck, police said.
Officers chased the fleeing truck to Rosemead, but cancelled the pursuit due to safety concerns, Blackburn said.
But a helicopter continued following the truck as it headed back east toward West Covina, where West Covina police resumed the chase.
The pursuit led back to Baldwin Park, where the driver and passenger ultimately stopped and surrendered, police said. Their identities were not available Sunday morning.
“The investigations regarding both incidents are ongoing, and it has not been confirmed that they are related at this time,” Baldwin Park police said in a written statement.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Baldwin Park police Capt. Joe Bartolotti at 626-960-1955. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
WEST COVINA >> Coroner’s officials have identified a Lakewood man who died in a fiery multi-car freeway wreck in West Covina last week along with a South Pasadena man described as one of Taiwan’s most wanted fugitives, authorities said.
Gregory Donald Smith, 69, died at the scene of the crash, which took place about 1 a.m. on May 27 on the westbound 10 Freeway, just east of Citrus Avenue, said Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
He was unable to get out of his pickup truck following the crash. The truck became engulfed in flames.
An autopsy determined Smith died of “thermal burns,” and the death was ruled accidental, Winter said.
Also killed in the crash while driving another vehicle was 89-year-old You T. Wang, also identified by authorities as Wang You-theng, of South Pasadena.
Wang was in the middle of a decade-long court battle to avoid extradition to Taiwan, where he’s accused of embezzling more than $9 billion from a steel company called Rebar, which Wang founded in 1959. He allegedly drained the company’s assets and fled to the U.S. after the company when business took a sour turn in 2006.
Wang was ordered removed from the U.S. in late-2014 after years of litigation.
His appeal of that order was dismissed in December, but he then filed a petition for a review of his case by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.
That review was yet to be heard when Wang was killed in last week’s crash.
The cause of the fiery five-car chain reaction, which resulted in two separate crash scenes, remained under investigation by the CHP.
It was initially believed to have been triggered when a Toyota Tacoma driven by Smith sideswiped a Lexus in the left-hand lane, initiating a series of collisions, CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said.
Anyone with information can reach the Baldwin Park area office of the CHP at 626-338-1164.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
WEST COVINA >> Prosecutors charged a man with attempted murder of a police officer and other charges Wednesday in connection with the shooting of a West Covina police officer during a gun battle last month.
Jose Luis Chavez, 47, of West Covina, is charged with attempted murder of a police officer, assault on a peace officer with a semi-automatics firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
After fleeing the scene of the May 20 shooting along Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street, Chavez remained a fugitive for six days before a SWAT team found and arrested him inside a residential garage in Valinda early on May 26, authorities said.
Chavez entered no plea Wednesday, Risling said. He was scheduled to return to the West Covina branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court Thursday for arraignment.
West Covina police Officer Kenny Benitez suffered a through-and-through gunshot wound to his abdomen in the shooting, West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said. He has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home.
Chavez was pushing a bicycle, accompanied by a woman, when the officer thought him suspicious and approached him, according to police Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials, who are assisting West Covina police in the investigation.
Chavez ran, sheriff’s officials said. Following a short foot chase, Chavez pulled a handgun and began shooting at the officer, who returned fire.
It was not immediately clear whether the suspect — later identified as Chavez — was wounded in the exchange of gunfire. But upon his arrest nearly a week later, investigators noted he was an apparent gunshot wound to his arm.
Lt. Steve Jauch of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Chavez, who is on felony probation under AB 109 guidelines following a previous conviction, has a lengthy and violent criminal record.
If convicted as charged, Chavez could spend the rest of life in state prison, Risling said.
Chavez was being held without bail, records show.
PHOTO of Jose Luis Chavez, 47, of West Covina courtesy of the West Covina Police Department.
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
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.
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)
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.
Police 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.
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.”
It 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.”
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.