WHITTIER >> Officials cautioned the public Thursday about two strikingly similar incidents this week in which two teenage girls were approached by a man who exposed himself to them.
The indecent exposures took place minutes apart early Tuesday near Richard L. Graves Middle School in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, as well Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs, according to Whittier police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
The first encounter took place about 8:30 a.m. at Telegraph Road and Laurel Avenue, around the corner from Graves Middle School, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Navares said.
A 14-year-old girl was walking when a man began following her, he said.
“He exposed himself and was masturbating as she was walking,” Navares said.
When the girl took notice of what was happening, the man fled.
Navares said the girl reported the incident to school police. Officials found a man matching the description, but he bolted from officials and was not found.
About 15 minutes later, police in Santa Fe Springs were notified of a similar encounter two miles away as a female Santa Fe High School student was walking at Florence Avenue and Pioneer Boulevard in Santa Fe Springs, less than a mile from the campus, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“A Santa Fe High student reported to the Whittier (Police Department) school resource officer that a male had exposed himself to her while walking to school,” according to the statement.
The suspect descriptions in the two incidents were consistent, however officials had not yet determined whether both were committed by the same man, Sgt. Jose Navares of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said.
In both cases, the girls described the man as in his late-20s or 30s, about 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall, with black wavy hair, wearing a white zip-up jacket and blue jeans.
The suspect in the Santa Fe Springs case was described as Latino, while the man involved in the South Whittier case was described by investigators as having a dark complexion.
Detectives from the Whittier Police Department and the sheriff’s Norwalk Station were working together on the case and trying to develop a sketch of the suspect or suspects.
Parents were notified of the situation by the school district officials, authorities said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Whittier Police Department or the sheriff’s Norwalk Station.
WHITTIER >> A 70-year-old Whittier man suffered major injuries Thursday when he was struck and dragged by a pickup truck along Lambert Road, officials said.
Paramedics took the man to Los Angeles County USC-Medical Center, where he was rushed into surgery following the collision, which took place about 1:30 p.m. on Lambert Road, just south of Washington Boulevard, Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
A Whittier man in his 60s drove a Honda Ridgline out of a Home Depot parking lot and made a right turn when his car collided with the cyclist, police said.
But the driver did not immediately realize he had struck anyone, White said. He continued driving an unknown number of yards before hearing a “grinding sound” — later found to be the dragging bicycle — emanating from beneath his truck and stopping.
The bicyclist was believed to have been dragged by the vehicle for some distance, though it was unclear how far, White said. “He has some severe trauma.”
The bicycle ended up crumpled, dozens of yards away from the driveway where the collision took place.
White said the bicyclist was traveling against the direction of traffic when struck.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. David Gonzalez said the cyclist was conscious when taken to the hospital. His vital signs were stable.
The injured cyclist appeared to have been heading to work along with a coworker, who was not injured in the incident, Gonzalez added.
The driver appeared distraught and “shaken up” at the collision scene, the captain said.
He told officials he initially believed he had simply struck the curb, Gonzalez added.
PHOTO by Keith Durflinger
WHITTIER >> Police plan to hold a checkpoint Saturday to screen drivers for sobriety and drivers’ licenses.
The checkpoint will take place from 7:30 p.m. Saturday to 2:30 a.m. Sunday at an undisclosed location within Whittier, Whittier police Sgt. Rob Hanson said in a written statement.
“Over the course of the past three years in the cities of Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, DUI collisions have claimed four lives and resulted in 119 injury crashes harming 167 of our friends and neighbors,” Hanson said.
The checkpoint is being funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
SOUTH WHITTIER — A knife-wielding man robbed a gas station in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier late Thursday, officials said.
The crime took place about 9 p.m. at the Mobile station at Mulberry Drive and Mills Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Cynthia McDaniel said.
“(The robber) threatened the clerk with a folding knife,” she said.
After demanding cash and receiving about $700, the robber ran from the store, the lieutenant said. He was last seen headed east.
Officials described the robber as a Latino man in his 20s, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, wearing a bandana over his face.
The robbery was being investigated by deputies from the sheriff’s Norwalk Station.
SOUTH WHITTIER — Police shot and wounded a carjacking suspect early Sunday at an apartment complex in unincorporated South Whittier, officials said.
The officer-involved shooting took place at 1:07 a.m. in the 14100 block of Mulberry Drive, according to Deputy Mark Pope of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.
Prior to the shooting, police had been seeking two men involved in a carjacking that had occurred earlier in Whittier, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter detected a Lo-Jack signal being broadcast by the stolen car, and directed officers to it, officials said. The vehicle had been abandoned.
“During a search of the area, Whittier police officers located one of the suspects, who was armed with a handgun, in an apartment complex at the 14100 block of Mulberry Drive, (unincorporated) Whittier, at which time an officer-involved shooting occurred.
“The suspect was wounded in the left arm and transported to a local hospital where he is listed in stable condition,” the sheriff’s department statement said. No officers were injured during the incident.
Officials withheld the identity of the wounded suspect Sunday afternoon. The second alleged carjacker remained at-large.
The carjacking was reported at 12:37 a.m., and the stolen Honda Accord was spotted via Lo-Jack almost immediately, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
Further details regarding details regarding the shooting or the alleged carjacking that preceded it were not available.
As is common practice in officer-involved shootings by Los Angeles County police agencies, the investigation is being spearheaded by the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
WHITTIER — A man suffered a gunshot wound to his leg Saturday afternoon in what was initially believed to be an accidental shooting.
The incident was reported at 2:37 p.m. at a home in the 7600 block of Paul Driver, Whittier police Sgt. Jim De Masi said.
Few details were initially available, as wounded man — who had been shot in the thigh — did not appear to be cooperating with police, the sergeant said.
The wounded man was believed to be alone in a home when the shot was fired, he said.
WHITTIER — A man brandished a handgun while stealing more than $200 worth of alcohol from a Whittier Rite Aid store Wednesday, police said.
The crime took place about 9:25 a.m. at the store on Comstock Avenue at Hadley Street, Whittier police Sgt. Terry McAllister said.
One man entered the store and began helping himself to bottles of booze, McAllister said. When confronted by an employee, he the robber displayed a handgun tucked into his waistband and told the employee to “get back.”
The robber fled to a late-model white Nissan SUV, which was parked out front with a driver waiting at the wheel, McAllister said.
The gunman was described as a Latino ma in his early-30s, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 180 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and a mustache, police said. He had a light complexion and glasses.
The driver was a also a Latino man in his early-30s, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, 170 pounds, with a bald head. He wore sunglasses. Both men were described as appearing to be gang members.
A woman was also seen with the men, but walked away from the scene following the robbery, McAllister said. She was a Latina woman in her late-20s or early-30s of about 5 feet tall, 140 pounds and wearing glasses.
The stolen alcohol was valued at $226.
SOUTH WHITTIER — A group of attackers repeatedly stabbed an 18-year-old man at a bus stop Saturday evening, authorities said.
The stabbing took place about 6:50 p.m. along Mulberry Drive, near Mills Avenue, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Eric Smitson said.
“The victim stated four to five unknown males approached him at a bus stop,” the lieutenant said. “He was stabbed multiple times.”
Smitson said the wounded man was hospitalized in stable condition, but did not appear to be fully cooperating with investigators.
No further description of the attackers was available, Smitson said. A dark-colored pickup truck was seen leaving the area at the time of the stabbing.
Investigators suspected the incident was gang-related.
WHITTIER — Police jailed a homeless woman Wednesday after she allegedly torched one discarded Christmas tree and garage, then tried to set fire to a second discarded Christmas tree, authorities said.
Sarah Hope Kleiner, 45, was booked on suspicion of arson following Wednesday’s early-morning fires, Whittier police officials said Thursday in a written statement.
Officials were first summoned about 4:30 a.m. to a structure fire in the 7600 block of Washington Avenue.
“When officers arrived, they found a Christmas tree on fire in a trash can which was near the garage,” according to the police statement. “The garage subsequently caught fire while L.A. County Fire was responding.”
Officer evacuated the residents from the home, and the residents informed them that there was no one inside the garage, officials said.
“Damage to the garage was extensive and no one was injured,” the statement said.
Just under three hours later, police received a call from a resident in the area of Greenleaf Avenue and Walnut street reporting a woman trying to set a Christmas tree in a trash can alongside his home on fire with a cigarette lighter.
“The witness confronted the female and she left,” the police statement said.
But officers recognized the woman’s description from previous encounters, including one at a laundromat earlier in the day, police said. The was found at Comstock Avenue and Wardman Street and arrested.
According to county booking records, Kleiner was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail at the Whittier Police Department jail pending her initial court appearance.
PHOTO of Sarah Kleiner courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.
WHITTIER — Authorities have released the names of two men found dead inside their burning home last week.
The bodies of Ruben Nareja Garcia, 31, and Jose Luis Cortez, 34, were found once firefighters extinguished a Jan. 2 fire at their apartment, which sat atop a garage in the 13500 block of Via Del Palma Avenue in Whittier, on the morning of Jan. 2, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The officials identification of the men was delayed due to the burned condition of their bodies, officials said.
Cortez died from smoke inhalation and burns, and the death was ruled an accident, Winter said.
Garcia’s cause of death had not been determined as coroner’s investigators awaited test results, he said.
Investigators initially ruled out arson and were focusing their investigation on the possibility a pile of clothes near an electrical outlet was to blame, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Bryan Kidder said.