Serial bank robber dubbed ‘Cold Blooded Bandit’ pulls 3rd heist in Whittier

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WHITTIER >> A serial bank robber the FBI is calling the “Cold Blooded Bandit” carried out his third heist Wednesday at a bank branch inside a Whittier supermarket, authorities said.
The serial robber, who was given his nickname due to the heavy winter clothing he has worn during his summertime heists, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The robber operated by passing notes demanding money to bank tellers, she said.
“In his demand notes, he indicates a partner is outside watching to intimidate the tellers,” Eimiller said.
Officials said the Cold Blooded Bandit’s most recent caper took place Wednesday afternoon at a Whittier Union Bank branch inside of a Ralphs grocery store, 8510 Painter Avenue.
Whittier police Cpl. Carlos Arroyo said the a man approached a teller just after 4:30 and displayed a demand note.
The teller complied and handed over an undisclosed amount of money, Arroyo said. He was last seen fleeing the area on foot. No weapon was seen.
0920_NWS_WDN-L-COLDBLOOD4The Cold Blooded bandit previously robbed a Union Bank branch on Garfield Avenue in South Gate on July 7, as well as a Union Bank branch on South Street in Norwalk on June 30, Eimiller said.
In the first crime in Norwalk, the bandit left behind a “hoax device” before fleeing, “presumably to threaten an explosion,” Eimiller said. A description of the hoax device was not available Friday.
The FBI described the serial bandit as white or Latino, between 21 and 28 years old, between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing about 145 pounds.
In the most recent robbery in Whittier, witnesses reported the robber had tattoos on his arms and on the left side of his neck.
Anyone with information can reach the FBI’s Los Angeles Division at 310-477-6565.

PHOTOS taken from bank surveillance cameras courtesy of the FBI.

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Police plan checkpoint Friday in Whittier

WHITTIER >> Police are planning a sobriety and driver’s license checkpoint late Friday, officials said.
The checkpoint will be held from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 2:30 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location with Whittier, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
Over the past three years in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, four people have died and 167 people have been injured in DUI-related crashes, according to Whittier police Sgt. Rob Hanson.
Funding for the checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Driver sentenced for fatal hit-and-run of senior citizen in Uptown Whittier

WHITTIER >> A man received a two-year prison sentenced Thursday in connection with the fatal hit-and-run of a 69-year-old Whittier man in Uptown Whittier.
Isaiah Storey, 25, of Whittier pleaded “no contest” last month to a felony charge of hit-and-run and a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter for the Oct. 21, 2013, death of Gregory Reyes.
Norwalk Superior Court Judge Lori Ann Fournier sentenced him Thursday to two years in state prison, and ordered him to pay $12,400 in restitution to Reyes’ family, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The fatal collision occurred about 6:40 p.m. as Reyes was using his walker as he crossed Greenleaf Avenue, just south of Philadelphia Avenue, according to district attorney’s officials and Whittier Police Department investigators. Reyes was within a crosswalk when he was struck by a Merdedes-Benz SUV being driven by Storey.
“The car slowed down for a brief moment, but then continued going,” Ardalani said.
Rescuers rushed Reyes to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries three days later, officials said.
Storey was promptly arrested after police found is damaged SUV abandoned nearby in the area of Greenleaf Avenue and Hadley Street, Whittier police Lt. Jay Tatman said.
Reyes, who had been free on bail before and during the trial process, was taken into custody at Thursday’s sentencing hearing to begin serving his sentenced, according to county booking records.

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Gang members sentenced for fatal shooting of Whittier teen

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Two Whittier gang members were each sentenced to spend decades in prison Thursday for the fatal 2012 shooting of a 17-year-old Whittier boy on a busy street corner in what the prosecutor described as an orchestrated gang hit.
A Norwalk Superior Court jury convicted Whittier 13 gang members Eudiel Eddie Lopez, 21, and Daniel Cesar Stopani, 20, both of Whittier, Sept. 4 of the murder of Michael Soto of Whittier. Soto was shot to death about 12:30 p.m. on March 26, 2012, at a strip mall at the corner of Mulberry Drive and Painter Avenue in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Judge John Torribio sentenced both killers to the maximum sentence allowed by law, officials said.
Lopez, who was convicted of first-degree murder, was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. Stopani, who was convicted of second-degree murder, received a sentence of 40 years to life in prison.
Torribio ordered each convict to pay $5,000 in restitution to the Victims Compensation Board, and $5,885 to Soto’s mother for funeral costs and lost wages, Ardalani added.
In addition to convicting Lopez and Stopani of Soto’s murder, jurors also found true the special allegations that a gun was used in the crime and that the killing was gang-related, Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford of the District Attorney’s Hardcore Gang Division said.
Lunsford said the shooting stemmed from a brief exchange of words between Lopez and Soto about a month prior to the shooting.
Lopez had told Soto that he was a Whittier 13 gang member, and Soto responded that he did not care. The perceived disrespect was enough to prompt Lopez to target Soto in what Lunsford described as an orchestrated gang execution.
On the day of the killing, Stopani approached Soto from the front as Lopez snuck up behind him, Lunsford said.
Stopani shouted out the name of his gang and punched Soto before Lopez drew a revolver from his waistband and began shooting, the prosecutor said. Lopez continued shooting even after the teen had fallen wounded to the ground.
Lopez was arrested for the killing within hours, officials said. Stopani was interviewed the day of the slaying, but not formally charged until February of 2013.

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Truck containing 5 guns stolen from restaurant parking lot in Whittier

WHITTIER — A pickup truck with four pistols and an AR-15-style rifle was stolen from a restaurant parking lot in Whittier Saturday night, police said.
The theft was reported about 10 p.m. outside Marie Callender’s, 9829 La Serna Drive, Whittier police Lt. Steve Dean said. It has been parked since 7:30 p.m. before the owner of the white, 2006 Chevrolet Silverado discovered it missing.
Inside the bed of the truck, under a tonneau cover, were three Glock pistols, one Smith & Wesson pistol, and one AR-15-style rifle, Dean said.
It was unclear whether ammunition accompanied the weapons, or why the guns were in the truck. The possession of firearms inside vehicles is permitted under state law, provided the weapons are unloaded and properly stored.

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UPDATED: Woman stabbed to death in South Whittier; suspect arrested

SOUTH WHITTIER >> A woman is dead and another is accused of murder after a fight escalated into a stabbing late Friday in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, authorities said.
Michelle Alexis Young, 31, of Los Angeles died following the stabbing, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
The stabbing was first reported as a “woman down” about 10:30 p.m. on a small cul-de-sac in the 11500 block of Obert Avenue, just north of Leffingwell Road, deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
Deputies arrived to find paramedics already treating Young, who had been stabbed multiple times, officials said
Young was pronounced dead on the sidewalk at 11:12 p.m., Smith said.
“A male adult witness at the scene told deputies that a female approached the victim and started an argument,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “The argument escalated into a physical altercation. The female suspect then produced a knife and stabbed the victim several times. The suspect fled the location.”
Soon after, deputies detained another woman who as believed to have been involved in the incident, officials said.
After hours of investigation, detectives arrested Vanessa Rebecca Cella, 28, on suspicion of murder Saturday morning, sheriff’s officials said. Her city of residence was not immediately available.
Cella was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending her scheduled arraignment Tuesday in Bellflower Superior Court, according to county booking records.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man accused of using modified truck to steal diesel fuel from West Whittier gas station

WEST WHITTIER >> Deputies arrested a man Thursday for allegedly filling a modified truck with stolen diesel fuel at area gas stations, authorities said.
Ruben Harutyunyan, 33, was booked on suspicion of grand theft following his arrest just after 1 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva said. His city of residence was not available.
A gas station attendant called deputies shortly before 1 p.m. to report a man with a work truck was using multiple. fraudulent credit cards to buy a large amount of diesel fuel at a 76 Station at the corner of Washington and Norwalk boulevards in an unincorporated county area west of Whittier, the lieutenant said.
The man had left when deputies arrived, but Whittier police officers soon spotted the truck in the area of Broadway and Washington Avenue, Villanueva said.
Officials discovered that Harutyunyan’s truck had been outfitted with a large tank to hold fuel, he said.
Investigators estimated Harutyunyan stole about $300 worth of diesel from the West Whittier gas station, Villanueva said. About $1,000 worth of diesel was found in the tank altogether, and officials were working to determined where it came from.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station also arrested another man in connection with a similar case last month, in which a van outfitted with a storage tank was being used to steal fuel from area gas stations, Villanueva said.
According to county booking records, Harutyunyan was being held in lieu of $50,00 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Monday in Downey Superior Court.

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Whittier gang members convicted of fatal shooting of teen in South Whittier

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SOUTH WHITTIER >> A jury convicted two Whittier gang members Thursday for the execution of a Whittier teen in broad daylight at a strip mall in 2012.
A Norwalk Superior Court jury deliberated for less than a day before finding Eudiel Eddie Lopez, 21, and Daniel Cesar Stopani, 20, guilty of the March 26, 2012, slaying of 17-year-old Michael Soto of Whittier, at a strip mall at the coroner of Mulberry Drive and Painter Avenue, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
“It was a gang hit; orchestrated, planned,” Deputy District Attorney Brock Lunsford said.
The killers approached the murder scene together before splitting up, the prosecutor said. Stopani approached Soto from the front and waited until Lopez took a position just behind the teen. Portions of the incident were captured by a surveillance camera mounted on a nearby bus.
Stopani suddenly shouted out “Whittier 13,” the name of a local street gang,” and punched the Soto
Lopez then pulled a .357 Magnum handgun and opened fire, Lunsford said.
The first two gunshots struck Soto in the face and back, knocking him to the ground, Lunsford said.
“Once he was down, it appears (Lopez” shot him twice more,” the prosecutor said. “He shot him four times in total.”
The jury convicted Lopez of first-degree murder and found true the special allegations that he personally used a gun in the crime, and that the crime was gang-related, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Stopani was convicted of second-degree murder, and the jury found true the special allegations that a gun was used in the crime, and that the crime was gang-related, she said.
The shooting took place shortly after noon at busy strip mall, just across the street from a continuation school that had just let out for the day.
Lunsford said the fatal ambush stemmed from a brief exchange of words between Lopez and Soto about a month prior to the killing, Lunsford said.
Lopez had issued a gang challenge to Soto and told the teen that he was from Whittier 13. Soto responded they he didn’t care what gang Lopez belonged to.
Lopez told investigators the perceived slight was the reason he targeted Soto, Lunsford added.
Soto died at a hospital shortly after he was shot,
Relatives said Soto was not a gang member, and described him as a smart young man who hoped to join the U.S. Marines when he turned 18.
Following the shooting, Lopez and Soto split up, officials said.
Lopez fled north. He ran across a set of train tracks that were muddy due to rain the previous day, Lunsford said. Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators were able to follow Lopez’s muddy footprint to a nearby mobile home park, where he was quickly found and arrested hiding inside a trailer that belonged to a friend.
“He was leaving footprints that led right to the back door of the trailer where he was hiding,” Lunsford said.
Officials found Lopez, the muddy shoes and the gun that was used in the shooting inside, he added.
Stopani fled south from the shooting scene and was found and interviewed by investigators the same day, Lunsford said.
But Stopani was not arrested until February of 2013, after investigators had gathered evidence of his culpability in the killing, according to Lunsford and county booking records.
Lopez and Stopani are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 18 in Norwalk Superior Court. Lopez faces a maximum sentenced of 50 years to life in prison, while Stopani could face up to 40 years to life in prison.

PHOTO of Michael Soto, 17, of Whittier, taken at memorial to Soto in the wake of his fatal shooting on March 26, 2012, at the corner of Mulberry Drive and Painter Avenue in South Whittier. (By Keith Durflinger)

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Bell Gardens woman killed in Whittier car crash identified

WHITTIER >> Authorities have released the name of a 19-year-old Bell Gardens woman who died early Saturday when the car she was riding as a passenger in crashed along Beverly Boulevard in Whittier, critically injuring the driver and another passenger.
Maria Vasquez, 19, died at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center shortly after the crash, which took place just after 1 a.m. on westbound Beverly Boulevard, just west of Citrus Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. John Kades said.
She and a 21-year-old woman were thrown from a 1998 Chevrolet Malibu that struck a fire hydrant and a tree, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The 21-year-old passenger, as well as the driver, a 25-year-old man, were hospitalized in critical condition, officials said.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation.

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UPDATED: Man fatally shot in front of his home in Whittier


WHITTIER >> A man died after being shot in broad daylight Saturday in front of his Whittier home, authorities said.
Police responded to reports of a shooting about 12:10 p.m. at the corner of Washington Avenue and La Cuarta Street, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The victim, a 34-year-old Whittier man, was found lying unconscious outside, Ellis said.
0831_NWS_WDN-L-SHOOTINGDEATH2“Officers performed CPR. He was subsequently transported to (Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center) where he was pronounced dead,” Lt. Mike Przybyl said.
The victim had been shot once in the torso, he said.
His name was withheld pending notification of family members, officials said.
At least one suspect — described only as a man — was believed to have fled the scene in a vehicle, Przybyl said, however a further description of the suspect or the getaway car was not available.
The motive in the shooting also remained under investigation, Przybyl said.
“We’re developing further, and at this point, we’re still trying to follow up on some of that,” he said.
0831_NWS_WDN-L-SHOOTINGDEATH3Neighbors expressed sorrow for the victim’s family. They added that the home is occupied by several children.
Detectives examined items including an ice chest, an overturned plastic been full of clothing and a cell phone strewn along the street and sidewalk at the scene of the shooting.
Detectives continued interviewing witnesses, taking measurements and collecting clues well into the afternoon.
Detectives continued investigating the scene and interviewing witnesses of the midday shooting Saturday afternoon, he said.
Anyone with information can contact Whittier police at 562-567-9200.

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