The Whittier Police Department’s first female K-9 and handler team is due to hit the streets for patrol next week, officials said.
K-9 Nala recently graduated training, along with handler Officer Angela Balzano, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said. The team is expected to hit the streets next week.
Balzano is the department’s first female K-9 handler, Officer John Scoggins said. Nala is an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois.
Nala is trained for patrol operations, and is expected to undergo drug detection training soon, police said.
She will become the Whittier Police Department’s second K-9, officials added. “Max,” a 3-year-old German shepherd, began patrolling with Officer Jeremy Rounds last month.
Max is also trained for patrol duties, but expected to be trained to sniff out drugs in the near future,
Prior to that, the department had gone more than a year without a K-9 on duty.
Max was funded by the police department, while Nala was funded by support from the community, Scoggins said.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.
Authorities have identified a man who was found dead inside a car in West Covina following a shooting in Whittier on Friday morning.
Austin Louis Jimenez, 28, of Rancho Cucamonga was pronounced dead shortly after 4 a.m. in a shopping center parking lot at Workman Avenue and Citrus Street, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
He was wounded in a 3:15 a.m. shooting at Penn Street and Newlin Avenue in Whittier before being driven to the parking lot by at least two companions, according to Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis. The driver and fellow passenger of the car, which had been struck by bullets, then drove to West Covina and called for help.
Paramedics were unable to revive the Jimenez and pronounced him dead at the scene, officials said.
No further information regarding the circumstances of the shooting, including a suspect description, have been released.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
A man was found dead inside a car in West Covina parking lot following an early-morning shooting in Whittier on Friday, authorities said.
Police in Whittier first responded to reports of gunfire about 3:15 a.m. in the area of Penn Street and Newlin Avenue, Whittier police officials said in a written statement. But officers found no physical evidence of a shooting.
That changed shortly after 4 a.m., when officials in West Covina received reports of a shooting victim found inside a vehicle in the parking lot of a shopping center at the southwest corner of Workman Avenue and Citrus Street, Whittier and West Covina police officials said.
“Upon arrival, officers discovered a deceased male adult, West Covina police said in a written statement.
The mortally wounded man was a passenger in the bullet-pierced car, which also contained at least two other young men, officials said.
Further investigation revealed the victim in West Covina had been wounded in the Whittier shooting, officials said.
His identity was not available Friday pending notification of his family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operation said. He was estimated to be in his 20s.
Police summoned a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau SWAT team after receiving information that the shooter may have gone into a nearby barbershop at Penn Street and Comstock Avenue, according to Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis.
The SWAT team searched the building but did not find the culprit, he said.
No further details, including a motive or description of the shooter, were available as the investigation continued Friday afternoon. Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Police in Whittier are planning a crackdown on motorcycle safety next week, officials said.
The specialized “Motorcycle Safety Enforcement Operation” will be held throughout the city on Tuesday, Whittier police Sgt. David Elizarraras said in a written statement.
“Extra officers will be on duty patrolling areas frequented by motorcyclists and where motorcycle crashes occur,” he said. “Officers will be looking for violations made by drivers and riders alike that can lead to motorcycle crashes.”
Motorcycle-related deaths in California have spoked by more than 28 percent over the past decade, according to Elizarraras.
Over the past three years, Whittier police have investigated 71 motorcycle crashes that resulted in three deaths, 18 severe injuries and 50 other injuries, officials added.
“Operations like this are aimed at curbing any more rises in motorcycle deaths and sending the numbers back downward,” Elizarraras said.
Funding is being provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Overnight police checkpoints in Whittier and La Habra late Friday into early Saturday netted two DUI arrests, 2 warrant arrests and 18 citations, authorities said.
In Whittier, police set up their checkpoint at Colima Road and Whittier Boulevard, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
Officers screened more than 1,000 cars, he said. Two drivers were given field-sobriety tests, but not ultimately arrested for DUI.
Police arrested one person for an outstanding warrant, issued three tickets for unlicensed drivers and wrote 10 “miscellaneous” traffic citations, according to the lieutenant.
No vehicles were impounded.
To the east in La Habra, officers screened more than 500 cars during their checkpoint at Lambert Road and Cypress Street, La Habra police officials said in a written statement.
Three drivers were investigated for possible DUI, with two of them ultimately arrested, police said.
Officers also made one warrant arrest and issued seven citations for driving without a license or driving on a suspended license.
Police stored or impounded five vehicles during the checkpoint, and another four were released at the scene to authorized, licensed drivers.
WHITTIER >> A massive convoy of law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California escorted the flag-draped casket of U.S. Marine Ruben Velasco of West Covina to his final resting place on Friday night.
Velasco, a 19-year-old private first class and lifelong San Gabriel Valley resident, perished along with two fellow Marines on Aug. 5 in an MV-22 Osprey tilrotor aircraft crash off the coast of Australia.
His devastated family met the airplane carrying Velasco’s body at LAX before a sea of law enforcement officers from throughout the region, joined by Patriot Riders and elected officials, accompanied the family in a silent tribute to Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier.
West Covina police, Covina police, South Pasadena Police, Santa Ana police, Los Angeles police, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and federal agents were among those taking part in the escort.
Grateful Americans and fellow military veterans lined the route outside the cemetery with flags and saluted the young warrior’s casket as it passed.
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills, 3888 Workman Mill Road., followed by a funeral Thursday at 11 a.m.
PHOTOS/VIDEO of escort courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. PHOTOS of Ruben Velasco courtesy of family.
A Whittier man accused of stealing a pharmacist’s identity and working as an unlicensed pharmacist in the Los Angeles area for more than a decade, for the second time, appeared in court on Thursday.
Benito Plascencia, 58, faces six felony charges and one misdemeanor charge in the case, California Department of Consumer Affairs spokeswoman Joyia Emard said in a written statement.
“Investigators found that since 2001, Plascencia has worked at numerous pharmacies using the name and license number of a licensed pharmacist without the licensed pharmacist’s knowledge,” Emard said. “To gain employment, Plascencia used a falsified driver license, pharmacist license and social security card that were issued in the name of the licensed pharmacist.”
He pleaded not guilty to the charges at an Aug. 7 arraignment in the Van Nuys branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in an email.
During an appearance in court on Thursday, a preliminary hearing in the case was set for Sept. 7, she said.
Plascencia had previously been busted in 2007 for a similar scheme, authorities said.
“Plascencia was alleged to have impersonated three doctors and was also alleged to have impersonated the same licensed pharmacist he is currently charged with impersonating,” according to Emard.
He pleaded “no contest” to a single count of identity theft and was sentenced to jail time, as well as ordered to pay restitution, DCA officials said.
“He was also ordered not to be involved in any manner with the selling of prescribed medications in a pharmaceutical-like business or other business involving prescribed medicines,” Emard said.
But Plascencia allegedly did not heed the warning and continued impersonating the pharmacist to get jobs and prescribe drugs he was not licensed to distribute.
“To gain employment, Plascencia used a falsified driver license, pharmacist license and social security card that were issued in the name of the licensed pharmacist,” Emard added.
After an investigation concluded Plascencia was up to his old tricks, the DCA’s Chatword Field Office Investigation and Enforcement Unit issued a warrant for his arrest in May, officials said.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents arrested Plascencia on July 31 as he was crossing from Mexico into California at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
He’s been charged with felony counts of false personation, identity theft, counterfeiting a seal, theft of identifying information with a prior conviction for identity theft and two counts of forgery related to identity theft, as well as a misdemeanor charge of false representation as a pharmacist.
Plascencia held a pharmacy technician license since 1994, but it was revoked following his 2007 conviction, according to DCA officials. He has never applied for or received a pharmacist license.
DCA officials declined to say which Los Angeles-area pharmacies Plascencia worked at, “because they are victims in this case,” Emard said in an email.
According to county booking records, Plascencia was being held on $70,000 bail at the North County Correction Facility in Castaic pending trial.
Investigators suspect there may be additional victims of Plascencia’s alleged fraud who have yet to be identified. Anyone with information, or who may have employed Plascencia, is asked to contact DCA Investigator Scott Vredenburg at the DCA’s Chatsworth Office at 818-885-2000.
PHOTO of Benito Plascencia courtesy of the California Department of Consumer Affairs
WHITTIER >> Police in Whittier will hold a sobriety and driver license checkpoint on Friday night, officials said.
The checkpoint will take place from 7 p.m. Friday to 2:30 a.nm. Saturday at an undisclosed location within the city, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
Whittier police have investigated 295 DUI-related crashes that left four people dead and another 158 people injured over the past three years, according to the statement.
Funding for the checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Traffic Safety.
A sheriff’s SWAT team arrested a gang member and seized six guns, including an AK-47-style rifle equipped with high-capacity magazine, during an overnight raid at a Whittier home, authorities said Wednesday.
The bust took place about 10 p.m. at a home in the 12000 block of Howard Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Richardson said.
It was the result of an ongoing illegal weapons investigation by detectives assigned to the Operation Safe Streets task force, the sergeant said.
Knowing the suspect may be well-armed, investigators elected to have the risky search warrant conducted by specially trained SWAT deputies from the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau, according to Richardson.
But the man did not put up a struggle, he said. After deputies cordoned off the home and ordered the man out of the home, he surrendered without a struggle shortly after midnight on Wednesday.
Deputies recovered six guns from the home, including an AK-47-style rifle with high-capacity magazines, another rifle and four handguns, Richardson said. Deputies also found rifle scopes and ammunition.
The man targeted in the warrant was arrested for weapons violations, he said. Several other people at the home were briefly detained, but not arrested.
Detectives withheld the suspect’s identity as they continued their investigation, Richardson said. He was described as a man in his late-30s.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
WHITTIER >> Police are seeking a driver who fatally struck a 69-year-old Whittier man who was out for a morning walk on Wednesday, then fled the scene, officials said.
Kenneth Rawlings died after he was struck by a vehicle about 7:30 a.m. in the 16800 block of Janine Drive, just west of Macy Street, Whittier police Officer John Scoggins said.
“The victim had been walking down Janine (Drive) when he was struck by the vehicle,” Scoggins said.
Paramedics took the injured man to Whittier Hospital, where Scoggins said he succumbed to his injuries hours later.
“We don’t have any direct witnesses at this point,” Scoggins said.
A black Toyota Prius, “or similar-type vehicle,” was seen driving west along Janine Drive at high speed around the time of the deadly crash, according to Scoggins. Police had yet to determine whether that vehicle was involved in the collision, but wanted to speak with the driver to find out what information he or she may have.
The victim lives near the crash scene and was out for a morning walk when he was struck, Scoggins said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Whittier police Officer Richard Jensen at 562-567-9261. The Whittier Police Department’s 24-hour tip line can be reached at 562-567-9299.