SOUTH WHITTIER >> A man carjacked a woman at gunpoint in the carport of a South Whittier apartment complex on Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The crime was reported about 1:55 p.m. in the 12300 block of Clearglen Avenue, in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Cunningham said.
A victim, a woman in her 40s, was in the carport when a man approached her, pointed a handgun at her and demanded her car, the sergeant said.
“The victim complied and gave her keys to the suspect,” he said. The carjacker fled in her vehicle.
He was described as a Latino man in his 20s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, 200 pounds, wearing all-black clothing.
A description of the stolen car was not available Sunday afternoon, Cunningham said. It had not been recovered.
WHITTIER >> Police arrested two alleged drunken drivers and made another 41 citations and arrests during a checkpoint in Whittier late Friday and early Saturday.
The checkpoint was held for seven hours overnight on Whittier Boulevard, just south of Philadelphia Street, Whittier police Sgt. David Elizarraras said.
Officers screened 1,212 vehicles, ultimately arresting two drivers on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the sergeant.
Fifteen drivers were arrested or cited for driving without licenses, or driving on suspended or revoked licenses, he said. Police issued another 25 tickets during the checkpoint and arrested one person on unspecified criminal charges.
Funding for the checkpoint was provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Public Safety.
WHITTIER >> Police plan to hold a sobriety and driver license checkpoint in Whittier tonight.
The checkpoint will be held from 7:30 p.m. tonight through 3 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within the city, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
Over the past three years alone, Whittier police have investigated 246 DUI-related collisions, which resulted in four deaths and another 88 injuries, 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.
WEST WHITTIER >> Deputies are seeking three men with an assault rifle who carried out a home-invasion robberies in West Whittier and Cerritos on Wednesday night, officials said.
The first crime was reported about 9:40 p.m. in the 12100 block of Washington Boulevard, at the home of a man and woman in their 60s in the unincorporated county area of West Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Steve Tenney said.
“The female victim walked out of her home a little after 9 p.m. to retrieve an item from her vehicle parked in her driveway when she was confronted by a male black adult armed with a rifle,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“The man ordered her back into the house at gunpoint and followed her inside,” according to the statement. “Once inside the home, the suspect ordered both elderly victims to lay on the floor. Two additional male black suspects entered the home and ransacked the rooms, stealing items of jewelry.”
The robbers ordered the victims to stand up and walk into another room before robbing them of their cash and fleeing, officials said.
No getaway car was seen.
Investigators described all three robbers as black men, between 25 and 30 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and of thin build. Each wore a hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over their heads.
“They were in and out,” he said. The man and wife suffered no injuries, though they were, “pretty shaken up.”
Deputies noted no apparent reason the robbers would have targeted the couple.
A short time later, three men of similar description carried out a similar crime about nine miles to the south, authorities said.
“Two hours later, Cerritos Sheriff Station responded to a similar home invasion robbery involving three male black suspects, one armed with a rifle,” according to the statement.
The crime was first reported as an “assault with a deadly weapon” about 11 p.m. in the 4600 block of Rancho Verde Drive, sheriff’s Lt. Richard Hernandez said.
A man who lives at the home was working inside his garage when one of three robbers approached, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“The victim was pistol-whipped on his head and ordered to the ground as the two other suspects entered his residence,” the statement said.
The robbers then confronted a woman inside the home and also ordered her to the ground. Two children were also sleeping inside the home.
“The two suspects began to walk towards the rear of the residence when they abruptly turned and ran out the front door out of view,” according to the statement.
Nothing was stolen during the crime, and no injuries were reported.
The three suspects were described as black men in their 20s, officials said. One was armed with a rifle, and the other two carried handguns.
“These men are considered armed and dangerous,” the statement added.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421, or the sheriff’s Cerritos Station at 562-860-0044. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
ARCADIA >> Police jailed a Whittier man Monday on suspicion of molesting a boy in the shower of an Arcadia gym, officials said.
The incident was reported just before 10:40 a.m. on March 20 at 24 Hour Fitness, 125 N. First Ave., according to Arcadia Police Department logs.
Police said the man first initiated a “sexually suggestive conversation” while in the spa with the boy.
“When the victim left to take a shower, the suspect followed him and groped him,” according to the log.
Police found and arrested Rodolfo Delgadill Cruz, 47, of Whittier on suspicion of child molestation, according to Arcadia police spokesman Tom LeVeque and Los Angeles County booking records.
Cruz pleaded not guilty to a charge of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 years old on March 23 and is scheduled to return to the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing setting on April 20, court records show.
In the meantime, he was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.
PHOTO: Rodolfo D. Cruz, 47l, of Whittier, (Courtesy)
WHITTIER >> A 27-year-old man awaiting sentencing for his role in a $16 million wire fraud scheme revolving around the popular FIFA soccer video game was found dead in his home last month of unknown causes, authorities said.
Anthony Jordan Clark was found unresponsive on Feb. 26 at his home in the 14600 block of Montevideo Drive in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operation Ed Winter. An autopsy has been conducted, but Clark’s cause of death is yet to be determined pending the results of forensic testing.
He was initially scheduled to be sentenced in federal court the following day, though the sentencing hearing was re-scheduled in mid-February to April 3, federal court records show. He faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, as well as $250,000 in fines and restitution for the fraudulently obtained $16 million.
A federal jury convicted Clark in November of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in November following a three-day trial in the Department of Justice’s Northern District of Texas, where the case was initially filed.
A federal judge granted a motion to dismiss the case against the late convict on March 16, “in the interest of justice,” records show.
His three codefendants had already pleaded guilty in connection with the case, and each face the same potential maximum sentences.
Eaton Svear is scheduled to be sentenced on March 29 in his home state of Virginia. Nicholas Castelluci is to for sentencing April 24 in his home state of New Jersey and Ricky Miller is scheduled to be sentenced May 1 in his home state of Texas.
The men’s scheme centered around “FIFA Coins,” an electronic currency within the FIFA Football video game, produced by California-based Electronic Arts. Gamers use the coins, which are generally earned through gameplay, to make purchases within the game, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Kathy Colvin explained.
But players also purchase coins from one another in a secondary marketplace, she said in a written statement.
By hacking into EA’s servers and circumventing security measures, Clark and his crew managed to fraudulently get their hands on more than $16 million worth of the digital, in-game currency.
They created software that tricked EA computers into logging thousands of hours of gameplay within a matter of a seconds, resulting in the awarding of unearned FIFA Coins, Colvin said.
WHITTIER >> What was originally planned as a small training run in honor of slain Whittier police Officer Whittier Boyer swelled into a memorial run that attracted about 400 people who wanted to pay tribute to the fallen lawman in Whittier on Sunday.
The run went from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s STARS Center in Whittier to the scene of Boyer’s fatal Feb. 20 shooting at Colima Road and Mar Vista Avenue in Whittier. Law enforcement officers, cadets, Explorer Scouts and supporters of law enforcement from throughout Southern California laced up their running shoes to show their respect for Boyer’s service and sacrifice.
PHOTOS: Hundreds run in honor of slain Whittier police officer
It began as a training run intended for members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Lakewood Station Baker to Vegas relay team, according to Deputy Jason Colon, who serves as the team’s captain. Before joining the sheriff’s department, Colon began his career as a Whittier police officer, where Officer Boyer served as one of his training officers.
“It was honestly going to start out as a training run for our team,” he said.
But the word of the planned run in honor of Boyer spread like wildfire, throughout Los Angeles County and beyond, he said.
Representatives from agencies throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties ultimately turned up in tribute to Boyer.
“Everyone was paying their respects and running in his honor,” Colon said. Community members waived in support of the runners from the roadside.
Once the group reached the shooting site, they paused for a moment of silence and a prayer. Runners also took up a collection to add to the fund benefitting Boyer’s family.
PHOTOS by Keith Durflinger
WHITTIER >> Prosecutors filed capital murder and other charges Wednesday against a gang member and probationer accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding another last month after gunning down his cousin in East Los Angeles, authorities said.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles faces two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of carjacking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shootings, which took place on the morning of Feb. 20 in East Los Angeles and in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
Mejia could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer, the murder of his cousin, Roy Torres, the wounding of Whittier officer Patrick Hazell, as well as the carjacking of his cousin and the alleged weapons violation, officials said.
“A decision on whether to seek capital punishment will me made at a later date,” Risling said in a written statement.
Mejia, who was shot and wounded himself by police before being apprehended, was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Thursday in the Bellflower branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Risling said. But it was unclear if his medical condition would force the hearing to be postponed.
Mejia has remained hospitalized in a jail ward since the shooting, records show. He was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” for violating the terms of his probation under the terms of AB 109 pending the filing of charges in connection with the deadly shootings. The 10-day, automatic sentence is set to expire Thursday.
Mejia first shot and killed Torres inside the converted garage he was using as a bedroom at his home in East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Mejia then stole his slain cousin’s car and made his way to Whittier.
A little under three hours later, Mejia was involved in a minor traffic collision with two other motorists at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, investigators said.
“Police responded to the crash and when they ordered Mejia to get out of his car the defendant is accused of pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and firing at two officers,” Risling said. Boyer was killed and Hazell was also wounded. Hazell has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home.
Mejia has prior felony convictions for robbery in 2010 and auto theft in 2014, Risling said.
Since being released from custody for the auto theft conviction in April of 2016, Mejia was arrested five times for probation violations, records show. Each time, he received a 9- or 10-day “flash incarceration” before being turned loose again.
The case has prompted outrage from law enforcement and questions from politicians and community members over recent efforts to empty California’s overpopulated prisons, such as AB 109, also knows as the Public Safety Realignment of 2011, and Proposition 47 of 2014, which reduced some felony crimes to misdemeanors.
Memorial services for Boyer are scheduled Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Boyer, who was 53, was a a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department. He is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty since 1979.
A public viewing will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Whittier Area Community Church, 8100 Colima Road in Whittier.
The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Calvary Chapel Downey, 12808 Woodruff Ave. in Downey, followed immediately by a procession and graveside ceremony as Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.
SOUTH WHITTIER >> Two men beat and stabbed a teenager after he refused to turn over his property during a robbery attempt at a South Whittier park late Saturday, officials said.
The victim, a 15-year-old boy, was walking through Amelia Mayberry Park, 13201 Meyer Road, about 10 p.m. when two would-be robbers approached, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Hank Ortega said.
“The suspects accosted him and demanded he give them whatever he had,” the sergeant said. The teen refused.
One of the attacker punched the teen in the face, while the other pulled a knife and stabbed him in the upper arm, Ortega said.
The teen was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Ortega said both attackers were last seen running east from the park.
One was described as a white man, between 20 and 25 years old, 150 to 170 pounds, with blond hair.
The second suspect, who wielded the knife, was described as Latino man between 20 and 25 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 150 pounds, with a beard and mustache.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Norwalk Station at 562-863-8711. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
WHITTIER >> The gang member accused of killing a Whittier police officer and another man on Monday, as well as wounding another police officer, remained hospitalized in a intensive care unit Wednesday as detectives continued gathering evidence and the community continued mourning and seeking answers.
Investigators were yet to interview Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles, as he continued receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the back sustained in Monday morning’s gunfight with the Whittier, Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau said. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
The tight-knit Whittier community has rallied around the family of Officer Keith Boyer, a 53-year-old Whittier resident, 28-year lawman, father, grandfather and classic rock drummer.
Officer Patrick Hazell, who was wounded in the abdomen in the shootout, was released from the hospital and continuing his recovery at home, Corina said. His father said the wounded officer did not wish to comment at this time.
Mejia, a documented gang member who was on felony probation, or “Post-Release Community Supervision,” under the terms of AB 109, is also accused of gunning down his cousin about 5:30 a.m. in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in East Los Angeles, less than three hours before the violent encounter with police in Whittier.
Family members said Mejia showed up the Torres home and confronted Torres inside the converted garage the victim used as his bedroom.
The men possibly became involved in an argument prior to the shooting, relatives said. Following the shooting, Mejia allegedly fled in Torres car, which he soon crashed in Whittier.
An autopsy determined Torres died from a single gunshot wound to the head, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. The death was ruled a homicide.
No further details of the East Los Angeles slaying, including a motive, have not been released.Mejia was driving a stolen car when became involved in a minor crash with two other vehicles at Colima Road and Mar Vista Avenue about 8 a.m., Corina said.
Police arrive at the scene after the other drivers had helped Mejia push the car he was driving to the side of the road.
“They asked him to get out of the car. That’s when the shooting occurred,” Corina said.
Mejia suddenly drew a semi-automatic handgun and opened fire, striking both officers.
One of the officer managed to return fire and wound Mejia, who was taken into custody at the scene by fellow officers, officials said.
It was unclear which of the officers wounded the suspect. Corina declined to discuss whether one, or both, of the officers fired their weapons.
Mejia’s gun was recovered at the scene, Corina said.
The involved officers were not wearing body camera, and Corina said he was not aware of any video recordings of the deadly encounter between Mejia and Whittier police.
Mejia was expected to be charged in connection with the case once he’s out of the hospital, the lieutenant said.
Mejia had prior convictions for robbery, and most recently, auto theft, officials said.
He as been re-arrested for probation violations five times since being released from prison for the auto theft conviction, each time resulting in 9- or 10-day “flash incarcerations,” under the terms of AB 109, also known as the “California Public Safety Realignment” of 2011, records show.
Details regarding the circumstances of each arrest were not available, however none resulted in the filing of a new criminal case.
At least one of the arrests was for possession of methamphetamine, Corina said.
Possession of methamphetamine had traditionally been a felony in California, punishable by a year or more in prison, but was reduced to a misdemeanor by Proposition 47, passed by California voters in 2014.
Mejia’s criminal record has raised concerns of law enforcement officers, politicians and others, who are questioning whether Mejia should have been behind bars, rather than out on the street, on Monday.
A documented gang member, and an apparently proud one, Mejia bears the letters “W” and “G” tattooed prominently across his face in capital letters. The same abbreviation, which stands for an East Los Angeles street gang, is also tattooed on Mejia’s neck in lower-case letters.
Services for Boyer have not been announced.
The Whittier Police Department is accepting donations to benefit Boyer’s family. He’s survived by a fiancee, four children and two grandchildren.
Checks can be made out to “WPOA Benevolent Fund,” and reference account No. 488879. Contributions can be dropped off in person at the Whittier Police Department, 13200 Penn Street, in person at the Credit Union of Southern California at 8028 Greenleaf Ave. or mailed to the Credit Union of Southern California, WPOA Benevolent Fund, attention David Valencia, PO Box 200, Whittier, CA 90608.
Any witnesses, or anyone with information, regarding Monday’s incident is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
PHOTO of Michael C. Mejia courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departement