Trees topple again at Penn Park in Whittier

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WHITTIER >> Heavy rains on Friday afternoon toppled two large trees at Penn Park in Whittier, just over a month after a massive tree toppled onto a wedding party at the same park, killing the mother of the bride and injuring seven other people, officials said.
A park bench was crushed at Penn Park, 13950 Penn Street, when a eucalyptus tree and an oak tree fell during the storm, but no injuries were reported, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
Another tree also fell at Murphy Ranch Park, 16200 Las Cumbres Drive, during the storm, Whittier City Manager Jeff Collier said. Both parks were closed until further notice. And other trees fell on private property throughout Whittier, as well as Los Angeles County, during the storm.
And with more heavy rain expected on Sunday, city officials also closed the picnic areas of Palm and Parnell parks, which are surrounded by tall trees, as a precaution, Collier said.
“We’ll have to be monitoring the soil conditions,” he said. “The ground is just so saturated.”
Another toppled tree fell onto Portada Drive on Friday.
Penn Park reopened earlier this month after it was closed following the fatal incident on Dec. 17, which claimed the life of 61-year-old Margarita Mojarro of San Pedro.
An arborist inspected the trees at Penn Park before it was reopened to the public, officials said.
All of the trees that fell on Friday appeared to have uprooted and tipped over, rather than snapped at their trunks, Collier said.
“The trees, we feel, are in good, stable condition,” he said. “We’ve just had so much water in such a short time.”
Officials were at Penn Park inspecting the fallen eucalyptus tree when the oak tree gave way, Collier said.
“While we were standing there, we could here a popping sound,” he said. “It just went over. The soil couldn’t hold the tree.”
With more rain on the way, Collier encouraged residents to take precautions to protect their homes and businesses from the deluge by making sure drains are open and taking any other necessary measures to mitigate potential damage.

PHOTO courtesy of Andrew Luera

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El Monte man accused of trying to arrange sex with teen in South Whittier

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Deputies jailed an El Monte man this week after showed up in South Whittier to meet who he believed was a 15-year-old girl for sex, but was instead greeted by detectives, officials said.
Pedro Ivan Reyes-Peralta, 21, was booked on suspicion of arranging a meeting with a juvenile for a lewd act or purpose, and contacting a minor to commit a sex crime, following his arrest on Wednesday, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
(Reyes-Peralta) began communicating with an undercover detective on Tuesday, after he posted a Craigslist ad seeking sex,” Lt. Kent Wegener of the sheriff’s Human Trafficking Bureau said in a written statement. “The detective was posing as a 15 year-old girl and it was made clear that she was under age.”
After additional online communication, Reyes-Peralta arranged a meeting in South Whittier, Wegener said. He was arrested upon arrival.
“The suspect implicated himself during subsequent questioning,” the lieutenant added.
Sgt. Peter Hahn offered some words of caution for parents.
“Social media sites can be very hazardous places for minors. “Predators are actively seeing juveniles to exploit and victimize, since they believe they are hidden by the anonymous nature of the internet,” he said. “Parents are reminded to actively monitor the internet activity of their children, to prevent anyone from taking advantage of them.”
Reyes-Peralta was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.

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Commerce swim coach from Whittier denies child molestation charges


LOS ANGELES >> A Whittier man a denied charges related to the alleged repeated molestation of a 7-year-old girl who was a student at the Commerce aquatics center where he worked as a swim coach.
Steven Matthew Garcia pleaded not guilty to six felony county of committing a lewd act upon a child, Los Angeles County District attorney’s officials said. He was ordered back to Los Angeles Superior Court on Feb. 1 for a preliminary hearing setting.
Garcia is accused of fondling a 7-year-old student of the center on multiple occasions in recent months, while he worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at Brenda Villa Aquatic Center in Commerce, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
“Detectives conducting the investigation subsequently arrested Suspect Garcia, a resident of Whittier, on Friday, January 13, 2017, for multiple counts of lewd acts and continuous sexual abuse of a minor,” Navarro-Suarez said in a written statement.
Prosecutors filed their case Wednesday. Garcia is being held in lieu of $600,000 bail.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau reached out to the public in search of additional information, or any possible additional victims of the suspect, the deputy added.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau can be reached at 877-710-5273. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

BOOKING PHOTOS of Steven Matthew Garcia courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Commerce swimming coach from Whittier charged with molesting 7-year-old girl


COMMERCE >> Prosecutors filed six felony charges on Wednesday against a swimming coach from Whittier accused of repeatedly molesting a 7-year-old girl at the Commerce aquatic center where he worked, officials said.
Steven Matthew Garcia, 27, was charged with six counts of committing a lewd act upon a child in Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
He entered no plea, as his arraignment hearing was postponed until Thursday, he said.
“Garcia is accused of fondling a 7-year-old girl in an employee lounge at an aquatic center on several occasions,” Risling said in a written statement. “After each incident, he allegedly threatened the victim, ordering her not to tell anyone.”
The alleged crimes took place between October and this month, officials said
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau, who handled the investigation, arrested Garcia on Friday afternoon, according to county booking records. He was being held in lieu of $750,000 bail.
If convicted as charged, Garcia faces up to 14 years in state prison.

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Man accused of assault with a deadly weapon, assault weapon possession following 8-hour South Whittier standoff

SOUTH WHITTIER >> A Whittier man was behind bars Sunday after allegedly beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, then engaging a sheriff’s SWAT team in a standoff for eight hours while armed with an assault weapon before surrendering, officials said.
Dylan Rey Robledo, 36, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of an assault weapon, as well as for outstanding warrants, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
The incident began shortly before 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, when Robledo arrived at the home of his ex-girlfriend in the 9900 block of Bona Vista Lane and assaulter her current boyfriend, sheriff’s Lt. Robin Limon said. It was unclear if any weapons were used in the assault, in which the man suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Deputies responded and ordered everyone from the home, Limon said. Everyone came out, except Robledo, who refused orders to exit the home and surrender.
Deputies summoned a sheriff’s SWAT team to take over the scene.
Special Enforcement Bureau deputies used tear gas to flush the suspect from the home about 8:30 p.m., Limon said. He was then taken into custody without a struggle.
An assault weapon was recovered from the home, officials said.
No further details were available.
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court records, Robledo was already on probation at the time of the standoff following convictions in November of 2015 for vandalism and resisting police by force or violence.
He was being held without bail pending his initial court appearances, records show.

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Montebello high school teacher accused of sex with teenage former student


WHITTIER >> Police jailed a teacher from Vail High School in Montebello on Friday on suspicion of carrying on a sexual relationship with a then-17-year-old student of the school, officials said.
Brian Lee Ward, 46, of Whittier was booked on suspicion statutory rape following his 2:30 p.m. arrest at his home on Comstock Avenue, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“Ward had developed a sexual relationship with the student over the course of several months in 2016,” according to the statement. “Though she was not his student, she did attend Vail High School at the time, where Ward is a teacher.”
Montebello Unified School District officials notified Montebello police upon learning of the allegation in December, police said. Montebello police turned the investigation over to their counterparts in Whittier after learning the alleged crimes took place at Ward’s home in their jurisdiction.
“Whittier Detectives were able to develop enough information to file for an arrest warrant out of Norwalk court,” the police statement said.
He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, officials said.
Ward’s employment status with the MUSD was unclear late Friday.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Whittier police at 562-567-9255. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

BOOKING PHOTO of Brian Lee Ward courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.

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Man sentenced for fatal stabbing of San Gabriel man in South Whittier


SOUTH WHITTIER >> A Pico Rivera man received a seven-year prison sentence for fatally stabbing hid ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend during a fight in South Whittier in 2015.
George Delgado, 54, pleaded “no contest” to a charge of voluntary manslaughter on Sept. 14 in for the Sept. 26, 2015, stabbing death of 42-year-old Tyler Duran of San Gabriel, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The plea was the result of a negotiated plea arrangement, she said. Delgado was initially charged with murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. He pleaded not guilty to the murder charge in October of 2015.
Friday’s sentence was handed down in the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles Court by Judge Joseph R. Porris.
Duran was at his girlfriend’s home in the 13500 block of Trumball Street, in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, prior to the stabbing, prosectors said in a written statement.
Delgado, the woman’s ex-boyfriend, showed up and confronted the couple, officials said. Duran left, but returned a short time later.
“When Duran came back to the home, he was allegedly faced by Delgado again and the two men got into a fight,” according to the statement. “During the physical struggle, Delgado reportedly stabbed Duran.”
Duran soon succumbed to his wounds at a hospital, officials said.
Delgado fled and was sought as a fugitive for 11 days before he was ultimately captured in Pico Rivera.


PHOTOS: [ABOVE]George Delgado, 54, of Pico Rivera, left, pleaded “no contest” to a manslaughter charge on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, for the fatal stabbing of Tyron Duran, 42, of San Gabriel, right, during a fight in South Whittier on Sept. 26, 2015. (Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the DMV) [BELOW]  Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials investigate in the 13500 block of Trumball Street in South Whittier where Tyron Duran, 42, of San Gabriel, left, was fatally stabbed during a fight on Sept. 26, 2015. (Photo by Brian Day)

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Driver pleads guilty in death of autistic teen left alone on school bus in Whittier


WHITTIER >> A school bus driver who left an autistic 19-year-old alone a school bus for about seven hours, resulting in his death from overheating, pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of dependent abuse, authorities said.
Armando Abel Ramirez, 37, of Apple Valley, pleaded guilty to a county of felony dependent adult abuse resulting in death, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
“The defendant additionally admitted an allegation of proximately causing the death of the victim,” she said.
The charge stems from the Sept. 11, 2015 death of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, 19, of Whittier, who was found dead on a school bus parked in a Whittier Union High School District parking lot on Mulberry Drive, between Painter and Greenleaf avenues.
*VIDEO of guilty plea
Ramirez, who had been free on bond pending the trial process, was remanded into custody Friday pending sentencing, Davila-Morales said.
Ramirez was ordered to return to the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on Jan. 30 for sentencing before Judge Joseph R. Porras, according to Davila-Morales. He is expected to receive a sentence of two years in state prison under the negotiated plea arrangement.
If convicted at trial, Ramirez could have faced a maximum sentence of nine years in prison.
Lee, who had autism and was described as non-verbal, was a student at Sierra Vista Adult School.
After boarding the bus for school, he never got off, according to prosecutors and a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lee’s family against the school district and it’s contracted bus company, Pupil transportation Cooperative.
Lee’s family began seeking him after he failed to return home from school in the afternoon.
Ramirez returned to the bus after being informed that a student was missing before Lee was found unresponsive. Temperatures day topped 90 degrees.
An autopsy determined that Lee died of hyperthermia, or overheating, and the death was ruled accidental.
Police arrested Ramirez in late-March, and he subsequently denied the criminal charge filed against him.
In a statement issued by family attorneys Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Lee’s mother, Eun Ha Lee, addressed the conviction.
“Whatever prison sentence the bus driver ultimately receives, our family cannot be content or satisfied as the life of our precious son was taken away as a result of his negligence,” she said. “Paul cannot return to our family and, today, we feel the pain of losing him even more. We hope that Paul’s death will not be in vain and that our community will work together to help, love and provide justice to children of special needs.”
Following Lee’s death, new legislation aimed at preventing similar tragedies from taking place in the future.
The bill, authored by state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, requires all school buses in California to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system in the back of the vehicle that must be turned off by the bus driver, in order to ensure the drives check each seat.
It also requires drivers to receive training in child-safety check procedures upon the annual renewal of their school bus driver licenses. Lee’s family commended the legislation.
Lee’s mother expressed gratitude to the community for its support.
“We want to thank everyone who worked, mourned and prayed with us in the months following the death of our beloved son Paul,” she said.


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Deputies seekowner of ‘considerable amount of cash’ found in East Whittier

EAST WHITTIER >> Deputies are seeking the rightful owner of a “considerable amount” of money someone found in East Whittier and turned in to the sheriff’s station last month.
“An honest and respectable citizen found the money in the month of December in the unincorporated East Whittier/La Habra area and turned it in to the sheriff’s department in hopes the money would be returned to the owner,” Sgt. Andy Ruiz of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said in a written statement.
Ruiz did not give the amount of found cash, but described it as “a considerable amount of cash.”
Anyone who believed they may have lost the money can contact Detective Potts at (562) 466-5418.

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Duo sought after three Whittier businesses burglarized overnight

WHITTIER >> A pair of masked burglars broke into a Marie Callender’s restaurant, a BevMo! liquor store and MoneyGram branch during an early-morning burglary spree over the course of an hour in Whittier on Thursday, police said.
“The (modus operandi) is the same in all of them,’ Whittier police Lt. Jim Uhl said.
In all three cases, two men wearing masks, gloves and hooded sweatshirts pried open the doors of the business to gain entry, he said. They drove a full-size pickup truck.
The first break-in occurred just after 2 a.m. at Marie Callender’s, 12402 Washington Blvd., Uhl said. The burglars forced their way into the restaurant, but fled without taking anything.
About 30 minutes later, another break-in was reported at BevMo!, 15525 Whittier Blvd., the sergeant said.
The two burglars targeted high-end liquor, making off with about $6,000 worth of booze, he said.
About 20 minutes after the BevMo! break-in, the pair forced their way into a MoneyGram branch at 14030 Lambert Road, Uhl said. Again, the burglars forced their way in, but fled empty-handed.
Detectives were working to obtain video surveillance footage from the burglaries, Uhl said.
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.

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