Suspect in deadly Whittier police shootout still in ICU, surviving officer released from hospital

Members of the community place flowers in memory of slain Whittier Police officer Keith Boyer at the Whittier Police Department’s Police Officer Memorial in Whittier, Calif. on Tuesday February 21, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)

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

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Con men sought after swindling elderly Whittier man out of $9,000

WHITTIER >> Police are seeking a man who was caught on camera while conning an elderly Whittier man out of $9,000 last month, officials said.
The crime took place about noon on Jan. 13, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
The swindler knocked on the victim’s door and claimed to represent a paintless dent-removal service, police said.
“After pretending to do some work on the victims’ car, the suspect and his unknown partner charged the victim $9,000 for their ‘services,’ according to the statement. “Feeling intimidated, the victim, who is elderly, reluctantly drove with the suspects to a local bank and cashed a personal check.”
Bank surveillance cameras captured images of one of the suspect as he accompanied the victim to the bank.
The con men drove the suspect back home and left with his money, officials said. They completed no work on the victim’s car.
One of the suspects was described as a Latino man, about 40 to 45 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, wearing a white T-shirt and a black hooded sweater. The second con man was a Latino man of 25 to 30 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, of medium build, wearing dark clothes. The drove a white van.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Whittier police Detective Allen Lemus at 562-567-9290, or the Whittier Police Department’s 24-hour Crime Tipline at 562-567-9299. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

BANK SURVEILLANCE PHOTO courtesy of the Whittier Police Department

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Teens sought in South Whittier robbery

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Two teenagers, one of them wearing a ski mask, robbed another young man as he walked through a residential neighborhood in South Whittier early Friday, officials said.
The crime unfolded about 6:40 a.m. as the victim was walking in the 11900 block of Burgess Avenue, in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jaime Alvarez said.
The robbers approached in a gray, BMW sedan, he said. Both got out of the car and demanded the victim’s cell phone.
Once the victim handed over his phone, the two robbers got back into their car and sped away, Alvarez said. They were last seen heading south on Burgess Avenue.
One of the robbers wore a ski mask, Alvarez added. Detailed suspect descriptions were not available.
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.

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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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