Hundreds flock to Whittier park for @hiddencash scavenger hunt

"7-10-14 FATALCRASH10"

WHITTIER >> The philanthropic social media phenomenon known as @hiddencash surfaced at a Whittier park Thursday night, where hundreds of people showed up to take part in a scavenger hunt by flashlight.
Secluded Penn Park became the latest scene of the Twitter-fueled frenzy after the @hiddencash Twitter account first gave clues to the location where Pez candy dispensers stuffed with cash had been hidden. A handful of treasure hunters who solved the clues arrived first at the secluded park, followed by hundreds more when @hiddencash announced the park by name about 9:30 p.m.
Twenty-five Pez dispensers were hidden at the park, along with two boxes of Pez dispensers, according to @hiddencash.
The candy dispensers contained $40 to $50, while the bonus boxes included $100.
Vanessa Garcia, 26, of Whittier found a Pez dispenser containing $40.
“I’ve never seen so many people here, especially at night,” Garcia said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Garcia’s sister, 22-year-old Alejandra Garcia of Whittier, found one of the bonus boxes.
Alejandra Garcia said she had not yet decided what to do with her newly-found $100. “I haven’t thought about it,” she said.
Kim Vaughn, 43, of Whittier said she was thrilled the scavenger hunt was being held in her town. She searched Penn Park with her husband and children.
“We’ve been following (@hiddencash) all along, just waiting for one nearby,” Vaughn said.
Some searchers brought large flashlights with them. Others searched by the light of their cell phones.
Additionally, @hiddencash tweeted late Thursday that additional loose bills had been hidden along Greenleaf Avenue in Uptown Whittier.
The cash seekers took it in stride when the park sprinklers turned on midway through the event.
“Sorry about the sprinklers! Didn’t plan that,” @hiddencash tweeted.
And while the atmosphere was festive, not everyone was thrilled with the large event at the park in a residential neighborhood, accessible only by one street. Traffic became gridlocked along Penn Street during the scavenger hunt.
“This is awful,” Anthony Nerlino, 26, of Whittier said as people climbed through bushes, next to signs advising visitors to stay out of the shrubbery.
“How much is it going to cost to fix that,” Nerlino said.
Police dealt with large crowds and traffic due to the event, but no major incidents were reported, Whittier police Capt. Aviv Bar said. The park was to be checked in the morning for any possible damage.
Another money drop, this time in Orange County, was to be announced at 10 a.m. Friday, according to @hiddencash.

PHOTO by Keith Durflinger – GALLERY

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Whittier police launch motorcycle safety enforcement campaign

The Whittier Police Department had begun a month-long extra enforcement campaign aimed at improving motorcycle safety and reducing the number of injuries and deaths caused motorcycle crashes, officials said.
Throughout July, extra officers will be on patrol, focusing their efforts on areas frequented by motorcycles and where motorcycle crashes are known to occur, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“Officers will be looking for violations made by drivers and riders alike that can lead to motorcycle crashes,” according to the statement. “ They will be cracking down on both those operating regular vehicles and motorcycles that are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, making illegal turns or any other dangerous violation.”
In Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, five fatal motorcycle crashes and 87 injury motorcycle crashes have occurred withint the past three years, officials said.
Funding for the campaign is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Suspect arrested after 6-hour stand-off in South Whittier

A SWAT team used tear gas early Friday to end a six-hour standoff at a South Whittier home with a man brandishing what ultimately turned out to be a pellet gun, authorities said.
Adam William Samarin, 23, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after he was taken into custody shortly before 3 a.m. at his home in the 9200 block of Laurel Avenue, just north of Mulberry Drive, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
Deputies responded to a report of a family disturbance involving an armed man about 8:45 p.m. Thursday, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Samarin had become involved in an argument with his mother, who left the home when he retrieved what appeared to be a rifle, Lt. Eric Smitson said.
Samarin, who was alone at the home when deputies arrived, pointed the rifle at deputies on the ground as well as deputies hovering above in a helicopter before holing up inside the home and refusing orders to come out.
The Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau, or SWAT team, responded to the scene, as well as a sheriff’s K-9 and a crisis negotiator, officials said.
Deputies evacuated neighboring homes and advised others nearby via helicopter loudspeaker to stay inside and lock their doors.
Deputies fired tear gas into the home shortly before 3 a.m., prompting Samarin to jump or fall out a window of the home, Smitson said. He was taken into custody with the help of the K-9.
A pellet rifle and an “airsoft” gun designed to shoot larger, plastic BBs was recovered from the home, Smitson said.
Samarin was treated for dog bites and injuries he suffered while tumbling out of the window before being booked into jail, officials said.
According to county booking records, Samarin was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in Downey Superior Court.

- Jason Henry and Brian Day

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Man beaten during Whittier robbery

WHITTIER — A group of men attacked and robbed another man Tuesday evening along Pickering Avenue in Whittier, police said.
The crime took place about 7 p.m. at Pickering Avenue and Pacific Place, but was not reported until about half an hour later when the victim arrived home and called police, Whittier Police Lt. Steve Dean said.
The victim was walking when he passed by a group of men who were drinking in some bushes, the lieutenant said. The called out to him to come over as he passed, but he ignored them.
Three of the four suspects ran over to the victim, a 23-year-old Whittier man, and began beating him with their fists, Dean said. The fourth suspect apparently acted as a lookout.
While the victim was on the ground, the attackers grabbed his wallet from his pocket, emptied it of cash and dropped the rest on the ground.
The attackers fled when the lookout announced it was , “Time to go,” Dean said.
The victim declined to be taken to a hospital for treatment, he added.
Police described all four suspects as Latino men. The three attackers were about 5 feet 6 inches tall and of thin build. Two of them were in their mid-20s, while the third was in his late-teens.
A detailed description of the fourth suspect was not available.

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UPDATED: Police investigate suspicious circumstances at Whittier apartment

WHITTIER — Suspicious circumstances at an Uptown Whittier apartment drew a large police response Sunday, but investigators found no initial evidence of a crime, officials said.
Officers first responded to the apartment in the 6500 block of Pickering Avenue Saturday afternoon after neighbors reported they had not seen the resident in about a week, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said. The neighbors added that the woman had been involved in an argument with a man about a week ago.
Police found that the apartment had been somewhat “fortified,” with its windows boarded up. The resident’s car remained parked outside, and officers noted a strange smell.
A SWAT team and bomb squad responded as a precaution as the investigation continued Sunday morning. Ellis said. Officials searched the apartment and found no signs of foul play.
“It’s still something that’s very unusual,” Ellis said.
But the woman was not officially considered a missing person, as no one close to her, such as a friend or family member, had reported her missing.
“We’re following up and trying to locate the individuals who rent that location,” Ellis said.

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Officials: Man stabs three family members in South Whittier

A man stabbed his father, mother and sister during an argument at a South Whittier home late Saturday before ultimately surrendering to a SWAT team, authorities said.
All three victims are expected to survive the injuries they suffered in the attack, which took place about 8:30 p.m. at the family home in the 14100 block of Mystic Street, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Alexander Michael, 34, is believed to be high on drugs when he began arguing with family members, officials said.
“According to the victims, the suspect began stabbing his father several times,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “When the mother and the sister tried to intervene, an attempt to stop the assault, they too sustained several stab wounds.”
The father suffered several stab wounds to his upper torso, Lt. Jason Skeen said. The women’s injuries were described as more superficial slash wounds.
Michael fled into a backyard shed following while still clutching a knife and refused deputies’ orders to come out, officials said.
After a SWAT team was summoned to the scene, Michael ultimately surrendered about 10:20 p.m., according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records. He was jailed on suspicion of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Michael was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance Tuesday in Downey Superior Court.

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UPDATED: Man fatally stabbed outside South Whittier market

SOUTH WHITTIER — A 29-year-old man died following a stabbing outside a meat market in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier late Friday, authorities said.
Israel Lopez of Whittier died at UCI Medical Center at 7:56 p.m. according to Orange County coroner’s officials.
The fatal stabbing took place shortly after 7 p.m. in front of a meat market in the 11800 block of Carmenita Road, just south of Meyer Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“Detectives have learned deputies from the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station responded to the location regarding an assault with a deadly weapon call. Upon their arrival, they found the victim lying on the curb suffering from stab wounds,” deputies from the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
Lopez taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana.
No information regarding a suspect was available, and no further details were released.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Police checkpoint planned Friday in Whittier

WHITTIER — Police are planning to check drivers for sobriety and valid driver’s licenses during a checkpoint late Friday.
The checkpoint will be held from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 2:30 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within Whittier, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
Over the past three years, four people have died and 167 people have been injured in DUI-related crashed in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, Sgt. Rob Hanson said.
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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Man critically wounded in shooting at his Whittier home, suspect sought

A Whittier man remained hospitalized in critical condition Wednesday after he was shot inside his home Tuesday morning, officials said.
The shooting took place about 9:40 a.m. at the victim’s home in the 13300 block of Oval Drive, Whittier police Sgt. James Uhl said.
A 26-year-old resident of the home was shot in the chest and the abdomen, Lt. Aaron Ruiz said.
Police officers were already en route to a report of an “altercation” between two men when the shooting occurred, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“During the altercation and prior to the officer’s arrival, shots were fired and the victim was struck multiple times,” according to the police department statement.
Paramedics took the man to an area hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, officials said.
No description of the shooter was available, Uhl said, and detectives had not yet been able to interview the wounded man due to his medical condition.
Investigators were looking into whether the gunman barged into the home, or had been invited prior to the violent dispute.
“We don’t know how he got in,” the sergeant said. “There’s no evidence of forced entry.”
There were others in the home with the victim at the time of the shooting, however none were injured, officials said.
A motive in the shooting not clear, nor was whether the shooter and victim knew one another prior to Tuesday.
“At this time, it has not been determined what started the altercation; however it appears that this is an isolated incident,” the police statement said.

- Venusse Navid and Brian Day

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Dugout at La Serna High School destroyed in apparent arson fire


A dugout alongside the baseball diamond at La Serna High School was destroyed early Thursday in a suspected arson fire, police said.
Firefighters first responded to the fire at the campus, 15301 Youngwood Drive, about 5:30 a.m., Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“We’re suspecting it’s an arson,” Whittier police Sgt. Jim Uhl said.
The dugout also included a locker room and a coaches office, he said.
Officials estimate that the fire caused $50,000 worth of damage.
When school officials arrived at the campus about 7 a.m. and encountered the damage, as well as firefighters, they notified Whittier police, officials said. They became suspicious, as it was the second fire reported at the school this week.
“Apparently, some trash cans were set on fire near the tennis courts Monday night June 9th, however the Whittier Police were not called and no structures were involved,” according to the police statement.
“This morning La Serna High School staff felt that the fires on Monday night and the fires this morning were not isolated events and asked for the Whittier Police Department’s involvement.”
No information regarding a suspect or motive was available, and no further details were released.
Detectives spent about six hours at the scene collecting evidence and searching for clues, officials said. Whittier police detectives are working in conjunction with investigators from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
“Other than the fires occurring on this specific campus, there appears to be no specific threats to staff or students and no other fires have been reported to the Whittier Police Department by area schools over the last few months,” according to the police statement.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Detective Dineen at the Whittier Police Department, which can be reached at 562-567-9241.

PHOTO by Leo Jarzomb

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