Throughout the San Gabriel Valley and beyond, cops have been working to brighten the holidays of needy and disadvantaged kids.
Police and California Highway Patrol Officers, as well as Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, have been busily playing the roles of elves distributing toys, food and cheer to young people in need of some holiday spirit.
The California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have run large-scale toy drives to collect gifts for kids who might otherwise go without this holiday season.
And sheriff’s officials even brought Santa Claus, via helicopter, to meet with kids in Compton Saturday as deputies took them on a special Target shopping trip. Sheriff’s deputies also hosted an annual party Dec. 7 for abused and neglected children.
Police officers from both the Irwindale and Covina police departments have delivered toys to the young patients at the City of Hope in Duarte this month.
Police agencies including those in Whittier and West Covina, as well as some sheriff’s stations, joined Target stores for the “Heroes & Helpers” program, in which officers take needy youths shopping for gifts, officials said.
In La Puente, deputies visited schools and churches and neighborhood to hand out about 300 bags full of groceries Friday, sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro said. And more food giveaways are planned this week.
Baldwin Park police attracted an estimated 2,000 kids to their police station Friday as they handed out more than 3,500 toys, according to the Baldwin Park Police Association. And of course, Santa Claus was on-hand as well.
PHOTOS: (top to bottom) 1.)Covina police officials deliver toys to children at the City of Hope in Duarte on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. (Courtesy) 2.) Whittier police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (Courtesy) 3.) Principal Mona Diaz of Workman Elementary School in La Puente stands in front of a patrol car as Sgt. John Suh unloads bags of groceries to be handed out to families to help out for the holidays on Friday, Dec. 18, 2014. (Courtesy) 4.) Children meet with Santa Claus at the Baldwin Park Police Station as the Baldwin Park Police Association handed out more than 3,500 toys. (Courtesy) 5.) Irwindale police and city officials from Irwindale and La Puente deliver donated toys to City of Hope in Duarte on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. From left to right: La Puente City Councilman David Argudo, Irwindale police Officer Shawn Cory, Irwindale police Officer Diego Cornejo, Irwindale police Detective Jose Vargas, Irwindale police Capt. Ty Henshaw and Irwindale Mayor Mark Breceda. (Courtesy) 6.) West Covina police take children shopping at Target in Whittier as part of the “Heroes & Helpers” program on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (Courtesy)
WHITTIER >> Police sought a teenager Sunday who they say stabbed and wounded a man in a residential neighborhood.
Police responded to a report of an assault just after 11 p.m. Saturday in the 8000 block of Washington Avenue, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
“It was determined that a stabbing had taken place, and that the primary suspect and victim know each other, and possibly live at the same location,” the lieutenant said.
Paramedics took the injured man to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, Ellis said.
Officers identified the “primary suspect” as a 16-year-old boy, Ellis said. He, along with several other accomplices described only as male, fled from the scene before police arrived and remained at-large Sunday.
It was unclear of the wounded man and suspect were related to one another or merely roommates, Ellis said. A motive in the stabbing was also not available.
WHITTIER >> Police arrested four people and seized drugs, guns and hundreds of stolen or fraudulent credit cards and other identity theft-related gear during an early-morning raid Thursday at a Whittier home, officials said.
The 5 a.m. raid in the 7200 block of Lynalan Avenue was the result of a months-long investigation by the Whittier Police Department’s Special Enforcement Team, Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
“There’s been an investigation that’s been ongoing in regard to several subjects, possibly dealing with fraud and forgery and sales of narcotics,” White said. “(Investigators) were able to get a search warrant, which was served this morning.”
A SWAT team helped with the raid, White said. Officials used flash-bang grenades and tear gas as they forced there way into the home.
Inside the home, “There were hundreds of credit cards not in the names of the suspects,” White said. Police also recovered suspected stolen checks and IDs, as well as machines used to make credit cards.
Additionally, police seized three handguns and nearly an ounce of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of about $1,000, police said.
Police arrested two men and two women who were at the home.
Resident Steven Perez, 32, of Whittier is accused of forgery, fraud, drug possession and weapons charges, White said.
Raquel Monique Olivarez, 26, and Christina Marie Arroyo, 27, both residents of the home, were arrested on suspicion of forgery and fraud, according to Whittier police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Another resident of the home, 37-year-old Joey Lojero, was cited for alleged narcotics possession, White said. And Bryan Sanchez, 19, of El Monte was jailed due to outstanding warrants.
According to booking records, Perez was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance. Olivares’ bail was set at $60,000, and Arroyo was being held in lieu of $70,000 bail. Sanchez was being held without bail.
Though detectives had not yet determined exactly how the suspects obtained the allegedly stolen identifying information, White said often times, such information is taken during home and car burglaries.
Police reminded the public to avoid storing valuables, including personal information, in an unattended cars, and to make sure homes are locked and secured before leaving.
The investigation was ongoing, and additional arrested were possible, White said.
PHOTOS by Watchara Phomicinda
WHITTIER >> A man beat a senior citizen unconscious and stole the victim’s car at knifepoint early Wednesday in the parking lot of a Whittier 99 Cents Only Store before being captured, police said.
Michael Echavarria, 27, of Whittier is accused of carjacking in connection with the 7:55 a.m. crime outside the store, 15345 Whittier Boulevard, Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
A 67-year-old Whittier man arrived in the parking lot of the store and was exiting his car when Echavarria approached, White said.
“The victim said the suspect brandished a knife and then began to strike him in his head with his fist until he lost consciousness,” police said in a written statement. “When the victim came to, he noticed his vehicle — 2011 Toyota Yaris, red in color — was missing.”
Paramedics took the victim to a hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released by medical staff, White said.
The suspect and the victim’s car were gone when police responded to what was initially reported as fight, White said.
But an officers spotted the stolen Toyota about two hours later at Whittier Boulevard and Painter Avenue, he said.
Officers cautiously pulled over the car and took the driver, later identified as Echavarria, into custody, police said.
Police recovered a pocket knife from the suspect and were trying to confirm it was the same blade brandished at the carjacking victim, White said.
Echavarria was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, officials said.
WHITTIER >> A man died and a teenage girl was wounded after an argument led to a drive-by shooting early Sunday, police said.
Jose Duarte, 26, of Whittier, died at a hospital following the shooting, which took shortly after midnight along Lambert Road, just east of Sante Fe Springs Road, Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
A 17-year-old Whittier girl also wounded in the shooting was expected to survive, he said.
Police said the two victims were walking east along a sidewalk when Duarte became involved in an argument with several other people who were across the street at a liquor store. The victims then continued walking east through a residential neighborhood.
“As the male and female victims continued to walk away from the location, the suspects drove past them and fired several shots at the victims,” police said in a written statement.
The gunfire struck Duarte in the chest, officials said. The teenage girl was shot in the back.
Paramedics took Duarte to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
“The suspect vehicle is believed to be a silver or gray sedan,” according to the police statement.
No description of the suspects themselves was available.
It was unclear what the argument that preceded the shooting was about, White said. Police were looking into the possibility the shooting was gang-related.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Whittier police at 562-567-9241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
WHITTIER >> Police and a Whittier family are seeking two Grinches caught on camera stealing packages from the porch of a home earlier this week.
The crime took place shortly after 2 p.m. on Dittmar Drive, near Calmada Avenue, Whittier police Sgt. Terry McAllister said.
A home security camera caught the theft on video, which has received more than 83,000 views on Facebook.
The video shows a woman walking up to the home’s porch and helping herself to a stack of packages as a black pickup truck passes by slowly. The woman then tosses the stolen boxes into the bed of the pickup truck before hustling into the truck, which sped away.
A neighbor who witnessed the theft yelled from her home and asked the suspect what she was doing, but the thief ignored the neighbor and continued the crime, McAllister said. It was unclear exactly what was inside the stolen boxes.
Police described the thief as a white woman between 30 and 35 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 140 pounds. She had brown hair with black streaks in it.
She fled in a black pickup truck similar to a 2005 Toyota, McAllister said. No description of the driver was available.
Package thefts tend to increase around the holiday season, and area police agencies have cautioned residents to be alert.
Police in West Covina offer several tips to avoid being victimized in the seasonal crime trend.
Residents are advised to call 9-1-1 immediately if they notice anyone following delivery trucks, officials said.
Authorities also suggested having packages sent where a person will be able to receive it, if possible; make arrangements with a neighbor to watch for deliveries and retrieve packages; require a signature for delivery; or have the delivery service hold packages for pick-up.
WHITTIER >> Police plan to screen drivers for sobriety and valid driver licenses Friday during a checkpoint in Whittier, officials said.
The Whittier Police Department will hold the checkpoint from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 2:20 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within the city, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“Over the course of the past three years in the cities of Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, DUI collisions have claimed four lives and resulted in 134 injury crashes harming 190 of our friends and neighbors,” 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.
WHITTIER >> Police are once again teaming with the Salvation Army to collect toys for needy local families, officials said.
Toy donations are being accepted through Dec. 10, Whittier police officials said in a written statement. Collection sites are at the Whittier Police Department, Whittier City Hall, Palm Park, Parnell Park, the Whittier Senior Center, the Whittier Community Center, the Whitwood Branch Library, and the Whittier Public Library.
Salvation Army officials are coordinating family sign-ups for the toy distribution for family’s in need of a helping hand this holiday season. The last day to sign up is Dec. 5. For more information, or to apply, contact Nadine Alvarez
The Salvation Army is coordinating family sign-ups for the distribution of toys. The last day to sign up is Wednesday, December 5th.To enroll, contact Nadine Alvarez of the Salvation Army at (562) 698-8348, extension 201.
Other questions can be directed t Whittier police Sgt. Kevin Ramos at 562-567-9272.
WHITTIER >> A brush fire broke out on a hillside neighboring Rose Hills Memorial Park and Cemetery Saturday, officials said.
The fire was first reported about 5 p.m. just to the east of the memorial park at 3888 Workman Mill Road, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Bernard Peters said.
Firefighters on the ground were joined by three helicopters as they poured water onto the flames, Peters said.
The fire grew to 1-and-a-half acres before fighters declared it extinguished just over an hour after it began, officials said.
No injuries were reported.
MONTEBELLO >> A man turned himself in Tuesday in connection with a hit-and run crash that left a 28-year-old motorcyclist from Whittier dead over the weekend, officials said.
George Antonio Lopez-Chavira died following the crash, which took place about 4:45 p.m. Friday on Washington Boulevard, just west of Bluff Road, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Ed Winter said.
He was riding a motorcycle east along Washington Boulevard when he was struck from behind by a four-door car that fled the scene, Montebello police officials said in a written statement. The impact forced Lopez-Chavira’s motorcycle into a pole, and he succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
Both vehicles were heading east at high speeds prior to the crash, police said.
The hit-and-run driver remained at-large until Tuesday, when Rafael Victor Morales, 35, of Whittier called the Montebello Police Department, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
“Investigators from the Montebello Traffic Unit received a phone call from a male who stated that he was the driver investigators were looking for relating to the fatal traffic collision,” Montebello police said in a written statement.
“The suspect told investigators that he called to turn himself in because he felt pressured based on recent social media posts on both Twitter and Facebook from the Montebello Police Department,” the statement said. “Investigators responded to Whittier (Boulevard) and Ocean View (Avenue) in the city of Whittier where the suspect was waiting to turn himself in.”
Records indicate police arrested Morales at 5 p.m.
Police arrested Morales on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run, officials said.
He was behind the wheel of a Nissan Altima when he was involved in the fatal hit and run, Lt. Kelly Gordon said.
The manslaughter charge stems from alleged reckless driving on the part of Morales prior to the crash, the lieutenant said.
Morales and Lopez-Chavira did not know one another prior to the crash, she added.
According to booking records, Morales was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail. He was scheduled to appear scheduled for arraignment Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.