Autistic Whittier man arrested for kidnap attempt released without charges

WHITTIER >> Prosecutors declined to file charges Wednesday against an autistic Whittier man arrested this week on suspicion of kidnapping after he allegedly tried to grab a young girl outside an elementary school, authorities said.
After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors declined to file a criminal case against David Brooks, 50, of Whittier, in connection with Monday’s incident outside Ocean View Elementary School, 14359 E. Second Street, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The decision to declined the case was made, “in the interest of justice,” she said.
Whittier police jailed Brooks on suspicion of attempted kidnapping Monday afternoon after he approached and tried to grab a 12-year-old girl, Whittier police Cpl. Glenn Hedgpeth said at the time. The frightened girl ran onto the school to seek help.
Neighbors and family members immediately came forward to say that Brooks was severely mentally disabled, but kind, gentle and peaceful, and the incident must be a misunderstanding. Police declined to comment on Brook’s mental state, citing medical privacy laws.
Officials booked Brooks into jail and set bail at $1 million pending an initial court appearance, scheduled for Wednesday, Los Angeles County booking records show.
Brooks’ brother Bill Brooks said David is severely autistic and has lived in the same East Whittier home for his entire life.
“I don’t feel by my brother had the physical strength or the wherewithal to commit the type of crime he was accused of,” the brother said.
He pointed out that David Brooks has never been in trouble with the police before. And when coaches at the school told him to stay there and wait for police, he complied, making no effort to flee.
Once family members arrived at the police station Wednesday night and explained David Brook’s condition, officials appeared to be sympathetic, but informed them that he would have to remain in custody pending his court appearance, unless the $1 million bail was posted.
Bill Brooks said he wished the police had been more understanding of his brother’s condition from the beginning, especially since the family has informed the police of his condition in the past as a precaution.
“They assured me that this was in the computer,” so officers who encountered him would immediately be notified of his disability,” Bill Brooks said. “To my knowledge, that did not happened when he was initially contacted by the Whittier Police Department. It took them a long time to realize that he had a disability.”
And Brooks said the $1 million bail amount seemed excessive, under the circumstances. “ He has no drivers license, no ability to drive. He doesn’t have the wherewithal to flee. He doesn’t have a passport,” the brother said.
But Bill Brooks also said he was grateful to Whittier police officials for their consideration.
“He’s a picky eater,” the brother said. Police officers picked up food from Subway Sandwiches and other familiar foods David Brooks was willing to eat.
Bill Brooks said he sympathized with the young girl, as she was likely “traumatized” by the incident.
But the incident was also traumatic for David Brooks, he said. “He thought he couldn’t go home ever again.”
“It’s hard for me to second-guess the police, because I wasn’t there,” Bill Brooks said. “I do not know what David said to his victim. I don’t know if he actually attempted to touch her in any way.”
But Brooks said he feels the incident could be a learning experience.
“I think that the Whittier Police Department needs to review their policies regarding the way they deal with disabled people,” he said.
David Brooks’ father looked after him until his death in 2001, at which time the family obtained caretakers to look after David.
The organization Community Advocates for Peoples’ Choice, or CAPC, initially provided a caretaker seven days a week, Bill Brooks said. But the caretaker services were reduced to five days a week following a change in labor laws related to “domestic workers” in 2014.
Following this weeks incident, the agency plans to again provide David Brooks with a caretaker seven days a week, he said.
According to county booking records, David Brooks was released from custody shortly after noon Wednesday.

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23 arrests made during Whittier checkpoint


WHITTIER >> Police arrested one alleged drunken driver, as well a 22 others during a an overnight checkpoint in Whittier, officials said Saturday.
The checkpoint was held from 7 p.m. Friday to into the early-morning hours Saturday along Mulberry Drive, just east of Santa Fe Springs Road, Whittier police Sgt. David Elizarraras said in a written statement.
In addition to the drunken driver, police arrested and released with citations for driving without licenses or with suspended or revoked licenses, he said. Two of those people were also arrested for outstanding warrants.
Police impounded seven vehicles during the checkpoint, officials said.

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Two men jailed, drugs seized during early-morning raid at Whittier apartment


WHITTIER >> An early-morning search warrant led police to arrest two men — including an injuncted gang member — and seize a cache of methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana, along with suspected stolen property and burglary tools, officials said.
Larry Paul Salazar, 54, of Whittier was booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales, drug possession and possession of a billy club during the raid, which took place shortly before 6 a.m. at an apartment in the 7200 block of Milton Avenue, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Joshua Jacob Poore, 34, a Whittier resident an injuncted member of the Whittier Varrio Locos street gang, was booked on suspicion of heroin possession, receiving stolen property, possession of burglary tools, trespassing and violating the gang injunction, Whittier police Officer Brad White said.
Detectives arrived at the apartment, armed with a search warrant, as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation, Whittier police Officer Brad White said.
At the targeted apartment, officers found and arrested Salazar, he said. Inside the apartment, officers found a quarter-pound of methamphetamine, 4.5 grams of black tar heroin, 7.1 grams of marijuana and a billy club.
Police found Poore hiding in the laundry room of an apartment building, White said. He had heroin, suspected stolen checks and credit cards and burglary tools with him.
According to county booking records, Salazar was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail pending his initial court appearance. Poore was released from custody Friday afternoon pending his initial court appearance after posting $10,000 bail.

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Glendale woman sentenced for DUI crash that killed Whittier man in Pico Rivera

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PICO RIVERA >> A Glendale woman who triggered a fatal crash when she drove through a red light in Pico Rivera while drunk has begun serving a six-year prison term for the crime, officials said Wednesday.
Christine Vahe Mesdjian, 28, pleaded “no contest” to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated during a pretrial hearing on Thursday in the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
“She was immediately sentenced to six years in state prison,” Ardalani said.
An additional count of felony DUI was dismissed in connection with the Feb. 15, 2015, three-vehicle crash that claimed the life of David Andrew Jaramillo, 59, of Whittier.
Mesdjian initially told investigators she fell asleep at the wheel prior to the crash, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective Jose Marquez said. But skid marks created in the street prior to the collision contradicted her story, he said.
Mesdjian was driving a Toyota pickup truck north along Paramount Boulevard about 8 p.m. when she blew through a red light and hit the passenger side of a Toyota Scion heading east on Slauson Avenue, according to Marquez.
The force of the collision pushed the Scion into a Toyota Camry heading west on Slauson Avenue.
Jaramillo, who was driving the Scion, died at the scene.
Mesdjian and three people inside the camera were treated for injuries as well, officials said.
Deputies did not arrest Mesdjian the night of the crash, but ultimately turned over the findings of their investigation to prosecutors, who obtained an arrest warrant for Mesdjian in late June of 2015. She turned herself in to authorities June 30.

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Burglary suspect jailed in Whittier after brief chase, standoff


WHITTIER >> Police jailed a Whittier burglary suspect Saturday after he escaped man and son who tried to capture him, then ran from officers and hid under a house, authorities said.
Jonathan Eugene Ramirez, 34, of Whittier was ultimately arrested on suspicion of burglary following the alleged break-in, which took place about 7:45 a.m. in the 8400 block of Davista Drive, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
A man and his son saw Ramirez outside their home, snatching objects through a window, the lieutenant said.
The man and son struggled with the suspect in an attempt to detain him, but the burglary managed to break free and run, Ellis said. The man suffered minor injuries in the scuffle.
A woman at the home called 911 and reported what was happening, Ellis said. Responding officers spotted Ramirez fleeing through the neighborhood and chased him for several blocks before he climbed into the crawl space of a house in the 14000 block of High Street, Ellis said. No one was inside the home.
After a brief standoff, a police K-9 was brought to the scene, he said. The dog’s barking was sufficient to persuade the suspect to give up.
“He wisely decided to come out,” Ellis said.

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Auto theft suspect arrested after short chase in Whittier

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WHITTIER >> Police jailed an alleged car thief after a brief car chase, which ended in a crash, in Whittier Thursday afternoon.
An officer was on patrol about 2:10 p.m. in the area of Gunn Avenue and Whittier Boulevard when he spotted a car matching the description of one reported to be involved in a burglary attempt several hours before, Whittier police Lt. Jim Uhl said.
The officer tried to stop the Honda Accord, but the driver fled instead.
After a short chase, the suspect crashed into a parked car at Calmada Avenue and La Forge Street, the sergeant said. He continued fleeing on foot, but was soon apprehended nearby.
Police determined the Honda had been reported stolen in Whittier in March, Uhl said.
The driver was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries suffered while running from officers, Uhl said. His name was not immediately available.
He was expected to be booked on suspicion of auto theft and evading police, Uhl said. Police were continuing to investigate the suspect’s possible connection to the earlier burglary attempt.

PHOTO courtesy of the Whittier Police Department

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Police to hold checkpoint in Whittier this weekend

WHITTIER >> Police officers are planning to set up a checkpoint in Whittier Friday night to check drivers for sobriety and valid licenses, officials said.
The checkpoint will be held from 7 p.m. Friday to 2:30 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed spot within the city, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
Over the past three years, Whittier police have handled 327 DUI-related crashes, resulting in four deaths and 148 injures, police said.
Funding for the checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, through the California Office of Traffic Safety.

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Officials: Gunman in South Whittier murder-suicide identified

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a 65-year-old South Whittier man investigators say shot his wife to death in South Whittier before turning a shotgun on himself Friday.
Walter Maholick was pronounced dead at the scene of the alleged murder-suicide, which was first discovered about 10:40 a.m. Friday at the home he shared with his wife in the 13500 block of Lanning Drive, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Authorities did not formally identify his wife Saturday pending notification of kin.
Deputies from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Norwalk Station went to the home in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier after a close friend reported not seeing the couple in several days, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The friend provided deputies with a key, he said. They entered the home and discovered the bodies of Maholick and his wife.
Sheriff’s investigators determined Maholick killed his wife before taking his own life, officials said.
An autopsy was pending Saturday.

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Teen wounded in South Whittier stabbing


SOUTH WHITTIER >> Deputies are seeking five young men and a young woman who attacked and stabbed a fellow teen late Friday in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, officials said.
The attack took place just before midnight along Painter Avenue, near Mulberry Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Fernandez said.
The victim, a teenage boy, was attacked by the group, he said. One of them pulled a knife and stabbed him in the abdomen.
Paramedics took the wounded teen to a hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening.
The circumstances and motive in the crime remained under investigation, Fernandez said. A detailed suspect description was not available.

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Officials: Man and wife dead following South Whittier murder-suicide


SOUTH WHITTIER >> A man shot his wife to death before turning a shotgun on himself at the couple’s South Whittier home, authorities said Thursday.
The suspected murder-suicide was discovered about 10:30 a.m. Thursday at a house in on a cul-de-sac in the 13500 block of Lanning Drive, in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
A close family friend called deputies to report the had not seen the couple that lives in the home for a few days, according to Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. The friend gave deputies a key to the home.
“Deputies entered the location and found the husband laying on the bed, with a gunshot wound to the upper torso,” Rouzan said. “A shotgun was recovered near the husband’s body. The gunshot wound appears to be self-inflicted.”
The body of the man’s wife was also found inside the home, he said. “She also had a single gunshot wound to the upper torso.”
Investigators determined the man fatally shot his wife before killing himself, Rouzan said. It was unclear exactly when the shooting took place prior to the discovery of the grisly crime scene.
The identities of the man and woman were withheld pending notification of family, officials said.
“There is no additional information available at this time and the investigation is ongoing,” Rouzan said.
Officials at the sheriff’s Norwalk Station, which patrols South Whittier, deferred comment to their counterparts at the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau and sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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