SOUTH WHITTIER >> Family members and loved ones of a 19-year-old Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Explorer Scout plan to gather for a vigil Thursday to mark the third anniversary of his unsolved slaying.
Cesar Rodriguez, a lifelong Whittier resident who had spent his last four years volunteering as an Explorer at the sheriff’s Norwalk Station, was gunned down along with friend Larry Villegas, 24, in the early-morning hours of Aug. 28, 2011 in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue, according to sheriff’s investigators and family members.
He’s survived his parents Jorge and Lupe Rodriguez, as well as older brothers George and Hector Rodriguez.
“We’re trying to stay strong,” George Rodriguez said.
Thursday’s vigil will be held at 7 p.m. at Laurel and Beaty avenues, near the shooting scene in South Whittier.
Community support has continued to grow in the three years since Cesar Rodriguez’s
At a march held last year on the second anniversary of the shooting, nearly 300 people attended, he said. About 150 people marched in a similar gathering in 2012.
Cesar Rodriguez and Villegas were shot as they left a party, sheriff’s officials said. The shots were believed to have been fired from a passing vehicle, though no specific description was available.
A white Scion initially described by investigators as a suspect vehicle has been found and determined not to have been the killer’s car, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
Rodriguez and Villegas died at the scene.
Patrick Maxwell, who served as captain of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station while Rodriguez volunteered there and has since been promoted to the rank of commander, described Rodriguez as a selfless and eager young man who was always polite and respectful. he has a lifelong dream of becoming a sheriff’s deputy, Maxwell said, and had turned in his application to join the sheriff’s department as a deputy a week before his killing.
At Rodriguez’s funeral, then-sheriff Lee Baca said Rodriguez was an exemplary Explorer Scout and a leader who was on a “noble path.”
Rodriguez was buried in his Explorer uniform.
The search for the killer or killers of Rodriguez and Villegas continues, and detectives have followed up on new clues in the case in recent months, Corina said.
A motive was not known with certainty, however Corina said investigators suspected the killings stemmed from a gang shooting.
George Rodriguez said the family remained hopeful the case would be solved, and Cesar Rodriguez’s killer or killers will be brought to justice.
Former sheriff Baca had promised the family the investigation would be a top priority of the sheriff’s department, George Rodriguez said. The brother said he hoped that would remain true under the department’s new leadership following the November runoff election for sheriff between Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka.
Anyone with information on the double-fatal shooting is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
PHOTO of Cesar Rodriguez courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
LA VERNE >> Police and school officials placed Bonita High School in La Verne on lockdown Wednesday after an anonymous tipster reported a student had brought a gun to the campus, authorities said. No weapon was found.
The La Verne Police Department received an anonymous phone call about 10:30 a.m. reporting had a handgun with him at the campus, 3102 D Street, Bonita Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Curtis Frick said.
“The administration, as we’ve practiced many times, put the school in a lockdown to secure the campus,” Frick said. “Police arrived and began investigation.”
The school remained locked down for about an hour, he said. The lockdown was lifted about 11:40 a.m., after investigators determined there was no weapon on campus.
Students were released at noon, Frick said. An early release schedule was already planned Wednesday to accommodate a staff development day.
The phone call made to La Verne police came from what appeared to be a prepaid cell phone, La Verne police Lt. Tom Frayeh said.
Police were looking into the possibility the unfounded phone call was related to an incident that had just unfolded at the school, the lieutenant added.
Just prior to the phone call, police and school officials had detained a 15-year-old sophomore on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sales at the school, Frayeh said. The teen was arrested and released to his parents with a court date.
But a second 15-year-old boy, who police suspected was trying to buy marijuana from the other boy, ran from the school, police said.
As police were searching for the second teen, the anonymous phone call reporting a weapon on campus was received, Frayeh said.
Though a concrete link had not been established, police were looking into the possibility someone may have made the bogus report to distract officials from their search for the second teen, Frayeh said.
The freshman was found and arrested about the same time the phone call came in, he added.
For the second time in two weeks, Arcadia residents found themselves face to face with armed robbers inside their homes.
Three robbers forced their way into a home in the 1000 block North First Avenue about noon Tuesday.
Home-invasion robbers barged into another home shortly before 11 p.m. Aug. 15 about three miles away in the 600 block of West Lemon Avenue. The frightened family members climbed out a second-floor window of their home and jumped from the roof to escape the robbers.
Three robbers were believed to be involved in both crimes, however their descriptions differed.
Both cases are being investigated by the Arcadia Police Department.
COVINA >> A man suffered a gunshot wound to his abdomen when an argument escalated into a shooting in a residential neighborhood near Covina early Sunday, authorities said.
Few details were initially available as detectives continued investigating the scene of the shooting, which was reported about 3:40 a.m. in the 16600 block of Kingside Drive, in an unincorporated county area just west of Covina, Sgt. Louis Serrano of the sheriff’s San Dimas Station said.
The wounded man was taken to a hospital, where he was listed stable condition, Serrano said.
Several people were being detained in connection with the shooting, however no formal arrests had been made, the sergeant said. “The situation is evolving right now.”
Further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were not available.
A news videographer at the scene said a silver Nissan Altima was at the home with a shattered rear window.
SAN DIMAS >> A Covina man died late Saturday in a crash on the 10 Freeway in San Dimas, authorities said.
Wilfredo Matos Jr. was killed in the 10 p.m. crash on the westbound 10 Freeway, just east of Via Verde, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
He was driving a 1997 Nissan in the No. 3 lane, passing a 2005 Ford in the right-hand lane, just prior to the collision, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement.
Witnesses indicated the Nissan, “executed an unsafe lane change,” the statement said. The right, rear portion of Matos’ Nissan struck the front, left portion of the Ford.
Officials said the Nissan then skidded out of control, ultimately slamming into a tree along the right side of the freeway.
Paramedics pronounced Matos dead at the scene, Corral said.
The 17-year-old Covina boy driving the Ford and his passenger, a 27-year-old Covina man, were unhurt, according to the CHP.
The crash was being investigated by the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.
GLENDORA >> Police arrested five DUI suspects during a checkpoint late Friday and early Saturday, including one with a blood-alcohol level three times greater than the legal limit, officials said.
The checkpoint was held from 6 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday on Grand Avenue, Glendora police Senior Community Service Officer Wendy Brewer said. Brewer also coordinates a regional, multi-agency anti-DUI task force known as “Avoid the 100.”
In addition to the five suspected intoxicated drivers, police also arrested seven people for driving without licenses or identification, and one person was jailed due to an outstanding warrant, Glendora police Sgt. Marty Barrett said.
Officers cited 27 unlicensed drivers and 20 drivers with suspended licenses, Barrett said. Twenty-four vehicles were impounded as a result of the checkpoint.
Officers from the Pomona, La Verne and Azusa police departments joined Glendora police at the checkpoint, Brewer said.
Funding for the checkpoint was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
ALTADENA >> An 85-year-old Altadena man escaped serious injury or worse Saturday after accidentally driving his car into a backyard swimming pool, authorities said.
The man was pulling into his garage just before noon in the 2700 block of Scripps Place when the crash occurred, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Jeff Sims said.
The driver told rescuers his footwear was to blame, as his flip-flops had become tangled with the pedals, causing him to lose control of the car, the captain said.
The car went through a rear garage door and into a backyard swimming pool, ending up fully submerged Sims said.
“The gentleman that was in the vehicle was able to get himself out of there,” he said.
Paramedics examined him and found no significant injuries, and the driver declined to be taken to a hospital, Sims said.
Sims said the driver was fortunate to have avoided more serious injury, and that he was able to safely get out of the submerged car.
“It could have been worse,” he said.
LAKEWOOD >> A sheriff’s deputy was suffered major injuries Friday when he was badly beaten in an unexpected attack at the Lakewood Center shopping mall, authorities said.
Frankie Estrada, 21, was ultimately arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of a peace officer following the incident, which unfolded about 8 p.m. at the mall, 500 Lakewood Center Mall, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Reveles said.
Deputies went to the mall to investigate a report of a domestic disturbance between a man and woman, officials said. One deputy located the woman, while the second deputy sought out the man.
“While escorting the man out of the location towards the other deputy, the man unexpectedly turned on the deputy and hit him several times, knocking the deputy to the ground, and continued his assault with a shod foot,” Reveles said in a written statement.
“A bystander in the mall witnessing the assault intervened by pushing the suspect away from the deputy. Assisting deputies arrived, and took the suspect into custody without further incident,” Reveles said.
The deputy was hospitalized in critical-but-stable condition, Reveles said.
Estrada was being held in lieu of $1 million bail, according to county booking records. He was scheduled to appear in Bellflower Superior Court Tuesday for an arraignment hearing.
ARCADIA >> A family of three escaped from a home-invasion robbery late Friday by jumping from the roof of their Arcadia home, officials said.
A man and wife estimated to be in their 50s and their son, estimated to be in his 20s, were inside a home in the 600 block of West Lemon Avenue when three robbers broke into the home through an unlocked rear window shortly before 11 p.m., according to Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro.
The victims saw two of the robbers, but only heard the third, he said. One of the robbers brandished a dark-colored handgun.
“The suspects took the victims to an upstairs bedroom where they were forced to lie face down on the floor,” Castro said. “One of the suspects held the victims at gunpoint while the other two ransacked the house.”
But the gunman became distracted while talking to his accomplices, and the family saw their opportunity to escape, Castro said.
“When the suspect was not watching, the victims got up, raced to the window, pushed out the screen and jumped onto the roof. The victims then jumped from the roof to the front yard where they were screaming for help.”
Neighbors called 9-1-1 after hearing the screams, Castro said. Police searched the area but did not find the robbers, who were believed to have fled out of the back of the home, Castro said.
Two of the victims were hurt jumping from the roof, Castro said. The husband suffered an injury to his leg and possibly a broken bone, while his wife suffered apparently minor injuries, the lieutenant said.
The son suffered injuries described as bumps and bruises.
The two robbers who were seen by the victims were described only as two black men, one wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and the other wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.
Because the home was ransacked and the homeowners were hospitalized, it was not clear what the robbers stole during the break-in, Castro said.
No one appeared to be home at the house Saturday afternoon.
There was no apparent reason the robbers targeted the family, Castro said.
A sign on the front lawn indicated the home is protected by a burglar alarm.
A married couple that lives nearby, who asked that their names not be published for fear of retaliation, said they were watching TV when the robbery occurred and heard nothing out of the ordinary until they noticed police outside.
“We locked the doors and set the alarm,” the wife said.
The couple said they only knew the residents of the home from brief greetings in the neighborhood.
“It’s terrible,” the wife said. After two decades of relative tranquility in the area, the woman said it seemed crime has been creeping closer and closer over the past two to three years.
“We’re thinking about installing metal bars on our windows,” the husband said.
Jose Antonio Parra, a 35-year-old father of three, died after he was shot during a Dec. 12. 2011, home-invasion robbery about two miles away, in the in the 11000 block of Kristi Court. A robber or robbers confronted Parra and his family when they arrived home and robbed them of their rent money, investigators said. The robber then forced Parra’s girlfriend and three children into a bedroom before fatally shooting Parra.
Most recently in the San Gabriel Valley, a West Covina woman and her elderly mother became the victims of a home-invasion robbery July 6 in the 3000 block of Larkwood Street, according to West Covina police officials. The daughter was struck in the head during the crime and suffered a minor injury. The two robbers fled with cash, jewelry, electronics and a safe.
Anyone with information on Friday’s robbery in Arcadia was asked to contact Arcadia police at 626-574-5150. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PASADENA >> Three men were wounded in a shooting that took place following the conclusion of summer festivities at Robinson Park in Pasadena late Friday, authorities said.
The shooting took place just before 11:10 p.m. in a parking lot at the northwest corner of Robinson Park, at Fair Oaks Avenue and Hammond Street, Pasadena police Lt. Ed Calatayud said.
It occurred following the city’s final “Parks After Dark” event, which have been taking place regularly through the summer.
Police officers heard the sound of gunfire coming from the area and rushed to the scene, he said. Police received a 9-1-1 call about the same time reporting “shots fired.”
“There’s a group of somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 people running from the scene,” the lieutenant said. “Officers came across three victims.”
One of the men was shot in the torso, shoulder and leg, Calatayud said. After undergoing surgery at a hospital, he was listed in serious-but-stable condition.
Another victim was wounded in the buttocks, and the third was shot in the hand, police said. Neither wound was believed to be life-threatening.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were available Saturday, nor was any information regarding a suspect description or motive, Lt. John Luna said.
Police did not receive reports of any fights preceding the shooting, he added.
Police continued working an “active crime scene” beyond 2 a.m. Saturday.