EL MONTE >> A task force targeting auto theft and street racing issued more than 100 citations late Wednesday at a meeting of car enthusiasts along Valley Boulevard in El Monte, officials said.
Dozens of police officers, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and other law enforcement officials took part in the enforcement operation, which took place Wednesday night at a shopping center parking lot along Valley Boulevard, just south of the 10 Freeway, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said.
‘At least 115 vehicle citations were issued,” Luna said. “There were over 135 vehicle inspections done.”
The majority of tickets were issued for illegal vehicle modifications, such as exhaust systems, improper lighting and nitrous oxide boosters, Luna said.
A man was arrested after officials discovered the engine in his car was stolen, he said.
The operation was carried out in response to complaints emanating from the parking lot, which police said has recently become popular with car enthusiasts. It was spearheaded by the multi-agency Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention.
“For the past several weeks, groups of people have congregated there on Wednesday nights,” Luna said. “The vehicles are modified and have several changes to them for the purpose of racing.”
Complaints include revving engines, as well as drinking and drug use, the sergeant said.
A man began serving a six-year prison sentenced this week after he was convicted of 12 counts of arson for torching cars and brush near his South Pasadena home.
The five-month arson spree of Javier Adolfo Viera, 36, began in November of 2012 and ended with his arrest in April of 2013, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Frances Young of the DA’s Arson-Explosives Section said.
An Alhambra Superior Court jury convicted him Tuesday of one count of arson and was continuing to deliberate on the other 11 counts when Viera announced he would plead “no contest” to the remaining charges, Young said.
He was immediately sentenced to six years in state prison and ordered to register on a state database of arsonists.
The arson fires targeted six cars and six spots of brush in the general vicinity of the Arroyo Seco, Young said. He began lighting brush fires before graduating to vehicles.
Viera told investigators he lit the fires out of jealousy and frustration.
“He was not happy with the way his life turned out. He begrudged people their good fortunes,” the prosecutor said.
The cars scorched by the arsonist included a Mercedes-Benz, an Audi, a new Volkswagen, a Honda Hybrid, a Toyota Prius and a 1972 International Harvester Scout, Young said.
“They were all really nice cars,” she added.
The fires appeared to be growing increasingly more dangerous, with one lit only inches away from a 10-unit apartment building. The cars were torched while parked in residential neighborhoods.
Following his arrest after his final car fire in Los Angeles, Viera confessed to other arsons, South Pasadena police Sgt. Robert Bartl said at the time. He told police he never meant to hurt anyone and needed help.
The brush fires all remained small, largely due to vigilant neighbors who spotted and doused the fires with water bottles and garden hoses while they remained small, Young said.
The brush fires were lit with toilet paper and cotton balls, Bartl said.
When he switched to lighting car fires, he began using trash bags full of pine needles with he left beneath the cars’ gas tanks and set afire, police said.
Viera was initially charged with 18 counts of arson, though six of the counts were dismissed prior to trial, Young said.
Additionally, investigators were looking into him in connection with at least eight additional fires in South Pasadena, Pasadena and Los Angeles, though no charges have been filed in those cases.
Viera was ordered back to court for a restitution hearing Aug. 22, Young said. He was disputing the $109,000 in alleged damages the prosecutor said he owed the victim for the damage he caused.
PASADENA >> A 24-year-old ironworker died at a hospital over the weekend after he was injured in a fall while working at an office building construction site in Pasadena, officials confirmed Thursday.
Robert Carrasco died Sunday at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena hospital, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. His city of residence was not clear.
He was injured about 10 a.m. July 9 while working at the construction site for the five-story Playhouse Plaza office building, at the southeast corner of Colorado Boulevard and El Molina Avenue, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
Carrasco had taken a fall from about 15 feet up and suffered major blunt force injuries, she said. He was hospitalized in severe condition.
Carrasco succumbed to his injuries shortly before noon Sunday, Winter said. An autopsy was pending.
A large beam atop the massive construction project was painted with yellow letters reading, “Dedicated to Robert Carrasco IW Local 433.”
“We would like to send our condolences to the Family of Robert Carrasco,” a statement on the Ironworkers Local 433 website read. “Robert passed away on 7/13/2014 as a result of an on the job injury. If you would like to make a donation to the family you may due so at any of the Union Halls.”
Funeral services had no yet been scheduled, according to the union.
Further details of the incident were not available. An investigation was to be carried out by the California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
PASADENA >> A terrified family of six found themselves in the midst of a hail of bullets Saturday afternoon when they arrived home just as a shooting rampage began that left three people dead and two others wounded.
Sandra Barraza, 37, her husband, Alfredo Garcia, 41, and their four children had just returned from the store when they noticed a police SUV and a patrol car parked in front of their house, Garcia said.
They did not see the body of a woman who had been fatally shot lying behind a tree across the street, or the body of a man who also had been shot to death just up the street.
Suddenly, a group of police officers carrying rifles yelled to the family to get inside.
“We took two steps, and the shooting started,” said the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Melissa Perez. Also in the driveway were Perez’s 12- and 15-year-old brothers and her 16-year-old sister.
An officer fled to cover behind the police SUV as the gunman, later identified by police as 44-year-old John Izeal Smith of Pasadena, continued shooting, riddling the vehicle with bullets. The family stood directly behind the SUV when the gunfire began.
Bullets flew on both sides of the family’s driveway as they ran for their home, Sandra Barraza said. Her husband added that he could see smoke rising from the AK-47-type rifle wielded by the gunman as he fired from the front lawn of the home across the street.
“It was horrible. Like a movie scene,” Barraza said. “I was so scared. He was right in front of us.”
Photo by James Carbone
WALNUT — A 68-year-old Walnut man died late Saturday after his vehicle struck a utility pole near Mt. SAC, authorities said.
Loi Van Nguyen died at the scene of the crash, which took place about 7 p.m. on Temple Avenue at Service Road, according to Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said and California Highway Patrol Officer Monica Posada.
No further details were available regarding the crash, which was being investigated by the Baldwin Park Office of the CHP.
PASADENA — Coroner’s officials Sunday released the name of one of three people killed in a mass shooting on a residential Pasadena street that also left two others wounded.
Maria Teresa Aguiar, 59, died along with two men at the scene of Saturday’s deadly rampage in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
Her city of residence was not yet listed at the coroner’s office Sunday morning, however public records indicated Aguiar lived on the street where the shooting took place. A phone number listed as belonging to Aguiar was not working.
The identities of the two men killed in the attack have not been released.
A man and woman were also shot by suspect John Izeal Smith of Pasadena, who eventually surrendered to police after firing on an officer with a semi-automatic rifle and engaging in a brief stand-off, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said.
“We’re talking upwards of 40 rounds that were fired,” the chief said. Police did not return fire.
INDUSTRY — Two men and a woman died early Sunday after the car they were riding in went off the side of the 60 Freeway in Industry, landing in a construction site, authorities said.
The crash occurred just before 6:50 a.m. on the westbound 60 Freeway at Crossroads Parkway, California Highway Patrol Officer Monica Posada said.
A Kia Soul was traveling at an undetermined speed when it veered to the right of the road, and across the onramp and offramp for the westbound 60 Freeway, she said.
“The vehicle went off the freeway,” Posada said. “At some point, it went airborne and ended up in a construction site.”
The three occupants of the Kia were pronounced dead at the scene, officials said. They were initially described as two men and a woman in their 20s.
A Sig Alert remained in effect for several hours for the onramp and offramp to the westbound 60 Freeway as officers from the Santa Fe Springs office of the CHP conducted an investigation.
PHOTO courtesy of the CHP.
SOUTH WHITTIER — A shooting suspect who was believed holed-up inside a South Whittier apartment remained at large late Saturday after a SWAT team forced their way into the home following a five-hour stand-off and did not find the man, authorities said.
The incident began about 3:15 p.m. when deputies received several 9-1-1 calls reporting a man was shooting at someone in a strip mall parking lot in the 15600 block of Leffingwell Road, in an unincorporated county area south of Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Navares said.
The victim did not report the shooting and did not turn up at any local hospitals, Navares said. It was not known whether he was struck by the gunfire.
Navares said the shooter drove a car next door to an apartment complex, where he was seen running into an apartment, the sergeant said.
Deputies surrounded the apartment and summoned a SWAT team, he said. Officials ordered anyone inside the apartment to come out with no response. The SWAT team entered the apartment about 9 p.m., finding no one inside.
The name of the suspect, a man in his mid-30s, was known to investigators but not released Saturday.
The suspect’s car was taken as evidence, Navares said.
PASADENA >> A man armed with a rifle allegedly shot and killed three people, wounded two more and opened fire on a police officer before ultimately surrendering Saturday afternoon.
The 4:20 p.m. shooting in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue was believed to have stemmed from a dispute between a landlord and tenant, though the details were not yet clear, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said.
The shooter was identified as 35-year-old John Izeal Smith of Pasadena.
Photo by James Carbone
WEST COVINA — A man accidentally shot his son-in-law while showing him a handgun Friday afternoon, police said.
The incident, which was being investigated as an accidental shooting, was reported about 4:40 p.m. at a home in the 900 block of South Russelee Drive, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
A 9mm bullet penetrated a 28-year-old man’s wrist after the handgun, which his father-in-law was holding, discharged, the lieutenant said.
“He was reportedly showing a weapon to a relative when the weapon inadvertently went off,” Patton said.
Paramedics took the injured man to a hospital with an injury not considered to be life-threatening.
The men’s account of the shooting was corroborated by other witnesses at the scene, Patton added.
Police seized the involved gun, Patton said. Though it appeared the shooting was an accident, “We will do a comprehensive investigation.”