UPDATED: Duarte man accused of murder after fatal shooting of neighbor, pursuit

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DUARTE >> A Duarte man shot and killed his neighbor Friday night before leading police on a chase that ended with his arrest in Azusa, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 7:55 p.m. in the 2100 block of Broach Avenue, Deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, 35, died in the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Luis Valdes-Santillan, 40, was booked on suspicion of murder, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
De La Torre and Valdes-Santillan lived in separate homes on the same lot, Hernandez said. Both attended a party being held at another neighbor’s home.
“At some point during the party, the victim and the suspect began to argue,” she said. “The suspect then entered his residence, retrieved a handgun, exited, and fired multiple rounds at the victim, striking him.”
De La Torre died at the scene.
Witnesses told deputies the shooter had fled in a white Toyota work truck, officials said.
Deputies soon spotted the truck nearby. The driver refused to pull over, initiating a pursuit.
The chase headed down Duarte Road and Huntington Drive before ultimately making its way onto the eastbound 210 Freeway, according to sheriff’s radio traffic.
A helicopter joined in the pursuit before Valdes-Santillan stopped and surrendered on the Azusa Avenue offramp in Azusa.
“A weapon was recovered inside the suspect’s vehicle,” Hernandez said.
The man was taken to the sheriff’s Temple Station for questioning, officials said. He was ultimately booked on suspicion of murder.
Valdes-Santillan was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Alhambra branch, records show.
No further details were released as the investigation continued Saturday.
De La Torre’s brother-in-law, Bobby Serna, said De La Torre is survived by his wife and three step-daughters who he had helped raise. The youngest of his step-daughters is a teenager.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Serna said. “He took a really good man that I looked up to. I loved him, I really did.”
Serna, who was not present when the shooting occurred, said his brother-in-law was gathered with family members behind his home, along with Valdes-Santillan.
It was unclear what angered Valdes-Santillan and prompted him to retrieve a gun from his home.
The suspect made a statement to the effect of, “Who wants it first?” before opening fire, Serna said.
Until the gunshots were fired, “Nobody even knew it was happening,” he said.
Serna said he did not know whether De La Torre was specifically targeted in the shooting.
“He was such a good man,” Serna said of his brother-in-law.
De La Torre migrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager and had been working as a subcontracting electrician, he said. De La Torre’s white work van with a ladder affixed to the top remained parked in front of the home Saturday.
He was saving money and planning to obtain his contractor’s license, so he could start his own contractor business, Serna said.
“He would help anybody,” Serna said. “He really valued family. He loved kids. He was a hard worker.”
De La Torre’s personality was “quiet but humorous,” he said.
“My daughters are devastated. They loved their uncle,” Serna said.
Funds to benefit De La Torre’s family are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/2ksz74hg.
Anyone with information can reach 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.

PHOTO: Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, courtesy

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Elderly man who went missing in Arcadia found safe

ARCADIA >> An elderly man from China who went missing in Arcadia while visiting family Thursday morning turned up safe Thursday night, police said.
Tong Huang, 78, was reported missing after he went for a walk in Arcadia and failed to return, Arcadia police officials said in a written statement. The senior, who speaks only Mandarin, was visiting family from China and had been in the U.S. for about a month.
But the search was called off after Huang was found safe and reunited with his family Thursday night, police said.
A good Samaritan spotted Huang at a Pasadena supermarket late Thursday and thought he appeared lost, Lt. Tom Cullen said.
The good Samaritan provided Huang with a ride home, he said. Once there, Huang’s family notified police that he had returned home safely.

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‘Baggy Eyes Bandit’ sought in 4-county bank robbery spree

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The FBI is seeking a possibly sleep deprived serial bank robber dubbed the “Baggy Eyes Bandit” in connection with a spate of six bank heists in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside counties dating back to late-February, officials said.
The bandit, who earned his nickname due to witnesses describing him as having “baggy eyes,” is linked to five bank robberies and one failed bank robbery, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
“The suspect known as the Baggy Eyes Bandit enters the bank branch and passes a note to the victim tellers demanding cash while threatening a weapon,” Eimiller said in a written statement. “No weapon has been seen by witnesses, however, the suspect should be considered potentially armed and dangerous.”
Each of the robberies took place at Citibank branches.
Eimiller said the serial robber has been linked to a robbery Wednesday at a Norco branch; an Aug. 4 robbery at a Chino Hills branch; a July 14 heist at a Rancho Cucamonga branch; a March 4 failed robbery in Arcadia; a March 4 robbery in Placentia and a Feb 29 robbery in Glendora.
In each case, the bandit was last seen fleeing on foot. No getaway car has been reported in connection with the crimes.
He’s described as a white man in hiss mid-20s, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, of thin build. He wears a dark baseball cap during the robberies, and some victims described him as having a Middle Eastern accent.
Anyone with information can reach the 24-hour tip line of the FBI’s Los Angeles office at 310-477-6565. Anyone who spots the bandit is urged to call 911.

PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI

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UPDATED: 3 jailed, 1 sought in La Habra pharmacy break-in


LA HABRA >> Police jailed three suspects and sought another following a break-in targeting prescription drugs at a La Habra pharmacy early Friday morning, authorities said.
An alarm activation at 3:30 a.m. first attracted the attention of police to Central Drugs, 520 W. La Habra Blvd., La Habra police officials said in a written statement.
The first officer to arrive on-scene spotted a suspicious silver Hyundai Sonata near the pharmacy, but it immediately sped away once the driver spotted the patrol car, according to the statement.
The driver of the Honda fled, but soon crashed into a wall at a dead end in the 700 block of West First Avenue, police said.
The driver, later identified at Daniel Estrada, 29, of Apple Valley, allegedly put the car into reverse and rammed the police car. He and passenger Lina Medina, 24, of Rialto, where then taken into custody.
“While this was occurring, two additional suspects, who had still been in the business when the officers arrived, fled the area on foot,” according to the statement.
Officers searched the area and found Gabriel Pille, 23, of Fontana behind a nearby supermarket and arrested him. The fourth and final suspect evaded police, but officers recovered “numerous pieces of evidence,” including recovered prescription drugs.
Police recovered thousands of prescription painkillers such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone from the suspects, Sgt. Ron Hurst said.
The investigation was ongoing.
Estrada and Pille were booked on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy, police said. Estrada is additionally accused of assault on a peace officer. Media was booked on suspicion of conspiracy.
Anyone with information can reach La Habra police at 562-383-4300. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online at www.tip411.com.

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West Covina police officer wounded in gunfight returns to duty

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WEST COVINA >> A West Covina police officer wounded in a gunfight with a suspect returned to duty this week after recovering from his injuries.
Officer Kenny Benitez was allegedly shot by 47-year-old Jose Luis Chavez during a May 20 confrontation on Yaleton Avenue, just north of Badillo Street, according to West Covina police and Los Angeles Count sheriff’s officials. Chavez, who was also wounded in the encounter, was captured in nearby Valinda following a six-day manhunt, faces charges of attempted murder of a police officer, assault on a police officer with a semi-automatic firearm and possession of a gun by a convicted felon.
The West Covina Police Department’s briefing room was extra crowded Thursday night as fellow officer and other colleagues attended the briefing to welcome Benitez back to his first shift after three months of recovery, West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner said.
“Ken was severely injured when he was shot in May and his quick recovery is nothing short of miraculous under the circumstances,” the chief said.
0820_NWS_SGT-L-OFFICER2“Officer Benitez is a strong young man and was driven to return back to work in support of his fellow officers in the field,” Faulkner said. “We are very proud of Officer Benitez and how he handled this injury. Ken has set a solid example for our personnel for many years to come.”
Benitez has been a police officer for nine years, and had worked with the West Covina Police Department of a little over a year at the time of the shooting.
Benitez approached Chavez as he walked with a woman, pushing a bicycle, when Chavez pulled a handgun and opened fire multiple times, officials said. Benitez was wounded but returned fire.
The alleged shooter, later identified as Chavez, initially escaped the scene but was captured by a sheriff’s SWAT team the following week in the unincorporated county area of Valinda. He was found to have a days-old gunshot wound to his arm.
Chavez has yet to enter a plea to his charges in connection with the shooting of Benitez.
His arraignment hearing has been postponed four times, and his now scheduled to take place Sept. 6 in West Covina Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Chavez is also scheduled to be sentenced for another criminal case on Sept. 6, she said. He pleaded “no contest” in April to possession of drugs for sale, bringing contraband into a jail and possession of a switchblade knife. That case was first filed in December of 2015.

PHOTOS: [ABOVE] West Covina Police Chief David Faulkner, left, welcomed Officer Kenny Benitez back to duty on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, on his first night of patrol following after being wounded in a gunfight with a suspect three months ago. [BELOW] Jose Luis Chavez (Courtesy, West Covina Police Department)

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Police to hold checkpoint in Whittier Friday night

WHITTIER >> Police are planning to screen drivers for sobriety and licenses during a checkpoint Friday night, officials said.
The checkpoint will be held from 7 p.m. Friday to 2:30 a.m. Saturday at an undisclosed location within Whittier, Whittier police Sgt. David Elizarraras said in a written statement.
Over the past three years, 327 DUI-related crashes in Whittier have claimed four lives and caused another 148 injuries, the sergeant 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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Elderly man visiting Arcadia from China reported missing

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ARCADIA >> Police are seeking a 78-year-old man visiting Arcadia from China who went for a walk and never returned Thursday morning.
Tong Huang was last seen about 7:30 a.m. on the area Huntington Drive and Sunset Boulevard, Arcadia police said in a written statement.
Huang, who is visiting family in Arcadia, has been in the U.S. for about a month and speaks only Mandarin, police said.
“Mr. Huang has been in the habit of taking a morning walk and did so this morning, however, did not return as usual,” according to the police statement. “He has no money, no phone, and no destination other than the Arcadia relatives. Mr. Huang is in good health.”
He’s described as Asian, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 140 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a white shirt, gray pants and black shoes.
Anyone who spots Huang is asked to contact local law enforcement, or Arcadia police at 626-574-5123.

PHOTO of Tong Huang courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.

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Man beaten, stabbed along sidewalk in South Whittier


SOUTH WHITTIER >> A man was beaten and stabbed with an ice pick by a group of three attackers as he walked along a South Whittier sidewalk early Wednesday, officials said.
A 25-year-old Montebello man was walking along Mulberry Drive, at Calmada Avenue, about 12:50 a.m. when a dark sedan approached and three attackers got out, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Robin Limon said.
The victim told investigators he was “jumped” by the trio, she said. One of them stabbed him in the torso with an ice pick during the assault.
Paramedics took the injured man to a hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening, Limon said.
No further information, including a detailed description of the suspects, were available.

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Ex-Ontario tool company exec from San Dimas gets 5 years for bank fraud

LOS ANGELES >> A San Dimas mad who formerly served as vice president of an Ontario-based tool company received a sentence of more than 5 years in federal prison Wednesday for a $9.6 million bank fraud scheme, authorities said.
Chung Yu Yeung, 39, pleaded guilty in late-March to four counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
At his sentencing hearing Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder sentenced Yeung to 63 months in prison and ordered him to pay $9,618,908 in restitution to his victim, East West Bank, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
He was also ordered to forfeit a property in San Dimas that he purchased “with proceeds of the scheme,” Mrozek said.
Yeung previously admitted that while working at Eastern Tools and Equipment Inc., Yeung admitted that he and his co-conspirators defrauded East West Bank by misrepresenting the company’s accounts receivable and financial statements in order to obtain loans the company otherwise would not have been able to get, Mrozek explained.
“The conspirators created numerous shell corporations to act as purported suppliers and retailers doing business with Eastern Tools, when, in reality, these shell corporations were entirely under the control of Yeung and existed for the sole purpose of creating the illusion of such business,” Mrozek said. “Yeung also admitted that the fictitious companies allowed Yeung and other conspirators to falsely inflate Eastern Tools’ accounts receivable and financial statements in representations to East West Bank.”
“Yeung created companies and profits that were nothing but illusions, tricking a bank into loaning him millions of dollars,” U.S. Attorney in the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker said. “This was a sophisticated crime that caused substantial losses, warranting the punishment imposed by the Court today.”
Yeung’s co-defendant in the case, former Eastern Tools president Guo Xiang Fan, remains a fugitive, Mrozek said.
IRS Criminal Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando described the scene as “truly astounding.”
“(It) illustrates the lengths to which fraudsters will go to game the financial system for personal gain. IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to work with our law enforcement partners by lending our financial expertise in these complex investigations,” he said.

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One suspect released, the other charged in fatal Covina shooting

Police have Clearman's North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

COVINA >> Authorities have released one of two suspects in the weekend slaying of a 20-year-old Covina man stemming from an alleged robbery and filed charges against the other, officials said Wednesday.
Covina police arrested Christopher Avila, 20, and Adam Hernandez, 21, both of Covina, on suspicion of murder the day after Saturday’s late-morning shooting in a restaurant parking lot that left Isaac Urena dead.
But prosecutors declined to file a case against Avila, sending the case back “for further investigation,” according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
Avila was released from jail Tuesday morning, Los Angeles County booking records show.
District attorney’s officials filed a county of acting as an accessory to the killing after the fact, Ardalani said.
A scheduled arraignment hearing for Hernandez on Tuesday was postponed to Monday.
According to booking records, Hernandez was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Covina Police Department Jail.
The fatal shooting took place shortly before noon after Urena was driven by a friend to the parking lot of Clearman’s North Woods Inn, along San Bernardino Road, just east of Azusa Avenue.
Urena had arranged to sell some jewelry via the online app OfferUp, according to police.

A man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. Police have the victim's body covered by a tent awaiting the Coroner Department's arrival. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

But the transaction turned deadly, and Urena was fatally shot, Peterson said.
His friend drove across the city border to the parking lot of Faith Community Church in West Covina where paramedics pronounced Urena dead, officials said.
Despite Avila’s release without charges, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said he remains the suspect in the fatal shooting of Urena.
“We’re confident we’ve identified the people responsible,” he said.
No additional suspects were being sought, he added.
Hernandez is accused of driving the car that brought the gunman to the scene, and Avila is suspected of wielding the gun, Peterson said.
Detectives will continue building their case, gathering evidence and conducting witness interviews
“We’ll continue working with detectives, and with the District Attorney, to ensure charged are filed when warranted,” Peterson said.
Detectives recovered a handgun while serving search warrants at the suspects’ homes, Peterson said. The results of forensic tests to determine whether the seized gun is the same one that killed Urena were still pending Wednesday.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS by Leo Jarzomb

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