UPDATED: Man and woman shot in West Valinda, crash car in West Covina


A man and woman suffered wounds in a shooting in West Valinda before crashing their car in West Covina late Thursday, authorities said.
The incident was first reported about 9:45 p.m., West Covina police Lt. Travis Tibbetts said.
A car had been involved in a minor crash with another vehicle at Sunset and Merced avenues, he said. The driver and passenger of one of the cars had been shot.
It appeared the crash took place as the woman was trying to drive to a hospital, officials said.
Police soon determined the shooting had taken place across the city border in the unincorporated county area of West Valinda, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. David Contreras said. The specific scene of the shooting had not been found Thursday night.
The male passenger was taken to a hospital where he was rushed into surgery, Contreras said. An update on his condition was not available.
The wounded woman was hospitalized in stable condition, he said.
No further details were available.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man and woman from Bakersfield accused of San Gabriel Valley mail, ID theft spree


SOUTH PASADENA >> Police in South Pasadena arrested a man and woman from Bakersfield on suspicion of stealing packages, mail, credit cards and other items on Wednesday.
Corey Ryan Bihm, 26, and Lauren Helstrom, 29, were booked on suspicion of residential burglary, grand theft, conspiracy and identity theft, according to South Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Police were first summoned to a Vons market at 1129 Fair Oaks Avenue about 5:30 p.m. for a report of shoplifting, South Pasadena police Cpl. Craig Phillips said in a written statement.
“During the shoplifting investigation, officers found dozens of Amazon packages not addressed to either subject inside the vehicle,” Phillips said. Police soon confirmed the packages, valued at $2,700, has been stolen from the front porch of a home in Arcadia.
The suspects’ rental moving van was littered with “bags full of mail,” as well as dozens of stolen credit cards and many items with price tags still attached, according to Phillips. Police determined some of the mail had been stolen in South Pasadena and Arcadia.
Officers also recovered methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia from the suspects, he said. The moving van used by the suspects was later determined to have been stolen.
According to booking records, Bihm was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance. Booking information for Helstrom was not available Thursday afternoon.

PHOTOS courtesy of the South Pasadena Police Department

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Glendora man fatally struck by alleged DUI, hit-and-run driver while working on car


GLENDORA >> A Claremont man is accused of manslaughter, DUI and hit-and-run after he crashed his car into a parked car early Thursday, killing a man who was working under the hood, authorities said.
Mark Stephen Gagliardi, 29, was jailed in connection with the 10:10 a.m. crash along Grand Avenue, just north of Arrow Highway, according to Glendora police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The victim, a 59-year-old Glendora man whose name was not available, was working on his car, which was parked along the east curbline of Grand Avenue, prior to the crash, Glendora police Cpl. Bill Lee said.
Gagliardi was northbound on Grand Avenue when his Scion xB veered toward the side of the road and rear-ended the victim’s parked vehicle, according to the corporal. The impact pushed the victim’s vehicle forward, crushing him between his own vehicle and another vehicle parked in front of it.
Paramedics treated the badly injured man at the scene and took him to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later, Lee said.
The driver, later identified as Gagliardi, tried to drive away, Lee said. But his car, which was damaged in the collision, broke down less than half a mile away. Officers arrested him without a struggle.
Gagliardi was ultimately booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, DUI and felony hit-and-run, Lee said.
According to county booking records, Gagliardi was being held in lieu of $136,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

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LOS ANGELES >> The head of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Los Angeles has cautioned Southland police departments to watch out for the “growing trend” of law enforcement officers engaging in unlicensed, illegal firearms dealing.
In an advisory distributed to area police and sheriff’s departments and dated March 31, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF in Los Angeles Eric D. Harden warned the agency has learned of an “emerging problem” with respect to law enforcement officers buying and then reselling guns, in possible violation of federal firearms law. The involved guns include many which are considered “off-roster” under California law, meaning that they can be purchased only by law enforcement officers and are not available to the general public.
“Recently, ATF has discovered that some law enforcement officers who do not have a (Federal Firearms License) are purchasing ‘off roster’ firearms and reselling those firearms to non-law enforcement entities for a profit,” Harden wrote.
Some of the weapons have turned up at crime scenes.
“In some instances, ATF has discovered officers who purchased more than 100 “off roster” firearms that were subsequently transferred to non-law enforcement individuals,” Harden continued. “Such transactions potentially constitute violations of federal firearms laws, to include dealing firearms without a FFL, and lying on a federal firearms form when purchasing said firearm — also known as “straw purchasing.”
Officials declined to provide details regarding the incidents described in the advisory.
ATF agents conducted a search at a Sierra Madre home of a Pasadena police lieutenant.
Officials reportedly seized numerous large gun cases from the home, however no arrests were made. Federal officials released no information about the raid, and Pasadena police have deferred to the ATF for comment.
ATF Spokeswoman Ginger Colburn said the agency could not discuss whether the February raid helped prompt the ATF advisory.
“As a matter of (Department of Justice) policy, ATF cannot comment on any ongoing investigation or confirm individuals involved,” she said.
The lieutenant remains on paid leave pending the investigation, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said. He declined to comment further.
The involved lieutenant has also declined to comment.
While individuals can sell personal firearms without a federal firearms license, anyone engaged in the business of firearms sales must obtain a federal license, ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colburn said.
Harden also noted in the letter that filling out paperwork while purchasing a firearm to indicate the weapon personal use while intending to sell it or otherwise give to someone else is also a federal crime for anyone, including law enforcement.
A conviction for dealing in firearms without a license carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Making a false statement to a Federal firearms licensee when acquiring a firearm carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Harden’s advisory described the issue as a “growing trend.”
“ATF believed education is the most effective way to stop the growing trend of law enforcement officials engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms dealings,” Harden said in the advisory.
“It is our goal to educate, not investigate, to ensure law enforcement officials comply with federal law in order to avoid unnecessary public embarrassment to themselves and your Department/Agency,” he said.
But he added, “When presented with compelling evidence of flagrant violations of federal firearms laws, ATF is obligated to conduct a criminal investigation.”

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ATF warns of ‘growing trend’ of illegal gun dealing by cops

LOS ANGELES >> The head of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Los Angeles has cautioned Southland police departments to watch out for the “growing trend” of law enforcement officers engaging in unlicensed, illegal firearms dealing.
In an advisory distributed to area police and sheriff’s departments and dated March 31, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF in Los Angeles Eric D. Harden warned the agency has learned of an “emerging problem” with respect to law enforcement officers buying and then reselling guns, in possible violation of federal firearms law. The involved guns include many which are considered “off-roster” under California law, meaning that they can be purchased only by law enforcement officers and are not available to the general public.
“Recently, ATF has discovered that some law enforcement officers who do not have a (Federal Firearms License) are purchasing ‘off roster’ firearms and reselling those firearms to non-law enforcement entities for a profit,” Harden wrote.
Some of the weapons have turned up at crime scenes.
“In some instances, ATF has discovered officers who purchased more than 100 “off roster” firearms that were subsequently transferred to non-law enforcement individuals,” Harden continued. “Such transactions potentially constitute violations of federal firearms laws, to include dealing firearms without a FFL, and lying on a federal firearms form when purchasing said firearm — also known as “straw purchasing.”
Officials declined to provide details regarding the incidents described in the advisory.
ATF agents conducted a search at a Sierra Madre home of a Pasadena police lieutenant.
Officials reportedly seized numerous large gun cases from the home, however no arrests were made. Federal officials released no information about the raid, and Pasadena police have deferred to the ATF for comment.
ATF Spokeswoman Ginger Colburn said the agency could not discuss whether the February raid helped prompt the ATF advisory.
“As a matter of (Department of Justice) policy, ATF cannot comment on any ongoing investigation or confirm individuals involved,” she said.
The lieutenant remains on paid leave pending the investigation, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said. He declined to comment further.
The involved lieutenant has also declined to comment.
While individuals can sell personal firearms without a federal firearms license, anyone engaged in the business of firearms sales must obtain a federal license, ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colburn said.
Harden also noted in the letter that filling out paperwork while purchasing a firearm to indicate the weapon personal use while intending to sell it or otherwise give to someone else is also a federal crime for anyone, including law enforcement.
A conviction for dealing in firearms without a license carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Making a false statement to a Federal firearms licensee when acquiring a firearm carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Harden’s advisory described the issue as a “growing trend.”
“ATF believed education is the most effective way to stop the growing trend of law enforcement officials engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms dealings,” Harden said in the advisory.
“It is our goal to educate, not investigate, to ensure law enforcement officials comply with federal law in order to avoid unnecessary public embarrassment to themselves and your Department/Agency,” he said.
But he added, “When presented with compelling evidence of flagrant violations of federal firearms laws, ATF is obligated to conduct a criminal investigation.”

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Man found shot to death outside Montebello church identified


MONTEBELLO >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a man found shot to death inside a car in a church parking lot in Montebello two weeks ago.
Ricardo Baltazar Mota, 33, died in the shooting, which was reported about 8:30 p.m. on March 27 in the 800 block of North Garfield Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Kelly Yagerliner said. His city of residence was unknown.
Reports of gunfire first led deputies to discover Mota mortally wounded inside a car, which had collided into another parked vehicle in the parking lot of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Catholic Church, according to Sgt. Marcelo Quintero of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. He had been shot multiple times in the upper body.
It appeared Mota had either been parked in the lot, or just pulled in, when the shooting took place.
The circumstances and motive in the attack remained a mystery, and no suspect description was available.
Anyone with information is urged 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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Lakewood man accused of running human trafficking, prostitution ring out of Norwalk escort service

NORWALK >> A sheriff’s task force arrested a Lakewood man and seized 13 guns while dismantling an alleged prostitution and human trafficking ring operating out of a Norwalk escort service last week, authorities announced Wednesday.
Omar Nicandro Sanchez, 37, is also accused of sexually assaulting at least one woman and one underage girl who worked for his illegal escort business, “Bombshells,” which operated out of an office at Studebaker and Leffingwell roads in Norwalk according to California High Patrol Investigator Kerri Rivas of the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, who served as the lead investigator on the case.
The multi-agency task force arrested him Friday at the business, she said. He was released from custody two days later after posting $420,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled April 28 in the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In a written statement, sheriff’s officials described Bombshells as, “an illegal escort business, which supplied women for commercial sex to paying customers.”
Furthermore, “Mr. Sanchez victimized some of the women who worked at the agency and sold their sexual services for money,” Rivas said.
At least one of the sexual assault victims was a juvenile, she said.
The purported Escort service was believed to have been operating in Norwalk for two to three years, Rivas said. It used vague advertisement on websites such as Backpage.com to solicit Johns.
The investigation was ongoing, and investigators were still working to determined exactly how many victims were involved.
Sanchez faces expected charges of human trafficking related to the underage victim, as well as pimping and pandering charges in connection with the adults, Rivas said. He also faces potential charges of rape and sexual assault of a minor.
Additionally, Sanchez is expected to face numerous weapon-related charges after investigator seized 13 guns, including several AR-15 and AK-47-style weapons. “Because of a previous felony conviction, Sanchez is prohibited from possessing firearms,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
The cache of weapons was seized from Sanchez’s home, vehicle and a storage unit he had rented, Rivas said.
Investigators also seized cash believed to be proceeds from the illicit operation, officials said.
The bust was the culmination of a six-month-long investigation that began when some of the victims came forward, Rivas said.
Investigators are seeking any potential additional victims of Sanchez or his operation, she said. Anyone with information can reach the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force at 323-526-5156. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS courtesy of the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force

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Elderly woman with dementia goes missing in Arcadia

ARCADIA >> Authorities are seeking an 88-year-old woman with dementia who went missing in Arcadia on Sunday.
Rongzhen Tu was last seen about 12:40 p.m. on Sunday in the area of Baldwin Avenue and Duarte Road, According to Arcadia police Sgt. Ernest Lopez. She went missing while walking with her caretaker.
“The caretaker lost sight of Yu and was unable to locate her,” Lopez said in a written statement. She’s not seen or heard from since.
Though in good physical health, Yu requires daily medication for dementia, the sergeant said.
Yu speaks Mandarin and Japanese, but not English, Lt. Roy Nakamura said. She had no money or identification with her went she disappeared.
Police described Yu as Chinese, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 110 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen bearing a brown jacket and black pants.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Arcadia Police Department at 626-574-5123.

PHOTO of Rongzhen Tu, 88, courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.

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No injuries reported in Valinda deputy-involved shooting

VALINDA >> A deputy fired a weapon, but no one was injured, while arresting three gang members on Sunday, officials said.
The incident unfolded just after 1 p.m. at Maplegrove Street and Aileron Avenue, Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau said in written statement.
No injuries were reported, and three male suspects were being detained as the investigation continued Sunday afternoon.
In a post on Twitter, Capt. Tim Murakami of the sheriff’s Industry Station described the three suspects as armed gang members.
No further details were available.

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Officials: Man who shot at passing cars, deputies arrested after SWAT standoff near Covina

 
COVINA >> A man shot at passing cars, then opened fire on deputies who responded to the active shooter, before a SWAT team arrested him following an hours-long standoff on Sunday.
The incident began shortly after 9:30 a.m. with reports of a man shooting a gun along Cypress Street, west of Lark Allen Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Elisabeth Sachs said.
“He was shooting at cars passing by,” the lieutenant said.
Deputies also came under fire as they rushed to the scene, she said. A patrol car was struck but no one was injured by the suspect’s gunfire.
“(Deputies) did not return fire based on the suspect’s concealed location near a house,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The gunman fled into a nearby home, on Roxburgh Avenue just north of Cypress Street, and refused to come out.
Deputies evacuated nearby homes and summoned a heavily armed and armored SWAT team to take charge of the standoff.
At one point, deputies used an armored paramedic truck to pick up several elderly residents from the driveway of their home and escort them out of the neighborhood.
A crisis negotiation team made contact with the barricaded suspect and worked to persuade him to surrender. A crowd developed around the scene to watch the standoff, prompting deputies to place an armored vehicle between them and the armed, holed-up suspect as a shield.
The suspect posted live videos on Facebook during the incident.
In one short video streamed toward the outset of the incident, he’s seen outdoors sticking his tongue out, brandishing a pistol, and saying “Big Slick Low,”in an apparent reference to his nickname, while appearing to slur his speech.
In another recording posted two hours later, the suspect is seen talking with a negotiator on the phone while indoors.
“Tell your men to stand back, I’ll (expletive) walk out surrendering,” he said.
The man is also seen placing the handgun against his head and threatening suicide.
“Tell them to back off. I’ll shoot my (expletive) face off right now.
The suspect filmed himself as he fired two gunshots at arriving deputies. “They’re here, they know where I am,” he says before firing a shot.
“I’m sorry guys,” he said before firing a second shot. Arriving deputies could be heard ordering him to lie down and surrender.
The suspect ultimately gave up about 12:45 p.m. and was taken into custody.
Sean Vasquez, 20, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on an peace officer, sheriff’s officials said.
The motive for his alleged rampage was unclear.
Neighbor Cindi Arp said she left her Roxburgh Avenue house about 9:25 a.m. when she heard “pow, pow, pow.” She presumed the three to four noises were fireworks and continued on her way. As she rounded the corner onto Cypress Street, she heard another volley of noises, but again, took them for fireworks.
“My husband called me five minutes later and said, ‘you left at the right time. We have an active shooter,’” Arp said.
No injuries were reported during the incident.
According to county booking records, Vasquez was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the sheriff’s San Dimas Station pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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