Monthly Archives: July 2011

Man suspected in robbery arrested after crash

LA HABRA – A man suspected in a La Habra robbery was arrested Wednesday after crashing a stolen car into a tree on the Cal State Fullerton campus, police said.
A strong-arm robbery was reported in a La Habra parking lot about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, with one man demanding personal property from another man, then forcing him to drive to an ATM in a 7-Eleven store, where the victim unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw money, La Habra police Lt. Jeff Swaim said. The robber had the victim drive him back to the parking lot, Swaim said, releasing him and fleeing.
La Habra investigators tracked a man they suspected of carrying out the robbery to Fullerton. As they conducted surveillance of the man, they saw him begin to drive away in a BMW about 5:20 p.m. Wednesday, Swaim said, leading police to attempt a traffic stop.
The man refused to pull over his vehicle, kicking off a brief pursuit that ended when he reportedly crashed into a tree at Cal State Fullerton. The man attempted to flee on foot but was stopped by a police dog.
The man, who authorities have not identified, was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police say the BMW the man was driving is believed to have been stolen.


Man charged in $4.7 million fraud caught

A La Habra man wanted after he failed to show up for a court hearing on fraud charges was taken into custody in Nevada this week.
John Arthur Walthall, 55, is facing charges of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors allege that Walthall took nearly $5 million from a Laguna Niguel couple in their 80s.
Walthall was expected to appear in court June 27 for a hearing after prosecutors alleged he was exaggerating a medical condition to avoid trial.
Instead, Walthall failed to show for the hearing, and his attorney, James Riddet, told City News Service he had been unable to contact his client for a month.
Walthall is accused of taking $4.7 million from the couple, telling them to invest in technology to find gold in abandoned mines. Prosecutors allege Walthall instead used the money to cover his own expenses, including child support and alimony.
FBI agents received information that Walthall had been living in Mesquite, Nev., and contacted police agencies nearby, said Laura Eimiller of the FBI.
Walthall was taken into custody by the Mesquite Police Department while he was pumping gas, she said. He is being held in Las Vegas and is expected to be extradited to Los Angeles.


Can a single punch kill you?

Guys, show of hands, who has been in a fistfight? And now, keep your hands up if you thought you were risking your life.
I’m betting a fair number of hands went up after the first question and down after the second.
But for anyone who thinks black eyes and chipped teeth are the worst outcomes of trading punches, recent news stories from around Orange County and the rest of the nation might be cause for pause.
Two weeks ago, Fullerton resident Jason Clifton Baird, 24, was arrested in connection with the death of Long Beach resident Brian Christian Williams, 31. Police say Baird – who is shown above, and who didn’t return a call for comment – punched Williams one time, causing him to fall and strike his head on the pavement. The next morning, Williams was found not breathing, and paramedics pronounced him dead a short time later.
“It’s never taken into consideration that, yes, you can KILL someone with a blow to the face/head using only your fist as a weapon,” said a comment on the story by reader SecondChance.
“Many may think that as long as there’s no weapons being used that this can’t happen. I’m sure this guy did not consider it, and my guess he is in total shock at this outcome and what he now faces.”
On Thursday, Huntington Beach resident Jeffrey Charles Sherwood, 26, was arrested in connection with critical injuries suffered by an unidentified 29-year-old man. Police say Sherwood – who could not be reached for comment – punched the victim, causing him to fall and strike his head on the ground.
Neither Baird nor Sherwood has yet been charged, and according to court records, neither man has any violent criminal convictions in Orange County.
“The problem with getting involved in a fight is you don’t know the outcome before it starts,” said Dr. Jim Keany of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. “You may be that one rare individual” who suffers serious injuries or death.
I assume Keany is correct in the sense that most fights don’t result in major injuries. But in a country of more than 300 million people, even rare outcomes add up.
A check of recent news stories turns up the case this month of a 17-year-old Indiana boy who reportedly died after being punched once on Independence Day. In Oklahoma, two men died in separate fistfights last month, one involving just a single punch.
Earlier this month, a tourist died after being hit once in the jaw in a Las Vegas casino. “One punch,” police homicide Lt. Lewis Roberts told The Associated Press. “He was out. Never got back up.”
Alcohol is major risk factor, Keany said, as is not seeking help immediately after suffering head trauma. In Williams’ case, police say he was at a party about 3 a.m., and that after being punched, friends laid him on a couch until the next morning, when he was found dead.
“Any change in their mental status, even if you think it could be explained by alcohol, it should be checked by a doctor,” Keany said.
I asked Tom Clanin, a media expert at Cal State Fullerton, whether movie and TV fight scenes give viewers the idea that brawling is no big deal. He said there’s not a lot of hard research on the subject but offered these insights:
“I’d like to know what (Williams’) friends were thinking and how much they had been drinking. They might have thought he was knocked out like they see on TV and would come to soon. TV shows don’t explain the concussion that occurs or the possible bleeding in the skull. It could also be that alcohol played a bigger role than the entertainment industry in both what triggered the fight and how people reacted afterward.”
Criminal liability in these sorts of incidents is determined on a case-by-case basis.
In 2007, Newport Beach resident Weston Scott Kruger stole a pornographic magazine from a liquor store and shoved the pursuing market owner, who hit his head on the ground and died a day later. Kruger received 25 years to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder.
In 2009, Buena Park resident Brian Powers died after being punched and hitting his head on a concrete step at Angel Stadium. Police say Powers was the aggressor, and no charges were filed. “It was just one of those flukes where the guy fell back and hit his head,” said Anaheim police spokesman Rick Martinez.
I asked Sgt. Andrew Goodrich of the Fullerton Police Department what his colleagues see in terms of fighting, and if there’s any way to discourage it.
“We have a lot of fights in our downtown area on many of the busy (nights),” Goodrich said, suggesting there are a half-dozen serious injuries each year. “At closing time, a lot of guys are taking their shirts off and getting into shouting matches. We try to have a visible, active presence to discourage that sort of thing.”
I can speak from experience on all of this. After my bachelor party four years ago, a friend became involved in an argument with a fairly big guy, and I ran over to keep the peace, which is the last thing I remember. The guy laid me out cold, my head hit the asphalt, and my friends took me home to rest. The next couple weeks were spent in and out of the ER, nauseous and in throbbing pain, as I recovered from a concussion and fractured skull. Turns out I was lucky.


Man held in crash that killed passenger

FULLERTON – A 23-year-old man is behind bars accused of driving under the influence when he lost control of his vehicle, resulting in the death of his female passenger, police said Tuesday.
The fatal crash happened about 1:17 a.m. Sunday when police say Justin Drake was speeding westbound on Malvern Avenue near Woods Avenue. Drake apparently lost control of his 2006 Mazda at a curve in the road, struck a tree and a retaining wall, said Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich.

His passenger, 21-year-old Kelly Pham of La Mirada, was critically injured and taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where she died at 6:44 a.m., according to a coroner’s press release.
Drake was taken to a hospital to be treated for his injuries. He was released from the hospital Monday afternoon and booked at Orange County Jail on suspicion of felony driving under the influence. He is being held in lieu of $100,000.
According to jail records, he is scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday.
Anyone with information about the accident was asked to call Investigator Darryl Bermender at 714-738-6813.


Nearly $70,000 in marijuana found hidden in car

AN CLEMENTE – Two men suspected of smuggling about 114 pounds of marijuana were arrested near San Clemente after Border Patrol officials found more than two-dozen bundles hidden in their car, authorities said Thursday.
Agents aided by a police dog found the estimated $69,000 worth of marijuana hidden in a passenger door of a 1998 Dodge Dakota about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to a U.S. Border Patrol news release.
The two occupants of the car, who authorities identified only as Mexican nationals, were arrested. They and the drugs were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Border Patrol officials said.
The drug bust was one of several smuggling attempts discovered in Southern California this week.
An hour before the San Clemente-area arrests, Border Patrol agents at an I-8 checkpoint in the southeastern San Diego County community of Pine Valley reportedly seized 146 pounds of marijuana in an auxiliary fuel tank in the bed of a Ford F-150. A 29-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of smuggling the marijuana, which authorities estimate was worth about $88,000.
A day later, Border Patrol officials reported discovering more than 40 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, worth nearly $750,000, hidden in two vehicles at the Pine Valley checkpoint. Two men were arrested and turned over to the DEA, officials said.


Employee sentenced for embezzling $82,000

SANTA ANA – A woman who admitted to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a Santa Ana sign and graphics company was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison and ordered to repay the stolen money, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
Rebecca Labelle, 54, of Chino was accused of using her position as an office manager and accountant at Clarke & Associates to steal more than $82,000 over a 15-month period, reportedly using the money to pay her mortgage and credit card bills.


Man charged with robbing Portsmouth bank held on $75g bail

PORTSMOUTH — The Maine man charged in the Monday robbery of a Citizen’s Bank insulted a prosecutor after his arraignment at Portsmouth District Court this morning, where he was ordered held on $75,000 cash bail.

An affidavit states that Thomas Gould, 46, of 6 Gould Lane, Berwick, Maine, was planning on turning himself in to police before officers arrested him at the Motel 6 on Gosling Road Tuesday night.

Police allege Gould had cased two other area banks before stepping into the Citizen’s Bank in the Shaw’s Supermarket on Woodbury Avenue. While at the Citizen’s Bank, police said, Gould placed a bag on the counter and told the teller it contained a bomb.

He demanded money and fled in a red Chevrolet Cobalt with cash, police said.

Officers received a tip on Tuesday that Gould was staying on the fourth floor of a Motel 6 less than a mile away from the Citizen’s Bank. He was arrested there and brought to Portsmouth District Court the following morning.

Gould began yelling in the courtroom during his arraignment when prosecutor David Colby began listing Gould’s alleged criminal history. Gould claimed the criminal history reported was actually his father’s criminal record.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about so you shouldn’t say anything,” he said before later calling Colby “a piece of [expletive]” as he was led out of the courtroom.

While in court, Colby also told the court Gould was allegedly suffering from depression, attributing the information to a family member.

Gould is unemployed. Acquaintances of Gould told authorities he was planning on flying to Florida on July 20, authorities said.

Colby had asked to set Gould’s bail at $100,000 cash, saying Gould was a danger to the community and a possible flight risk. Judge Sawako Gardner set Gould’s bail at $75,000 cash.

Gould is facing a felony count of armed robbery and is scheduled for a July 27 probable cause hearing.