Monthly Archives: February 2013

San Juan Capistrano bank robbed

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – A Chase bank in the 31000 block of Camino Capistrano was robbed Thursday of an unknown amount of money, the Sheriff’s Department reported.

The suspect was described at a man in his 30s wearing a hospital mask. Sheriff’s Lt. Roland Chacon said the man brandished a gun and directed the teller to go to a certain location.

He fled on foot and remains at large, Chacon said.



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Man’s body pulled from ocean in Newport

NEWPORT BEACH – Authorities said they recovered a man’s body from the surf around 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Lifeguards pulled the body of a fully clothed deceased “elderly” man from the water near the 40th Street jetty, lifeguard and police officials said.

The Orange County coroner’s office has not identified the body. It plans to conduct an autopsy later in the week.

Harbor Patrol officials said they were unaware of any missing-person reports from neighboring coastal cities.



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Fullerton officer tries to help homeless

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Corporal J.D. DeCaprio speaks with Tyson O’Donnell, a homeless man.

FULLERTON – J.D. DeCaprio went into law enforcement in 1986 because he “wanted to put bad guys in jail.”

His motivation started changing at 10:45 a.m. on March 1, 2004.

The veteran Fullerton cop was moonlighting that day as a guard for an armored-car company with his partner, Evelio Suarez, 61; they were delivering cash to a Bank of America on Western Avenue in South Central Los Angeles.

As Suarez, a father of 10, was unloading a sack of bills, eight gunmen ambushed the guards.

The attackers got off 50-plus shots, according to newspaper reports, with seven hitting Suarez.

“No warning. … Nothing,” DeCaprio recalled. “They just came out shooting.”

DeCaprio hit the ground and crawled to safety behind a planter in front of the bank.

“I was able to carry him (Suarez) into the truck,” DeCaprio said. “We were able to drive him to the emergency room, where he died during surgery.”

For months, DeCaprio, now 49, dealt with survivors’ guilt. But it got him thinking …

“I’m standing 15 feet from him. He dies in surgery, and I survive,” he said. “Something of that magnitude changes your whole perspective. I knew I had a purpose. I just didn’t know what it was.”

His calling

DeCaprio has served on a variety of beats.

The former football player and wrestler at Westminster High School taught DARE in schools, was a school-resource officer and spent a year on the District Attorney Office’s Regional Gang Enforcement Team.

DeCaprio then took a foot beat as the downtown liaison officer, where he dealt with concerns of business owners – like the area’s burgeoning homeless population.

Interactions with transients became frequent. Trespassing, panhandling and sleeping in front of businesses were commonplace.

Over time, DeCaprio’s role morphed into his official title today – homeless liaison officer.

“As calls started coming in (that ) were homeless-related, I became the guy,” he said. “I have the whole city. I will go to where the homeless will be and try to nip things in the bud so there won’t be radio calls.”

The shooting death of his partner nudged him to this place: helping the penniless.

“I just started to re-evaluate my purpose in life, and I was searching for probably the next three for four years after the incident,” he said. “I have a strong faith, and I believe God puts people in your life for a reason.”

Then came July 5, 2011, when Kelly Thomas – a mentally ill transient with whom DeCaprio had dozens of interactions – died after a struggle with police officers. The incident led to criminal charges against three officers and an internal probe of the department by an outside investigator.

In his report, Michael Gennaco of the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review concluded that DeCaprio needed help. Chief Dan Hughes agreed. Today, DeCaprio is one of four homeless liaison officers in the department. A county mental health clinician and a nurse regularly make the rounds with an officer.

On the beat

DeCaprio has watched Fullerton’s homeless population grow from 20 to 200. He knows the names and backgrounds of virtually all of them, and they know him.

Six hours into a recent 12-hour shift, at 11 a.m., DeCaprio cruises along Wilshire Avenue in his squad car and crosses Harbor Boulevard. He spots a familiar figure – 30-something, arms sleeved in tattoos, gray T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap. The man’s crossing Harbor holding a little girl’s hand.

“Tyson O’Donnell,” DeCaprio says.

The corporal whips a u-turn and pulls over.

The corporal gets out of the car, places a sticker of a police badge onto 6-year old Lauren, O’Donnell’s daughter. O’Donnell and DeCaprio chat. It’s friendly.

DeCaprio learns that the 33-year old O’Donnell just got out of county jail days earlier after serving 60 days for disturbing the peace and making criminal threats. Having recently fallen on hard times after a divorce, the lifelong Fullerton resident became homeless. He remembers DeCaprio, his DARE officer from grammar school.

“He’s about it,” O’Donnell says. “He is genuinely about taking care of the homeless for real.”

Back in the black-and-white, DeCaprio talks about approaching a transient: The first few seconds are crucial.

“When you are out here dealing with people, you treat them the way you want to be treated,” he says. “In a matter of two to three minutes, I can tell if I can help you.”

DeCaprio rolls up on a transient sitting on a Euclid Street curb. He was a new face: 30-something, disheveled, soiled clothes, beard, grimy face, blank stare.

DeCaprio gets out of his patrol car, spends five minutes with the man, jots down his name and hands him a $5 McDonald’s gift card, donated by a nonprofit group.

“He hasn’t’ eaten today,” DeCaprio says after sliding back into the squad car.

As the shift goes on, a call comes in about transients hanging around in front of closed restaurant on Orangethorpe Avenue, just east of State College Boulevard. There, he finds another familiar transient: a man in a wheelchair.

Grizzled face and white beard, the man looks 60. He’s a military veteran and has a drinking problem, DeCaprio would say. The cop offers to drive the guy to a V.A. hospital – an offer he makes regularly to addicts and alcoholics.

The man declines.

Attention to the problem

Even when DeCaprio is not wearing the badge, he helps the homeless.

For months, he’s volunteered with the Coast to Coast Foundation, a grass-roots group that feeds the homeless in Fullerton a couple of Sundays a month and on Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Coast-to-Coast also provides the McDonald’s cards, hotel vouchers and clothing DeCaprio hands out on the streets.

“He cares,” said Marie Avena, Coast to Coast’s founder. “He does it with open arms. It’s amazing to me.”

Well, DeCaprio isn’t going anywhere.

“I have a lot more service in me, part of it as a police officer and part of it with Coast to Coast,” the officer said.



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Couple takes firearms training into virtual world

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Steven Lieberman holds up an AR-15 rifle that has been modified for virtual shooting in front of a simulator used at the Artemis Defense Institute in Lake Forest.

LAKE FOREST – “Stay back or I’ll shoot her!”

A tall man in a gray hooded sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers pointed a black handgun at the forehead of a blindfolded brunette tied to a kitchen chair.

“Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” Tom Halvert shouted, pulling a Glock 22 from a waistband holster and raising it to chest level.

Halvert’s hands trembled: Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

Then: Bang!

A spray of blood; the woman’s head slumped to her chest.

Halvert slowly re-holstered his Glock, his eyes fixed on the glowing 12-by-8 screen showing the gruesome aftermath of the simulated scenario.

“I knew it was fake, but I was still really nervous,” the Lake Forest resident later said.

Defeating those normal reactions to stress in a combat situation is the idea behind Steven and Sandy Lieberman’s Artemis Defense Institute, an indoor tactical training facility slated to open full-time March 23 in Lake Forest. It is the only such facility in Orange County, according to the Liebermans.

Halvert is among the first civilians to take aim at the simulator screen, traditionally used by law enforcement and the military. While local police are already buzzing about the new facility, ADI’s main intent is to teach civilians “judgmental use of force.”

The simulations place users in scenarios to which they can respond with options including voice commands, pepper spray, Tasers and guns.


The Liebermans of Aliso Viejo were looking for second careers and had planned to open a gun store when they came across the tactical training simulators sold by Tempe, Ariz.-based VirTra.

Steven Lieberman, a lifelong shooting enthusiast, said he was flabbergasted by the quality of training possible on the virtual ranges – without the risk and expense of live ammunition. He had trained virtually before but found the scenarios one-dimensional and unrealistic, with fake guns that felt like toys.

The couple scheduled a demonstration at VirTra headquarters. VirTra has three simulators: the 100, a single screen; the 180, with three screens; and the ultrarealistic 300, which surrounds shooters with five screens.

“They put me on the 300, and when I was done I had to wring my shirt out. … I looked at Sandy and said: ‘This is the best training tool I’ve ever experienced,'” Steven Lieberman said.

They brought the 100 to Lake Forest in November; the 180 and 300 are set to arrive later this month. Aaron DeCorte, vice president of sales for VirTra, estimates there are only 20 virtual-only facilities open to civilians in the nation.


Dubbed “The Lab,” the airy high-ceilinged ADI warehouse is a place for experimentation and mistakes without the risk of injury.

“We want that to happen here so it doesn’t happen out there,” Steven Lieberman said. “So this is the place to experiment; this is the place to try new things; this is the place to learn.”

To stay sharp, shooters should hit a range at least once a week, Steven said. With the cost of the time, targets and ammunition, that can run $30,000 annually, he estimated. A 30-minute lesson on the single -screen simulator at ADI costs $30.

Simulations are based on police officers’ reports. One scenario pits the trainee against a workplace shooter wearing body armor; another puts the user in the place of an officer confronting a pimp harassing a prostitute in a Venice Beach parking lot.

ADI can also film specific simulations for customers interested in practicing to defend specific locations, such as their home or workplace.


The simulations at ADI range from basic marksmanship, where shooters aim to hit objects such as rows of cactus, to live-actor scenarios, such as the hostage-taking narrative.

When faced with a combat situation, people do three things: fight, flee or freeze. “We want to eliminate the ‘freeze,'” Steven Lieberman said.

Combat sends heart rates sky high, which does more than just get adrenaline flowing: It can also distort the senses, play with hearing and sight and affect rational thinking.

ADI’s simulations contribute to “stress inoculation,” reducing the body’s natural reaction to combat, he said. When shooters work through the programs, they are building muscle memory to inure them to the physiological effects of stress.

For the brave, ADI even has a device the wearer places on the back that shoots an electric impulse during a simulation to mimic the sensation of getting hit by an enemy bullet.


In the wake of the December massacre in Newtown, the Liebermans temporarily reconsidered their plans, wondering if opening a firearms facility was the right move.

After hearing news of skyrocketing gun purchases, many likely by people not trained in firearms, they decided to forge ahead.

Steven Lieberman is a self-described Second Amendment proponent, but gun ownership comes with an obligation, he said: “You have the responsibility to train.”

Contact the writer: 949-454-7307 or

Q and A with OCSD weapons instructor Dallas Ferrell

Orange County Sheriff’s Department weapons instructor Dallas Ferrell has been training deputies for 10 years at the Katella Training Facility in Orange.

Ferrell, who shoots around 200 to 250 rounds a week during training, said safety is the No. 1 objective and without it no one should own or use a gun.

While the department doesn’t utilize virtual firearms training for its deputies, Ferrell said the method has many benefits, especially for civilians who have no experience.

Q. How often do you keep up with firearms training to stay sharp?

A. Daily. We start every day by doing the same repetitive task associated with safety, and I count that as training. My partner and I check each other’s weapons before we go on the range to make sure they’re safe. We treat every weapon as if it’s loaded at all times, whether we know it’s loaded or not. And you don’t point it at anything you’re not willing to shoot or destroy. We keep the fingers off the trigger until we’re up on the target.

Q. What do you think of virtual firearms training?

I think there’s definitely a place for it in the law enforcement training, or any kind of firearms training, mainly in the training of knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot. Just because you have a gun in your hands and you have a bad buy in front of you, doesn’t mean you’ll shoot him. There are mitigating circumstances, and simulators are good for training in a shoot/don’t shoot situation. When you have a static target, that target isn’t reacting to you or anything. You shoot because the target is there. In a simulator situation, that target is actually reacting with you. That’s the huge advantage of simulator training.

Q. What are the pros and cons of virtual firearms training?

A. Pros: It’s a full immersion into a high-stress situation. You actually get the feel of being in an adversarial situation as opposed to just a static paper target on the range. It makes your stress level go up. Your adrenaline kicks in, which is more like a real thing, if you will. It’s inexpensive. It’s all one scenario that can be used over and over again. If you were to duplicate that under live fire, you’d be firing a lot of ammunition.

Cons: The actual building (up) to that point (of training). The basics have to be taught first and learned first. If you take an untrained person and throw him into a simulator, it’s overkill. You have to build up to it, if you will.

Q. What do you think of training civilians through virtual firearms?

A. Any training of civilians is a good thing. I don’t think there will ever be a substitute of a live, classroom situation. I’m huge on the safety aspect. A lot of civilians will buy a gun and shoot it two or three times, go home and put it away and say, ‘OK. I’m trained. I’m ready.’ There’s a word we use: Perishable skill. If you don’t use it on a regular basis, you lose it.

Q. What are some of the most important tips you have for those who own guns?

A. Know your gun, and memorize and practice the four principles of firearms safety. No. 1. Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded. 2. Don’t ever point it at anything that you’re not willing to shoot or destroy, and that includes the neighbor’s Mercedes. 3. Keep your fingers straight, and off the trigger until you’re up on target and ready to fire. 4. Always be sure of your target and beyond, meaning not just your target there, but what’s behind it. Is a neighbor’s child or someone in the background of whom you’re about to shoot?

If you’re not safe with a gun, you shouldn’t own one. You’ll be more of a threat to your loved ones. The last place you want to get into a gun fight is in your house, because you’re surrounded by your loved ones and bullets go through your wall, including your (own) bullets.

– Mona Shadia, Orange County Register



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30 weapons found in Placentia storage unit

Placentia police uncovered a cache of 30 weapons, some of which were stolen, when they served a search warrant at a storage unit in the 500 block of Crowther Street, while investigating a man for allegedly selling drugs and stealing motorcycles.

Chris Anderson, a Placentia K9 officer, stopped the suspect on Thursday night near Orangethorpe Avenue and the 57 after a traffic violation and found he had an outstanding warrant. Anderson had been investigating him for on-going criminal activity after Placentia police received information from the La Habra Police Department.

“The K9 officer had been watching that individual for a while,” said Sgt. Bryce Anderson of Placentia Police. “The information was that he was involved with drug sales, possession of weapons and possessing stolen motorcycles.”

From earlier surveillance, police learned that the individual had been living at a vacant industrial business in the 700 block of Monroe Way in Placentia. Detectives from the Placentia and La Habra Police Departments found another man and his girlfriend, who are originally from Orange, also living at the business.

A stolen customized Japanese race bike, a marijuana growing operation, a large quantity of heroin and a large sum of cash were found at the business, Bryce said.

During their investigation, police developed a lead on the storage unit where they found weapons and more drugs. Among the weapons found were AR-15 style assault rifles and a silenced Mac-10 machine pistol.

The two men and the woman were taken into custody based on evidence found at the scene and were later transported to the Orange County Jail.

Police have not yet released their names.




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H.B. moves toward fine for underage-drinking hosts

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Parents in Huntington Beach could face a fine if caught serving alcohol to minors. The city is believed to be the third in Orange County to adopt a social hosting ordinance. SETH PERLMAN, AP

HUNTINGTON BEACH Parents can now be held responsible if they are caught serving alcohol to minors at parties.

This new rule on the city’s books passed 5-2 at the City Council meeting on Tuesday with council members Matthew Harper and Jill Hardy dissenting. The new rule will apply a $250 fine for violators.

Mission Viejo was the first city to adopt this rule in 2008 and Laguna Beach jumped on board in December.

“This is one of those that is really easy to vote in favor of and it looks real good,” Hardy said. “To stand up and oppose it is very brave, I think. I’m going to get accused of not listening to the parents … or not thinking of the children… but it’s just too easy for me to come up with how it goes bad.”

Councilman Joe Carchio, who brought the item to the council, said teens and parents are “begging for this”.

“Alcohol is the leading (substance) that creates problems that lead to drugs and so forth,” he said. “These people came from the PTA and expressed their concern and wanted this because they need to have it in place because this is where the kids start.”

The social hosting ordinance will be added to the city’s “loud parties” ordinance, which allows Huntington Beach to collect a fee for having the police respond to gatherings that are receiving noise complaints.

The city’s law will combine the state “contributing to delinquency” law and civil liability for “social hosting” into one law that will serve as a tool for the police department to deter under age drinking.

Police can either charge a flat $250 fee for the violation or they can apply an itemized fee that could include things such as salaries of the officers when responding to parties, the cost of equipment and the cost of any medical treatment if a police officer is injured, the ordinance says.

“This speaks in plain language about the nature of the problem and it gives the police officer tools that we don’t have now,” said Police Chief Kenneth Small said. “This adds a civil citation process … which is a much easier and simpler way for the police department to address it.”

Hardy said she was concerned that parents could be wrongfully accused of hosting a party.

As a teacher, she said she hears how students go out of their way to hide things from their parents. She gave the example of teens watching movies in a home while the parents are upstairs and one teen sneaking in alcohol without the adults knowing.

“What if one kid gets sick and then they call their parents … and that parent flips out and calls the police?” Hardy said. “The potential for a parent being accused of hosting when they aren’t just seems too strong here.”

The law will have some exemptions, including allowing alcohol for religious activities or skipping a citation if it is determine the host of the party took “reasonable steps to prevent underage drinking,” the law says.

The ordinance will come back for a second reading at a future meeting before going into effect.



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Army veteran, construction worker among rampage victims

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Jeremy Lewis was originally from Morongo Valley and graduated from Yucca Valley High School in 2004, according to a Facebook profile.

Two people identified as victims in an Orange County shooting rampage Tuesday morning had no connection and little in common, police indicated, except for being in the gunman’s line of fire.

Both died in attacks for which authorities have no discernible motive.

Only sketchy portraits of the men emerged from public records, interviews and social media on Tuesday. A third victim had not been identified by police.


The first roadside victim Tuesday was Melvin Edwards, 69, who was ordered out of his car, directed to the curb and then shot, police said.

The Vietnam War veteran apparently was driving to work at the business he owns, Rubicon Gear, an aerospace and defense industry manufacturer founded by his father, J.L. Edwards. Melvin Edwards was chairman of the board and majority shareholder for more than 25 years.

A graduate of La Salle High School in Pasadena and briefly a student at USC, Edwards later was an Army combat infantry officer and served in Vietnam, according to his company’s website.

Known to most as Mel, Edwards lived in a quiet Laguna Hills neighborhood. He is survived by his wife, an adult daughter and an adult son, said a Santa Ana police corporal.


A short time later, police said, Jeremy Lewis, 26, was shot and killed while sitting in a vehicle at a construction site where he worked near Edinger and Newport avenues in Tustin. When a coworker ran over, the gunman threatened the other man and shot him in the arm.

A plumber by trade, Lewis was happiest when working on his cars, he wrote on his Instagram profile. He recently purchased a 1993 Nissan 300ZX and proudly displayed photos of the black sports car.

When he wasn’t under the hood of a car, Lewis often could be found at the gym. In addition to spending time with family and friends, he wrote, he loved to go camping and watch movies.

Public records list Lewis’ address as an upstairs apartment south of downtown Fullerton.

Lewis originally was from Morongo Valley and graduated from Yucca Valley High School in 2004, according to a Facebook profile.

As friends from high school and beyond learned of his death, they posted messages expressing disbelief at a life suddenly cut short.

Register staff writers Michael Mello and Alejandra Molina contributed to this report.



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