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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Orange police station shut for hour Tuesday after object found in truck

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Anaheim Fire & Rescue hazmat team takes samples of a liquid found in an object later identified as a hydraulic pump in the back of a pickup Tuesday night at the Orange Police Department. The liquid was a mix of oil and water, all of which was deemed safe to the public.
KEVIN WARN, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

ORANGE – The police station was closed for more than an hour Tuesday while the hazardous-materials team inspected a package that turned out to be harmless, officials said.

A postal office employee noticed a piece of equipment in the bed of her pickup when she left work in the 3700 block of East Chapman Avenue around 8:45 p.m. and drove to the police station, about four miles away, to report the object, officials said.

The police station was locked down for about 70 minutes while the Anaheim Search & Rescue hazmat team inspected the object. It was identified as a hydraulic pump and inside was a mixture of oil and water.

It is unknown who placed the pump in the truck.

City News Service contributed to this report.

BY ALYSSA DURANTY /   ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

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Driver rescued after vehicle crashes 400 feet off 241 toll road

ORANGE – A woman was trapped in her vehicle for more than an hour after driving off the 241 toll road and down an embankment with heavy brush below, officials said.

The vehicle is stuck on a tree and partially suspended in the air near Santiago Canyon Road, said Officer Denise Quesada of the California Highway Patrol.

The crash was reported at about 6:40 a.m., Quesada said. Officials believe the woman was headed north on the 241 toll road when she lost control.

Firefighters were called to steady the vehicle and help get the driver out, she said.

The vehicle went down about 400 feet off the toll road, said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority.

After 8 a.m., the woman was rescued from the vehicle and taken from the ravine in a stretcher, Quesada said.

She was conscious and speaking to rescue crews, she said.

BY SALVADOR HERNANDEZ /   ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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Anaheim sees crime rates decline

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Anaheim police officer Jesse Romero stopped a juvenile on an Anaheim Street for suspicion of truancy.
BILL ALKOFER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

ANAHEIM – An upsurge in violent crime in Anaheim that came in the midst of several turbulent years of community upheaval reversed in 2013, led by a significant drop in gang violence.

After a 10 percent increase in violent crime in 2011 and a similar level of violence in 2012, crimes such as robberies, homicides and assaults dropped 11 percent in 2013. Property crimes – including burglaries and thefts – dropped 5 percent.

Determining exactly what is behind a large decrease in crime rates is a difficult proposition, although in Anaheim’s case, a drop in gang activity has made a big difference. The decrease also brings Anaheim in line with other large Southern California cities, whose crime rates have either dropped or remained static in recent years.

The number of gang-related homicides decreased by 25 percent, while gang assaults dropped 38 percent and shootings dipped 62 percent.

Officer-involved shootings in Anaheim also dropped significantly in 2013, a year after a series of fatal confrontations with police led to large-scale unrest in the city. In 2013, one officer-involved shooting – which didn’t result in a death – was reported, after nine in 2012.

For their part, police leaders attribute the turn-around to an ever-increasing emphasis on up-to-the-minute crime analysis. With similar tools available to the public, Anaheim leaders say the technology is also part of an overall effort to rebuild trust in the community.

“My goal is community engagement. That has got to be No. 1,” Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said. “Without that trust there is no foundation, and without that foundation we can’t do anything.”

Despite decreasing crime, gang violence – and the fear it could escalate – is still a threat in some neighborhoods.

“The people who live here feel ill at ease,” said Joanne Sosa, outreach director for the East Street Community Renewal Initiative, a community group headquartered near some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. “They are just holding their breath, waiting for something to happen.”

Crime and unrest

Anaheim’s rate of violent crime, which had been trending down since the early 1990s, unexpectedly jumped 10 percent in 2011 and remained at the elevated level in 2012.

Police said the reasons were unclear, although much of it appeared to be driven by gang activity. The department responded in 2012 by increasing the size of its gang-enforcement detail and stepping up efforts to prevent young people from joining gangs.

Meanwhile, a yearlong federal and local investigation dubbed Operation Halo resulted in the arrests of more than 30 suspected gang members on Aug. 20, 2012. Months later, a court injunction restricting the activities of gang members was served in the area around Anna Drive, the same neighborhood targeted by Operation Halo.

As the crime rate rose and police put more focus on certain neighborhoods thought to harbor gangs, the department’s relationship with many residents grew strained.

Frustration at the number of police shootings in 2012 boiled over in a near-riot in the city’s downtown in the summer of 2012. The unrest drew attention to the divide between the affluent side of Anaheim and the struggles in the city’s working class, largely Latino neighborhoods.

After the turmoil, police leaders acknowledged the need to rebuild trust, particularly in impoverished neighborhoods.

Despite concerns that the release of investigations into several high-profile police shootings could fan discord, there were no major outbreaks of violence in 2013.

A quick response

Quezada attributed the recent decrease in crime to technical tools that pinpoint emerging trends, as well as ongoing community-outreach efforts.

For the past several years, the department has emphasized technology and its crime-analysis team. Meetings to discuss up-to-the-minute crime statistics and field intelligence that were once held monthly in the last year have begun to be held weekly.

On a recent Monday afternoon, investigator Pete Wann used the department’s crime map to illustrate a series of commercial robberies near Ball Road.

“They are all window smashes, occurring at nighttime, kind of what you would expect from commercial burglaries,” Wann said. “So we’ll attack this immediately. I’ll go down to briefing tonight and talk to the watch commander and the officers and tell them about the problem.”

The links Wann and his colleagues draw from reported crimes are used to target “hot spots.” Similar technology is available for anyone in the community to access via the Anaheim Police Department’s website. Crime reports show up on the online map within 24 hours, police say. Some information on sensitive incidents such as sex crimes are not publicly released in order to protect victims.

But investigators say data crunching is only part of the puzzle. Wann noted that the firsthand experience and knowledge in the field turns the “pins on a map” into “human intelligence.”

“It’s very difficult to see where violent crime is trending until it is too late,” Wann said. “You really need to go talk to somebody and say, ‘Hey, it looks like this gang is angry with this other gang, maybe there is retaliation that is going to occur.’”

Facing mistrust

Recession and attrition led to the loss of more than 50 police personnel over the past several years, and the department was stretched thin, Quezada said. Patrol units raced from one call to the next.

In 2013, city leaders gave the department permission to increase its ranks from 351 sworn officers to 364.

“You never want to go back and rebuild what you were. That just doesn’t work,” Quezada said. “You have got to look at what is emerging now, where do we get the most bang for our buck. We know preventative measures are the absolute best.”

One of the more visible outreach efforts has been foot patrols, particularly in a dozen “priority neighborhoods.” The officers on the foot beats interact with residents and work to improve neighborhood ties.

The department has paired its gang unit with its “youth services” division, as programs targeted at younger residents increased dramatically in 2013. The department’s junior cadet program, which two years ago saw 140 graduates, had 237 graduates last year and officials expect to graduate more than 500 in June.

For larger community concerns, the department has continually expanded its advisory board, made up of community representatives who are encouraged to bring concerns directly to the command staff.

Why the drop in officer-involved shootings? Quezada said that is the “million-dollar question.” In addition to the D.A.’s investigation into police shootings, internal investigations are also carried out, with the results incorporated into ongoing training.

“We take every incident and we learn,” Quezada said. “Are there areas we need to improve on? Do we need to modify policies or procedures to prevent it from happening? We take it seriously.”

Continued challenges

Despite outreach efforts, relations between police and some residents remain strained.

In the last year, some family members of those killed in police shootings have criticized the department’s presence in their neighborhoods, particularly by officers directly involved in the shootings. City leaders earlier this month agreed to convene a citizen-based oversight panel to review police actions, although critics believe the board’s power won’t go far enough.

“They see lip service, but they don’t see it working yet,” Sosa said of some residents’ reactions to the police outreach efforts.

While large-scale efforts such as Operation Halo resulted in dozens of convictions, police know those jailed will return to the streets at some point.

“This person gets out of custody; he’s still going to come back to this neighborhood. How are we going to prevent him from re-engaging in criminal activity?” Quezada said.

Larger trends

Statewide, the crime rate has hovered at a historic low for the past several years.

While five years of consistent statewide crime decreases came to an end in 2012, the increase that year was relatively minor, about 3.4 percent, and was driven by increases in property, not violent, crimes.

Locally, a study conducted by Orange County’s police agencies found that overall crime rose more than 9 percent in the months after October 2011, when the state started “realignment,” which shifted responsibility for supervising and jailing many felons from the state to the county level.

More recently, Santa Ana reported a 16 percent decrease in violent crimes and a 13 percent decrease in property crimes in 2013 compared to the previous year. Violent and property crimes in Santa Ana have consistently trended downward during the past decade.

BY SEAN EMERY /   ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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Impact of Guzman arrest on O.C. drug trade remains to be seen

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In this Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 photo, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican navy marines at a navy hanger in Mexico City, Mexico. Guzman, the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, was captured overnight in the beach resort town of Mazatlan.
EDUARDO VERDUGO, AP

SANTA ANA – It’s too early to tell whether the capture of Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will put a dent in the drug pipeline from Mexico to Orange County, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials said Monday.

An assessment of the exact impact of Guzman’s arrest by Mexican marines Saturday in Mazatlan can’t be made until it’s determined if there is a fluctuation in the price and quantity of drugs available on the street, said the DEA.

The DEA said the Sinaloa cartel is the largest supplier of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine in Southern California, including Orange County.

The drugs often are smuggled by vehicle through Arizona as well as the border crossing at San Diego and by boat along the California coast, the DEA said.

The Sinaloa cartel also uses Los Angeles as a major distribution hub to repackage and ship narcotics to other locations throughout the United States, according to the DEA.

Gary Fouse, a retired DEA agent who lives in Orange County, applauded the arrest of Guzman. However, it’s unlikely to impact the Sinaloa cartel’s operations in Southern California, he said.

“You are talking about one person in the cartel,” Fouse said. “He will be replaced and life will go on.”

Guzman may have more ability to continue to operate the Sinaloa cartel from a Mexican prison rather than a U.S. prison if extradited, he added.

BY SCOTT SCHWEBKE  /   ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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U.S. Bombs singer Duane Peters pleads not guilty to domestic violence

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U.S. Bombs singer Duane Peters
COURTESY OF DUANEPETERS.NET

Punk rock icon Duane Peters pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge of felony domestic violence for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend in their Long Beach home.

Dressed in a green plaid sport coat over a red plaid shirt, the heavily tattooed Peters, 52, appeared briefly in Long Beach Superior Court for an arraignment on one count of willful infliction of corporal injury.

The former pro skateboarder and the lead singer of punk rock band U.S. Bombs was arrested at his home in the 4000 block of East Third Street on Feb. 9 after he reportedly became angry with his girlfriend and assaulted her, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Authorities said neighbors heard the commotion and were able to restrain Peters until police arrived.

Standing outside of the courthouse on Monday, his attorney Alex Fuqua said Peters is innocent and plans to fight the case.

“By all accounts, the people I’ve talked with all say that Duane is a very nice guy,” Fuqua said. “He’s passionate about his art and music. He’s a sweet man.”

Fuqua said Peters doesn’t have any previous charges of domestic violence on his record.

If convicted, Peters could face up to four years in state prison, authorities said. He is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on April 9.

Known as the “Master of Disaster,” Peters is an Orange County native and singer for Orange County-based U.S. Bombs, which was founded in 1993. He also is a professional skateboarder and credited with inventing several skateboarding tricks.

In 2011, he was featured in the documentary “The Other F Word,” about the lives of veteran punk rockers as they adapt to fatherhood. In the documentary, Peters talks about the death of his 20-year-old son, Chess Peters, who was killed in a car crash in Westminster in 2007.

BY KELLY PUENTE  /   ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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Beating death: Self-defense or anger over sexual advance?

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Edgar Lucio
COURTESY OF ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

SANTA ANA – At least eight times, Edgar Lucio told the dispatcher he’d been attacked.

He used the term “self-defense” three times in the phone call to 911 as he headed east on the 91, away from the Buena Park garage where Ricardo Rios lay dead.

That’s exactly what happened, his lawyer told a jury Monday: Lucio fought back when Rios got angry and threw a cinder block and a metal weight at Lucio.

“If a fight happens, there are laws that allow a person to defend themselves,” Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Ryan said.

But as Lucio’s trial began in Orange County Superior Court, the prosecutor said Lucio beat Rios to death because he got angry when Rios made a sexual advance.

Lucio, now 24, is charged with murder. The trial is expected to end next week.

Rios, 47, and Lucio, then 22, met through a mutual friend and exchanged romantic messages, Deputy District Attorney Stephen McGreevy said. Lucio sent Rios a photo of himself in a bathtub, and Rios sent a text message saying he loved Lucio.

After the two agreed to spend the day together Dec. 14, 2011, Lucio drove from Victorville to Buena Park, about 80 miles, and arrived about 1:30 a.m. Ryan said he left so late to avoid traffic.

Ryan said Rios was passed out drunk in the back garage where he lived when Lucio walked in. But Rios later woke up and began stroking Lucio’s leg, then offered him $1,000 for oral sex, Ryan said.

Rios then became aggressive, pulled his pants down and came up behind Lucio, who pushed him away, Ryan said.

When Lucio tried to leave, Ryan said, Rios chased him out into the yard and yelled at Lucio and a neighbor, then threw a metal object and then a cinder block, one of which hit and cracked Lucio’s car windshield.

Lucio told police he got Rios in a headlock and punched him three times, after which Rios fell to the garage floor. Lucio drove away and called 911.

Police found Rios already dead on the garage floor. McGreevy said he had a broken nose, jaw and cheekbone, plus multiple rib fractures and a knocked-out tooth.

McGreevy said Lucio later told police he “might have led Mr. Rios on as to the nature of their relationship.” Police found gay pornography on Lucio’s computer.

The prosecutor suggested Lucio’s immediate talk of self-defense was suspicious. In interviews with police, McGreevy said, “he talks about self-defense a lot.”

Jurors heard the 911 call Lucio made at 3:41 a.m.

“He ends up hitting me, and I regret that I had to attack him back,” he told the dispatcher, adding shortly later, “In a nutshell, ma’am, I got attacked, so I had to get him off of me. I hit him in the face about three times.”

The dispatcher told Lucio he should return to Buena Park and talk to the police if he was the victim of an assault, but he said, “Yeah. Yeah, well, I don’t know.”

After telling the dispatcher he was working toward a degree in criminal justice, Lucio returned to his message: “You know, I acted in self-defense, and he well deserved it because I wasn’t going to get killed there by a brick.”

BY ERIC HARTLEY /   ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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Sheriff’s deputies detain four after standoff

orange county bail bondsLos Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies detained four people on Wednesday morning, arresting one, after a roughly two-hour standoff on the roof of a Long Beach apartment building, authorities said.

Sheriff’s Deputy Guillermina Saldana said deputies were serving a search warrant in the 4100 block of E. 10th Street, near Wilson High School, at about 6:30 a.m. when four suspects climbed on the roof to evade deputies.

With assistance from Long Beach police, deputies set up a perimeter. After a two-hour standoff, the suspects climbed down from the roof and were detained without incident, she said.

Three of the people were questioned and released. David Penaloza, 23, of Long Beach was booked on suspicion of unlawful possession of a specified controlled substance while armed with a firearm, and possession for sales, with bail set at $80,000, according to the sheriff’s department.

The investigation was conducted by detectives from the sheriff’s Operation Safe Streets Bureau.

Long Beach Unified School District spokesman Chris Eftychiou said Wilson High was not placed on lockdown during the activity but the school’s main entrance on 10th Street was temporarily closed and students arriving for first period were directed to other entrances as a precaution.

City News Service contributed to this report.

BY KELLY PUENTE  /   ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

 

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