Mayor Garcetti Announces Teddy Bear Drive To Provide Comfort To Children Who Experience Tragedy & Loss
Mayor's Crisis Response Team and the Los Angeles Police Department Launch Drive to Collect Donations of New Stuffed Animals. Donation Boxes will be at all Mayor's Office Locations and LAPD stations.
LOS ANGELES – Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Police Department today launched a Teddy Bear Drive to collect new stuffed animals that will be given to children at emergency scenes. The drive is being led by the Mayor's Crisis Response Team, the LAPD, and CRT's volunteer members. Officers will provide stuffed animals when comforting children who have experienced loss or witnessed a traumatic event.
“When children experience a tragedy, they can feel as if everything has been taken away from them,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The simple act of giving a child a teddy bear allows them something to hold onto during a turbulent time. During this holiday season, I ask Angelenos to consider donating a new stuffed animal to help comfort a child.”
While it is called a Teddy Bear Drive, all new stuffed animals are welcome and appreciated. The Teddy Bear Drive begins today and will continue through the end of the year. Brightly colored collection boxes will be displayed at all LAPD stations as well as the Mayor's Help Desk at City Hall and his two field offices in Van Nuys and South L.A. Please visit lamayor.org/teddybear for locations. Donations may also be mailed to: Teddy Bear Drive, c/o Mayor's Crisis Response Team, 200 N. Spring Street, Room 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
The Mayor's Crisis Response Team is composed of more than 200 community civilian volunteers who respond to traumatic incidents at the request of the Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments. CRT volunteers provide immediate on-scene crisis intervention, attend to survival and comfort needs, act as a liaison between victims and emergency personnel, and provide referrals to victims and their families affected by a death, a serious injury, a violent crime, or other traumatic incidents. These include homicides, suicides, serious traffic accidents, natural deaths, and multi-casualty incidents. Last week, 40 new volunteers graduated from the seven week, forty-two hour training program at a ceremony attended by Mayor Garcetti, Chief Beck, and representatives of the Fire Department.
Orange County police warn public about ‘MoneyPak' phone scams
YORBA LINDA - Orange County law enforcement officials warned the public today about phone scams following a spat of victims conned out of money with threatening messages.
A Yorba Linda woman said she recently received a bogus call from someone identifying himself as Lt. Mike Stevens of the Orange County Warrant Division saying she failed to appear in court on a traffic citation, which was caught on camera, and she needed to pay $365 bail to avoid being arrested, according to Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock.
The thief even stayed on the line with the woman as he talked her through the steps of buying a MoneyPak card, Hallock said.
A Laguna Hills man said he recently received a call on his cellphone from someone falsely identifying himself as Assistant Sheriff Mark Billings claiming the victim owed back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.
The caller demanded the man buy $4,000 in MoneyPak cards and give him the numbers so the victim could avoid a SWAT raid on his home, Hallock said.
Orange County sheriff's officials said they would never call anyone by phone demanding money.
Especially alarming to authorities is the way the thieves have been able to make the calls look like they are legitimately coming from law enforcement.
Santa Ana police recently issued a similar warning after receiving three cases of victims fooled by callers demanding money from “spoofed” phone numbers.
“This is an ongoing problem,” said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
One of Santa Ana's victims received a call from someone falsely claiming to be from the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the victim paid $963, Bertagna said.
“They called him back wanting an additional $2,800,” Bertagna said.
The suspects appear to be calling from the East Coast, Bertagna said.
“In one case the initial caller stated they were from New York state, and they followed up with a call from Santa Ana spoofing a name that's not in existence and a badge number that's false,” Bertagna said.
“We don't collect money or arrest people for civil matters like this, and we're not in the business of playing debt collector either. So if anyone calls and tells you this then ask for a name, badge number and a name of a supervisor and then hang up, but please don't hit redial when you try to call back.”
Joseph Franklin, white supremacist serial killer who targeted blacks and Jews, executed in Missouri
by Jim Salter
BONNE TERRE, Mo. — White supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin has been put to death in Missouri. It was the state's first execution in nearly three years.
The 63-year-old Franklin targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980. He was executed Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre for killing Gerald Gordon in a sniper shooting outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977.
Franklin was convicted of seven other murders across the country and claimed responsibility for up to 20 overall. The Missouri case was the only one that brought a death sentence.
The execution was the first in Missouri using a single drug, pentobarbital.
Franklin's fate was sealed early Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal appeals court decision overturning stays granted Tuesday.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition early Wednesday seeking a stay of execution for white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, who is scheduled to die in Missouri.
The decision upheld a federal appeals court's ruling that lifted a stay of execution issued late Tuesday, just hours before Franklin had been scheduled to die by lethal injection for killing 42-year-old Gerald Gordon in a sniper attack outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977.
Franklin's lawyer had launched three separate appeals: One claiming his life should be spared because he is mentally ill; one claiming faulty jury instruction when he was given the death penalty; and one raising concern about Missouri's first-ever use of a new execution drug, pentobarbital.
The rulings lifting the stay were issued without comment.
The state's death warrant for Franklin allows the execution to be carried out anytime Wednesday.
Like other states, Missouri had long used a three-drug execution method. Drugmakers stopped selling those drugs to prisons and corrections departments, so in April 2012 Missouri announced a new one-drug execution protocol using propofol. The state planned to use propofol for an execution last month.
But Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri Department of Corrections to come up with a new drug after the European Union threatened to limit exports of the popular anesthetic if the United States used it in an execution, prompting an outcry among U.S. medical professionals.
Missouri then joined other states in selecting pentobarbital as the drug of choice for executions, produced by a compounding pharmacy. Texas switched to a lethal, single dose of the sedative in 2012. South Dakota has carried out two executions using the drug. Georgia has said it's also taking that route.
The appeals and supreme court rulings overturned U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey decision late Tuesday. She held that the Missouri Department of Corrections “has not provided any information about the certification, inspection history, infraction history, or other aspects of the compounding pharmacy or of the person compounding the drug.” She noted that the execution protocol, which has changed repeatedly, “has been a frustratingly moving target.”
Franklin's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said at the time that his mental illness was likely keeping him from comprehending the developments.
Franklin was convicted in eight murders altogether, but the Missouri case was the only one resulting in a death sentence. He is suspected in as many as 20 killings targeting blacks and Jews across the country from 1977 to 1980.
Franklin has also admitted to shooting and wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since the attack in 1978.
Franklin was in his mid-20s when he began drifting across the country. He bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July 1977. No one was hurt, but soon, the killings began.
He arrived in the St. Louis area in October 1977 and picked out the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue from the Yellow Pages. He fired five shots at the parking lot in Richmond Heights after a bar mitzvah on Oct. 8, 1977. One struck and killed Gerald Gordon, a 42-year-old father of three.
Franklin got away. His killing spree continued another three years.
Several of his victims were interracial couples. He also shot and killed, among others, two black children in Cincinnati, three female hitchhikers and a white 15-year-old prostitute, with whom he was angry because the girl had sex with black men.
He finally stumbled after killing two young black men in Salt Lake City in August 1980. He was arrested a month later in Kentucky, briefly escaped, and was captured for good a month after that in Florida.
Franklin was convicted of eight murders: two in Madison, Wis., two in Cincinnati, two in Salt Lake City, one in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the one in St. Louis County. Years later, in federal prison, Franklin admitted to several crimes, including the St. Louis County killing. He was sentenced to death in 1997.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday, Franklin insisted he no longer hates blacks or Jews. While he was held at St. Louis County Jail, he said he interacted with blacks at the jail, “and I saw they were people just like us.”
He has made similar statements to other media but has denied repeated interview requests from The Associated Press. Herndon said Franklin's reasoning exemplified his mental illness: Franklin told her the digits of the AP's St. Louis office phone number added up to what he called an “unlucky number,” so he refused to call it.
Search begins for identities in Victorville shallow graves case
by Melissa Pinion-Whitt
VICTORVILLE -- Sheriff's investigators have begun scouring a national DNA database to try identifying four people whose skeletal remains were found in shallow graves near the city, but speculation among online missing persons groups about who the victims might be has also started.
The victims, excavated Tuesday and Wednesday from two shallow graves in an outlying area of Victorville, will be examined by a forensic team, including an anthropologist, at least one pathologist and an odontologist, San Bernardino County coroner's officials said.
An autopsy had not yet been scheduled on Thursday afternoon.
“The most important component of this is identifying these remains,” San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.
Investigators plan to gather DNA samples to submit to the Combined DNA Index System — a database that contains DNA profiles from crime investigations. They're also taking a look at missing persons cases.
So are some online discussion groups.
Discussions on the Victorville case appear on sites such as websleuths.com and Facebook, where conjecture abounds about who these people could be.
But authorities aren't speculating on who the victims were.
“This is a standard death investigation and until we know who they are we aren't going to speculate as to their identity.” sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.
And that investigation could take a while, she added.
“We have to do an investigation and that takes time,” she said. “An identification and family notification has to be made, and a cause of death has to be determined. It's time consuming.”
Sometimes it takes months or even years before identification could be made, Bachman said.
“The victim may not have had their identifying information put into a database,” she said. “We may not have immediate access to a family member for a DNA comparison.”
On Thursday, the desert gravesites were the focus of curious looky-loos.
Joel Myers, 51, and Allen Gadban, 20, both of Adelanto, decided to make the drive to the area to see the holes.
They walked around a while in the warm sun, peering inside the now vacant sites.
Myers said he was “amazed” when he heard about the burials on television.
'Fix' your ticket at police storefront office
by Nicole Sours Larson
When the police officer pulled you over and handed you a citation for a burned-out taillight or turn signal, missing front license plate, tinted windows or other vehicle equipment violation, the officer should have informed you that if you corrected the problem, you could avoid a court visit or costly fine by having any law enforcement officer sign off on the repair and pay just a $10 administrative fee by mail.
You've made the repair, but now you can't find an officer to "fix" the ticket. What can you do?
The easiest thing to do is to stop by one of the San Diego Police Department's (SDPD) convenient storefront offices, explained Billie Crow, who volunteers at the Pacific Beach Storefront, located at 4439 Olney St. at Balboa Ave., through the Volunteers in Policing (VIP) program.
Crow, one of the first three civilians hired as an SDPD dispatcher, served 45 years with the department and began volunteering at the storefront after her retirement.
"Most people think (the city) closed all the storefronts, but we're still open. It would save people a lot of time if they knew we're there," Crow said.
Trained VIPs can approve repairs and sign off on infractions or "fix it" tickets, such as equipment violations, but not on parking tickets.
The storefront offices are staffed by volunteers Monday through Friday. Hours vary according to location and volunteers' availability. Crow recommends calling ahead to check office hours. Additional locations include the La Jolla/University City office at 4275 Eastgate Mall, the Peninsula Storefront at 3750 Sports Arena Blvd, Suite 3, and the Balboa Park Storefront at 1549 El Prado, A complete list of police storefronts is available on the SDPD Web site.
Storefront volunteers also provide local public service information and problem solving assistance, explained Lt. Marvin Shaw, administrative officer for SDPD's Northern Division, which includes La Jolla and Pacific Beach.
Among the topics VIPs routinely field are queries about neighborhood watch programs, noise and house parties, crime reports and statistics, "stranger danger" and wanted suspects.
"The storefront is in the community to address quality of life issues," Shaw said.
The VIPs can connect residents with community liaison officers, who are familiar with local problems and issues. One is assigned to Pacific Beach and La Jolla. These officers provide continuity between the community and the police department.
Community liaison officers and the storefronts are critical components in the SDPD's community policing strategy designed to enhance safety and improve communications between residents and the police department.
"The key thing to remember is that the city and the police department benefit from this direct relationship. Any information from residents is unfiltered and goes directly to the captain, the commanding officer of the division," Shaw said.
For a list of neighborhood police storefronts and other community resources, visit the SDPD Web site, www.sandiego.gov/police .
For the PB Storefront, call (858) 581-9920; the Peninsula Storefront, (619) 531-1540, and the Peninsula Storefront (619) 531-1540; and the Balboa Park Storefront (619) 685-8206.
Columbia Heights police hope 'Coffee with a Cop' brews better relations
by SHANNON PRATHER
Columbia Heights police hope their ‘Coffee with a Cop' sessions can bring better relations with the public.
Dolores Strand greets the Columbia Heights police chief in Polish — a nod to the city's and her own heritage — for what's become a regular coffee date.
Strand, friend Pat Sowada and others chitchat with officers. The topic of conversation meanders from the State Fair to first jobs, Columbia Heights' sister city in Poland and their own city's recent success in combating crime.
It's casual. There are no talking points or agendas.
A year after winning the 2012 International Association of Chiefs of Police Community Policing Award for cities under 20,000, department brass are still looking for new ways to connect with their city. Their latest bright idea: Coffee with a Cop.
Pick a local hot spot, brew some coffee and start a conversation. Anyone is welcome to stop by and ask a question, tell a story or just listen in.
The first one was at McDonald's in September and attracted a crowd of 30. The second, at Johnson Bacon & Egg Cafe, was so popular it became a standing-room-only event. And the most recent coffee talk was in the library basement last week.
The coffee dates have developed a bit of a following. Strand and Sowada have attended all three.
“They are a great group of community protectors,” Strand said. “Their outreach is so genuine.”
The department started hosting the coffee dates this fall after an item about the idea appeared in a police magazine. It seemed simple enough and the price was right: virtually free.
“Let's not overthink this. Let's just do this,” explained officer Terry Nightingale, who oversees community policing efforts. “Let's reach out to our community on every single level we can think of.”
The inner-ring suburb of 20,000 is 36 percent minority and 18 percent foreign-born, so it's critical to constantly be working on those positive community relations, officers say. Many immigrant communities approach American law enforcement with suspicion and distrust because of police corruption in their native countries, Nightingale said.
“We are just trying to put ourselves out there for that dialogue,” said Police Chief Scott Nadeau. “It's nice because it's a non-threatening environment.”
Usually around five officers attend each coffee date. Residents often ask about quality-of-life issues — traffic enforcement, graffiti and “Can my neighbor really do this?” Nadeau said.
At last week's coffee talk, Strand and Sowada caught up with Capt. Lenny Austin. Everyone shared a story about their first paying job: delivering newspapers, baby-sitting.
“It's such a good rapport. They are easy to talk to,” Sowada said. “I think it's wonderful.”
They also discussed the city's growing diversity, and Austin shared a story about a pickup basketball game between officers and teens where some officers insisted on a full-court matchup.
Advantage teens, Austin explained.
Nightingale said the community policing efforts continue to work. Crime in the city remains at a 25-year low. It's declined 43 percent in five years.
“Crime is down across the state, but it's down here more,” Nightingale said.