Daily Local & Regional NewsWatch
LA Police Protective League


Los Angeles
Police Protective League
the union that represents the
rank and file LAPD officers

  Daily Local & Regional NewsWatch

Daily News Digest
from LA Police Protective League

January 15, 2021
Law Government News

L.A. firefighters union offers financial concessions in deal to avoid budget cuts
The union that represents more than 3,600 Los Angeles city firefighters has agreed to push back a 4.5% raise scheduled for this summer, the latest concession offered up by a labor group as the city seeks to address a major budget crisis. Craig Lally, president of the LAPD union, said his members have already endured cuts over the last year and are not interested in postponing their pending pay increase. The council already reduced the LAPD budget by $150 million last summer, he said, cutting the size of the force by 255 officers and scaling back overtime to such a degree that it represents an average reduction in take-home pay of 7.5% per officer. “It’s welcome news that other city employee groups are sharing in the financial sacrifice police officers have been making,” Lally said in a statement. The LAPD union’s contract also promised a 4.75% increase, but in two parts — 1.5% in July, and another 3.25% this month. Lally said the pay increase that’s scheduled for this month “will finally bring us to parity with our public safety counterparts.” It would be unfair, he said, for firefighters to receive their entire raise for the current fiscal year while police officers see only a fraction of theirs.

Law Enforcement News

Man Accused Of Assaulting 2 LAPD Officers With Deadly Weapon Arrested
Two Los Angeles police officers were injured when a man armed with a chain and padlock struck them repeatedly before being shot with a stun gun and taken into custody, police said Thursday. Police were called about 4:15 p.m. Wednesday to the 8000 block of Fordham Road, near West 80th Street, in a residential portion of Westchester, for a report of an assault with a deadly weapon, said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Tony Im. When the two responding officers located the man, he “immediately charged at officers, swinging the chain and the padlock,” Im said. One officer shot the man with a taser, “which was ineffective,” Im said. The man, identified by officers as Brandon Wheeler, 24, was tackled and taken into custody with the help of a nearby security guard and another bystander, Im said. He is being held on $180,000 bail. Wheeler was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, the L.A.P.D. reported. The officers sustained lacerations and injuries to their heads and received medical treatment, according to Im.

DA Drops Bid For Death Penalty In Accused Cop Killerís Case
Prosecutors announced Thursday that they will not seek the death penalty for a man who is awaiting a retrial for the June 1983 killing of a Los Angeles police officer in Lake View Terrace, with a judge subsequently rejecting a bid by the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss allegations that could carry a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole. Superior Court Judge Hayden Zacky ruled that it was “not in the interest of justice” to dismiss the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties and murder to avoid or prevent a lawful arrest, along with gun allegations, against Kenneth Earl Gay, now 63, in connection with the June 2, 1983, slaying of Officer Paul Verna. Verna’s widow and two sons spoke out in the San Fernando courtroom against the bid by the District Attorney’s Office. Saying that “justice has escaped our family,” the victim’s son, Ryan, told the judge it’s been nearly 38 years since his father was killed during a traffic stop and that he refuses to “sit idly by” amid a series of directives issued by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon after he was sworn into office last month.

Widow Of Slain LASD Sgt. Steve Owen Wants Killer To Face Death Penalty
 It’s been more than four years since Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Steve Owen was shot execution-style while responding to a burglary call at a Lancaster apartment building. His widow, Tania Owen, said she wants her husband’s killer to face the death penalty, believing that the shooter’s actions were calculated. “When my husband made contact with him, he shot him, completely disabling him,” she said. “And he walked up to him, stood over him and shot him three more times in the face, and then shot him on his badge.” Trenton Lovell, a parolee at the time, has been accused in the fatal shooting. Owen said she was furious that, if convicted, Lovell likely would not receive the strictest punishment possible — the death penalty — after newly-elected District Attorney George Gascón banned the punishment. On the first day of his term, Gascón, who won over voters in November with his promise of sweeping reforms, issued a number of directives — one of which removed the death penalty as a punishment and another that stopped the practice of seeking special enhancements for especially violent cases, which can add years to prison sentences. Matt Murphy, an attorney representing the Owen family, said if Lovell was charged with second-degree murder and Gascón’s office gets its way, it would be a travesty of justice. “This person could literally spend less than six years in California state prison for the cold-blooded, execution-style murder of a police officer engaged in the performance of his duties,” he said. “It is outrageous.”

Under New DA, Alleged Child Decapitator, Deputy Ambusher Would Be Eligible For Parole In 20 Years
Under reforms from new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, the suspects in two cases involving the decapitation of two kids, and the shooting ambush of two deputies, will both be eligible for parole after serving 20 years in prison, if convicted. In December 2020, 34-year-old Maurice Taylor was charged with the murder and decapitation of two of his children, ages 13 and 12, inside the family's Lancaster home. "This was by far the most horrific crime scene I have ever seen," said Detective Steve Blagg. Blagg is a veteran homicide investigator with the LA County Sheriff’s Department and is handling the heinous case. "He admitted to myself and my partner what he did," Blagg said. "He actually used an ax to take their heads off their body, and that is something that took some doing, and was very brutal. He believed both children were demons." But Blagg tells FOX 11, George Gascón’s reforms are having a drastic impact on the case. "When we filed the case, it was the day after Mr. Gascón took office," Blagg said. "This case, due to multiple murders, there would have been special circumstances attached which would have made the defendant eligible for the death penalty, or life in prison without parole." Gascón has banned his office from filing special circumstances, and none were filed in the case. Detective Blagg is also handling the case of the September 2020 ambush shooting of two LA County Sheriff’s deputies in Compton, both of whom were shot in the face by a gunman while sitting in their patrol. "It was just a straight ambush, and he tried to kill both of those deputies," Blagg said. "He flat-out shot the victim in broad daylight with an assault rifle and then stole his car," Blagg said. Under Gascon’s new reforms, his office will seek to drop all gun enhancements with great bodily injury for both shootings, which would potentially shave decades of prison time off Murray’s sentence, if he’s convicted.

Homeless Man Shot In Front Of RV In Granada Hills; Gunman Sought
Police are searching for a gunman who shot a homeless man as he was standing outside of his RV in Granada Hills early Thursday. The incident took place about 4:40 a.m. near the intersection of Haskell Avenue and Chatsworth Street, the Los Angeles Police Department stated in a news alert. The victim, described as a 45-year-old man, was in front of his RV when an unknown suspect drove up and fired multiple shots at him, the Police Department said. The assailant fled southbound on Haskell Avenue following the shooting. The victim was struck multiple times by the gunfire and transported to a local hospital. He was listed in stable condition and is believed to be homeless, the Police Department said. No description of the gunman, or the vehicle involved, were available. The shooting is not believed to be gang-related.

LAPD Chief Tells 10,000 Officers To Be Ready For Deployment Ahead Of Inauguration; California National Guard Troops Deployed
The LAPD has instructed all of the department’s officers to be in uniform and prepared to be deployed in the days leading up to the presidential inauguration scheduled for next week. An LAPD spokesperson confirmed to CBSLA a report Thursday from the New York Times which stated that while there was no specific threat to the city, LAPD Chief Michel Moore has told officers – nearly 10,000 in total – to be “ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice” as early as Monday. Hours after the report, California Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized the deployment of 1,000 California National Guard personnel to protect critical infrastructure, including the State Capitol and other sites “In light of the potential for civil unrest in California surrounding the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden.” Among those steps, the California Highway Patrol and Department of General Services have installed a six-foot chain link fence around the perimeter of the State Capitol to ensure the safety of the Capitol grounds. “In light of events in our nation’s capital last week, California is taking important steps to protect public safety at the State Capitol, and across the state,” said Newsom.

Los Angeles Man Admits Flying Drone That Struck LAPD Helicopter Over Hollywood
A Los Angeles man admitted in federal court Thursday that he flew a drone that struck a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter that was responding to a crime scene in Hollywood. Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, made the admission in pleading guilty to one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, a misdemeanor. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said Hernandez is believed to be the first person in the country to be convicted of that offense, which carries a punishment of up to one year in prison. In his plea agreement, Hernandez admitted that he “recklessly interfered with and disrupted” the operation of the LAPD helicopter, which was responding to a burglary of a pharmacy, and that his actions “posed an imminent safety hazard” to the chopper’s occupants. Reached by phone Thursday, Hernandez declined to comment. His attorney didn’t return a request for comment. U.S. District Judge George H. Wu scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 12. Prosecutors have yet to submit sentencing recommendations.

San Pedro Gang Leader Gets 10 Years For Drug Trafficking
A San Pedro-area gang member who oversaw the group’s daily operations, arranged sales of oxycodone and heroin, and reported to incarcerated Mexican Mafia members about the gang’s activities, was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in federal prison. Robert “Stretch” Messersmith, 34, of San Pedro pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. The gang operates under the control of the Mexican Mafia and often engages in violence and intimidation to protect its territory, collecting “taxes” from drug transactions. The cash was funneled to three Mexican Mafia members who are currently serving lengthy sentences in state prisons for murder convictions. From August 2017 to May 2018, Messersmith sold dozens of oxycodone pills, discussed and arranged the sale of heroin and methamphetamine, and planned the smuggling of heroin and other narcotics into a prison.

Nine Inmates Charged In Massive Unemployment Benefits Scam
Nine men, all serving the last of their prison terms in a halfway house, were charged Thursday with defrauding the state unemployment fund of $160,000 in benefits, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced. The arrests and charges are part of a larger investigation into prison inmates across the state who are suspected of defrauding the program of as much as $2 billion. The scam was uncovered in December, and locally District Attorney Summer Stephan has said that inmates at both the local jails and the Richard J. Donovan state prison in Otay Mesa ripped off the state of at least $5 million. According to a news release from Stephan’s office, all of the nine inmates were assigned to the Male Community Reentry Program, or MCRP. That’s a state program that allows some individuals with about a year to serve on their sentences to live in a halfway house to prepare them for the transition to life outside prison. The fraud the group is accused of committing occurred between June and September last year.

Attorney Urges City Of LA To Shut Down Alleged Party House In Silver Lake
An attorney has asked the City of Los Angeles to shut down a short-term rental property in Silver Lake that has been the site of alleged house parties during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to attorney Randy Renick the property, located in the hills between Sunset Boulevard and the Silver Lake Reservoir, is an illegal and unregistered short-term rental. Renick represents Lillian and Grant Taylor, who live next door to the alleged party house. “We demand that the city take immediate steps to respond to the Taylors’ complaints and shut down the illegal short-term rental of the property as it is a violation of the Los Angeles Home-Sharing Ordinance as well as the national, state and local pandemic-related shut-down orders,” Renick said in a letter to City Attorney Mike Feuer. Feuer did not immediately provide a statement, and the Los Angeles Police Department did not immediately provide information about calls to that location.

FBI Arrests California Man In Siege Of U.S. Capitol
A California man who allegedly smashed a window at the U.S. Capitol as supporters of President Trump stormed the building last week was arrested by FBI agents Wednesday night at his family’s home in Glendora, authorities said. Hunter A. Ehmke, 20, was part of a crowd that burst through police barricades outside the building on Jan. 6 as a joint session of Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election, according to the U.S. Capitol Police. An officer in riot gear who was trying to hold back the crowd spotted Ehmke summoning others toward a window of the Capitol and shouted to other officers, “They’re going to break the window,” a Capitol Police investigator wrote in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. An officer hollered, “Get away from the window,” but Ehmke then smashed his fist into it, police alleged. The officer knocked him over with his shield, and Ehmke fell to the ground, which was covered with shards of glass, the complaint says. Ehmke handed over his driver’s license and was handcuffed, but the line of about 10 police officers in the area was quickly overwhelmed by an aggressive crowd “pointing fingers and shouting obscenities.”

'Kill Him With His Own Gun': Police Describe Facing The Mob At The Capitol
As DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone lay on the ground at the US Capitol building, stunned and injured, he knew a group of rioters were stripping him of his gear. They grabbed spare ammunition, ripped the police radio off his chest and even stole his badge. Then, Fanone, who had just been Tasered several times in the back of the neck, heard something chilling that made him go into survival mode. "Some guys started getting a hold of my gun and they were screaming out, 'Kill him with his own gun,'" said Fanone, who's been a police officer for almost two decades. Fanone, one of three officers who spoke with CNN, described his experience fighting a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters who'd invaded the Capitol in an insurrection unheard of in modern American history. Federal officials have said the details of the violence that come out will be disturbing. "People are going to be shocked by some of the egregious contact that happened in the Capitol," acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said Tuesday in reference to attacks on police officers.

Public Safety News

LA County COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 13,000
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Thursday reported 17,323 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 287 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 975,299 cases and 13,234 deaths. In just one week, the county has added nearly 2,000 COVID-19 deaths and surpassed another grim milestone of 13,000 total deaths. Of the 287 new deaths reported, 115 people were over the age of 80, 95 people were between the ages of 65 and 70, 47 people were between the ages of 50 and 64 and 13 people were between the ages of 30 and 49. There were 7,906 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Thursday, 21% of whom were being treated in intensive care units. In just two months, health officials said daily hospitalizations have gone from just under 800 to just under 8,000. According to the California Department of Public Health, the Southern California Region continued to have 0% ICU capacity remaining.

1 In 3 L.A. County Residents Has Had COVID-19, New Estimate Shows
One in three Los Angeles County residents have been infected with the coronavirus, according to new estimates by county scientists, an astonishing sign of how rapidly the virus is spreading in the hard-hit region. The estimate, based on scientific modeling, means officials believe more than 3 million of L.A. County’s 10 million residents have been infected with the coronavirus, including nearly 13,000 who have died. That’s more than triple the cumulative number of coronavirus cases that have been confirmed by testing. Officials have long believed that testing only captures a certain percentage of those who are infected because many with the virus don’t show symptoms or suffer only mild symptoms. The rising number of those infected has actually slowed the pace of coronavirus transmission, as the virus is increasingly coming into contact with people who have survived the infection and likely developed immunity.

More COVID-19 Restrictions On Malls, Gyms Possible In L.A. County
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that he would back new health orders being considered by the county Department of Public Health to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which is now resulting in the deaths of an average of 240 L.A. County residents a day, a record. A decision hasn’t been made on whether closures or additional restrictions on capacity are needed. But settings that may be scrutinized could include outdoor gyms — which have been allowed to be open at 50% capacity — and indoor malls and retail, which are supposed to be open at only 20% of capacity, Garcetti said. “I will support what [the Department of] Public Health recommends and our public health professionals recommend,” he said Thursday night. The mayor said it’s possible that additional closures may not be necessary if it seems the pandemic is stabilizing, “but the moment it goes up, like we saw in December — at any pace like that — absolutely, that is something we cannot sustain and most importantly, our hospitals cannot.”

California Braces For Highly Contagious New Coronavirus Variants As Vaccinations Lag
As California struggles to get potentially lifesaving vaccines into as many arms as possible, concern is mounting that the rapid spread of multiple, highly contagious variants of the coronavirus around the world could lead to another, perhaps deadlier surge. So far there is no evidence that any of the more contagious variants are spreading widely in the United States, though at least one — a variant that took off in the United Kingdom — has been identified in a few dozen cases across the country, including in California. But at some point soon the new U.K. variant — or another mutation of the virus, including one that might evade or partially evade coronavirus vaccines — could get a foothold and lead to a new spike in cases, even as California battles a surge that has caused 5,700 deaths statewide in just the first 14 days of the year.

About the LAPPL Formed in 1923, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) represents the more than 9,900 dedicated and professional sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPPL serves to advance the interests of LAPD officers through legislative and legal advocacy, political action and education. The LAPPL can be found on the Web at: