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

February 11, 2021
Law Enforcement News

LA County Deputy District Attorney To File Lawsuit Against DA George Gascon
The Los Angeles County deputy district attorney known for heading up the Gabriel Fernandez torture and murder case is now preparing to sue his boss, recently-elected L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon. Prosecutor Jon Hatami, a 15-year veteran of the district attorney's office, on Wednesday filed the complaint required to sue Gascon, the County of Los Angeles and Max Szabo, Gascon's spokesman for defamation, libel, racial discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. "We have a new district attorney that is trashing his own deputy district attorney and knowingly defaming him," said Hatami's attorney, Brian Claypool. At issue are statements made by Gascon and his staff that Hatami says were aimed at him. The complaint alleges Gascon went on a podcast before the election, talking about how his staff may react to his policy changes. He said, "Some people will be unhappy and like either become internal terrorists or they'll leave. And I know certainly how to deal with both." Hatami, who comes from Middle East descent, says calling him a terrorist is racist and discriminatory.

Help Needed To Identify Hit-And-Run Driver Who Killed Glendale Man In Sun Valley Crash
Police are asking for the public’s help to identify a suspect involved in a hit-and-run crash in Sun Valley that killed a Glendale man over the weekend. The crash happened Saturday morning in the intersection of Coldwater Canyon and Roscoe boulevards. The LAPD says a Chevrolet Silverado pickup was going north on Coldwater Canyon when it ran a red light at Roscoe and collided with the driver’s side of an older model Morris Minor that was driving west on Roscoe. The driver of the Morris Minor, a 58-year-old Glendale man, was declared dead at the scene. According to the LAPD, the driver of the Silverado abandoned the truck at the scene. Images released show a man in a red, long-sleeved shirt, blue baseball cap, and a blue face mask carrying what appears to be a car seat away from the truck. Surveillance video showed the driver get into a second vehicle, a two-door silver Hyundai Tiburon, which had been following the truck just before it crashed. The Tiburon drove away without identifying themselves or trying to help the driver of the Morris Minor, abandoning the truck at the scene of the crash. The Tiburon was later found abandoned about a mile away from the crash scene. Anyone with information about the crash can contact Valley Traffic Division Detective Wade at (818) 644-8036.

Man Injured In Hollywood Crash Dies, Suspect In Custody
A man who was injured in a hit-and-run crash in Hollywood over the weekend died at a hospital, and a suspected drunk driver who ran from the scene was in custody, authorities said Wednesday. The crash was reported at about 9:45 p.m. Saturday at Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue, said Lt. Raul Jovel of the Los Angeles Police Department. Jonathan Watts, 23, of Texas, was driving a white BMW sedan that went through an intersection struck a black Nissan, according to police. “(Watts) fled the scene on foot, but was subsequently arrested,” Jovel said. The Nissan driver, a man in his 20s, was taken to a hospital for treatment of “severe injuries,” Jovel said. He died at the hospital at about 1 p.m. on Monday, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. His name was withheld, pending notification of his next of kin.

LAPD Launches Program For Mental Health Clinicians To Respond To Some Calls
The Los Angeles Police Department has started a program to dispatch a mental health response team, consisting of a sworn officer and a Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health clinician, to certain mental health calls, Assistant Chief Horace Frank announced Tuesday. The program, which is led by the police department's Mental Evaluation Unit, launched on Monday, Frank told the Police Commission. The unit's Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team (SMART), consisting of a mental health clinician and sworn officer, will respond to mental health calls that meet specific criteria, according to Frank. Previously, SMART units were used as secondary responders, but will now serve as co-responders with patrol units for certain calls. "One of the benefits of this to officers is that it allows us to begin that de-escalation process as quickly as possible,'' he said. The SMART unit will serve as "a supporting element,'' while the patrol unit will remain the primary unit, according to Frank. Further details about the program were not immediately available, but Office Drake Madison said the department is planning to hold a news conference to provide more information.

Tow Truck Driver Left Critically Injured By Hit-and-Run Driver In East Hollywood
Police are asking the public for information Wednesday amid their investigation into a hit-and-run crash that critically injured a tow truck driver in East Hollywood earlier this month. The incident occurred shortly after 8 p.m. on Feb. 6, near the intersection of Virgil Avenue and Clinton Street, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The 46-year-old tow truck driver, identified by police only as Gustavo, was standing in the roadway taking pictures of a vehicle when he was struck by the hit-and-run driver traveling southbound on Virgil Street. The victim suffered severe blunt force trauma injuries and was listed in critical condition. The driver fled the scene without identifying themself or rendering aid to the victim. Police on Wednesday released several images of the victim with loved ones, urging the public to “help this family” find the hit-and-run driver. Two of the images show Gustavo hospitalized with obvious injuries. Police indicated that the victim was “just doing his job.” Anyone with information about the driver or vehicle involved in the crash is asked to contact Central Traffic Division detectives at 213-833-3713.

San Pedro Burglary Suspect Who Led Police On 6-Hour Pursuit Pleads Not Guilty
A man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to leading police on a bizarre six-hour-plus chase last week from South Los Angeles to Ontario that often turned into a crawl. Michael Zinkiewitz was charged Friday with two counts of fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s vehicle, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He was described by police as “suffering from a mental illness.” The 35-year-old San Pedro resident was arrested about 1:30 a.m. Feb. 3 on the eastbound 10 Freeway near the Vineyard Avenue exit in Ontario, after the front driver-side rim of the silver Chevrolet Malibu he was driving fell off and sent sparks flying. Officers from the LAPD's 77th Street Community Police Station gang unit began chasing Zinkiewitz near 65th Street and Vermont Avenue at about 7 p.m. Feb. 2, after he sped away from a traffic stop. Officers who pulled Zinkiewitz over “observed the suspect reaching under the seat and believed the suspect possibly was reaching for a weapon,” according to an LAPD statement. “Immediately, the officers stopped their approach and the suspect accelerated away in his sedan.”

Dead Body Found Inside Rolled Up Carpet In Rancho Dominguez; Homicide Detectives Investigating
A homicide investigation was underway after a dead body was discovered rolled up inside a carpet along the Compton Creek in Rancho Dominguez Tuesday, authorities said. Deputies were on patrol at the creek when they spotted the large carpet rolled up in an area north of Del Amo Boulevard shortly after 11 a.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a news release. Upon unfurling the carpet, deputies say they found the corpse of a man who’d been beaten and stabbed. The victim was only described as Latino, and the Sheriff’s Department said county coroner’s officials were working to determine his identity. Investigators are searching for leads, and have yet to compile information on any suspects or possible motive in the case. Anyone with information can contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips may be submitted via 800-222-8477 or

Authorities Searching For Missing 26-Year-Old From Lynwood
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday asked for the public’s help in locating missing 26-year-old Carlos Alberto Escalante. Escalante was last seen in the area of 3200 block of Palm Avenue in the city of Lynwood on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at around 6:00 p.m, authorities said. Escalante is listed at about 5-foot-6 and weighs about 180 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a black shirt, black pants and rainbow shoes. Escalante’s family says they have not seen or heard from him. They are very concerned and asking for the public’s help, deputies say. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Missing Persons Unit at (323) 890-5500.

L.A. Sheriff’s Department Made A Helipad Near Villanueva’s Home. The Landowner Wants It Gone
One day last summer, workers for the Southern California Gas Co. were on a plot of land the utility owns that sits above the home of Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in La Habra Heights. Some sheriff’s officials approached and asked about the possibility of the department building a helicopter landing pad on the property. The utility declined the request, according to a letter its lawyer sent to L.A. County. Despite the rejection, work on a helicopter landing area began, with a crew grading dirt and hauling in soil in recent weeks, according to the letter and the La Habra Heights city manager. In the cease-and-desist letter, the attorney for the gas company demanded that the work on the helipad stop and that the county undo what was done to the land. The gas company’s property sits behind a chain-link fence with signs warning against trespassing and tampering. “This activity was without the authorization or approval of SoCalGas, for which SoCalGas would be entitled to damages for trespass and inverse condemnation,” Michelle Meghrouni, a lawyer for the utility, said in the letter. Villanueva did not respond to questions by The Times. However in a statement released Wednesday evening the Sheriff’s Department disputed the gas company’s allegations.

California Attorney Arrested, Accused Of Bilking Real Estate Investors Out Of $4.5 Million
A California lawyer was arrested Tuesday on fraud charges alleging he bilked investors out of at least $4.5 million by lying about a real estate opportunity and making it seem he controlled land he did not. Derek Jones, 46, of San Marino, awaited an appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in Los Angeles. An indictment returned in New York federal court charged him with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. It was not immediately clear who will represent him against the charges. Prosecutors say Jones routinely made false oral and written statements to induce victims to invest in a “resort village” on land he claimed that he controlled in Washington State. They say he also sent one investor an altered bank statement showing a balance of over $7 million when the account actually had a negative balance of about $268.

Should Porch Pirates Go To Prison? California Bill Adds Tougher Penalties For Repeat Theft
Serial package thieves would face prison time under a proposed law currently being considered in the California Senate. Under Senate Bill 358, introduced by Sen. Brian Jones, R-Santee, a person suspected of porch piracy, with two or more convictions of misdemeanor package theft within a three-year period, could be charged with a felony. That’s not the case today. Stealing a package is punishable by a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. Jones’ bill would increase the amount of possible incarceration. “Because of the COVID-19 crisis, home delivery of goods has increased all across the nation. In particular, seniors and disabled Californians rely on package delivery for fundamental items such as medication and food,” Jones said in a statement announcing the bill. “Unfortunately, package theft continues to run rampant with the rise of home delivery services. This ‘porch piracy’ epidemic is serious and must be addressed by our criminal justice system.” The bill is likely to face an uphill climb in the Senate. The Democrat-controlled Senate Public Safety Committee killed a similar bill, also introduced by Jones, in 2020.

Public Safety News

Man Dies In Apartment Fire Near Florence
A man rescued from a burning apartment Wednesday in the Florence area died despite efforts by paramedics to resuscitate him. Crews were called about 2:20 p.m. to an upstairs apartment in a five-unit, 3,820-square-foot building at 317 W. 76th St., between Broadway and Grand Avenue, said Brian Humphrey with the Los Angeles Fire Department. Flames were visible from the unit when crews arrived. When firefighters entered the smoky apartment, they found the man unresponsive and “quickly carried him from the apartment and downstairs to a waiting team of LAFD firefighter/paramedics,” Humphrey said. Paramedics tried to resuscitate the victim but his injuries “proved to be beyond medical help” and he died at the scene, Humphrey said. No one else was injured.

COVID: California's First Cases Of South African Variant Detected In Bay Area
As California's latest COVID surge recedes, new variants of the virus are sprouting up across the state. Genomic testing labs in California have already identified 159 cases of the more transmissible UK strain and 1,203 cases of the West Coast variants, also known as B.1.429 and B.1.427. And according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, a new strain has spread to California —the South African variant. At a news conference on Wednesday, Newsom revealed that the state's first cases of the South African variant were discovered in the Bay Area. "Two cases have been reported through Stanford. One in Santa Clara County and one in Alameda County," the governor confirmed. Santa Clara County officials said one of the patients had traveled internationally and that their infectious period started once they were in the South Bay. The patient has since recovered. Alameda County officials said their patient is no longer infectious. They are investigating how the person contracted the South African variant. "We have no evidence of other B1.351 [South African variant] in the county at this time. But we have a limited picture," said Alameda County health officer Dr. Nicolas Moss. Health experts in both counties held a joint press conference on Wednesday to address the new COVID developments.

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: