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

September 9, 2021
Law Enforcement News

Family Returns Home To Sylmar To Find Mother Dead In Apparent Homicide
A family returning to their Sylmar home Tuesday night from a trip to Mexico found the body of their 36-year-old wife and mother, the victim of an apparent homicide. Officers were sent to the 14500 block of Lyle Street at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and found Virginia Cantero dead inside the residence, according to the LAPD. Her brother said he suspects she was slain shortly after her husband and three teenage children had left for a long holiday weekend in Mexico. She had not gone on the long weekend trip to Mexico with her husband, with whom she was estranged, and three teenage children. Her car was taken and later found. Still missing is her new friend of recent months. It was someone others close to her say they did not trust, and now suspect. Soto said when he visited his sister Friday, everybody else was gone, but for the new friend. "He fooled us," he said. Detective Christine Moselle, of the LAPD Valley Homicide Bureau, said police are of the information and are following up leads. Moselle said they are not ready to name a suspect and declined to comment on whether there was any sign of forced entry. Anyone with information on the case was urged to call 877-LAPD-247. NBC 4

Composite Sketch Released Of Driver Who Fatally Hit Pedestrian In Sylmar, Then Pulled Into Gas Station To Dislodge Him
Police released a composite sketch and a security image of a vehicle that struck a pedestrian in Sylmar, then pulled into a gas station to dislodge him before taking off. The crash happened overnight on Aug. 16 at Foothill Boulevard and Hubbard Street. A pedestrian, identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office as 66-year-old Anthony Hurd, was struck as he crossed Foothill Boulevard mid-block. According to the LAPD, the driver of the silver sedan that hit Hurd was still dragging him when pulled into the driveway of a nearby gas station, then backed up in order to dislodge the pedestrian. He was last seen driving away southbound on Foothill Boulevard. Investigators on Wednesday released a composite sketch of the hit-and-run driver. He was described as a Hispanic man with combed back black hair, about 5-foot-5 and 20 to 25 years old. Police also released a hazy image from a security camera and identified the vehicle as a 2011-2017 gray or silver four-door Kia Rio, which may be missing vehicle parts because they were left at the scene and have damage to its front end. A reward of up to $50,000 is available for information leading to the arrest of the driver in this hit-and-run, or others in the city of Los Angeles. CBS 2

Person Found Shot To Death Inside South LA Laundromat
A suspected gunman was taken into custody after a victim was found shot to death inside a laundromat in South Los Angeles Wednesday morning, officials said. The shooting occurred at a laundromat near the intersection of 78th and Figueroa streets just after 5 a.m. Witnesses told investigators that the gunman had run away from the scene or may have ridden away on a bicycle. Los Angeles Police Department officials confirmed by 8 a.m. they had found the suspect, as well as a gun that was used in the killing. No further information was immediately released.  FOX 11

Man Sentenced For Wife's Machete Killing, Attack On Neighbors
A Panorama City man was sentenced Wednesday to 46 years to life in prison for murdering his wife with a machete in an attack caught on surveillance video, then forcing his way into his neighbors' apartment where a couple and their teenage son were injured. Jurors deliberated about two hours before finding David Ernesto Rodriguez, 38, guilty July 23 of first-degree murder for the June 22, 2019, attack on his 32-year-old wife, Karla, in the courtyard of the apartment complex, according to Deputy District Attorney Julie Kramer. “You can see the whole murder on video,” the prosecutor said after the verdict. Rodriguez then forced his way into the neighbors' apartment and attacked the man, who lost an eye and suffered injuries to his nose and arm, Kramer said. The man's wife and then-17-year-old son were also injured when they tried to intervene. Along with the murder, Rodriguez was convicted of one count each of attempted murder, mayhem and burglary and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Sidewalk Diners Robbed At Gunpoint On Melrose In Terrifying Incident Caught On Video
A terrifying armed robbery of sidewalk diners on Melrose Avenue was caught on camera. The video shows two men walking up to several people dining on the sidewalk. One man points a gun and they both start to rifle through the shocked customers' belongings, grabbing purses, wallets and shopping bags before running away on foot. The whole sequence took less than 20 seconds. The robbery happened Tuesday afternoon at a restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Fairfax Village. LAPD detectives are investigating. Local residents and business owners say they have grown increasingly concerned about a rise in brazen crime in the popular shopping district. "Shocking," said Asha Iyer, who lives nearby. "That's terrifying. I live in this neighborhood and hang out all the time. I had no idea that was happening." Last month a store employee at Shoe Palace in the Fairfax district was fatally shot after a dispute over a raffle. Police later arrested a 16-year-old suspect. ABC 7

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón Sued By Deputy DA
A veteran prosecutor is suing Los Angeles County, alleging he has been defamed, denied promotions and had his fitness to practice law questioned because he has been outspoken critic of District Attorney George Gascón's directives. Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami's lawsuit alleges retaliation, race discrimination, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A representative for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office declined Tuesday to comment on the complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court by Hatami, the prosecutor in the case of Jose Cuatro and Maria Juarez, a Palmdale couple charged with murder and torture in the death of their 4-year-old son, Noah. Hatami was one of two prosecutors in the trial of Isauro Aguirre and Pearl Fernandez, who were sentenced to death and life in prison without parole, respectively, for her 8-year-old son Gabriel's death. When Gascón was sworn in last December, he promised to stop enforcing California's three-strikes law, end use of the death penalty and create a review board to hold law enforcement officials more accountable. As Hatami has continued to be critical of Gascón's changes, the alleged hostile work and retaliation toward him has continued, according to his court papers. "Gascón has deliberately denied assigning (Hatami) to complex child abuse and murder cases within his jurisdiction as punishment for not going along with his directives," the suit alleges. "This in turn impacts (Hatami's) work and ability to prove himself for desired promotions." FOX 11

L.A. Man Charged With Animal Cruelty In Burning Death Of Family Dog
Charges have been filed against a 24-year-old man who is accused of killing his family's dog by setting her on fire, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday. Brandon Jerold Smith of Los Angeles was charged with cruelty to an animal and arson of property of another, both felonies, according to a DA's office news release. The counts include an allegation that the defendant used lighter fluid as “deadly and dangerous” weapon. “One of the most important responsibilities of my office is to protect the most vulnerable,” DA George Gascón said in the release. “That includes our pets.” On Aug. 22, Smith is suspected of hanging the dog — a Welsh corgi mix named Hennessy — on a fence before lightning her on fire, according to prosecutors. He was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department last Saturday and is being held on $100,000 bail, according to inmate records. Smith pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled to be back in court on Sept. 22. KTLA 5

LAPD Investigating Shooting On Venice Boardwalk
The Los Angeles Police Department investigating a shooting that took place on the Venice Boardwalk. It happened at the 1700 block of Ocean Front Walk around 6:00 p.m., according to police. Officers say the victim, the manager of a marijuana shop, was shot in the arm and leg. The shooting is believed to be gang related. The suspect in the shooting took off. No further details are available at this time.  WestSide Current

Closing Arguments Set To Begin In Robert Durst's Murder Trial
Jurors are set to begin hearing closing arguments Wednesday in the murder trial of New York real estate scion Robert Durst, who repeatedly denied killing a longtime friend in her Benedict Canyon home but acknowledged he wouldn't admit it if he had. The panel is expected to hear up to 3 1/2 days of final arguments from attorneys in the 78-year-old defendant's trial, with jurors expected to receive the case by midday Sept. 14. Durst is charged with the December 2000 shooting death of Susan Berman, a 55-year-old writer. In an updated opening statement when the trial resumed in May after being stalled for more than a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told jurors that the evidence would show that Durst shot and killed Berman “out of survival” because he feared she would tell authorities about his involvement in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie. The prosecutor called the cases of Kathie Durst and Berman “interrelated,” saying that the evidence would show that Durst killed his spouse and used Berman to help cover up his part in the crime, and that he subsequently had to kill his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, because Black figured out who Durst was and was putting pressure on him.

Canadian Man Sentenced In Case Linked To L.A. Online Bank Thefts
A Canadian man was sentenced Wednesday to 140 months in federal prison for conspiring to launder tens of millions of dollars stolen in various wire and bank fraud schemes, including a massive online banking theft by North Korean cyber criminals that is part of a pending case in Los Angeles. Ghaleb Alaumary, 36, of Mississauga, Ontario, who is a dual Canadian and U.S. citizen, was sentenced in Savannah, Georgia, after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering in two cases, one of which was filed in Los Angeles. As part of his sentence that covers both cases, Alaumary was ordered to pay more than $30 million in restitution to victims. According to court documents, Alaumary and his accomplices used business email compromise schemes, ATM cash-outs, and bank cyber-heists to steal money from victims and then launder it through bank accounts and digital currency. In the Los Angeles case that was transferred to the Southern District of Georgia for his guilty plea and sentencing, Alaumary recruited and organized individuals to withdraw stolen cash from ATMs; he provided bank accounts that received funds from bank cyber-heists and fraud schemes; and, once the ill-gotten funds were in accounts he controlled, Alaumary further laundered the funds through wire transfers, cash withdrawals, and by exchanging the funds for cryptocurrency.

Glendale Man Agrees To Plead Guilty In Hate Crime Attack Of Turkish Restaurant In Beverly Hills
A Glendale man has agreed to plead guilty to a hate crime after taking part in an attack on a Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills in which the man hurled chairs at customers, yelled anti-Turkish slurs, and damaged property at the business, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. William Stepanyan, 23, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy and one hate crime charge, according to a plea agreement filed Monday in court. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison. Stepanyan's attorney, Kenneth Reed, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday afternoon. In April, Stepanyan was charged in the November attack, along with Harutyun Harry Chalikyan, 23, of Tujunga. Chalikyan's case is set for trial on Oct. 26, when he will face one count of conspiracy and five hate crime charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. Stepanyan and Chilikyan were a part of a group of nine men who on Nov. 4, while on their way to a rally, texted each other about “hunting for [T]urks” later that evening, prosecutors wrote in the plea agreement. Los Angeles Daily News

Jury Indicts Surf School Owner Accused of Shooting His Children With Spear Fishing Gun
A Santa Barbara surf school owner was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday for taking his two young children, ages 2 and 10 months, to Mexico and killing them. Matthew Taylor Coleman. 40, of Santa Barbara, allegedly killed his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter on Aug. 9. The indictment filed Wednesday charges him with two counts of foreign first-degree murder of United States nationals. The charges make him eligible for the death penalty, if convicted. “There are no words to describe the profound grief that envelops an entire community when a child is murdered,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The Department of Justice is determined to achieve justice for these victims and their loved ones.” Coleman told authorities in an interview after his arrest that he “believed his children were going to grow into monsters so he had to kill them,” according to a criminal complaint filed by federal authorities. He also admitted to shooting them with a spear fishing gun, according to the nine-page criminal complaint. The complaint went on to say Coleman stated that he was enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories and was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife possessed serpent DNA and had passed it on to his children and was trying "to save the world from monsters." “The murder of a child is difficult to understand under any circumstances,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. NBC 4

Former State Employee With Record Of Fraud To Plead Guilty To EDD Scam
A former California government employee who once served time in prison for stealing state benefits meant for disabled people has agreed to plead guilty to federal fraud charges for another scam in which she siphoned more than $1.5 million in COVID relief payments. In a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Gabriela Llerenas, 49, of Perris, admitted to filing bogus jobless claims for pandemic-related benefits with the Employment Development Department, the state agency where she once worked. She now faces up to 20 years in federal prison and has agreed to forfeit $621,000 that she obtained through the scheme, according to the plea agreement. The guilty plea delivers a significant victory to prosecutors who have been trying to address the widespread fraud that played out as states rushed to disperse billions in COVID relief funds. But with more than $11 billion believed to have been lost to fraudulent claims just in California, the case hardly moves the needle. The latest scheme follows an earlier one Llerenas ran when she worked at the EDD handling disability insurance claims. She resigned in March 2002 after admitting that she authorized and pocketed fake disability benefits. She was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison, according to court records. Los Angeles Times

Bodycam Shows Shootout That Made California Officer An Amputee
The Modesto Police Department on Friday released video footage of the night last month that Officer Michael "Mikey" Rokaitis was shot while serving a search warrant at a home. The 21-minute video includes the shooting, a bloodied Rokaitis being pulled from a room and the frantic minutes that ensued inside the home on East Orangeburg Avenue. Police Chief Brandon Gillespie said in the video that Rokaitis has undergone seven surgeries since the shooting, including one to have part of his right leg amputated. He spent 12 days in the ICU but is now in stable condition. The video of the Aug. 14 incident opened from inside a police car with an officer attempting to pull over a motorcyclist, later identified as 34-year-old Joshua Harrington of Modesto, who was driving recklessly, Gillespie said. When Harrington fled the traffic stop, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's helicopter then followed him to the home just east of Lakewood Avenue. Footage from Officer Brent Ward's body camera shows officers detaining two men upon arriving to the house. Gillespie identified one as Harrington, who the chief said had drugs on him. Modesto Bee

Louisiana Deputy Dies Of Medical Emergency After Pursuit
A Louisiana sheriff's office is in mourning after one of its deputies died Tuesday in the line of duty. According to KSLA, Deputy Trey Copeland was engaged in a pursuit prior to his death. After the pursuit, which lasted about 20 minutes, Copeland said he was feeling unwell. The deputy was taken to a hospital where he later died, according to the report. No cause of death has been determined because Copeland's family did not want an autopsy, the sheriff told KSLA. Copeland is believed to have suffered a medical event, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP). The motorcyclist was given medical attention after crashing; he was charged with aggravated flight and traffic offenses. Copeland worked as a full-time correctional officer for the Webster Parish Sheriff's Office and a part-time police officer for the Cotton Valley Police Department, according to ODMP. He is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren. PoliceOne

Abuse Of Deadly Fentanyl On Rise Among New Mexico Teens
As many of the kids at a charter school in Santa Fe were preparing for the first day of the new year in mid-August — perhaps laying out clothes and messaging friends — one student was engaging in a near-deadly experiment with synthetic opioids. The teen boy spent the night of Aug. 15 at his grandparents' home, just down the street from his own home, while they were out of town. His mother grew concerned when he failed to respond to her text messages the next morning. Thinking her 16-year-old son had overslept, the mother went into the house prepared to scold the teen for being late for school. When she entered the room where he was sleeping, however, her heart sank. Her son's body was dangling over the bed, seizing, and he was unresponsive. The woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Melinda, was familiar with trips to the emergency room — her son has epilepsy. That day, doctors at a local hospital were urgently trying to airlift the boy to Albuquerque, and she knew the situation was serious. "I wasn't too afraid until the doctors told me that the helicopter company they called couldn't come for 20 minutes and they called a different one," Melinda said in a recent interview. "I kept hearing them say, 'Call the next one. We have to get him out of here.' " As doctors were pumping her son's chest to stimulate a response from him and asking what he had taken, the teen suddenly shouted, "Pills! Pills! Blue pills!" his mother said. He was overdosing on fentanyl. The Santa Fe New Mexican

Public Safety News

Coronavirus: L.A. County Hospitalizations Down Nearly 20% With 2,006 New Cases And 49 New Deaths Reported
Los Angeles County public health officials reported 2,006 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 1,423,620 as of Wednesday, Sept. 8. The total number of cases represents 14.2% of Los Angeles County's population. Officials reported 49 new deaths linked to the coronavirus, for a total of 25,514 deaths since tracking began. The total number of deaths represents 0.25% of Los Angeles County's population. Hospitalizations continue to decline. There were 30 fewer hospitalizations reported sinceTuesday, bringing the offical count to 1,433. That's a 19.9% decrease from the Aug. 19 high of 1,790. According to the California Department of Public Health's vaccines dashboard, 66% of Los Angeles County is fully vaccinated and more than 12,228,437 vaccine doses have been administered as of Sept. 8.  Los Angeles Daily News

What3Words App Connects LAFD To People In Need Of Help Faster
A new app is helping Los Angeles firefighters reach emergency situations a little faster. The Los Angeles Fire Department, which gets 1,000 calls for help daily, officially adopted the app “what3words” in July. Traditionally, most geographical locations are identifiable through latitude and longitude. What the app's technology does is assign a unique set of three random words to each geographical location so that emergency responders can find them much faster. “Right now, we can see the dot on the map, but without what3words, we can't describe it in English. We have to use very long series of numbers and letters in order to do that,” said Chief Scott Porter, LAFD's chief intelligence officer. “But if you just have to answer three English words, it's like entering an address. So we were able to really speed up the call processing time.” The LAFD has built what3words into its computer-aided dispatch system, which helps pinpoint an incident precisely even if there's no address. This is particularly helpful for hikers who need help. CBS 2

Flex Alert Extended Until Thursday Due To Above-Normal Temperatures
The California Independent System Operator Wednesday extended a Flex Alert through Thursday due to above-normal temperatures and high energy demand in much of the state. Residents were initially asked to conserve electricity from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday due to predicted high energy demand and tight supplies on the power grid. On Wednesday afternoon, Cal-ISO extended the alert from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday. “With above-normal temperatures in the forecast for much of California and the West, the power grid operator is predicting an increase in electricity demand, primarily from air conditioning use. The increased demand can make electricity supplies tight and strain the power grid, making conservation essential,” California ISO said. During the Flex Alert time period, consumers are asked to lower their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, if health permits, and take other voluntary measures that include avoiding the use of major appliances and unnecessary lights. CBS 2

Local Government News

LA City Council Invests $1.65 Million To Clean Up Graffiti, Illegal Dumping In Northeast Neighborhoods
More than $1.5 million has been committed to help clean up the graffiti and illegal dumping that has gotten out of control in Los Angeles' northeast neighborhoods. According to city officials, there was a 450% increase in graffiti and illegal dumping in Los Angeles between 2016 and 2020. So city has put aside a total of $1.65 million to help clean up the mess in El Sereno, Boyle Heights, and Downtown LA. “It's happening throughout the city of LA, but especially in our low-income neighborhoods because there's a lot of folks outside of the city who, quite frankly, believe they can use these neighborhoods as their own personal dumping grounds,” LA City Councilman Kevin de Leon said. The funding will be allocated to three organizations: Urban Alchemy, Fuego Tech, and the Los Angeles Conservation Corp. CBS 2

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: