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 24, 2022
Law Enforcement News

Police Release Video Amid Search For Assailant Who Fatally Shot 16-Year-Old Boy In South L.A.
Police on Wednesday released surveillance video of a man being sought in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy in broad daylight in South L.A. earlier this month. The shooting was reported about 2:10 p.m. Feb. 2 along the 200 block of East 28th Street in Historic South-Central, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Responding officers found the victim suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. He was taken to a hospital, where he eventually died. He was identified as Hector Flores. The video released Wednesday shows the shooter driving up to where the victim was sitting in a car, getting out and aiming a gun at the victim inside. The video stops before the actual shooting takes place. The assailant is described as having a shaved head and wearing dark clothing and a face covering. He was driving a metallic blue 2017 to 2019 Kia Sportage SUV. No further details about the shooting, the assailant or the victim have been released. The motive behind the crime is also unclear. KTLA 5

Prosecutors Seek To Try Defendant As An Adult In Brutal Arson-Murder After Gascón Lifts His Ban
Los Angeles County prosecutors have filed a motion seeking to try as an adult a defendant who was 17 when accused of fatally shooting two sisters in 2018, marking the first such move since Dist. Atty. George Gascón backtracked last week on his blanket ban on trying those charged with crimes as minors in adult court. Sierra Brown, 16, and her older sister, Uniek Atkins, were shot and killed in a Westchester apartment before the defendant doused the residence with bleach and set it on fire, prosecutors allege in court records. The defendant, who is now 21, had been dating Sierra. The Times is not identifying the defendant because he was a minor at the time of the killings and his transfer hearing has yet to take place. The transfer motion was filed Friday, the same day Gascón announced the policy changes, said Kathy Cady, an attorney representing the victims' families. Gascón declined to discuss the case during a news conference Tuesday. Alex Bastian, one of the district attorney's special advisors, later confirmed the case will be the first brought before a committee created to review “extraordinary” cases in which a teenager is accused of an especially heinous act. It remains unclear how the committee will work or whether prosecutors will need to seek unanimous approval from the panel to conduct an actual transfer hearing that could end with a juvenile case being moved to adult criminal court. The prosecution in the killing of Brown and Atkins served as an early rallying cry for critics of Gascón's sweeping policy changes. Cady was one of many who demanded the district attorney's office conduct a “case-by-case” analysis of such cases. Los Angeles Times

Tarzana Couple Convicted In $18M Coronavirus Fraud Captured After 6 Months On The Run
Three members of an Encino-based fraud ring who went on the lam after being convicted of stealing more than $18 million in COVID-19 relief loans were captured in Montenegro and federal authorities are seeking their extradition, a senior law enforcement official told City News Service Wednesday. Ringleader Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and his wife and co-defendant Marietta Terabelian, 37, had been missing since Aug. 29. The Encino couple were convicted at trial, but were granted release to await sentencing. Tamara Dadyan, 42, an Encino real estate broker, was sentenced in December to nearly 11 years in prison for her role in the eight-member family fraud ring, but was allowed to remain free pending her Jan. 28 surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She dropped out of sight just before she was due to surrender. "I can confirm that the three fugitives wanted for their roles in a scheme to defraud the government of several million dollars in COVID relief funds, two of whom fled after conviction and were sentenced to federal prison, and a third who fled after failing to report to serve her sentence in federal prison, were arrested in the country of Montenegro," said Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice. "We are seeking their extradition," she said. FOX 11

Ex-Lecturer Pleads Not Guilty To Making Threats Against UCLA
A former UCLA lecturer who allegedly made threats against students and faculty — prompting a one-day halt to in-person instruction on the Westwood campus — pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges. An attorney for Matthew C. Harris, 31, entered the plea in Denver federal court, and did not object when the judge ordered his client to remain in custody pending trial, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The arraignment took place one day after Harris was indicted on four federal counts, including sending threatening communication by email, illegally attempting to purchase firearms, and possessing ammunition even though he was not legally allowed to have it due to his prior mental health history. Court documents show that in June, a three-year temporary restraining order was granted in Los Angeles County, barring Harris from area college campuses and from possessing weapons and ammo. Documents state that Harris was committed for about a month to a psychiatric facility last April. Harris, a former postdoctoral fellow, is accused of transmitting threats across state lines. Harris allegedly posted video online and sent an 800-page manifesto — making specific threats to people in UCLA's philosophy department via email, resulting in the school's decision to cancel in-person classes on Feb. 1. Harris was arrested the same day in Boulder, Colorado.

COVID Testing Site Hit By Burglars In Beverly Hills
A COVID-19 testing site in Beverly Hills was allegedly burglarized Wednesday morning. The burglary occurred at the 911 COVID Testing site located in the 9900 block of Santa Monica Boulevard. A safe with between $4,000 and $5,000 in cash was stolen from the site according to Steve Farzam, the COO for 911 COVID. Farzam said a burglary alarm at the site was triggered at around 3 a.m. Beverly Hills police also confirmed a burglary alarm was activated at the site. “Our officers are on scene right now conducting their investigation, which is in its early stages,” Beverly Hills police Sgt. Richard Billingsley said. Farzam said security cameras at the site were disabled and that a safe was stolen. There was no immediate description of the suspects. There are four 911 COVID Testing centers in Los Angeles, and they provide same-day, mobile and travel testing services. CBS 2

Homicide Investigation Underway After 1 Killed At Lancaster RV Encampment
Sheriff's detectives are investigating a possible homicide after one person died and several others were injured in Lancaster. The incident began around 3:15 p.m. at an RV encampment near the intersection of West Avenue G and 20th Street, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Law enforcement officials said there was an altercation among residents of the encampment. Additionally, the Los Angeles County Fire Department responded for a report of a dog bite. One person was transported to the hospital and later died, officials said. It's unclear whether the person died from a medical emergency or if the person died from injuries suffered in the altercation. Officials have not confirmed if the person who died was attacked by a dog. Homicide investigators were expected to remain on scene throughout the evening. The identity of the person who died has not yet been released. KTLA 5

Lake Mathews Man Arrested After Homeowners Find Note By ‘Lord God' Ordering Them To Move Out
A man whose infatuation with Kim Kardashian prompted the socialite to obtain a restraining order against him has been arrested by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office after he repeatedly showed up at a Lake Mathews home, ostensibly at Kardashian's invitation. But Nicholas Scott Costanza, 26, of Lake Mathews, was not invited to the home near his own residence, the DA's Office said, and now stands accused of felony charges of stalking, burglary and vandalism as well as six misdemeanors. Costanza is being held without bail at Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. He is due to be arraigned Wednesday, Feb. 23. He also has two pending trespassing cases, Superior Court records show. The victims said they first encountered Costanza on Sept. 15 when he woke them up by yelling outside their home. He told them that Kardashian had invited him to a party but left when the residents said there was no party. Costanza returned three days later when the residents were on vacation. He shot videos of himself inside the home, posting them to Instagram, and vandalized the home with a black marker, the DA's news release said. Los Angeles Daily News

Texas Deputy Killed, Suspect Wounded In Houston Mall Shooting
An East Texas deputy constable was killed and a suspect wounded in shootings Wednesday in a Houston shopping mall. The shootings happened shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday in the PlazAmericas mall in southeastern Houston. Callers to 911 initially reported that a security guard had been shot, but the guard turned out to be a deputy constable for San Jacinto County Precinct 1 working off duty, police said. Precinct 1 Constable Roy Rogers confirmed that the officer involved was his deputy. Houston police officers responding to the call shot the armed suspect. There was no immediate word on the suspect's condition or what led to the shooting. San Jacinto County is about 45 miles (72.42 kilometers) north of Houston.  Associated Press

Judge Convicts Man In Indiana Police Officer's 2017 Killing
A man accused of fatally shooting an Indiana police officer who came to his aid following a car crash was convicted Tuesday in the officer's slaying. Marion Superior Judge Mark Stoner announced to a courtroom filled with law enforcement officers that he found Jason Brown guilty of murder in the death of 38-year-old Southport Lt. Aaron Allan. Brown, who was also convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, will be sentenced on April 8. He faces up to 65 years in prison on the murder charge. Brown was dangling upside down by his seatbelt on July 27, 2017, when Allan approached after the single-car crash on the south side of Indianapolis. Allan attempted to crawl into the vehicle to keep Brown calm until paramedics arrived, prosecutors said. Moments later, Brown shot Allan 11 times, fatally wounding the officer. Two other officers then opened fire on Brown, wounding him. Allan, who was married and had two sons, was a full-time officer with the Southport Police Department in the 2,000-person municipality on the south side of Indianapolis. Prosecutors agreed in December to drop their death penalty request in exchange for the judge, instead of a jury, hearing the case. Associated Press

Thieves In The Night: A Vast Burglary Ring From Chile Has Been Targeting Wealthy U.S. Households
That's Jesus Bonilla, of the Nassau County Police. The detective recalls the tension he felt as he waited with other officers on a residential street in College Point, Queens. For months he had been pursuing a four-member crew that included its reputed leader, Bryan Herrera Maldonado. Though only 24, he was said to be among the most wanted burglars in the New York City area. Bonilla estimates that Maldonado's gang broke into at least 100 private homes across the country. They allegedly stole cash, jewelry, electronics, watches, and designer clothes and handbags—loot Bonilla believes amounted to millions—from mansions in towns like Bronxville, Greenwich, Hewlett Harbor, Old Westbury, and Sands Point. But that was just a fraction of the haul Maldonado was alleged to have swiped on a “theft tour” across the U.S. and in various countries around the world. Vanity Fair

‘Miracle' St. Louis Cop Who Was Severely Wounded Leaves Hospital
When Officer Colin Ledbetter was shot and critically wounded last month, his family wasn't sure if he would make it. Instead, Ledbetter continued to improve. Now the officer is set to be released from the hospital Tuesday to continue his recovery, reported KSDK. Ledbetter and a second officer, Nathan Speiss, were shot on January 26 while pursuing a homicide suspect. Speiss was shot in the leg, but Ledbetter was shot just below his vest, according to the report. The bullet severed his femoral artery. Just days after the shooting, Ledbetter's father said his son was fighting for his life but doing “better than expected.” “He's still not conscious, and there's still a long way to go,” Steve Ledbetter then told the St. Louis-Dispatch. Ledbetter's fast improvement has astounded his doctors. “The fact that he had lost that much blood and has had this miraculous recovery is a miracle,” Dr. Douglas Schuerer told KSDK. “Given how quickly he's gotten better here in just a week or two, I would anticipate continued improvement.” It's not clear yet how much improvement Ledbetter's family can expect, but Schuerer is hopeful it will be “close to baseline.” Photos shared to Twitter on Tuesday show Ledbetter smiling and walking out of the hospital. PoliceOne

Pennsylvania Cop, Teenager Dive Into Icy Pond To Save 3 Children
A Pennsylvania police officer and a teenage bystander were hailed heroes on Monday after they jumped into an icy pond to save three children. Anthony Alexander, 16, was hanging out with friends nearby when he heard the screaming, reported ABC 6. "They really need help. I wasn't going to sit there and let them drown like that," Alexander said. At first, he tried to use a stick. When that didn't work, Alexander jumped in to pull out a little boy and a little girl. But there was still one girl left. "It was cold," recalled Alexander. "Like I was shocked, like my body went into shock." That's when Collingdale Police Sgt. Pat Kilroy arrived. Kilroy dove into the pond to rescue the remaining girl. "They were really scared, they were like, 'Help my sister'," Kilroy told ABC 6. "At that point, you just go, and I knew what had to be done." The Collingdale Police Chief called it a “community effort.” Everyone involved in the incident, including the three kids, are expected to be OK, according to the report. PoliceOne

Public Safety News

Firefighters Knock Down Pair Of L.A. Structure Fires
Firefighters were able to knock down a large fire in a downtown Los Angeles warehouse late Tuesday evening. The fire was first reported around 8:40 p.m. at a two-story warehouse building located at 1120 South Main St., officials said. More than 170 firefighters were assigned to battle the blaze which burned a 50-by-100 foot section on both stories of the building. After more than 70 minutes on scene, crews were able to contain and extinguish the fire, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. The fire was contained mostly to the rear of the building, according to LAFD. While firefighters battled the downtown warehouse fire, additional resources were called in to fight a fire burning in a vacant home in Westlake. That fire was burning on the 900 block of South Park View Street and briefly threatened nearby structures. More than 140 firefighters responded to that incident and were able to extinguish it in about 45 minutes. KTLA 5

Crews Knocked Down Greater Alarm Fire At 2-Story Apartment Building In Koreatown
Crews with the Los Angeles Fire Department are responding to a greater alarm fire at a two-story apartment building at 271 South Harvard Blvd. in Koreatown. Authorities report that there was heavy fire at the rear of the second floor, but firefighters were able to contain the blaze and knock it down in around 21 minutes. No one was injured d uring the incident. The cause of the blaze is under investigation. CBS 2

LA County To Lift Indoor Mask Mandate At Establishments, Businesses That Verify Vaccination Status
Vaccinated individuals will be allowed to go maskless in L.A. County establishments, businesses and venues that verify vaccination status, according to a newly revised public health order that will take effect Friday, officials said. "As the county continues to experience reduced COVID-19 spread, it is appropriate to consider fewer required safety measures, noting that vulnerable individuals should continue to layer in all protections possible," the L.A. County Department of Public Health said in a statement. "Given decreased risk, Public Health is modifying the Health Officer Order to allow establishments, businesses, and venues verifying vaccination status to offer optional masking for fully vaccinated individuals." The new health order will go into effect at 12:01 am. Friday, February 25, the department said. Establishments, businesses and venues must verify that 100% of customers 5 and older are fully vaccinated. If not, they must provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 viral test result. Tests for customers must be taken within two days of entry if a PCR test, or one day if an antigen test. Employees will be allowed to submit a negative test result every three days. ABC 7

Local Government News

L.A. Mayoral Candidate Rick Caruso Talks About Why He's Running, His Background And Tackling Crime And Homelessness
Billionaire developer Rick Caruso has thrown his hat into the ring in the race to become Los Angeles' next mayor. KTLA spoke with the mayoral candidate, who broke down why he's running and discussed his plans for tackling crime and homelessness in the city. “We're in a time of crisis, I think we have to just call it what it is, with rampant homelessness, with the rising crime that we have, you have corruption in city hall — I just felt it was the time that I could serve, give back to the community, do some good,” Caruso said. Critics have said that Caruso's wealth and privilege may insulate him from the challenges of everyday people. “He comes from a part of town where they don't know about people who suffer. They don't know about people who go hungry. They don't have any idea about what it is to struggle,” former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who supports mayoral candidate Karen Bass, told the Los Angeles Times. Asked about the criticism, Caruso pointed to his immigrant family roots and the philanthropic work he has done in L.A. “I do know that I came from immigrant grandparents that landed in Boyle Heights and our roots were very, very regular, and struggled hard. My grandfather was a gardener and I remember the struggles of my grandparents. I also started my own business, it was a small business. And along the way, I've created thousands of jobs and help support many, many hundreds of small businesses. And I have given along with my wife, tens of millions of dollars, in the inner city.” KTLA 5

5 L.A. Mayoral Candidates Meet For Campaign's 1st Televised Debate
Five leading candidates for mayor of Los Angeles squared off Tuesday night in the first televised debate of the campaign, but the most stinging barbs of the evening were directed at a sixth candidate who didn't attend — billionaire and civic activist Rick Caruso. City Atty. Mike Feuer suggested that Caruso had not done enough as chairman of USC's board of trustees to protect the safety of women on the campus. Councilman Joe Buscaino accused the first-time political candidate of being anti-union, in a city he said was built by organized labor. The digs came toward the end of an hourlong debate at Loyola Marymount University, where Feuer and Buscaino faced Councilman Kevin de León, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and former Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Mel Wilson. Caruso did not attend because of a scheduling issue, his spokesperson said, but he plans to be at future debates. KTLA 5

Can LA Mayor, Council President And Supervisors Chair Help Settle Homelessness Lawsuit?
Attorneys for the city and county of Los Angeles are set to resume settlement talks Tuesday in efforts to avoid a trial and resolve a long-running lawsuit demanding that local government find shelter for the thousands of people camping on sidewalks and near freeways. A federal judge ordered the mandatory discussions after city and county representatives indicated they had no sense of when or if they might strike a deal that would lead to a shared settlement with the association of downtown residents, homeless individuals and property owners which filed the suit two years ago. Over two days last week, about a dozen city-county representatives shuffled in and out of the judge's chambers for multi-hour meetings — with little progress to report. A seemingly exasperated U.S. District Judge David Carter requested the presence of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell, and Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez at Tuesday's talks. Carter has referred several times in court to a “historic schism” between the city and county that has apparently stymied previous settlement efforts. The two entities must come to a compromise on funding and other issues before a proposed agreement with the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights can be reached. Los Angeles Daily News

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