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

April 8, 2022
Law Enforcement News

Man Arrested In Shooting Of Lady Gaga's Dog Walker Erroneously Released From Jail
A 19-year-old who was arrested last year in connection with the shooting of Lady Gaga's dog walker was mistakenly released from jail this week, according to authorities. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department inmate records show James Howard Jackson was released from custody at 3:38 p.m. Wednesday after his case was dismissed. Sheriff's officials and the L.A. County district attorney's office could not immediately confirm details, but KNBC-TV Channel 4 reported that Jackson's release was in error. The station cited law enforcement sources who said that a replacement case should have been filed, but records weren't updated and Jackson was released. The district attorney's office told KNBC late Thursday that the dismissed charges were set to be replaced by a superseding grand jury indictment, which was unsealed during a court hearing Wednesday. “Several sources familiar with the court proceedings said it appeared the superseding case was not entered against Jackson,” the station reported. Jackson was among five people arrested last year in connection with the shooting of Ryan Fischer, the dog walker. Fischer was walking Lady Gaga's three French bulldogs in the 1500 block of Sierra Bonita Avenue in Hollywood in late February 2021 when a car pulled up and two men jumped out. Fischer resisted when the men tried to snatch the dogs, and he was shot in the chest. The assailants took two of the dogs and escaped. Fischer has since been released from a hospital. Los Angeles Times

LAPD Asking For Public's Help Identifying Suspect In Sexual Assault
The Los Angeles Police Department is asking for the public's help to identify the suspect in a sexual assault that happened at a Sawtelle apartment building. The attack happened Wednesday, March 23, at around 10:10 p.m. in a residential building located 11734 Wilshire Blvd. A woman was riding in an elevator when a man joined her inside, police said. As she exited the elevator and headed toward her apartment door, the man from the elevator pinned her against the wall and motioned for the woman to open the door and let him into the apartment with her. While he pinned the woman against the wall, the man was also exposing his genitals and pressing against her, the LAPD said. After the woman repeatedly told the man to stop, he eventually let her go and returned to the elevator. KTLA 5

Two Arrested, Two At Large After Fleeing From Police Into Northridge Mall Two robbery suspe
cts were arrested and two others were at large after fleeing into the Northridge Fashion Center Thursday. Los Angeles Police Department officers were called to the mall on reports of a robbery about 2:40 p.m., located the four suspects and “became involved in a pursuit,” according to a department statement. The suspects fled into the mall, and two were later arrested. However, two others eluded police. No suspect description was provided. NBC 4

Pedestrian Dies After Being Struck By Metro Train Near Downtown L.A.
A pedestrian was fatally struck by a Metro A Line train Thursday morning near downtown, causing major delays in commuter service, authorities said. The unidentified pedestrian was hit by the train about 7:40 a.m. near East 24th Street and Long Beach Avenue in the Central-Alameda neighborhood, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Metro alerted riders to expect significant delays north of the A Line's Washington Station, just south of the 10 Freeway, due to the incident. The Los Angeles Police Department did not have any additional information on the incident. Los Angeles Times

Burglars Steal Thousands Of Dollars In Collectible Sports Cards From Encino Shop Mamba Cards
Burglars were caught on camera stealing a valuable stash of sports trading cards, emptying the shelves at Mamba Cards in Encino Tuesday. Surveillance video shows the masked burglars taking box after box of valuable merchandise. They grabbed whatever they could get. "They were looking for our sealed inventory - stuff that was sealed and stuff they can easily just grab," said Leor with Mamba Cards, who asked to not use his last name. But at the same time they also grabbed items that were not worth much, says Daniel, also with the store. He thinks the burglars were amateurs hoping to get a score. "We also saw them take items that don't have any value, which tells me that they may not know what they were taking," he said. Mamba Cards shared surveillance video of the burglary on Instagram. ABC 7

Man Shot, Killed Near Metro A Line Firestone Station
A man was shot to death Thursday near the Metro A Line's Firestone Station. The shooting was reported about 5:50 p.m. in the 8900 block of South Maie Avenue in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone area, according to Deputy David Yoo of the Sheriff's Information Bureau. The man was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His name was withheld pending notification of his next of kin. No suspect description was provided. Anyone with information on the shooting was asked to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be called in to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or submitted online at .

'Porta-Potty' Attack: Person believed to be homeless humiliates woman in Playa del Rey
It's one of the last remaining coastal wetlands in Southern California. But the 600-acre ecological reserve is being flooded with homeless people living in RVs – and it's only getting worse. A person believed to be homeless threw a portable bathroom at a woman who was cleaning up the Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey. Fox 11

3 Killed After Car Careens Into Tree In East LA, Catches Fire
Three people were killed when a car slammed into a tree in East Los Angeles early Friday morning. The crash occurred at around 12:30 a.m. on Olympic Boulevard, near Herbert Avenue. According to California Highway Patrol, a Volkswagen Jetta was speeding east on Olympic Boulevard when the driver lost control and slammed into a tree. The Jetta then caught fire. A big-rig driver who was passing by rushed over and used his fire extinguisher to extinguish the flames, a CHP officer at the scene told CBSLA. Its three occupants, two males and a female, died at the scene. They were not immediately identified. It's unclear if drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash. CBS 2

LASD Holds Active Shooter Drills At Pierce College
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department held an active shooter training exercise Thursday at Pierce College. This was just a drill but deputies say the functional training is critical for real-life scenarios. It has become an all-too-common scenario - an active shooter threatening innocent lives - and that's why training like this is so important. It was the first such training in two years, as COVID-19 precautions prevented the large-scale exercises. In one scenario, sheriff's deputies scramble to Pierce College when shots ring out. "You're going to see literally from start to finish someone firing weapons," Captain John Gannon said. "We're going to have some people down. There will be a retreat into the library where I expect my people to actively pursue him." Training like this is critical for law enforcement. Getting different elements of the department working together in a crisis takes practice. "This is a perishable skill. You have to continue to practice it so when something really happens, you react almost instinctively," Gannon said. "You shouldn't have to think about it. My people should immediately know exactly what to do and how to move in to take people and bring them out of harm's way." ABC 7

Man Fatally Shot On 710 Freeway Identified; Leaves Behind 4-Year-Old Son
A man who was shot and killed earlier this week on the 710 Freeway was identified Thursday by family members as 36-year-old Freddy Gomez. Gomez leaves behind a 4-year-old son. Family members told FOX 11 that he was driving to his girlfriend's house when he was shot. His nephew described him as a family-oriented man with a large family. According to the California Highway Patrol, Gomez called 911 around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday reporting he had been shot on the northbound lanes of the freeway near the Firestone Boulevard exit in Bell. CHP said that the driver of a black sedan drove alongside the victim's vehicle and fired an unknown number of shots. Gomez was taken to the hospital where he later died from a gunshot wound. Investigators believe the suspect used a handgun and bullet casings were recovered at the scene. A detailed description of the suspect or suspect's vehicle was not available. At this time, no arrests have been made. Anyone with information is asked to contact the CHP. The family created a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses. FOX 11

Long Beach Pads Reward In Hit-Run Crash That Killed Man And 3-Year-Old Daughter In Apartment
A reward for information leading the arrest and conviction of the suspect in a Long Beach hit-and-run crash that killed a 42-year-old man and his 3-year-old daughter was at $25,000 Thursday, with the city of Long Beach adding $15,000 to the fund. The city's reward offer is on top of $10,000 approved earlier this week by the LA County Board of Supervisors, at the request of Supervisor Janice Hahn. Police have identified the hit-and-run suspect as 24-year-old Octavio Montano. Long Beach police said he was driving a 2014 Ram 1500 pickup northbound on Rose Avenue, near East Artesia Boulevard, at about 10 p.m. March 1 when the truck "left the roadway and collided with an apartment building, killing two of the occupants inside." Montano allegedly ran away from the scene following the collision. Jose Palacios Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the scene, while his daughter Samantha Palacios was taken to a hospital, where she later died. "The deaths of Jose and Samantha have had a devastating, lasting impact on our community,'' Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. NBC 4

Unruly Passenger Pleads Guilty After Altercation With Flight Attendant, U.S. Air Marshal On LAX-Bound Flight
A man pleaded guilty Wednesday after a flight headed to LAX from Washington D.C. had to be diverted because he was involved in an altercation with a flight attendant and a U.S. air marshal. Ariel James Pennington, 35, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to interference with a flight attendant, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma announced. On Jan. 18, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment against Pennington for offenses he committed while traveling on a flight from Arlington, Virginia, to L.A. The first count alleges that Pennington assaulted and intimidated a flight attendant, thereby interfering with the flight attendant's ability to perform their duties. The second count alleges that Pennington assaulted a Federal Air Marshal on the same flight. Pennington pleaded guilty to the first count Wednesday. As part of a plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss the second count at sentencing of the indictment. The incident occurred on board a Delta flight on Dec. 9, 2021. It's unclear what prompted the altercation, but at some point during the flight, Pennington became upset and allegedly assaulted a flight attendant. KTLA 5

11 SoCal Residents Charged With Arranging Sham Marriages To Get Green Cards
A Philippine national living in Los Angeles was arrested Thursday on federal charges alleging he ran a large-scale marriage fraud scheme that allegedly arranged hundreds of sham marriages used to circumvent immigration laws. Marcialito Biol "Mars" Benitez, 48, is charged along with 10 other Southern California residents with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud for allegedly operating an "agency'' that arranged hundreds of sham marriages between foreign nationals and United States citizens, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston. The business then allegedly prepared and submitted false petitions, applications and other documents to substantiate the sham marriages and secure adjustment of clients' immigration statuses for a fee of between $20,000 and $30,000 in cash, according to prosecutors. "We believe their alleged scheme broke immigration laws that are in place to protect public safety and created a disadvantage for those seeking to earn their citizenship lawfully,'' said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI. ABC 7

Sacramento Mass Shooting Suspect Served Less Time With California's Prop 57
A suspect arrested in connection with last weekend's mass shooting outside bars near the California state Capitol served less than half his 10-year sentence because of voter-approved changes to state law that lessened the punishment for his felony convictions and provided a chance for earlier release. Smiley Allen Martin was freed in February after serving time for punching a girlfriend, dragging her from her home by her hair and whipping her with a belt, according to court and prison records. Those count as nonviolent offenses under California law, which considers only about two dozen crimes to be violent felonies — things like murder, rape, arson and kidnapping. Martin, 27, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a machine gun. He is among the 12 people wounded during Sunday's shooting, which killed six others. Police say the violence was a shootout between rival gangs in which at least five people fired weapons, including Martin's brother, Dandrae Martin, who also was arrested. Smiley Martin typically would have remained behind bars until at least May after serving a minimum of half his time for his previous arrest in 2017, but prison officials evidently used a very expansive approach to applying time credits to his sentence, said Gregory Totten, chief executive officer of the California District Attorneys Association and a former Ventura County district attorney. FOX 11

The Sacramento Mass Shooting Likely Involved A Converted Machine Gun, Officials Say
California law enforcement officials suspect a handgun converted to fire like a machine gun was among the weapons used in the mass shooting that left six dead and 12 wounded in Sacramento on April 3. The shooting began after a fight broke out around 2:00 a.m. in a popular nightlife area just blocks away from the state Capitol. Video from the scene shows chaos and a crowd scrambling after gunshots ring out, including a burst of the sort of rapid fire that typically comes from a machine gun. Law enforcement sources say witness reports, physical evidence, and videos of the events that night have led them to believe that at least one of the guns used was a fully automatic weapon, most likely one that was equipped with an illegal conversion device. “Both the duration of the gunfire and the number of casings recovered are consistent with full-auto fire,” said a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. A second law enforcement source who was near the scene described hearing what sounded like full-auto gunfire, which echoed off the tall buildings in downtown Sacramento. It's believed that “multiple shooters with multiple guns” were exchanging fire. Photos from the aftermath of the shootout showed the pavement littered with shell casings that appeared to be of handgun caliber. The Trace

2nd Former California AIDS Office Employee Sentenced To Prison In $2-Million Fraud Scheme
A former state employee was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for her role in defrauding the California Office of AIDS out of more than $2 million from 2017 to 2018. Christine Iwamoto is the second former Office of AIDS employee to be sentenced in the scheme after Schenelle Flores, 46, was given a prison term of nearly six years on March 3. Iwamoto was ordered to pay nearly $500,000 in restitution, and Flores was ordered to pay more than $2 million. The scheme diverted funds from the Office of AIDS, part of the California Department of Public Health, which the pair used for lavish trips to theme parks, sporting events and hotel rooms. Iwamoto pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering last fall, and Flores pleaded guilty to wire fraud in February, according to court documents. The scheme began in 2017 when Flores worked at the Office of AIDS and was in charge of the HIV Prevention Branch's fiscal operations, according to the Sacramento Bee, which unearthed various documents regarding the scheme through public records requests. Iwamoto worked at the Office of AIDS until March 2018. Los Angeles Times

Video: Florida Deputies Defy Flames, ‘Unbearable' Heat To Free Driver
Harrowing dashcam video out of Florida shows a helpless driver screaming as he remained bound to his burning car by a tangled seat belt. It happened Saturday, April 2, in Charlotte County, and the driver is seen hanging out of the overturned vehicle, just inches from the intense flames. The driver remains hospitalized in critical condition, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. His identity has not been released. “Neighbors inside the Riverwood community were alerted by the loud crash and called 911. The callers described the flames as being 5 feet high and heard a man screaming for help,” the sheriff's office said. “When (deputies) ran to the victim, they found his seat belt caught around his neck and upper body. The heat from the flames were described as unbearable which made it difficult for them to remain close to the victim for long periods of time.” Deputies Garrett Parrish and Bryant Ovalles Vasquez used fire extinguishers to douse flames nearest the man, allowing him to be cut free with a pocketknife. The video ends with the deputies and a good Samaritan dragging the man to the other side of the road. The Charlotte Observer

Public Safety News

BA.2 Variant Of COVID Now Believed To Be Dominant Strain In LA County
The BA.2 subvariant is now believed to be the dominant COVID-19 strain circulating in Los Angeles County, which has seen an uptick in daily infection numbers -- though hospitalization figures remain low and the death rate keeps declining, the public health director said Thursday. Official figures released by Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Thursday showed that the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant -- an offshoot of the Omicron variant that fueled the winter surge in cases -- accounted for 47% of all infections in the county that underwent specialized testing to identify virus strains. But she said that percentage was based on cases from two weeks ago, and BA.2 is likely now responsible for more than half of the county's infections. Last week, BA.2 represented about 32% of infections in the county, double the 16% rate from the week prior. The spread of the infectious variant is being blamed for increases in case numbers locally. Ferrer noted that over the last seven days, the county has been averaging 878 new cases per day, up from 660 per day the previous week -- a roughly 33% increase. And she noted that the case counts are likely low, since many people are taking advantage of home testing kits and may not report their results to the county, even if they test positive. But while the increase in cases is disturbing, the rise has not translated into surges of hospital patients, or in the actual rate of people testing positive for the virus, which remains at about 1%. NBC 4

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