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Aug 2021
Newswatch August 6, 2021

Law Enforcement News

Procession Honors LAPD Officer Who Died Of COVID-19 Complications
A procession was held Thursday to honor Los Angeles Police Department Officer Becky Strong, who died from COVID-19 complications earlier this week. Heavy hearts lined up to salute the 27-year-veteran as her body was escorted from Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. Strong, who spent 21 years assigned to the South Traffic Division, died Monday morning. She is the eighth sworn officer and the 10th member of the LAPD to die from the virus. LAPD Chief Michel Moore noted the news of Strong's death at Tuesday's Police Commission meeting. "She's never met a stranger. Kind, truly a loss for the department, a loss for the community," Officer Jerretta Sandoz said. "She loved what she did." Some officers who worked with Strong said she helped turn the division into a tight group of officers who treated each other like family. "She brought them all together," Sandoz said. "And to keep this together her memory has to live on and her memory will live on in the hearts of police officers as well as community." Strong's funeral is scheduled for Aug. 16.
ABC 7

Fully Vaccinated LAPD Officer Battling COVID-19 In Hospital
A reserve officer for the Los Angeles Police Department is battling COVID-19 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center despite being fully vaccinated. Joseph Avalos, 53, is an LAPD reserve officer and director of the mayor’s Crisis Response Team — helping victims of and witnesses to violent situations or crimes.
KTLA 5

Businesswoman Found Slain At Her Reseda Home, Prompting Investigation
A 48-year-old woman was found murdered at her Reseda home Thursday morning, and police are seeking help from the public in tracking down a suspect. The victim has been identified as Michelle Avan, a prominent businesswoman working in the financial services industry. Avan's family first became concerned when they weren't able to reach her. It was a family member who made the grisly discovery at the home and contacted police and paramedics. Los Angeles police says when officers responded to the 19300 block of Covello Street around 7 a.m., they found Avan unresponsive. She was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. The exact cause of her death is unknown, according to police, but homicide detectives responded to investigate and she "appeared to have suffered trauma to her face." Neighbors are in shock over the murder. Some have known Avan for a decade. Anyone with information is asked to call LAPD's Valley Bureau Homicide at (818) 374-9550. Anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).
ABC 7

California Homeless Man Arrested Three Times In Three Days Because Of 'Zero-Dollar' Bail, Police Say
A 23-year-old homeless man was arrested Wednesday for stealing a truck outside a Los Angeles-area police station immediately after being released, making it his third brush with the law in as many days because of a county policy that releases suspects accused of non-violent low-level felonies and misdemeanors without bail. All the arrests occurred in Glendale, located 8 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The alleged crime spree began at 9:45 p.m. Monday when Glendale police officers spotted Kaelun Scharrer in a vehicle that had been reported stolen in the city of Upland, 38 miles east of the city. Scharrer and a passenger inside were detained. Inside the vehicle, officers found a methamphetamine pipe, police said. Scharrer was arrested for vehicle theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was released six hours later under the county's "Zero-Dollar" bail schedule and given a notice to appear in court, police said. The next day, three hours after he was released from police custody, Scharrer was arrested for allegedly stealing money from a tip jar. Officers were initiated called to The Americana at Brand shopping complex over reports that a man slapped the side view mirror of a vehicle.
FOX News

Woman, Possibly Drunk, Killed In Traffic Crash In Koreatown Area
A woman, possibly drunk, was fatally injured Thursday when the car she was driving crashed into a tree in the Koreatown area near downtown Los Angeles, police said. The crash occurred about 2:45 a.m. on Western Avenue near Eighth Street, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Paramedics took the woman to a hospital, where she died. Her name was withheld, pending notification of her relatives. According to the preliminary investigation, the woman was driving “at a high rate of speed” when she apparently swerved to avoid a car that had stopped ahead of her for a yellow flashing traffic signal, police said. “Due to physical evidence, alcohol may have been a factor in this collision,” police said.
MyNewsLA.com

Police Searching For Suspected Stolen Vehicle After Chase In Downtown Los Angeles
Authorities are searching for a suspected stolen pickup truck in downtown Los Angeles late Thursday night. SkyFOX was over parts of the lengthy police chase as the suspect led the Los Angeles Police Department on a pursuit from South Los Angeles to downtown. SkyFOX ultimately lost hold of the pursuit at about 11 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles.
FOX 11

5 People In Custody After Pursuit Ends With Vehicle Overturned In Echo Park
Five people were taken into custody after the sedan they were speeding in during a police pursuit struck a utility pole and overturned on an Echo Park street Thursday. Glendale police officers began pursing the silver-colored car from the Glendale area after attempting to conduct a traffic stop, according to broadcast reports. The suspects led police on a high-speed pursuit through the Atwater Village and Echo Park areas before losing control during a left turn and violently striking a utility pole, knocking down power lines near Berkeley Avenue and Allesandro Street, one block west of Glendale Boulevard, about 5:25 p.m. The car rolled over onto its roof and five occupants crawled out, surrendering to police shortly afterward. Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics were called to the scene to evaluate the five occupants and ultimately took three of them to a hospital "with traumatic injuries," according to Margaret Stewart of the LAFD.
NBC 4

Man Found Shot To Death In East Los Angeles Area
A man was found shot to death early Thursday morning in the East Los Angeles area. Detectives were sent to the 4300 block of Floral Drive at 12:02 a.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Information on the man's identity was not immediately available. No arrests were reported, and no suspect information was released. Anyone with information on the case was urged to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500, or Crime Stoppers at 800-222 TIPS.
NBC 4

Real Estate Heir Robert Durst To Testify At Murder Trial In L.A.
New York real estate heir Robert Durst is expected to take the stand at his Los Angeles County murder trial on Thursday. The 78-year-old was expected to make the rare move for a defendant in a murder case and begin testimony on Wednesday, but the prosecution was still cross-examining another defense witness, memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, when court ended for the day. Loftus, the only other witness the defense planned to call, will be back on the stand Thursday morning, and will be followed by Durst if defense attorneys decide to go through with having him testify. His testimony would likely last several days. At Durst’s Texas trial in 2003, the same attorney represented him and called him to testify, and he was acquitted of murder despite admitting to dismembering and disposing of the body of his Galveston neighbor Morris Black. Durst said Black entered his apartment with a gun and was killed when it went off during a struggle. Durst is charged with killing his friend Susan Berman in 2000. He has pleaded not guilty.
KTLA 5

Lawsuit Settled After LA Coroner Allegedly Gave Body To Wrong Family
A lawsuit filed by relatives of a 49-year-old man found dead on a Boyle Heights sidewalk in 2019, alleging negligence by Los Angeles County and the coroner after the decedent's body was mistakenly given to members of another family, was settled, the plaintiffs' attorney said Thursday. Lawyer Michael Carrillo represents the 11 plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed in February 2020. The plaintiffs were the the siblings, half-siblings and daughter of Armando Luna Panuco and they alleged a cover-up occurred after the error was realized. Carrillo filed court papers on July 23 with Judge Steven J. Kleifield asking that the case be dismissed in the wake of the settlement. No terms were divulged. In their court papers, lawyers for the county and the coroner argued the suit's allegations were not entirely supported by the evidence.
FOX 11

Man Who Jumped From Plane At LAX Pleads Not Guilty
A passenger who’s accused of trying to break into an airplane cockpit, then jumping from the moving plane on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal charge. Luis Antonio Victoria Dominguez of La Paz, Mexico — who broke his leg when he landed on the tarmac on June 25 — pleaded not guilty to interference with flight crew members and attendants. A Sept. 21 trial date was set for the 33-year-old defendant, who underwent surgery on his leg, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Victoria Dominguez was a passenger on United Airlines flight 5365, operated by SkyWest Airlines, that was scheduled to fly from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. Soon after the plane pushed back from the gate, he “sprinted” to the front of the aircraft past a seated flight attendant and “began banging on the cockpit door and manipulating the locked doorknob,” according to an FBI affidavit that was filed with the criminal complaint in Los Angeles federal court.
MyNewsLA.com

41 Years After San Diego Woman’s Rape And Murder, DNA Reveals A Suspect
It’s coming up on 41 years since neighbors in Michelle Wyatt’s condo in the San Diego County town of Santee heard screams, and since her roommate came home the next day and made a horrifying discovery. The 20-year-old college student was dead. She’d been raped and strangled. For four decades, the deadly attack confounded every investigator who picked up the file. Years later, DNA seemed like it could help. But time and again, it didn’t. Until suddenly, it did. This week, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigators said they had identified a suspect: John Patrick “Pat” Hogan, who was 18 when Wyatt was killed. There will be no arrest. Hogan died of a drug overdose at 42 on Oct. 9, 2004, exactly 24 years from the day Wyatt was raped and killed. “He’s the one that committed the sexual assault and murder. He would be arrested if he was alive,” Sheriff’s Lt. Tom Seiver said. Wyatt’s parents are in their 80s now. They miss their daughter. And they wish they’d had the opportunity to confront the person accused of killing her. Homicide investigators zeroed in on Hogan using a sleuthing method known as genetic genealogy, which gained prominence in 2018 after it was used to identify the Golden State Killer, who killed at least 13 people and raped dozens more across California from the 1970s to the 1980s.
Los Angeles Times

SoCal Man Accused Of Killing Tennessee Man He Met Through Dating App
A Southern California man has been arrested in Tennessee in connection with the apparent strangulation death of a man he met online, KTLA sister station WKRN in Nashville reports. The suspect, 27-year-old Bruno Almeida-Rache, had gone to the Madison home of the victim, 36-year-old Joshua Smithson, after the two met through a dating app. He arrived around 2:30 a.m., and the two had sex and did drugs, a Metro Nashville Police Department news release read. Almeida-Rache told investigators he fell asleep and when he woke up, Smithson was standing in front of the bed and looking at him, according to police. “He said he then kicked Smithson in the face and put him into a chokehold until he stopped moving,” the release stated. First responders were dispatched to the home just before 7 a.m. following a call from from Almeida-Rache. They got to the residence where they found Smithson dead with multiple injuries to his face and head.
KTLA 5

‘I’m Not Going To Let You Die’: Deputy Overdoses After Coming In Contact With Fentanyl
The accidental fentanyl exposure hit Deputy David Faiivae quickly. It was an overdose. He was dying. A body-worn camera caught the moment Faiivae collapsed flat on his back in a San Marcos parking lot last month, seconds after he finished testing a white powder he’d suspected was either cocaine or fentanyl. The sheriff’s deputy stared into the sky, his lungs locked as he struggled for air. If not for a quick-thinking partner, he would be dead. Faiivae’s near-fatal overdose on July 3 was the subject of a 4-minute video released by the county Sheriff’s Department on Thursday. The incident is the latest public warning from officials about the dangers of fentanyl, a drug blamed for 461 fatal overdoses in San Diego County in 2020, with officials warning that number could hit 700 for 2021. The drug increasingly is being smuggled to inmates in county jails as well. Undersheriff Kelly Martinez said the video prompted internal discussions about training, as well as the need to release it publicly, to demonstrate the dangers of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic drug 50 times more potent than heroin. “We are still seeing it increasing all the time,” Martinez said of fentanyl use. With body-worn cameras rolling, Faiivae’s training officer tells Faiivae the substance he found had tested positive for fentanyl. He cautions his trainee “that stuff’s no joke — it is super dangerous.” Faiivae then takes a step backward and topples over.
San Diego Union Tribune

Public Safety News

LA County Health Officials Say Wearing Masks Indoors Again Has Helped Slow The Spread Of COVID
COVID-19 cases continued to mount Thursday in Los Angeles County, but the public health director said the rate of infection increases is slowing and the testing-positivity rate is down, indicators that the surge is leveling off. The county has also now seen three consecutive weeks of increases in the number of people getting their first dose of vaccine -- a positive sign given continued data showing that unvaccinated residents are most likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus. The county reported another 3,672 COVID-19 infections on Thursday, bringing the overall number from throughout the pandemic to 1,315,313. Another 19 deaths were confirmed, raising the county's COVID death toll to 24,739. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county's current rate of new cases is 21.1 per 100,000 residents, which is a drop from 24 per 100,000 last week. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus is 4.73%, down a full percentage point from last week. "Although today's rate will likely change somewhat over the coming days as additional test results are reported, this does suggest to us that our rise in cases may be leveling out," Ferrer said.

New Order Mandates COVID Vaccinations For Health Care Workers In California
A new order requires all health care workers across the state of California to be vaccinated against coronavirus as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread. The state previously announced that such employees would have the option of either being vaccinated or undergoing weekly COVID-19 testing, but the new rule mandates vaccinations. “As we continue to see an increase in cases and hospitalizations due to the Delta variant of COVID-19, it’s important that we protect the vulnerable patients in these settings,” Dr. Tomas J. Aragon, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement. “Today’s action will also ensure that health care workers themselves are protected. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic.” Workers are required to be fully vaccinated or receive their second dose of the vaccine by Sept. 30. The new state order leaves room for workers to opt out due to medical or religious reasons.
CBS 2

Half Of U.S. Now In COVID 'Very High Risk' Category. Here's Where California Stands
The surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant has quickly propelled California into the COVID “very high risk” category, joined by nearly half the states in the U.S.
Just a week ago, California was in the “high risk” category — the middle tier of the five-tier risk scale calculated by the nonprofit COVID Act Now. The jump to the second-highest tier is a sobering reality check compared to mid-June, when newly reopened California was in the second-lowest, “medium” risk category with low case rates and masks optional for vaccinated residents. COVID Act Now uses six key metrics to determine its five levels of risk, including daily new cases, positive test rate and infection rate, which is the estimated number of new people each coronavirus-positive person will infect. The website on Tuesday showed California with the nation’s 18th-highest case rate, at 25 cases per 100,000 people, a positive test rate of 6.5% and an infection rate of 1.22.
San Francisco Chronicle

Local Government News

City Officials Shut Down Lincoln Heights Night Market, Popularized On TikTok, After Complaints
The Lincoln Heights night market, which gained popularity through TikTok, was closed down Thursday following widespread complaints from residents and businesses about its negative effect on the neighborhood. The city closed Artesian Street from Avenue 33 to Humboldt Street, L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo’s office said in a statement, which would “eliminate illegal alcohol sales, public defecation and urination, and crime and violence that was caused by the market.” During the closure, the statement said, the city “would fully assess the street and sidewalks, determine and perform work to abate human waste, cooking oil and flame damage, and restore vandalized signage, sidewalks, and curbs.” “We support the economic opportunity that night markets provide to vendors and the culinary experiences it provides to consumers. However, it is unacceptable the way this site has negatively impacted the quality of life of Lincoln Heights residents and businesses,” Cedillo said in a statement. “Our duty is to maintain clean, safe and secure neighborhoods.”
KTLA 5

LA Councilman Blames Irresponsible Trash Disposal For 17-Million Gallon Sewage Spill
After an overwhelming amount of debris inundated the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant and caused a 17-million gallon sewage spill, Councilman Paul Krekorian blasted irresponsible members of the public for not properly disposing of trash and called for the city to come up with ways to prevent future incidents. "The source of this problem was not some failure by employees, it was not some failure of infrastructure, it was people doing stupid, irresponsible things. It was people doing irresponsible things and then expecting mommy-government to clean up after them,'' Krekorian said during the Los Angeles City Council's Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and River Committee meeting. Noting "litter in the streets, illegally dumped construction materials, things being flushed down the toilet that everybody knows shouldn't be flushed down the toilet," Krekorian called for the LASAN's investigation into the spill to include how to stop the public from doing "stupid things and then expecting government to fix it.”
FOX 11

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