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Dec 2021
Newswatch December 15, 2021

Law Enforcement News

LAPPL and Fresno District Attorney discuss the impacts of “reform” policies on crime crisis
LAPD detective Jamie McBride and Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp joined 'The Faulkner Focus' to discuss how the state's leadership has approached the crime crisis.
Fox News Video

As LAPD Struggles To Restore Ranks, Councilmembers Pay Extra For Police Coverage
When crime began increasing in recent months along trendy Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz requested a larger police presence there — and tapped funding from his District 5 office to pay for it. Koretz spent $30,000 on LAPD overtime in the Wilshire Division, where the Melrose corridor is located, as well as $30,000 in West L.A. and $10,000 each in West Valley and Pacific divisions, records show. When robberies continued along Melrose, he spent another $20,000 there. “Once we had the issue of a lot of folks coming to Melrose to do crime, we said, ‘We have to hit this with everything we have,’ so we put in some extra funding,” Koretz said. “They gave us foot patrols and bike patrols and undercover folks and horse patrols.” Across town, Councilman Joe Buscaino directed nearly $1.3 million in District 15 funds toward police overtime to address crime increases there — including $500,000 for foot patrols in San Pedro and more than $785,000 for such patrols in Wilmington, where a 12-year-old boy was recently killed in a triple shooting that also left a woman and a young girl injured. Buscaino, a mayoral candidate and former police officer, said he saw the spending as restoring funds that belonged to the LAPD in the first place, before his colleagues “irresponsibly cut” the department’s budget by $150 million in the wake of the George Floyd protests last year and redistributed some of it into discretionary funds for individual councilmembers to spend on alternative public safety projects.
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles’s Homeless Community Disproportionately Affected By Rising Homicide Rate
The homeless population in Los Angeles has been disproportionately affected by the increase in homicides in the city during the past year, according to figures shared by Police Chief Michel Moore on Tuesday, Dec. 14. There have been 87 people “identified as houseless” slain so far in 2021, Moore said during a meeting of the LAPD’s Board of Commissioners. That’s a 40 percent jump over the 62 homeless people killed during the same period in 2020, outpacing a 12 percent increase in the homicide rate for the city as a whole. Moore said many of the victims and the people suspected of killing them were recently released from jail or prison. “They are landing on the street without support services,” Moore said. “And they are ending up in a homeless situation or an unsheltered situation and getting embroiled in these disputes with others as they attempt to make ends meet, if you will, how to feed themselves and how to exist in a homeless environment.”
Los Angeles Daily News

Two Men Charged With Murder In USC Student’s Death
Two men who reportedly had been street racing were charged Tuesday with murder stemming from a crash that left a 21-year-old USC student dead. Ricardo Aguilar, 24, and Carlos Andres Valdes Moscoso, 21, are charged in the death of Arian Rahbar, who was crossing Jefferson Boulevard at Harvard Boulevard near his home when he was struck Saturday. The 21-year-old victim was allegedly struck by a Dodge Challenger Hellcat driven by Aguilar, who had allegedly been racing Moscoso, who was driving an Infiniti G37, Los Angeles police Detective Ryan Moreno told the Los Angeles Times. The detective told the newspaper that investigators have concluded that the two vehicles were “definitely above the speed limit,” but have not determined exactly how fast the cars were going. Rahbar — described by the Times as a junior from Illinois majoring in computer science — was pronounced dead at the scene. Aguilar and Moscoso were arrested by Los Angeles police about an hour later, and have remained behind bars since then.
MyNewsLA.com

Dispensary Robbery In South LA Leaves One Killed And A Family Grieving
A family is grieving over the senseless death of their loved one, Dominique Ware, who was shot and killed at a dispensary in South Los Angeles. "But when this hit me, it tore me up, to know what happened to my son," said Leticia Ware, Dominque Ware's mother. Ware's family said 33-year-old Ware was working as a security guard at the time of the robbery and shooting, but they said he was also much more than that. "Ask anybody in Los Angeles about Dominique Ware, they all call him Bubba, or Domo," said his father, George Ware. "He was the best thing in the world. He wasn't only my son, he was my friend." The people closest to Dominique Ware said he was a shining light in his community and that you rarely saw him without a smile. They said he loved working and mentoring kids and worked as a coach and a teacher. "He wasn't just a security guard," said Ware's sister, Barbara Goodwin. "A lot of the captions out there say 'security guard murdered in robbery', that's not who he was. He's a hero. He was an amazing person and we want everybody to know that." Three people in connection with the incident have been arrested and one is still on the loose. An LAPD homicide investigation remains ongoing.
ABC 7

FBI Offers $10,000 Reward For Information On Armed Follow-Home Robbery Caught On Tape
The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in an armed follow-home robbery that was caught on tape late last month in Valley Village. The incident was reported around 1:30 a.m. Nov. 27, when two people were being dropped off by a driver for a ride-hailing service in the 4800 block of Whitsett Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Footage released by the department shows the victims’ vehicle being followed by a blue Toyota Prius and a black Mercedes-Benz GLS SUV before it pulls alongside a curb. The two other vehicles park on a nearby street, and four male suspects emerge and run toward the victims, the video shows. The suspects held the victims at gunpoint and demanded jewelry, police said. The victims complied, and the suspects ran back to their vehicles, which left in different directions. The incident came amid an LAPD crackdown on similar crimes, one of which resulted in the death of a man Nov. 23 outside the Bossa Nova restaurant in Hollywood.
Los Angeles Times

LAPD Announced Holiday Traffic Enforcement Campaign
The Los Angeles Police Department Tuesday announced it will have additional officers on patrol during the holiday season on the lookout for impaired motorists. The increased enforcement effort will begin on Wednesday and continue through New Year’s Day, the LAPD said. “The LAPD is committed to keeping our community safe and encourages everyone to stay in for the night or use a designated sober driver when you have consumed alcohol, marijuana, prescription or over-the-counter drugs that may impair an individual’s ability to drive,” police said in a statement. The effort is part of the nationwide “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, authorities said. “During this holiday season, the LAPD wants everyone to act responsibly and drive safe,” said LAPD Cmdr. Al Pasos. “When it comes to driving on our roadways, please don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Make the right choice for your family and your community, so everyone can have a safe and happy holiday season.” Included in the effort will be a DUI checkpoint on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Sunset Boulevard and Orange Grove Avenue, in Hollywood, and a DUI checkpoint on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Century Boulevard and Western Avenue, in the Gramercy Park area.
MyNewsLA.com

Los Angeles Police Chase: Possible Kidnapping Suspect In Custody, 2 Kids Rescued From Car
A police chase suspect is in custody after leading police on a lengthy chase across the South Los Angeles area. SkyFOX was over the standoff scene as the suspect – inside a white SUV – led the Los Angeles Police Department on a pursuit across the city before surrendering to officers Tuesday night. The suspect was wanted in connection to a kidnappings case. Authorities initially feared up to two children may be inside the white SUV. FOX 11 was told a 1-year-old and a 5-year-old were rescued from the tense scene. The suspect's identity has not been revealed as of Tuesday night.
FOX 11

Antisemitic Letter, Unknown Substance Found At Westside Synagogue
An antisemitic letter and a vial containing an unknown substance were discovered at a Pico-Robertson synagogue Tuesday morning, triggering an investigation into a possible hate incident, authorities said. Police at the Los Angeles Police Department’s West L.A. station were alerted around 9 a.m. to the items found near Congregation Mogen David, a synagogue in the 9700 block of West Pico Boulevard, according to LAPD’s Sgt. Anthony Bonner. A hazmat team responded and reported that the substance, which was not identified, was “not of danger to anyone,” Bonner said. Police are investigating what appears to be a hate incident, Bonner said, adding that many details were being withheld in light of the ongoing investigation. The letter and threatening substance had echoes of incidents in May, as deadly battles were being fought in the Gaza Strip. They included one in which a fight broke out outside a Westside sushi restaurant after antisemitic slurs were yelled at a group of Jewish diners. Prosecutors filed assault and hate crime charges against two men in connection with the attack. They’re believed to be part of a group of eight people who approached the restaurant in Beverly Grove and began cursing at several Jewish patrons before violence erupted.
Los Angeles Times

Rapper Tory Lanez Ordered To Stand Trial In Shooting Of Megan Thee Stallion
Rapper Tory Lanez will stand trial in the shooting of fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion, a judge ruled Tuesday. The Canadian-born rapper, whose real name is Daystar Peterson, 29, is scheduled to return to court for arraignment on Jan. 13, 2022. A bid to dismiss the case “for insufficiency of the evidence” was rejected by Superior Court Judge Keith H. Borjon. Megan Thee Stallion, whose given name is Megan Pete, was shot in the foot on July 12 after apparently arguing while riding in an SUV in the Hollywood Hills, according to the LA County District Attorney’s Office. As she got out of vehicle, Peterson allegedly shot at her feet several times. Peterson was arrested a few hours later. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. In a social media post disclosing the shooting, Pete said she and Peterson were not in a relationship. It’s not clear why they argued, but Peterson was ordered to stay away from Pete. If convicted as charged, he faces a maximum sentence of 22 years and eight months in state prison.
CBS 2

18-Year-Old Los Angeles Man Indicted In Death Of Teen Who Fatally Overdosed From Fentanyl
A Los Angeles man is facing felony charges of providing fentanyl-laced pills to a 15-year-old who died after taking them earlier this year. Johnny Castillo, 18, was arrested late Monday, Dec. 13, on a federal grand jury indictment accusing him of distributing the pills to the minor who died in a Los Angeles County residence on July 8. It wasn’t immediately known if Castillo is represented by an attorney. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, has in recent years been involved in more overdose deaths than any other illicit drug in the U.S., according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In Los Angeles County, fentanyl was involved in nearly half of all drug deaths last year. There were 187 people between 15 to 24 years old who died from drug-related deaths involving fentanyl from November 2019 to October 2020, according to the DEA. The growing problem has spurred policymakers to crack down on dealers peddling fentanyl. This includes introduction of complementary bills that would bump fentanyl up from a Schedule II drug to a Schedule I drug with more penalties; and a bill that would require courts to issue warnings to first-time offenders convicted of selling or distributing controlled substances. The warnings would state that such actions could result in another person’s death — and that they could be charged with murder.
Los Angeles Daily News

Three Injured In Mall Parking Lot Shooting In Torrance
Three people were injured in a shooting Tuesday evening in a parking lot of the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance. The shooting was reported around 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the mall near BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse. Torrance Police Department officers who were dispatched to the scene didn't locate any victims, but found several shell casings in the area, according to a department spokesperson. Soon after officers were in the area of the shooting, they received a report about a carjacking/robbery near the Dave & Busters, which is at the south end of the mall. Officers discovered that three to four suspects approached the three victims, opened fire and fled southbound across Carson Street to the mall's Dave & Buster's where they carjacked a Chevrolet SUV and fled. Police learned the three shooting victims had been taken to Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center prior to their arrival at the scene. The victim of the carjacking was not injured.
FOX 11

'Missing Puzzle Piece': California Woman Disappears After Trip To Costco
Nearly two weeks after running a routine errand at Costco, Fresno woman Samantha Tomlinson is still missing, prompting her worried family to speak to the media in the hopes of raising awareness for the case. On Dec. 3, the 37-year-old told her roommate she was driving out to the Fresno Costco at 7100 North Abby St. to return a purchased item. According to a Fresno police spokesperson, Tomlinson first made a stop to sell a weight set to someone she met on OfferUp, an app that facilitates sales from person to person. Police say that interaction, captured on CCTV, occurred without issue, and Tomlinson then drove to Costco around midday. Store surveillance footage shows her arriving and leaving from the parking lot in her 2002 silver Honda Civic, apparently without incident. When she failed to return home the next day, however, her concerned roommate called police to report Tomlinson missing. Police told “Dateline” that Tomlinson’s phone, credit cards and bank account haven’t been touched since Dec. 3. “We’re hoping for the best,” Fresno Police Department Lt. Jon Papaleo told “Dateline” on Monday. “Somebody out there could have seen her, or her car, in the past week or so. And that could be the missing puzzle piece we need.”
SF Gate

Cop’s Death Moves Alabama Lawmakers To Restrict Use Of ‘Good Time’ To Shorten Prison Sentences
A north Alabama lawmaker wants to make inmates convicted of manslaughter ineligible for “good time,” a way to shorten prison sentences. The bill is called the Sergeant Nick Risner Act, named after the 40-year-old Sheffield police officer who died Oct. 2, one day after he was shot while pursuing a suspect. Brian Lansing Martin is charged with capital murder in the deaths of Risner and William Mealback Jr., as well as attempted murder in the shooting of Sheffield Police Lt. Max Dotson, who survived. Martin had been released from prison in 2016 after serving a little more than three years of a 10-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of his father in 2011. Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, has filed a bill in advance of the 2022 legislative session that would prohibit inmates convicted of manslaughter from receiving correctional incentive time, or “good time,” which allows prisoners to shorten their sentences if they stay out of trouble while incarcerated. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, a retired state trooper.
PoliceOne

Watch: New York State Trooper Saves Choking Toddler
Trooper David Draudt was working when he heard Broome County 911 dispatch a call for a 2-year-old choking and turning blue. He rushed to the home just outside Binghamton when he heard the toddler was unresponsive and not breathing. The boy’s grandma was at the door, waving him inside. The boy’s mom was on the kitchen floor, holding her son trying to keep him upright. His body was limp. The mother told Draudt her son had recently begun eating dry foods and had choked on a pancake. “My first step was to try to clear the airway with my finger, but his jaw was locked closed,” Draudt said. “So then I began giving the back blows until I could hear him start to breathe again.” About a minute later, the boy was breathing again. The trooper put his gloved finger in the boy’s mouth to remove whatever was left of the pancake. Soon after, the toddler started looking around the room. “I was happy I was in the right place at the right time and I was able to go in there and make it happen,” Draudt said.
Syracuse.com

Public Safety News

Storm Forces Multiple Rescue Attempts In Fast-Flowing LA River
The strong storm that hit the Southland Tuesday flooded the Los Angeles River and forced multiple rescue attempts between downtown L.A. north to Sylmar. At least three empty vehicles were found floating down the fast-moving river. “Our swift water rescue team has been bouncing from call to call,” LAFD Capt. Erik Scott told CBSLA. At around 5:40 a.m., L.A. Fire Department crews responded to a rollover in the 2600 block of East Washington Boulevard in downtown L.A. to find a crashed car against a concrete pylon in the river. Crews prepared for a rescue effort, but the car was empty and no victim was found. Crews then rushed to Boyle Heights, were a man was refusing to get out of the river, and firefighters had to ensure the man was safe, Scott said. Later, a second car was discovered floating downstream. It also ended up next to the same concrete pylon as the first car under the Washington Boulevard bridge. Later in the morning, a third car was then discovered floating downstream. It floated outside the L.A. city limits.
CBS 2

LA County Reports 8 More Omicron Infections, Pasadena Confirms City's 1st Case
Local cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 officially doubled on Tuesday, as Los Angeles County announced eight additional infections of the virus mutation, while Pasadena health officials verified that city's first case. The new cases confirmed by the county Department of Public Health brought the number of omicron cases in that agency's jurisdiction to 15. Long Beach and Pasadena, both of which operate their own health departments separate from the county, have now each confirmed one omicron case. The newly identified Pasadena patient is believed to have acquired the infection locally. The person was fully vaccinated, including a booster shot, and developed mild illness that did not require hospitalization, according to the city. Of the eight new cases confirmed by the county, seven developed symptoms but did not require hospitalization.
ABC 7

L.A. County Falling Far Behind Bay Area In Vaccinating Black, Latino Residents Against COVID
Concerns are mounting over the continued low vaccination rates among Black and Latino residents in Los Angeles County as California heads into winter facing another coronavirus surge and bracing for the rise of the Omicron variant. Los Angeles County’s vaccination numbers in communities of color now lag significantly behind several San Francisco Bay Area counties — including San Francisco, Alameda and Santa Clara — data show, despite what L.A. area officials describe as aggressive outreach in Black and Latino neighborhoods. Authorities have been struggling with the disparity since vaccines became available. But the situation is becoming more urgent, with coronavirus cases rising significantly in recent weeks and the specter of a swiftly spreading Omicron variant looming. Vaccinations are a central strategy to fight both the Delta and Omicron variants, with a push for people to get their first doses as well as boosters. California health officials have warned that coronavirus case rates statewide have risen by almost 50% in the last 2½ weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations are up by nearly 15%.
KTLA 5

Omicron Spreading Rapidly In U.S. And Could Bring Punishing Wave As Soon As January, CDC Warns
Top federal health officials warned in a briefing Tuesday morning that the omicron variant is rapidly spreading in the United States and could peak in a massive wave of infections as soon as January, according to new modeling analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The prevalence of omicron jumped sevenfold in a single week, according to the CDC, and at such a pace, the highly mutated variant of the coronavirus could ratchet up pressure on a health system already strained in many places as the delta variant continues its own surge. The warning of an imminent surge came even as federal officials and some pharmaceutical executives signaled that they don’t currently favor creating an omicron-specific vaccine. Based on the data so far, they say that existing vaccines plus a booster shot are an effective weapon against omicron. The CDC briefing Tuesday detailed two scenarios for how the omicron variant may spread through the country. The worst-case scenario has spooked top health officials, who fear that a fresh wave, layered on top of delta and influenza cases in what one described as “a triple whammy,” could overwhelm health systems and devastate communities, particularly those with low vaccination rates.
Washington Post

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