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Dec 2021
Newswatch December 17, 2021

Law Enforcement News

Retailers ask Congress for help with crime after embracing 'woke' police agenda
San Jose Police Officers Association President, Sergeant Sean Pritchard and Los Angeles Police Protective League President, Lt. Craig Lally discuss retailers who supported defunding the police a year ago now asking Congress for new regulation as thieves sell their goods online
Fox News Video

LA Commissioner Lobbied CAO To Support His Company’s $3 Million COVID-19 Testing Contract
An embattled Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner who has rejected allegations that he improperly lobbied city officials to approve a $3 million COVID-19 testing contract for his company pitched his proposal directly to City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo, who signed off on the no-bid contract in September. Dr. Pedram Salimpour, a member of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions board since 2013, has repeatedly maintained he wasn’t engaged in the review or vetting process for the testing contract awarded to PPS Health Inc., which does business as Bluestone Safe. However, more than a dozen emails obtained by the Southern California News Group paint a different picture of Salimpour’s efforts to win the contract for Bluestone. The emails from March 2020 to November 2021 show Salimpour requested a face-to-face meeting with Szabo, who offered to put him in touch with officials at the Los Angeles Personnel Department, the city agency charged with selecting a vendor for the COVID-19 testing contract. The email exchanges between Salimpour and Szabo portray a troubling pattern of influence peddling, alleged Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which has previously complained about Salimpour’s efforts to lobby Mayor Eric Garcetti on behalf of his company.
Los Angeles Daily News

Column: Tough-on-crime politics are back in California. But Black activists aren’t giving up
Like her, I’ve been watching with growing unease as supposedly progressive politicians have returned to the kneejerk, tough-on-crime policies and rhetoric of California’s past, swearing it’s the only way to slow a string of brazen robberies and homicides. A recent poll from Pew Research Center found that concern over violent crime has led to spike in the number of Americans who want more money to be spent on police in their cities.
Los Angeles Times

The Final Hours Before 2 Women Were Drugged During Night Out In Los Angeles Before Ending Up Dead
Take a look at these haunting photos of designer Hilda Marcela Cabrales-Arzola pictured here with 37-year-old David Pearce. These images were provided to FOX 11 by a source, taken during an after-hours warehouse party on the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles, very early Nov. 13, 2021. The pair looked at ease with each other in the pictures, snapped hours before Cabrales-Arzola’s near-lifeless body would be dumped at a hospital in the LA area. According to the LAPD, later that evening, Cabrales-Arzola was left at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Hospital, in critical condition, by a couple of masked men. She died several days later after being taken off life support. That very same night, a couple of hours earlier, masked men in a black Prius with no plates dropped off her party companion and close friend, model Christy Giles, at Southern California Hospital in Culver City. Giles was unconscious and pronounced dead at the hospital. What led up to the tragic deaths of these two glamorous, young women with everything to live for? FOX 11 has created a picture through interviews, social media posts, and police statements.
FOX 11

Man Shot, Killed In Mission Hills
A 22-year-old man was killed in Mission Hills Thursday, allegedly by a man in his 20s who got out of his car, argued with the victim, then shot him. The victim and a relative were walking on a sidewalk in the area of Chatsworth Street and Burnet Avenue about 12:55 p.m. when they were approached by a dark sedan, according to police. The man was taken to a hospital, where he died of his wounds. His name was withheld pending notification of his next of kin. Anyone with information on the shooting was asked to call Los Angeles Police Department Detective Steve Castro at 818-374-1925. Calls made during non-business hours or on weekends can be directed to 877-527-3247. Anonymous tips can be called in to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or submitted online at lacrimestoppers.org.
MyNewsLA.com

Police Investigating Dead Body Discovered On Venice Boulevard
The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating a dead body found on Venice Boulevard. Police say the body of a 50-year-old male was discovered at the 12,000 block of Venice Boulevard sometime Thursday morning. The coroner's office is conducting an investigation, according to the LAPD.
WestSide Current

2 Dead In Single-Car Crash In Westchester: LAPD
Two people are dead after a car hit a pole in Westchester Thursday night, according to the Los Angeles Police and Fire departments. The victims were in a car that lost control and struck a pole in a center island near the intersection of Manchester and McConnell avenues at about 9:37 p.m., according to Officer Drake Madison. While it was initially reported that only one person had died, the Los Angeles Fire Department later confirmed that two people were found “deceased inside of a vehicle.” No further information was available.
KTLA 5

Parolee Aariel Maynor Pleads Not Guilty To Murdering Philanthropist Jacqueline Avant
An ex-con pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other counts in the shooting death of philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, the wife of music executive Clarence Avant. Aariel Maynor, 29, is charged in the slaying of Avant, 81, who was shot on Dec. 1 inside her home in the Trousdale Estates area of Beverly Hills. He was charged on Dec. 6 with one count each of murder, attempted murder, and being a felon with a firearm. Maynor also faces two counts of residential burglary with a person present, and an allegation of using an assault long barrel pistol during the crimes, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He is also charged with shooting at the security guard, who was not injured. Maynor was arrested after allegedly accidentally shooting himself while breaking into another home nearby. Avant was known for her work with UCLA, the Wallis Center for the Arts, and Neighbors of Watts, a child care support group in South LA.
CBS 2

LAPD Seeks Man Suspected Of At Least 60 Burglaries
Authorities Thursday sought the public’s help to identify a man suspected of burglarizing several businesses throughout the San Fernando Valley in the past year. The man, dubbed the “Two O’Clock Rock” burglar, is suspected in more than 60 burglaries in several areas including Van Nuys, North Hollywood, San Fernando and Burbank, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. “The suspect targets businesses during early morning hours, generally between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m,” according to the LAPD. “He first canvasses a location, then stages rocks in front of the businesses he is about to burglarize.” The man usually breaks into the target business using a rock and takes money from the cash register, according to police. In some of the robberies, the man has removed the cash register from inside the business. The suspect was described as about 5-feet-10 inches tall, weighing between 150 and 180 pounds, with a receding hairline. He frequently wears a dark hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and black shoes, and sometimes wears glasses. The man has also been seen riding a bicycle or driving an early 2000s dark-colored Nissan Maxima or Sentra.
MyNewsLA.com

Threats Of Possible School Shootings, Bombings Circulate On TikTok, Prompting LAUSD And FBI Response
A threat of shootings and bombings at school campuses across the United States has been circulating on social media. The FBI's Los Angeles field office and the Los Angeles Unified School District tell ABC7 they are aware of the threats. There are posts circulating on TikTok raising awareness about the threats and encouraging students to stay home on Friday, Dec. 17. The social media threat indicates shootings and bombings will take place at schools across the U.S. on that date. "The FBI takes all potential threats seriously," a spokesperson for the bureau said in a statement. "We regularly work with our law enforcement partners to determine the credibility of any threats. As always, we would like to remind members of the public that if they observe anything suspicious to report it to law enforcement immediately. While we continue to monitor intelligence, we are not aware of any specific threats or known credible threats to schools in the Los Angeles region at this time." An LAUSD spokesperson told ABC7 that district officials were aware of the threats and released a statement that said in part, "While there is no reason to believe our schools are in any danger, please know we take all such threats very seriously and take any action necessary to ensure the continued safety of our school communities."
ABC 7

Former Engineer Accused Of Derailing Train Near Hospital Ship Pleads Guilty To Terrorism Charge
A former locomotive engineer at the Port of Los Angeles pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal terrorism charge for intentionally running a train at full speed off the tracks near the Navy hospital ship Mercy last year. Eduardo Moreno of San Pedro, 45, entered his plea to a charge of committing a terrorist attack and other violence against railroad carriers and mass transportation systems, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years and lifetime supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. However, Moreno's plea agreement states that the government intends to seek a sentence of about six-and-a-half years and restitution of $700,000 to be paid to Pacific Harbor Line, the railroad company at the port. A sentencing hearing was set for March 11. No one was injured in the March 31, 2020, incident and the USNS Mercy was not damaged. The Mercy was docked at the port in case it was needed to ease the strain on local hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. Moreno claimed that the vessel was docked at the port as part of a conspiracy, possibly a “government takeover.''
NBC 4

WeHo Ex-Doctor, Beverly Hills Practice Convicted Of Lap-Band-Related Insurance Fraud
A former Southern California doctor was convicted Thursday of falsely billing military and private insurers $355 million for weight-loss surgeries. Julian Omidi, 53, of West Hollywood and his Beverly Hills-based company, Surgery Center Management LLC, were convicted by a federal jury of three dozen counts of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements related to health care matters, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. A second physician, Dr. Mirali Zarrabi, 59, of Beverly Hills, was acquitted of all charges, prosecutors said. Omidi and his relatives controlled the now-defunct 1-800-GET-THIN business that promoted and performed lap-band surgeries, prosecutors said. Between 2010 and 2016, Omidi convinced insurers to pre-approve the surgeries by having prospective patients undergo sleep studies to determine if they had sleep apnea, a “co-morbidity” that might justify the procedure, prosecutors alleged. Omidi sometimes had his employees falsify the study results and other information, including the patients’ weights, prosecutors said.
KTLA 5

Eagle Rock Man Pleads Guilty In $8.4M Precious Metals Scheme
An Eagle Rock man pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge stemming from a scheme involving the sale of “ancient slag,” a mining waste byproduct that supposedly contained precious metals. Michael Godfree, 80, entered his plea via Zoom to a single mail fraud count, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. However, prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than 51 months imprisonment, according to Godfree’s plea deal filed in Los Angeles federal court. At sentencing on May 12, he is expected to be ordered to pay $8.4 million in restitution to victims of the scheme. Godfree was co-founder of The Minerals Acquisition Co., a Pasadena-based outfit that offered to sell slag to “investors” who were told the company possessed “proof of concept” of a method to extract precious metals from the slag, which was generated from copper mining, according to the indictment. TMAC sold ton-quantities of the slag with promises of refining the material and recovering precious metals, and provided buyers with supposedly attorney-certified “Certificates of Title” that purported to transfer ownership of the slag to the buyer, prosecutors said.
MyNewsLA.com

Tesla Employee Charged With Ambushing, Murdering Co-Worker With ‘Ghost’ Assault Rifle After Argument
A Bay Area man accused of murdering a co-worker outside of the Tesla factory in Fremont allegedly announced he was quitting that morning, left to retrieve an AR-15-style short-barrel rifle, and returned to the area, where he waited for his victim to get off work, the police investigation found. In the hours after quitting, 29-year-old Anthony Solima also wrote a note, hinting at what was to come, to a person whose name is redacted from court records. It read, “Tell my daughter I loved her Game (sic) that you played is over I know who you are [redacted] you’re good.” Authorities allege that Solima gunned down 42-year-old Lee Braiser as Braiser was entering his car in the factory parking lot. Braiser was shot in the back of the head, and police recovered the suspected murder weapon — an AR-15-style rifle with no serial number — inside Solima’s car, according to court records. A specific motive has not been made public, but authorities said Braiser and Solima had argued on the day of the homicide, and that not long after, Solima announced he was quitting. Others saw him angrily loading a toolbox into his vehicle before leaving the area that morning.
Mercury News

California’s ‘Smash And Grab’ Robberies – What’s Really Going On Behind The Headlines?
Amid fraught discussions over the future of policing in major American cities, a series of mass thefts at high-end stores across California have made headlines nationwide. The incidents have drawn widespread coverage linking them to “organized crime” and spotlighting concerns from retailers about a theft crisis. They also reinvigorated a political debate over crime rates in California, prompting pledges from local and state leaders to charge those involved and increase police presence in affected areas. Meanwhile, conservatives and some local leaders have pointed to the incidents as evidence that criminal justice reform and progressive policies are encouraging crime and making California more dangerous. But despite their high profile nature, experts say there is little evidence to suggest the robberies point to a wider retail theft crisis, and that some law enforcement and industry groups are overstating the problem. Here’s what we know so far: What are the “smash and grab” robberies that police and retailers have been reporting? Last month in San Francisco’s downtown and the posh Union Square shopping district, groups broke into Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s at the height of the holiday shopping season. In suburban Walnut Creek, about 80 people, some wearing ski masks and carrying crowbars, grabbed armfuls of merchandise from a Nordstrom and fled to waiting cars in what police called a “planned event”, and a similar incident occurred at a mall in the nearby city of Hayward. In Los Angeles, more than $330,000 in goods were stolen in 11 “smash and grab” incidents over about two weeks.
Yahoo! News

Watch: Maryland Deputies Make Frigid Water Save After Car Plunges Into River
Deputies from the Southern Precinct of the Harford County Sheriff's Office rescued a woman from Bush Creek on Friday after her car became fully submerged in the water. Around 1 p.m., deputies responded to a call from Flying Point Park Marina, where they found a car occupied by one individual on the boat ramp, partially in the water of the creek. Deputies initially attempted to remove the driver but were unable to do so before the car became almost completely submerged, at which point the driver jumped out of the vehicle and into the frigid creek. Corporal Sanchez, Senior Deputy Mothershed, Deputy First Class Tatum, and Corporal Frederick entered the water to rescue the woman, who police are choosing not to identify. The woman was transported by first responders to the hospital for treatment of cold weather exposure and for further medical evaluation. No deputies were injured during the event.
The Aegis, Bel Air, Md.

TikTok School Shooting Posts Prompt Extra Security Nationwide
Educators announced plans to increase security in response to TikTok posts warning of shooting and bomb threats at schools around the country Friday as officials assured parents the viral posts were not considered credible. The anonymous social media threats had many educators on edge, as they circulated in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Michigan, which has been followed by numerous copycat threats to schools elsewhere. Schools in states including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois and Montana said Thursday there would be an increased police presence because of the threats. At least one school district in Kaufman, Texas, announced plans to close the high school for the day in response. The posts circulating online warned that multiple schools would receive shooting and bomb threats. “We are writing to inform you and not alarm you,” Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois, school administrators said in an email to parents. “We have been made aware of a nationwide viral TikTok trend about ‘school shooting and bomb threats for every school in the USA even elementary’ on Friday, December 17.”
Associated Press

Fentanyl Overdoses Become No. 1 Cause Of Death Among US Adults, Ages 18-45: 'A National Emergency'
Fentanyl overdoses have surged to the leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 45, according to an analysis of U.S. government data. Between 2020 and 2021, nearly 79,000 people between 18 and 45 years old — 37,208 in 2020 and 41,587 in 2021 — died of fentanyl overdoses, the data analysis from opioid awareness organization Families Against Fentanyl shows. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be deadly even in very small amounts, and other drugs, including heroin, meth and marijuana, can be laced with the dangerous drug. Mexico and China are the primary sources for the flow of fentanyl into the United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Comparatively, between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 15, 2021, there were more than 53,000 COVID-19 deaths among those between the ages of 18 and 49, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "This is a national emergency. America’s young adults — thousands of unsuspecting Americans — are being poisoned," James Rauh, founder of Families Against Fentanyl, said in a statement. "It is widely known that illicit fentanyl is driving the massive spike in drug-related deaths. A new approach to this catastrophe is needed."
FOX 11

Public Safety News

Person Injured By Metro Train In Downtown L.A.: LAFD
The Los Angeles Fire Department has extricated one person from underneath a Metro train and they are continuing to look for others on Thursday night. The LAFD issued an alert about the trapped person at 7:51 p.m., noting that firefighters had “extricated one patient and transported them in grave condition to an area hospital.” The address for the incident, provided by the LAFD as 660 S. Figueroa St., is close to the 7th Street and Metro Center station. No further details were immediately available.
KTLA 5

LA County Tightens Rules For Big Events Amid Rising COVID Numbers
With COVID cases and hospitalizations rising in Los Angeles County and a growing threat from the Omicron variant, health officials Thursday announced stepped-up efforts to combat the pandemic, including new rules for attending large events. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that beginning Friday, anyone attending indoor or outdoor mega-events in the county who cannot provide proof of full vaccination is required to provide proof of a negative COVID test within one day (if antigen test) or two days (if PCR test) of the event. Children under age 2 are exempt from the rule for indoor events, and children under 5 are exempt for outdoor events. This is a change from the previous health order, which required proof of a negative test within 72 hours. The county defines mega events as indoor gatherings of more than 1,000 people or outdoor events of more than 10,000 people. Ferrer said 30 cases of Omicron have now been detected in Los Angeles County, 24 among fully vaccinated people, four of whom had booster shots. None have been hospitalized and none have died, and Ferrer added that there is no evidence to suggest that the new variant causes more severe symptoms than previous versions, but it is more transmissible than other variants.
FOX 11

Increased Hospitalizations Related To COVID-19 Have Health Officials Predicting Winter Surge
Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise as the southland heads into the winter months, with an especially concerning spike in the number of infections involving the Omicron variant. LA County has seen a dramatic increase in hospitalizations and health leaders are worried. “We are issuing, as we know, a public health alert with cases increasing and the threat of Omicron spreading and being more infectious during this winter holiday season. We are going to need to be smart and cautious as we celebrate,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County Health, said. With the holiday season in full swing, public health officials are focused on the challenge ahead, the expected winter surge in coronavirus cases, and like before, leaders are worried about whether or not the hospitals can take it. “We have staffing shortages that we already are facing. We have a more active flu season in front of us ready, and we have many of our hospitals already filled because we never really have recovered from a highly infectious Delta variant,” Ferrer said.
CBS 2

Local Government News

LA's 'Death Hotel' Featured In Netflix Doc To Be Converted Into Affordable Housing
An infamous downtown Los Angeles hotel that has attracted the public's fascination because of its checkered history and deadly past and was recently featured in a Netflix documentary will be converted into affordable housing. The landmark 600-room Hotel Cecil, sometimes known as the "Death" hotel, will house 600 low-income people who don't have proper housing, according to the Skid Row Housing Trust, which held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday. "The Cecil Hotel is a perfect example of the bold and creative solutions needed to make a dent in the homelessness crisis. We are proud to partner with Simon Baron Development to welcome home 600 neighbors who are currently unsheltered, unhoused or housing insecure," Sierra Atilano, Skid Row Housing Trust's chief real estate and investment officer, said in a statement. The hotel was purchased in 2015 by Simon Baron Development. The Cecil was re-branded in 2011 as the Stay on Main hotel that catered to travelers seeking affordable stays in Los Angeles.
FOX Business

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