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Jan 2022
Newswatch January 20, 2022

Law Enforcement News

Brianna Kupfer Murder: Alleged Suspect Shawn Laval Smith Taken Into Custody In Pasadena
Shawn Laval Smith, the suspected killer of Brianna Kupfer, was taken into custody Wednesday in Pasadena in connection with the 24-year-old UCLA grad student's stabbing death, authorities confirmed to FOX 11. He was arrested by Pasadena police officers around 11:50 a.m. at a bus stop near the intersection of E. Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue, approximately 17 miles from the furniture store where Kupfer was murdered, officials said. "We can confirm, Shawn Laval Smith, the suspect responsible for the murder of Brianna Kupfer is in custody, after being located and detained by Pasadena PD around 11:50am this morning in the area of Fair Oaks and Colorado Blvd.," the LAPD posted on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. "This case was solved not only by the LAPD, but by civilian criminalists, the city council support and the community at large," LAPD Homicide Detective Herman Frettlohr said. "Proud of our LA County community at large." Los Angeles police launched a hunt for Smith, 31, after Kupfer was found stabbed to death in a random daytime attack at a luxury furniture store last week. Smith remained on the loose early Wednesday and police have said that he should be considered armed and dangerous. A combined $250,000 reward was being offered to help Los Angeles Police track down Smith.
FOX 11

California Politicos Now Talking Tough On Crime
It is amusing — and a little pathetic — to see California’s liberal politicians slide to the right in response to an upsurge in crime. Gov. Gavin Newsom is leading the unsubtle rhetorical shift from criminal justice reform —i.e. reducing punishment for those who transgress — to demanding crackdowns on criminals. A week before Christmas, with retail stores seeing a wave of smash-and-grab robberies and cities reeling from record levels of homicide, Newsom unveiled what he called a “Real Public Safety Plan” that “focuses on new investments that will bolster local law enforcement response, ensure prosecutors hold perpetrators accountable and get guns and drugs off our streets.” “Through robust new investments and ongoing coordination with local agencies, this plan will bolster our prevention, deterrence and enforcement efforts to aggressively curb crime, hold bad actors to account and protect Californians from the devastating gun violence epidemic,” Newsom, said. Newsom sounded more like one of those Republican lock-‘em-up governors of the past, such as George Deukmejian or Pete Wilson, than a governor who has blocked executions of murderers, closed prisons and otherwise backed the criminal justice reform agenda. Newsom is not the only born-again crimefighter, however.
MyNewsLA.com

One Juvenile Shot Near Schools In Watts
On Wednesday afternoon, police responded to the area near three schools in Watts after receiving reports of shots fired. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, authorities received reports of shots fired and one juvenile wounded at around 3:30 p.m. Officers arrived at 103rd Street and Compton Avenue, about half a mile from the middle school and across the street from Thomas Riley High School and Compton Avenue Elementary School. They found one 13-year-old boy shot outside the Watts Health Center. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, crews transported the teenager to a local hospital. As of 9:30 p.m., the boy was in stable condition. LAPD currently has no suspects in custody. LAPD and Los Angeles School Police Department have responded to the scene and set off a perimeter.
CBS 2

Father And Son Brutally Attacked In Toluca Lake; 3 Suspects On The Run
The search is on for three people wanted in connection to the brutal attack of a father-son duo in Toluca Lake. According to an alert from the Los Angeles Police Department, a 65-year-old man and his son were knocked unconscious after they were randomly attacked by a group of suspects. One of the suspects, labeled in the above photo as Suspect 1, was spotted wearing a Toronto Raptors hat and jersey. He is listed at about 6-foot and weighing around 170 to 180 pounds. He was also described as being in his mid-to-late 20s. The second suspect, labeled in the photo at the top of this article as Suspect 2, was pictured with a light brown-blonde afro, listed at an identical height and age group to Suspect 1. The third suspect, labeled in the photo published at the top of the article as Suspect 3, was pictured with an undercut hairstyle with a ponytail on top. He is listed at about 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11 and weighs around 180 to 190 pounds. He is described to be in his mid-to-late 40s. The three suspects ran off from the scene in an unspecified vehicle. Anyone with information on the attack is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS.
FOX 11

COVID-19 Surge At LAPD And Sheriff’s Department Keeps Over 2,000 Personnel At Home
More than 2,000 employees of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are at home sick or quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday. LAPD Det. Meghan Aguilar said that some 1,134 personnel out of 12,200 are currently at home, including 898 sworn officers. Those numbers are up 42% from the 803 personnel who were out Jan. 11. On average, an LAPD officer sidelined with a coronavirus infection is missing 20 days of work and a civilian employee is missing 33 days, Aguilar said. Officials noted that average includes some personnel with long-term COVID-19 cases who have spent months recuperating. The new figures represent a massive increase from the 82 new cases among LAPD personnel during the week ending Christmas, and from fewer than 30 new cases per week as recently as a month ago. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had 874 personnel quarantined out of about 18,000 employees, with 618 sworn deputies among them. The LAPD has seen a surge in the number of vaccinated officers and other employees testing positive this month. On Jan. 1, 22.2% of those testing positive were vaccinated, but by Jan. 15 that number had risen to 43.3%.
Los Angeles Times

Grandmother Carrying Infant Allegedly Assaulted By Unhoused Woman In Venice
As tensions between Venice residents and city leaders heat up over the homeless situation, an unhoused woman allegedly assaulted a grandmother and her 9-month-old granddaughter on the boardwalk Wednesday morning. “My worst nightmare come alive,” said Katy Gross, mother to 9-month-old Gilda. The alleged assault took place off Venice’s Oceanfront Walk by a homeless woman who, police said, was having a breakdown. “She heard the woman right behind her, saying, ‘You, you give me that baby,’ and she turned around. The woman lunged at her, said, ‘Give me that baby. They took my baby, so I’m going to take your baby,’ and then she, with both of her arms, grabbed my mom’s wrist and pulled the coffee that my mom was holding out of her hand and then threw it at my baby’s face,” Gross said. The coffee, fortunately, was not very hot. So, baby Gilda is okay. Her grandmother and parents, however, are not. On Tuesday, CBSLA spoke with Gross about reported plans to set up a homeless services center their home and school. It’s billed as a place where people who need to decompress from a breakdown or heavy drug and alcohol use will get help. Gross told CBSLA that she can’t understand why it’s planned for a park where an encampment was just cleared out not long ago.
CBS 2

LA Councilman To Allocate $100,000 From District Funds To Combat Street Racing
Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield announced Wednesday he will allocate $100,000 from his office's discretionary funds to pay police overtime to support specialized enforcement against street racing and speeding in his district. The allocation needs to be approved by the full council, and Blumenfield's office said members are expected to vote on it on Tuesday. "I have constituents who are often woken up in the middle of the night by a half dozen cars going three times the speed limit, screeching around turns in what were recently quiet neighborhoods. This isn't just a quality of life issue, people are dying and this is beyond unacceptable," Blumenfield said in a statement Wednesday. "We've seen reckless driving spike all across the city and I'm not going to wait until someone else gets hurt or worse to do something in my district." Blumenfield said the $100,000 would be used to support LAPD overtime costs for specialized enforcement by the LAPD Operations Valley Bureau to target areas of organized racing and speeding over the next five months. The chosen areas include Vanalden Avenue from Gleneagles Drive to Ventura Boulevard, Valley Circle Boulevard and Victory Boulevard, and other Council District 3 locations that Blumenfield said are used for street racing or frequent speeding. "Illegal street racing and takeovers are at an all-time high in our city. In my 35 plus years with LAPD, I have never seen this level of blatant disregard for the safety of our fellow commuters," said LAPD Captain Andrew Neiman of the Valley Traffic Division.
NBC 4

4 Arrested In Smash-and-Grab At Studio City Lululemon, $72K In Items Recovered: CHP
Four people were arrested and about $72,000 in stolen merchandise recovered after a smash-and-grab at a Lululemon store in Studio City, authorities said Wednesday. The burglary was reported a day earlier in the 12100 block of Ventura Boulevard, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Two men and two women entered the location and made off with a large amount of merchandise from the athletic apparel retailer’s store, police said. LAPD tracked their vehicle to the 5 Freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley and chased them until the California Highway Patrol took over the pursuit, officials said. Officers were following the car northbound on the 5 when the vehicle crashed in the Fort Tejon area, according to CHP. Four people identified as the suspects in the Lululemon theft were subsequently located and arrested, the Highway Patrol tweeted Wednesday. Officers recovered an estimated $72,000 worth of stolen items, they said.
KTLA 5

Man Sought In Fresno Killing Of Mother, Grandfather Arrested In L.A.
A man sought in the killings of his grandfather and mother in Fresno was captured in Los Angeles, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said. Rahmad Kerel Parke, 25, was picked up by Los Angeles police on Jan. 15 after Fresno detectives followed up on a tip that he had been seen in the Sherman Oaks area, the office said in a press release Tuesday. Arrangements were being made to transfer Parke to Fresno. It was not immediately known if he had an attorney. Parke was wanted for the Jan. 6 killings of his 90-year-old grandfather, Mel Abdelaziz, and his 58-year-old mother, Melba Abdelaziz, the Sheriff’s Office said. The victims were slain while visiting a home where Parke was staying, the office said. Deputies found the grandfather outside and mother inside. Mel Abdelaziz had been a church pastor for 70 years.
KTLA 5

LASD Stats Show 94% Jump In Homicides In LA County Over 2-Year Span, Sheriff Villanueva Says
Homicides and auto thefts jumped significantly during a two-year period in areas patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, according to Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Villanueva said Wednesday during a news conference that from 2019 to 2021, homicides increased about 94% and grand theft auto increased 59%. "I say those are the two glaring numbers because obviously they're definitely going in the wrong direction," Villanueva said. The sheriff says part of the dramatic increase in crime stems from the pandemic. "A lot of this is still pandemic-related. Obviously, the societal patterns, behaviors, people at home, businesses closed - it disrupted a lot of cycles of crime and opportunities for crime, but unfortunately, the underlying premise of violent crime, the proliferation of guns, 'ghost guns' on the street, that keeps rising," the sheriff said. Villanueva said the approximately 94% increase in homicides is "unique to Los Angeles County - I think throughout the entire United States it's probably one of the biggest jumps ever." The sheriff also attributes the grim crime stats on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors' decision to place a hiring freeze on the sheriff's department at a time when he says there's a critical need for more deputies. "I still have a majority of the board that is dead set on defunding the department, and that does not work because the community is suffering directly as a result of their decisions, not of our actions," Villanueva said.
ABC 7

Woman Arrested In Watts For Serial Retail Theft Worth More Than $80K: Sheriff’s Department
A woman was arrested in Watts Tuesday for multiple thefts worth tens of thousands of dollars from retail stores in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department announced. Brittany Moore of Los Angeles is accused of taking more than $75,000 worth of “candles, fragrances, and miscellaneous cosmetics and personal care products” from Bath & Body Works stores, the Sheriff’s Department said in a release. When executing a search warrant in the 2800 block of 113th Street related to the Bath & Body Works thefts, investigators also found more than $6,100 in merchandise from multiple stores, including Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, Carter’s, Children’s Place, Claire’s and H&M, the Sheriff’s Department said. Moore, whom jail records show is 31 years old, is already on probation in Los Angeles and Orange counties for theft, as she has been arrested eight times for similar crimes, the release said. Moore is being held without bail on a probation violation at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood. She is due to appear in court on Thursday morning, jail records show. Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call 562-946-7893.
KTLA 5

3 Charged In Encino Cellphone Store Robbery May Be Linked To Dozens More Such Thefts
Three defendants are facing a federal charge stemming from the smash-and-grab robbery of a T-Mobile store in Encino last weekend, prosecutors announced Wednesday. Rayford Newsome of Compton, 22, Tony Tyron Lee Stewart of Highland, 21, and Jerome Gregory Belser of San Bernardino, 20, each face one federal count of obstructing commerce by means of robbery, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court. The three could be linked to as many as 50 cellphone store robberies throughout the Southland between Nov. 11, 2021, and last Saturday, according to a Los Angeles Police Department detective who wrote the sworn affidavit in the case. The defendants were arrested on Saturday hours after the heist at the T-Mobile store at 17133 Ventura Blvd. Surveillance and cellphone video of the robbery showed three suspects carrying distinctive looking hammers walking into the store during store hours, smashing display cases and taking Apple iPhones and other merchandise, according to the complaint.
Los Angeles Daily News

Man Convicted Of Violent, Deadly Crime Spree In LA County Sentenced To Life In Prison
A Los Angeles court judge sentenced 38-year-old Artyom Gasparyan on Tuesday to life in prison with no possibility of parole for a violent crime spree, and a freeway crash that resulted in a woman and her children being hurt. In August, a jury convicted Gasparyan on over 30 counts for the violent crime spree which ended with him being shot after a wrong-way freeway crash. It was a violent and bloody end to a wild and speedy pursuit on the 5 Freeway roughly six years ago. Police closed in on Gasparyan, who detectives say was armed following a wrong-way crash on the freeway near Sylmar. Police shot him as he attempted to exit his car and flee the scene. Gasparyan stood trial for murder, attempted murder, and a host of other violent crimes including carjackings during a crime spree that terrorized southland neighborhoods. "Mr. Gasparyan did everything he could to kill well over a dozen people," prosecutors said at the sentencing hearing Tuesday. In 2015, Gasparyan shot and wounded one man and opened fire on a second man, killing Adan Corea in Panorama City. "Mr. Gasparyan is one of the most dangerous people to ever walk the streets of Los Angeles County. Complete disregard for the lives of so many innocent people," prosecutors said.
ABC 7

Fullerton Couple Arrested In Bay Area On Suspicion Of Sleight-of-Hand Jewelry Thefts
A man and a woman from Fullerton are suspected of using sleight-of-hand techniques and fake jewelry to steal valuables from elderly victims in the San Francisco Bay Area. Alex Ghiocel, 24, and Elena Gunici, 21, were arrested Monday by San Ramon police and booked on suspicion of felony grand theft, theft from an elder or dependent adult and conspiracy to commit a crime. They were pulled over after an automated license plate reader system alerted officers that their vehicle had reportedly been used during a series of thefts, the San Ramon Police Department said in a release. Their 2-year-old child was in the car and was released to a family member. Police had entered the vehicle’s license plate into their system after a “quick-change” theft Sunday in which a female suspect called a 74-year-old woman to the car, put costume jewelry on her, then took a valuable piece of jewelry and left the costume pieces behind after the 74-year-old refused the items. It was the tenth such incident reported to the department since November. Police are investigating the couple’s connection to the previous cases. “In every case, a female suspect approached an elderly victim (between 60 and 86 years old) who was outside and often alone,” the department said in the release. “The suspects used confusion and sleight-of-hand techniques to remove the victim’s jewelry before fleeing in a waiting vehicle.”
Los Angeles Times

NYPD Cop Serving Warrant Shot Through Door; 2nd City Officer Shot This Week
An NYPD cop executing a warrant on Staten Island was shot through a door Thursday morning, making him the second officer shot in the city this week. Both the officer and the suspect’s injuries are not considered life threatening. The officer shot was part of a narcotics team executing a search warrant at a residence on Rockne St. near Elwood Ave. about 6 a.m. When cops went to the door, the gunman inside fired through the door, hitting the officer in the leg. The officer, conscious and alert, was rushed to Staten Island University Hospital North. The suspect was also shot and taken to Richmond University Medical Center. The officer is the second NYPD cop shot this week. On Tuesday night, a cop was grazed in the leg scuffling with a teen gunman in the Bronx. The teen fired, striking himself in the groin and the Officer Kaseem Pennant in the leg. The teen was charged and Pennant was treated at a hospital and released.
New York Daily News

Michelle Go Case: Homeless Man Charged In Times Square Subway Killing
A homeless man now faces second-degree murder charges in the subway pushing death of Michelle Alyssa Go. Simon Martial, 61, was arraigned on Wednesday morning. The Upper West Side woman was killed when she was pushed into an oncoming subway train in a Times Square station on Saturday. The incident happened just after 9:30 a.m. on the southbound N/Q/W/R platform in the 42nd Street and Broadway subway station. The Manhattan District Attorney's office says that Martial pushed her onto the train tracks as a train approached the station. Go was hit by the train and died. The Manhattan District Attorney's office says that Martial pushed her onto the train tracks as a train approached the station. Go was hit by the train and died. The NYPD says that Martial, who is homeless, attempted to push another woman onto the tracks before approaching Go. He screamed," I am God," as police led him out of the Midtown Precinct South after his arrest. Prosecutors say that Martial admitted his guilt in three separate conversations with transit officers, detectives, and prosecutors. Martial has two prior violent felony convictions. One was for attempted robbery in 1999 and another for attempted robbery in 2019. He currently has a warrant out for violating his parole. The judge ordered him held without bail.
FOX 11

UK Police Arrest 2 Men Over Texas Synagogue Hostage-Taking
British police said Thursday they have arrested two people in connection with a hostage-taking at a synagogue in Texas. Counter Terrorism Police North West said one man was arrested Thursday in Birmingham, central England, and another in the northern English city of Manchester. They are being held for questioning and have not yet been charged. The force said it was continuing to support U.S. authorities with their investigation into Saturday's hostage incident. Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen, took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue in a 10-hour standoff that ended in his death. All four hostages were unharmed. Police did not disclose details about the two people detained Thursday. British police do not release names and details of detainees until they are charged. On Sunday, police arrested British teenagers in Manchester as part of the investigation. They were later released without charge. Akram was from Blackburn, an industrial city in northwest England. His family said he had been “suffering from mental health issues.” Akram entered the United States on a tourist visa about two weeks earlier and spent time in Dallas-area homeless shelters before the attack at Congregation Beth Israel, in the suburb of Colleyville.
Associated Press

Public Safety News

More People Ending Up In The ICU As COVID Surge Strains L.A. County Hospitals
More people have been ending up in intensive care units in Los Angeles County as the omicron coronavirus variant continues its rapid spread, health officials said Tuesday. “Let’s not fool ourselves by not recognizing the danger presented by the Omicron variant which is capable of spreading with lightning speed and causing serious illness among our most vulnerable residents,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. There were 4,701 people with COVID-19 hospitalized across the county Tuesday. Both the seven-day average of new admissions of people with COVID-19 and the total number of patients admitted into the ICU have increased from last week, the L.A. County Department of Public health said, citing data from Monday. About 31% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were in the ICU, 27% of them needing ventilation. That also represents an increase from the week prior. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have recognized that while many experience mild illness from COVID, there are others, who we love and need, that will not do well if they become infected,” Ferrer said. “And while vaccines and boosters provide powerful protection, those who are older, have serious health conditions, or are immunocompromised remain at higher risk.”
KTLA 5

COVID-19: LA County Reports 59 New Deaths As Positivity Rate At Schools Drops
With the omicron variant fueling COVID-19 spread across LA County, the number of school campuses reporting positive cases rose sharply as classes resumed this month, but the rate of students and staff testing positive for the virus has begun declining, health officials said Wednesday. According to the county Department of Public Health, 1,032 K-12 schools reported positive cases last week, a 55 percent increase from the first week of December, when 665 campuses confirmed infections. Health officials noted that while roughly 65,000 students and staff tested positive last week, only three new school outbreaks, defined as three or more linked cases, were identified. The low number of campus outbreaks indicates that the high number of infections are due to general virus spread in the community, rather than a targeted cluster of cases at schools, according to the county. County health officials said the rate of students and staff testing positive for the virus was 11 percent last week, down from 15 percent the previous week.
ABC 7

Local Government News

Venice 'Decompression Center' Plans On Hold After Cease and Desist
The Los Angeles City Mayor's office put plans to open a "decompression center" at the former Venice Senior Center on hold after receiving a cease and desist letter from the law firm representing Venice Kids Count. The Westminster Senior Center is surrounded by homes and is adjacent to Westminster Elementary School and three preschools that are home to more than 400 children. It’s also adjacent to an early education center that serves low-income families and the popular Westminster Dog Park – a gathering place for dog owners and neighborhoods – which is very busy every day of the year. The decompression center was supposed to open this week as part of the CIRCLE Team initiative launched by Mayor Eric Garcetti in partnership with Councilmember Mike Bonin. On Tuesday, no parking signs were put up by the CIRCLE team to make room for new showers and bathrooms. Residents were told that the CIRCLE team is a pilot program that had been activated to help alleviate an overburdened police department. According to a press release sent by the mayor’s office, the team will intervene in nonviolent 911 calls for things like noise complaints and trespassing and oversee the decompression center.
WestSide Current

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