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Jul 2021
Newswatch July 8, 2021

Law Enforcement News

A Place To Sleep, Party And Kill: Abandoned L.A. Buildings Become MS-13 Gang ‘Destroyers’
It looked like just another tired apartment building on Rampart Boulevard. Emptied of its tenants so a development company could pursue plans to knock the place down and put up a high-rise, the building’s windows were smashed out of their frames and its doors pulled off their hinges. Thieves stripped the place of its fixtures. Then a group of teenagers and young men slipped inside. They announced their illicit occupancy in white spray paint on the green canvas stretched across a chain-link fence that had been put up: “MS CLCS.” They were from the Coronado Lil’ Cycos clique of Mara Salvatrucha, the gang widely known as MS-13, and they had turned the abandoned building into a place to sleep, party, host meetings, peddle drugs — “clandestine things they don’t want to hold out in the open,” a Los Angeles police detective explained in court. The gang has a name for places like this. The building had become a “destroyer.” The destroyer on Rampart was also a place to kill. Three people were slain within its blighted rooms in 2017 and 2018, detectives testified at a hearing last month in the case of two alleged MS-13 members charged with the murders. Authorities suspect a fourth victim was lured to the building, then driven to the mountains above Los Angeles and stabbed to death.
Los Angeles Times

13-Year-Old Boy Injured In Drive-By Shooting In South LA Neighborhood
A 13-year-old boy was in stable condition with two gunshot wounds and two gunmen were on the loose Thursday following a drive-by shooting in Historic South Central Los Angeles. Police were called at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday to the 4100 of South Avalon Boulevard, said a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman. The 13-year-old victim was standing outside when two people driving northbound on Avalon in an unidentified vehicle opened fire, the LAPD said. The boy suffered two gunshot wounds to the upper body and was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, the spokesman said. The shooting was under investigation, and details about the vehicle and the shooters were not immediately available.

Man Shot In Downtown Los Angeles, Suspect Taken Into Custody
A 20-year-old man was shot in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday and a suspect was taken into custody. The shooting was reported at about 12:25 p.m. near East 51st Street and South Avalon Boulevard, in the South Park area, according to Officer Jader Chaves of the Los Angeles Police Department. Responding officers found the man suffering from at least one gunshot wound at the scene. He was taken to a hospital in unknown condition. The suspected shooter was located in the area and taken into custody, Chaves said. No further details were released.

Half-Naked Man Sets Fire Atop Boyle Heights Church, Jumps From Rooftops And Rappels Down Power Lines
A man who climbed atop a church Wednesday night in Boyle Heights, lit a fire underneath a cross and evaded police by jumping from rooftop to rooftop is in custody. The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to reports of a possible jumper who appeared “to be trying to light the building on fire” at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the 400 block of South Chicago Street at around 8:25 p.m., according to LAFD’s Margaret Stewart. Wearing only boxers and one sock, the man appeared to light a fire under one rooftop cross and also appeared to kick a second statue in an attempt to knock it over. A witness at the scene told CBSLA’s Tom Wait that earlier the man had removed his clothing and was throwing the items at authorities on the ground. At around 9:25 p.m., the man jumped from the church to an adjacent building. He ran across that building’s roof and onto another roof where he then grabbed what looked like a utility line to scale the side of yet another structure.

Windows Shot Out At 19 Businesses Along Ventura Boulevard In Overnight Incident, LAPD Says
Street-facing windows were shot out overnight Tuesday at 19 businesses along Ventura Boulevard, the Los Angeles Police Department said, prompting a search for the vandal or vandals. The shooting spree stretched from Tarzana to Woodland Hills, the LAPD said, at businesses including a furniture store and a fitness center. Two large windows were shot out at L.A. Furniture, and owner Andrew Melix said each one would cost him as much as $16,000 to replace. "It's very frustrating," Melix told ABC7. "You gotta replace every window -- don't really want to file a claim with insurance, because you file with insurance, your deductible is probably going to be more expensive than each window costs to replace. "I don't know what these people are thinking," he said, adding that this was not the first time windows were shot out at the location.

Firefighters Take Down Blaze At Sylmar Building, LAPD Checking Garage For Possible Marijuana Grow Op
A fire at a building in Sylmar prompted police to check on the building's garage for possible marijuana grow operation Wednesday night. The Los Angeles Fire Department initially responded to a call on Lochrin Lane. It took more than 30 firefighters to take down the fire, LAFD said. No one was hurt in the fire, LAFD said. After taking down the fire, the Los Angeles Police Department is taking a whiff at the building's garage for a possible marijuana bust. The cause of the fire is under investigation. No arrests have been announced as of Wednesday evening.
FOX 11

Thief Targeting West Hollywood Mailboxes, Suspect May Be Holding Master Key
Neighbors in the West Hollywood area say their multi-unit mailboxes have been gutted by a thief or thieves. The community is raising the red flag as more and more victims report cases of mail theft on apps like Next Door. Neighbors also fear the extent of the theft is massive. They’re concerned that a master key may have somehow fallen into the wrong hands. Security cameras there captured a man in baggy shorts and a hoodie casually walking into the lobby just after 4 a.m. Tuesday, opening each of the building’s 16 mailboxes, and emptying them. It appeared as if the thief stopped to sift through the stolen mail and ditched what he didn’t want. The resident’s neighbor found an envelope that once contained a birthday card. Its contents, which likely included cash, were missing. Neighbors on Next Door say Tuesday’s rash of thefts are just the tip of the iceberg and speculate that the only way so many buildings could be hit in such a short period of time would be if someone had access to all of the mailboxes.
FOX 11

Gardena Man Facing Federal Charges For Alleged Armed Robbery Spree Of Donut Shops, Other Businesses
A Gardena man has been indicted on federal criminal charges alleging that he carried out a five-day armed robbery spree of nearly a dozen businesses, including several donut shops. Justin Washington, 32, was named in a 14-count federal grand jury indictment returned Tuesday, charging him with 11 counts of Hobbs Act robbery and three counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release. Between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4, Washington allegedly robbed and attempted to rob 10 business in the South Bay and in South Los Angeles, according to the indictment obtained by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The alleged robbery spree began at a Gardena grocery, which he robbed on both Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, the indictment states. Then, Washington allegedly robbed a 7-Eleven store and a donut shop, and attempted to rob a veterinarian’s office, all in Gardena. Next, he is accused of robbing a donut shop in Torrance, and then he moved to South L.A. to hit a wireless phone store, a dry cleaner business, two additional donut shops and a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store.

More Than $1B Worth Of Marijuana Seized During ‘Historic’ Bust In Antelope Valley: LASD
Officials seized more than 16 tons of harvested marijuana from illegal grows in the Antelope Valley area last month in what L.A. County Sheriff’s Department officials called a “historic” bust. The street value of the seized plants is estimated at $1.19 billion, and more than 400 personnel from multiple departments and agencies served 205 locations with search warrants during the days-long operation. Authorities seized 65 vehicles — including two water trucks — $28,000 in cash and made 131 arrests, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a news conference announcing the bust Wednesday. The operation began on June 8, after authorities prepared for several weeks with the help of local, state and federal officials, as well as tips and complaints from residents in Lancaster and the Antelope Valley. Villanueva said Los Angeles County has seen a “significant proliferation” of outdoor marijuana growth, especially in the high desert areas. He added that many cultivations are tied to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and organized crime groups.

Indiana Detective Killed Outside Federal Office Was Ambushed, FBI Says
Detective Greg Ferency, a 30-year veteran of the Terre Haute Police Department, died in the line of duty Wednesday afternoon when he was ambushed and shot outside a federal office building near the Vigo County Courthouse. Information about the suspected shooter or his motive was not released by the FBI on Wednesday. The FBI is the lead agency and is being assisted by Indiana State Police. The shooting occurred at 2:15 p.m. outside a non-descript brick office building along First Street near the Wabash River. The building's offices include the Terre Haute office, or resident agency, of the FBI. The U.S. Courthouse in Terre Haute is on Ohio Street about dozen blocks to the east. The suspect in the incident was described as driving a gold-colored Ford F-150, according to police dispatchers. A vehicle matching that description, with its rear window shattered and apparently shot, was soon located at Terre Haute Regional Hospital. Police confirmed about an hour later the shooting suspect was in surgery at the hospital. No additional information about him was released.
The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.

Watch: Fallen Officers Remembered 5 Years After Deadly Dallas Ambush
A memorial march that will include former and current police officers, their families, friends and residents along with the Dallas police command staff is scheduled Wednesday in Dallas. The march and a service are scheduled for the 2021 Police Memorial Day, which recognizes the Dallas police officers who were killed in the line of duty. The service is at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Police Memorial, 500 S. Akard St. in Dallas. In addition, a special recognition will be held to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the events of July 7, 2016, when five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by a gunman who used street protests to conceal his ambush attack. One of those officers was Dallas Officer Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a Fort Worth Paschal High School graduate. Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48, DPD Officer Michael Krol, 40, DPD Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, and DART Officer Brent Thompson, 43, were also killed.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Massachusetts Officer Dragged Behind Stolen Vehicle During Pursuit; Woman Arrested
A woman Worcester police say stole a truck from a worksite and then led them on a chase through the city is facing 13 different charges after police caught up to her at a McDonald’s drive-through. According to Worcester police, Johanna Gardell, 38, of Oriol Drive, Worcester, stole a pick-up truck on Lake Avenue around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday before running red lights, driving the wrong way down the street, driving into a van and hitting a police cruiser and dragging a detail officer in attempts to evade police. Raymond James Simoncini, owner of Raymond James Restoration, told MassLive the vehicle belongs to his company and was stolen off a job site on Lake Avenue Tuesday morning. According to Simoncini, when police caught up with the woman, she claimed the truck was hers. Simoncini said he recognized Gardell as someone who would hang out in the area. Simoncini had GPS on the vehicle which, according to police, let them track it, prompting them to back off the chase when Gardell allegedly began driving dangerously.

Public Safety News

Firefighters Evacuate Residents From Pacific Palisades Residential Blaze
Firefighters this morning battled a blaze in a one-story, single-family dwelling in Pacific Palisades -- and Los Angeles Fire Department air operations was on scene to watch for any embers that might extend to nearby vegetation. All of the building's occupants were reported to be out of the structure, said LAFD spokeswoman Margaret Stewart. Fire crews were called at 3:49 a.m. to 766 N. Paseo Miramar, where they encountered heavy fire showing, Stewart said.
Venice Current

LA Metro Opens Vaccination Site Near Soto Station In Boyle Heights
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Wednesday opened a public vaccination site near Soto Station along the L (Gold) Line in Boyle Heights. The site will provide doses of the Pfizer vaccine from noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The vaccine is available to everyone 12 years old and over, though children need a parent or guardian present. People can get vaccinated on a walk-up basis or by making an appointment at Free COVID-19 testing will also be available. COVID-19 vaccines are also available at Metro’s Union Station, the Crenshaw/105 Station in Hawthorne, the Harbor Gateway Transit Center in Gardena, the Del Amo Station in Rancho Dominguez, the El Monte Station and at a Metro-owned property at 339 N. Fickett St. near Bus Line 70 in Boyle Heights.

Excessive Heat Warning Planned For Parts Of SoCal
More hot weather is heading to the Southland, with the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita Valley likely to bear the brunt of the high-pressure system. An excessive heat warning will be in effect in the Antelope Valley from 10 a.m. Thursday through 9 p.m. Monday, with the National Weather Service predicting "dangerously hot conditions with temperatures up to 113 expected." Forecasters said temperatures won't drop dramatically overnight in the area, with lows expected in the mid-70s to mid-80s. "High pressure will continue to build over the region into the weekend, leading to warming temperatures each day mainly away from the coast," according to the NWS. "The warmest days will likely be Friday through Sunday when excessive heat will be likely for interior areas. "Low clouds and fog will be confined to the coastal plain and possibly lower coastal valleys during the overnight and morning hours." Forecasters said the excessive heat warning could potentially be extended to the Santa Clarita Valley on Friday and beyond, depending on how the high-pressure system unfolds.
FOX 11

Coronavirus Cases In California Rise For First Time In Months As Delta Variant Spreads
After months of steady declines, coronavirus infections are once again on the rise in California as the state struggles with slowing daily vaccination rates and the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant. While it’s too soon to say whether the upticks are a trend or a blip, health experts and state officials expressed confidence that California’s reopening and the return of something resembling normality were not in jeopardy. “This is the call to anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated: Get vaccinated,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a briefing Wednesday. “What more evidence do you need?” There is widespread scientific consensus that fully vaccinated people have an excellent chance of being protected from severe illness or death from any coronavirus strain, including Delta. In both Los Angeles and San Diego counties over the past half-year, 99.8% of people who died from COVID-19 had not been inoculated.
Los Angeles Times

Local Government News

L.A. County Transit Officials Focus On Boosting Ridership To Pre-Pandemic Levels
With the threat of COVID-19 receding, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to focus on boosting ridership levels that fell 70% during the pandemic and expanding transit service to low-income communities, according to top transit officials at the agency’s annual State of the Agency event. For the first time in its 28-year history, the agency will be led by two women: Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who is Metro board chair, and Chief Executive Stephanie Wiggins. They said they will share responsibility for making the $8-billion agency more equitable and accessible after a devastating pandemic. “The truth of the matter is that the pandemic exposed and exacerbated structural inequities across the county but also the country, from homelessness to housing to health disparities and more,” Solis said. “And we have to ask ourselves, what role can Metro play in addressing these issues and what can we do better?”



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