In the heart of Central Long Beach, residents and firefighters gathered for a vigil at Fire Station 10 on Monday night to honor the life of Capt. Dave Rosa – the city’s first firefighter to be killed while on duty since 1974.
“Capt. Rosa will always be remembered in the community for the hero that he was,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
Rosa, 45, and another Long Beach firefighter, Ernesto Torres, 35, were responding to reports of an explosion in a downtown Long Beach retirement home early Monday when police said they were shot by a 77-year-old resident who had explosives in his apartment.
The suspect, Thomas Kim, was arrested in the explosion and the shootings.
Rosa, a 17-year veteran with the department, was most recently based at Station 10, an older station in a diverse part of the city near Cambodia Town.
Some 200 residents, friends and firefighters gathered for the vigil. Many family members and friends held each other and cried as Rosa was remembered as beloved in the department — someone who always had a smile on his face.
Rosa’s parents and other relatives who came to the vigil were embraced by firefighters.
— Kelly Puente (@KellyPuenteOC) June 26, 2018
Kevin Landino, Rosa’s longtime best friend, came from Carlsbad for the memorial. The two were born 11 days apart and grew up together since their moms were good friends, he said.
“He would walk into a room and just light up a room,” said Landino, wiping away tears. “You can’t not love him.”
Long Beach resident Ken Brown and his sister Kathy Douglas came to pay their respects because their father, George Brown, is a retired fire captain from Station 13.
“This hits hard. It’s not something you would ever anticipate,” Brown said.
The crowd sang Amazing Grace as his family members stood in a circle. At one point, Pastor Greg Sanders asked everyone in the crowd to hug and say “I love and support you.”
Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee said the department was touched by what he called an amazing outpouring of support from the community.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/25/residents-firefighters-hold-vigil-for-fallen-long-beach-firefighter-capt-david-rosa/
Nearly seven years after transient Kelly Thomas was killed in an encounter with police, two former officers involved in the incident are waging an ongoing legal battle to get their jobs back with the Fullerton Police Department in addition to retroactive pay.
An Orange County Superior Court judge will decide whether the Fullerton City Council was unconstitutionally biased when it voted to fire Officers Jay Cicinelli and Joseph Wolfe, who were both terminated in 2012 for their confrontation with Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center on July 5, 2011.
In a case that drew national headlines and prompted scrutiny of police use of force against the mentally ill, Thomas was placed in custody while police looked into whether he was stealing small items. A struggled ensued, and he suffered a compressed trachea and broken bones in his face and died five days later. Surveillance video caught much of the incident.
A jury in 2014 acquitted Cicinelli and a second officer, who was also fired, of wrongdoing, with charges later dropped against Wolfe. The city’s then-police chief still determined they had violated department policy.
On Friday, Judge David Chaffee heard lawyers’ arguments in Cicinelli’s case and took the matter under submission. The judge indicated that it could take a few months for the ruling. Chaffee heard arguments in Wolfe’s case earlier this month and has not yet ruled.
In regard to Cicinelli’s case, his lawyer, Zack Lopes, said the officer had an exemplary record during his 13 years with the department and deserves to get his job back. Lopes said he was encouraged by Friday’s proceedings.
“It was pretty clear that neither the city nor the City Council could put forth any compelling argument persuading the court that the City Council was not unconstitutionally biased against my client,” he said.
Cicinelli’s lawyer has argued that council members Bruce Whitaker and Greg Sebourn in particular were outspoken against officers involved in the Thomas case and therefore biased when they voted to uphold the police chief’s decision to fire him, even though an independent arbitrator said he should be reinstated.
In court documents, the lawyer notes that Whitaker has described what he saw in a video of the incident as “brutal” and “inhumane.”
The city, however, maintains that council members were well within their rights to speak out. A lawyer representing the city said that council members have never expressed opinions on Cicinelli’s employment status.
“It is acceptable and expected that the community leaders will comment or express opinions on controversial and sensitive community issues, such as the Kelly Thomas incident, and such expressions do not equate to bias,” lawyers for the city said in court documents.
If the judge rules that the council was biased, Cicinelli could begin the process of getting his job back, Lopes said. If the judge rules in favor of the city, the case will move to a second phase where the judge will consider whether the council had the authority to make the final decision in Cicinelli’s termination.
Before Fullerton, Cicinelli served with the Los Angeles Police Department. Two weeks into his LAPD employment, he was ambushed and shot six times on duty and lost his left eye.
In 2015, the city of Fullerton agreed to pay $4.9 million to Thomas’ father to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit. Three years prior, the city paid $1 million to Thomas’ mom.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/22/should-2-ex-fullerton-cops-fired-over-kelly-thomas-case-get-their-jobs-back-judge-to-decide/
A woman dubbed the “Evil Twin” for plotting to kill her identical twin sister in Irvine, in a case that made international headlines in the 1990s, has been released on parole after 20 years in prison, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Jeen “Gina” Han was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison in May 1998 for conspiring to kill her estranged sister, Sunny Han, who was bound and gagged in her Irvine apartment along with her then-roommate, Helen Kim, before they were rescued by police.
The state Board of Parole in November recommended release for Han, now in her 40s, after her initial hearing on Oct. 31.
She was released on parole on May 24, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed Wednesday.
Han declined a request for an interview with the Orange County Register while still in prison at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. In a note on a Harley Davidson postcard, she deferred questions to her lawyer, Keith Wattley. Wattley could not be reached for comment.
The case of the Korean-born twins who were co-valedictorians at their San Diego County high school made headlines worldwide and shook the Korean-American community.
Irvine police even referred to Han as the “evil twin,” while they called her sister the “good twin.”
The sisters were once close but had a history of fighting and their relationship further deteriorated after Sunny Han accused her sister of stealing her BMW.
Prosecutors said Gina Han in 1996 plotted to kill her sister and enlisted help from two teenage boys – Archie Bryant, then 16, and John Sayarath, then 15.
Posing as magazine salesmen, the two teenagers forced their way into Sunny Han’s apartment and tied up her roomate with twine as Gina Han waited outside in her car.
Sunny Han heard the commotion and quickly called 911 from the bathroom before the teens restrained her. The two were quickly rescued by police.
Gina Han was later arrested. A recovered sales receipt showed that she had bought Pine Sol and garbage bags the previous day.
Following a high-profile trial, Gina Han and the teens were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other charges.
Bryant was sentenced to 16 years in prison, while Sayarath was sentenced to eight years.
During the trial, Korean-Americans and Koreans rallied in support of Gina Han and generated thousands of signatures asking the court for leniency. She has maintained she never intended to kill her sister.
Under California law, the decision for parole includes a 120-day review period, with Gov. Jerry Brown having the final say on upholding or rejecting parole.
The law presumes that an inmate should be recommended for parole unless there is evidence that they are a current danger to the community.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office had petitioned the governor to reject the parole board’s decision, stating that Gina Han failed to address her alleged mental disorder and is “still manipulative.”
Deputy District Attorney Nikki Chambers in a letter to the governor last year said Gina Han, as an example of her plans for parole, gave the board letters from male pen pals that offered her money, jobs and lodging. The pen pals, from abroad and across the country, included one man from England who gave her $100,000 after corresponding for a year, the prosecutor said.
A forensic psychologist in a report for the parole board noted that Gina Han has a positive disciplinary history and educational accomplishments, but has “never participated in mental-health treatment,” the prosecutor said.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/20/evil-twin-who-plotted-to-kill-sister-in-irvine-is-released-on-parole-after-20-years-in-prison/
District Attorney’s Office: Tustin police officer justified in fatal shooting of Army veteran who suffered from PTSD
A Tustin police officer used reasonable force when he fatally shot a mentally-ill U.S. Army veteran who threatened suicide and pointed a gun during a two-hour standoff last year, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said on Wednesday.
Edwin Moreno Fuentes, a 25-year-old former infantryman, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he saw several fellow soldiers killed while serving in Afghanistan.
On May 16, 2017, Fuentes became distraught after he failed a test and was dropped from a MRI program at a local vocational college. Prosecutors said he packed a bag with a handgun and headed over to the college, where he threaten to shoot himself in a series of calls and text messages to a fellow classmate.
He then returned home, dressed in his military uniform and left again, telling his wife in a text: “Don’t report me or my plates to the police(.) I will shoot at this point if they stop me.”
Police were already on their way to his home and able to stop him in his car outside of his apartment complex, where a nearly two-hour standoff ensued.
In a news conference on Wednesday, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas played about 25 minutes of footage from police body cameras showing officers talking with Fuentes and pleading for him to put his gun down as he threatens suicide.
At one point, Fuentes cries and says that he should have been one of the ones to die in Afghanistan, as several officers – including two who served in the military – try to console him.
“Your family needs you,” says one officer. “Put the gun down, brother.”
“I’m not a bad guy,” Fuentes says.
Fuentes became more agitated and fired three shots toward the floor of his car, prosecutors said. From his vantage point, Office Michael Carter would say he saw Fuentes raise the gun to his own head and then lower it down at a 45-degree angle, prosecutors said.
“Officer Carter didn’t fire immediately, unsure of whether Fuentes was going to point the gun back at his own head,” the District Attorney’s Office says in a report.
Carter fired two to three shots when he saw the gun muzzle go past the driver’s window and point in the direction of officers. Unsure of whether Fuentes had been hit, Carter fired three or four more shots, prosecutors said.
Officers then pulled Fuentes from the car. He died in his military fatigues.
Prosecutors said Carter’s actions were reasonable considering that Fuentes had pointed his gun in the direction of officers and had driven forward to put officers in further danger.
The situation was especially tragic considering Fuentes’ service to his country, Rackauckas said:
“Our heart goes out to his family.”
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/20/district-attorney-tustin-police-justified-in-fatal-shooting-of-army-veteran-who-suffered-from-ptsd/
Five people were injured Monday when two cars crashed near a Fullerton intersection, police said.
The accident occurred around 2:15 p.m. when an Infiniti Q50 and Toyota Camry collided on North Euclid Street between Laguna Road and Rosecrans Avenue, said Fullerton police Sgt. Jon Radus.
Five people suffered moderate to severe injuries and were transported to nearby trauma centers, he said, adding that the victims had to be cut out of both vehicles.
Investigators do not believe alcohol or drugs were factors in the crash.
– City News Service contributed to this report
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/18/five-injured-in-2-car-crash-in-fullerton/
A preliminary hearing was postponed on Thursday for a 20-year-old Newport Beach man accused of killing college student Blaze Bernstein early this year.
Sam Lincoln Woodward appeared briefly in court and spoke quietly with his lawyer, Edward Muñoz, while his mother sat in the front row.
His bail remained at $5 million.
His preliminary hearing, when a judge will decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial, was postponed until Aug. 22 to give lawyers more time to prepare.
Woodward is accused of fatally stabbing 19-year-old Bernstein, a former high school classmate, the night of Jan. 2. His body was found a week later in a shallow grave at Borrego Park in Lake Forest.
Woodward was arrested Jan. 12.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/14/preliminary-hearing-postponed-for-man-accused-of-killing-blaze-bernstein/
With fire season heating up in Southern California, firefighters unveiled a new “fire hydrant” for helicopters on Monday that could drastically reduce turnaround times for water drops in remote areas.
Set on a 1,700-gallon metal water tank, the Remotely Activated Snorkel Site uses robot-controlled valves to tap into an area’s municipal water system, allowing quick access for snorkel helicopters that otherwise would have to spend valuable minutes flying to a reservoir or other water source.
The new technology, being field tested in Anaheim Hills, is the first of its kind in the country, officials from the Orange County Fire Authority and Anaheim Fire & Rescue said in a news conference Monday.
Firefighters hope it will be a game-changer in areas where open water sources are scarce.
“This really can reduce the amount of time it takes to refill and can significantly reduce the number of water drops they can do during firefighting operations,” Anaheim Fire spokesman Daron Wyatt said.
In a backdrop of brown hills scorched by the Canyon 2 fire last year, an OCFA helicopter on Monday hovered over the specialized tank and siphoned nearly 2,000 gallons of water within 45 seconds.
The helicopter pilot uses a remote-control system to active the valve and fill the water tank, eliminating the need for a firefighting ground crew to turn on the valve. The tank is empty when not in use.
“We’re not afforded the ability to have a close reservoir in many areas of the county, so this is technology that we’d be very interested in moving forward,” said Battalion Chief Craig Coby, who heads air operations for OCFA.
The special tank will be tested over the next year near Avenida de Santiago in Anaheim Hills.
Mark Whaling, a Los Angeles County Fire battalion chief and owner of Whaling Fire Line Equipment, said he got the idea for the technology while helping with the Canyon 2 fire in October. The blaze burned for eight days, charred 9,200 acres, destroyed 15 homes and displaced thousands of residents of Anaheim Hills and North Tustin.
“I thought, ‘There has to be a way we can get to the water easier and quicker,’” he said.
Whaling, who specializes in new firefighting technology, said he developed the Remotely Activated Snorkel Site through much trial and error. The system costs between $30,000 to $50,000 to install – about twice the cost of a basic fire hydrant, he said.
The water-dropping helicopters do not have to be specially modified at all for this technology. The county’s park system is helping out by allowing the tank to be placed on park land.
If the trial period is a success, the county could consider buying several tank systems, officials said. The tanks can be placed above or below ground.
The effort comes as officials vowed to step up fire prevention following the Canyon 2 fire. In recent months, separate reports from Orange County and the Orange County Fire Authority blamed the fire’s size and destruction on human error and lapses by OCFA officials.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/12/new-fire-hydrant-for-water-dropping-helicopters-tested-in-o-c-could-cut-response-times-in-remote-areas/
The 19-month-old daughter of Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller drowned in a Coto de Caza swimming pool over the weekend, officials said Monday.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said firefighters were called to a home in Coto de Caza at 6:28 p.m. Saturday.
“I think they worked on the baby for a long time,” but could not save her, Bommarito said.
Emeline Gier Miller was pronounced dead at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, officials said.
Bode Miller and his wife in an Instagram post said: “We are beyond devastated. Our baby girl, Emmy, passed away yesterday. Never in a million years did we think we would experience a pain like this. Her love, her light, her spirit will never be forgotten. Our little girl loved life and lived it to it’s fullest everyday. Our family respectfully requests privacy during this painful time.”
Miller is a six-time Olympic medalist in skiing. He won gold in the super combined at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. He last competed at the 2014 Olympics.
City News Service contributed to this report.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/11/baby-daughter-of-olympic-gold-medal-skier-bode-miller-drowns-in-cota-de-caza-swimming-pool/
Residents in an Anaheim neighborhood were evacuated Monday after police officers, including SWAT members, responded to a robbery suspect who barricaded himself in a home for roughly nine hours before surrendering.
At around 6:30 a.m., police were called about a man with a gun inside a residence in the 2500 block of West Chanticleer Road, Sgt. Daron Wyatt said.
Wyatt said the victim reported that the same suspect had robbed him at gunpoint late Friday or Saturday morning.
Finally, at about 3:30 p.m., the suspect surrendered, authorities said.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/11/police-swat-respond-to-barricaded-robbery-suspect-in-anaheim-neighborhood/
A person was killed in an accident on the southbound 57 freeway Saturday, June 9 when a car veered off the road and went down an embankment, authorities said.
The accident was reported at 7:21 p.m. on the freeway near the Chapman Avenue on-ramp, near the Anaheim/Orange border, according to the California Highway Patrol.
A witness told the CHP that the driver appeared to lose control.
A SigAlert was issued, shutting the far right lane of the southbound Orange Freeway in the crash area.
No further information was available.
City News Service contributed to this report.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/09/one-person-killed-in-accident-on-57-freeway-in-anaheim/
A 26-year-old Seal Beach man who caused a crash that killed a German tourist in 2016 was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday.
Matthew Ryan Wood was driving while high on methamphetamine around 2 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2016 when he swerved over a median on Westminster Avenue in Seal Beach and crashed head-on with a Kia Sedona, killing 19-year-old Lisa Schelborn.
Schelborn was staying with a couple she knew through her church in Germany and was attending a Toastmasters International event that day, said Wood’s lawyer, Adam Cole.
Wood suffered a severe spinal injury in the crash and may never walk again without assistance, his lawyer said. He currently uses a wheelchair.
“Matthew has been very accepting of his sentence and is extremely remorseful,” Cole said.
Seal Beach police investigated the case and arrested Wood eight months after the crash.
Wood in September pleaded guilty to three felony counts including gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, sale or transport of a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance with a firearm.
Cole said Wood is now working towards rehabilitation and plans to send letters and updates on his progress to Schelborn’s family in Germany.
“Her parents want to know everything they can about Matthew be able to have some understanding of this situation,” he said. “They’re a very Christian family who wants to forgive him.”
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/08/seal-beach-man-sentenced-to-10-years-in-prison-for-dui-crash-that-killed-german-tourist/
Deputies gave a new meaning to the term “save the bacon” on Wednesday when they rescued someone’s pet pig from a hot car in unincorporated Tustin.
“We see a lot of things in this line of work and just when we think we’ve seen it all…” said the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s north patrol division on its Facebook page.
Deputies posted a picture of the pink pig, named Ramone, sitting uncomfortably in the rear dashboard of a BMW sedan.
Ramone was left alone inside the locked vehicle, but deputies were able to locate the registered owner and the pig was safely removed. It was unclear if the owner was cited.
“As we approach summer, remember to not leave your animals inside the vehicle,” the department said.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/06/deputies-rescue-pet-pig-ramone-from-hot-car-in-unincorporated-tustin/
Fueled by humidity and cooler weather, firefighters hoped to gain traction overnight on the Aliso Viejo Fire, which as of Tuesday night had burned 175 acres and was 85 percent contained.
“We’re continuing to put out hot spots, but we have a pretty good marine layer and a cooling period so we’re using the weather to our advantage,” said Orange County Fire Authority Battalion Chief Mike Summer.
Summer said more than 350 firefighters were expected to continue battling the blaze into Wednesday.
The fire, centered in the Wood Canyon area, started on Saturday and forced evacuations for hillside homes in Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach. All evacuations were lifted by Sunday afternoon.
The OCFA said five firefighters suffer minor injuries in the blaze. No structures have been damaged or destroyed.
The cause remained under investigation.
Anyone with information or who was in the area at the start of the blaze is asked to call 1-800-222-8477.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/05/aliso-fire-has-burned-175-acres-at-85-percent-containment/
Residents in a Westminster neighborhood were evacuated and a school was placed on lockdown Tuesday as police and a SWAT team searched for a shooting suspect, who was eventually arrested.
Police were called around 1 p.m. on Tuesday for reports that a shooting suspect, identified as Jeffrey Ivora, was in the area of Westminster Boulevard and University Avenue, authorities said.
Police said Ivora was suspected of firing a gun and evading officers in the 5500 block of Rochelle Avenue around 6:30 p.m. the previous night. No one was hit.
Police on Tuesday closed part of Westminster Boulevard and searched the neighborhood for more than five hours before finding Ivora and arresting him without incident.
Ivora was booked into the Orange County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, police said.
“This could have been a volatile situation if not for the rapid response by our officers, and SWAT team,” Westminster Police Sgt. Eddie Esqueda said in a statement. “The safety of the community was of primary concern and thankfully no one was injured.”
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/05/shooting-suspect-possibly-barricaded-in-westminster-home/
Firefighters on Tuesday were battling a brush fire near Holy Jim Canyon Road in the Trabuco Canyon area, authorities said.
The blaze was reported just before 5 p.m. and had grown to about a quarter acre as of 5:30 p.m., Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said.
No structures were immediately threatened, he said.
More to come…
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/05/o-c-firefighters-battling-brush-fire-in-trabuco-canyon-area/
A 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after he crashed into a utility pole in Huntington Beach, causing a power outage for thousands of homes, police said Tuesday.
The incident occurred around 6:30 p.m. on Monday when two vehicles crashed into a power pole and became entangled in electrical wires at Ward Street and Yorktown Avenue, police said.
One driver, identified as Jeffrey Smith, suffered injuries and was airlifted to a hospital. He was expected to survive and was later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, Office Angela Bennett, a spokeswoman for the Huntington Beach Police Department, said Tuesday.
The other driver was uninjured.
Firefighters could not extricate the drivers until Southern California Edison crews arrived and shut off power to the lines.
More than 4,000 Edison customers in Costa Mesa and parts of Huntington Beach were left without power for several hours as crews worked to repair the lines.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/05/man-arrested-on-suspicion-of-dui-in-crash-that-caused-huntington-beach-costa-mesa-power-outages/
A 40-year-old Los Angeles man was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday for sending an email containing a video of himself holding a handgun to his former boss at Soka University in Aliso Viejo.
A jury in April convicted David Kenneth Smith of making criminal threats after hearing evidence that he claimed he would put the campus “on the map,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Smith, a Soka graduate, sent threatening emails to a woman he used to work for on campus and also made threats in a number of YouTube videos.
Prosecutors said Smith sent a series of increasingly agitated emails to the Soka official, culminating with one that included a link to a video of Smith laying down shirtless in an empty bathtub, holding a semi-automatic weapon and recounting negative experiences he had at the college.
In the email, Smith wrote that he “may be coming for a campus visit very soon,” warned that he had “nothing to lose” and threatened that he would “put your little campus on the map.”
Orange County sheriff’s investigators found a YouTube page with Smith’s videos. At the time of his arrest, police found nine loaded firearms, all registered to Smith, at his Los Angeles home.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/01/la-man-sentenced-to-3-years-in-prison-for-threatening-shooting-at-soka-university/
Police on Tuesday identified a 60-year-old transient as the alleged robber who was shot by a customer at a Santa Ana drive-though restaurant.
Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said Steve Rodriguez attempted to rob the Cozy Corner Drive-In, 426 N. Harbor Blvd., just after midnight on Saturday when he was shot by a customer who was waiting for his food in the drive-though line.
Detective believe Rodriguez is also tied to a carjacking and at least three additional robberies in the area, Bertagna said.
Investigators on Tuesday were still searching for the customer who shot Rodriguez and then sped off.
The man fired several shots at the robber, shattering the drive-through window, Bertagna said. The bullets came close to employees inside the restaurant, he added.
Witnesses described the vehicle as a silver Honda with several male passengers.
Bertagna said detectives are looking into a motive for the shooting, including whether the person was an innocent bystander trying to thwart a robbery or possibly a gang member protecting his territory.
“If you look at the video you can see he was shooting past (the employees), it’s obviously a dangerous act,” he said. “Unfortunately, the person that did the shooting didn’t stick around to explain their actions.”
As to whether the shooting was legal, Bertagna said officers look at these types of incidents on a “case-by-case basis.”
Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at 855-TIP-OCCS.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/05/29/police-identify-alleged-robber-who-was-shot-by-customer-at-santa-ana-drive-through/
A 20-year-old alleged gang member was charged with felony vandalism on Tuesday for spray-painting graffiti over a mural honoring Mexican-American war veterans in a Santa Ana neighborhood.
The artwork, on the wall of a local market at Washington Avenue and North Custer Street, took more than five years to complete and contains nearly 200 portraits of local men and women who served in the U.S. military. It’s called “Among Heroes.”
Longtime Santa Ana resident Samuel Romero, an 83-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said he was devastated on the morning of March 10 when he found the mural covered in blue and white graffiti.
For a neighborhood with a rich heritage of veterans, the vandalism was a sign of deep disrespect, he said.
“Nobody understands how many people in this neighborhood served (our country),” Romero said.
At a news conference Tuesday, Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin said officers viewed surveillance footage and were able to see the suspect’s license plate number.
The suspect, Eric Alan Cabrera of Garden Grove, was arrested on unrelated charges in Anaheim and later confessed to defacing the mural, Valentin said.
He has been charged with two felony counts of vandalism with a sentencing enhancement for criminal street gang activity, authorities said. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
The vandalism amounted to “disrespect” to the neighborhood and the culture, Valentin said, but on a positive note, it brought together the city, community and police department to help catch the suspect and repaint the mural.
The city has raised more than $11,000 for the artwork with help from the police union, Valentin said, adding that the repainting will include a protective coating.
“When I shared the news that we had a filing in this case with my police department, they were overjoyed,” he said.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas call the vandalism a “senseless act.”
“Tagging is not only a crime against the victims who own property but also against the community,” Rackauckas said.
On Tuesday, the mural still showed slashes of blue graffiti across some of the veterans’ faces.
The mural’s creator, artist Carlos Aguilar, is in the process of repainting.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/05/29/alleged-gang-member-charged-with-vandalizing-santa-ana-mural-honoring-mexican-american-war-veterans/
Aliso Viejo explosion: Charge dropped against man arrested on suspicion of having ‘explosive device’
Federal prosecutors have moved to drop the charge against a Long Beach man who was arrested after his former girlfriend died when a packaged exploded in her Aliso Viejo day spa this month.
Stephen William Beal, who builds model rockets as a hobby, was charged with possessing an unregistered explosive device after police searched his Long Beach home while investigating the death of Ildiko Krajnyak, 48.
However, federal prosecutors on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss the charge against Beal after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raised questions as to whether the device met the statutory definition for a “destructive device,” according to court records.
A court document was filed Saturday, and he was released early Sunday.
Beal, 59, has not been charged in connection with the deadly explosion. Last week a judge ordered him to remain in custody without bail after determining that he was a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Beal’s arrest came in the midst of an ongoing investigation into a powerful blast at an Aliso Viejo day spa on May 15 that killed Krajnyak and injured two other women.
The women who survived the blast told investigators that the explosive had been inside one of several cardboard boxes that were on the floor of the day spa next to unopened mail.
Please check back for updates. This is a developing story.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/05/29/federal-prosecutors-move-to-drop-charge-against-long-beach-man-arrested-after-aliso-viejo-bombing/