Benjamin Diaz

Lawsuit claims USC doctors used drug that ‘Keeps injured players on the field’

Feb 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES — A former USC defensive end can move forward with most of the allegations in his lawsuit against the school that claims  team doctors gave him painkillers that caused a heart attack and damaged his future potential as an NFL player, a judge ruled today.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos said there were enough details in Armond Armstead’s complaint to support for now his allegations of fraud and negligence.

She also said his lawyers can file within 20 days an amended complaint clarifying how USC purportedly interfered with Armstead’s economic prospects as a professional player, his emotional stress claim and how team physician Dr. James Tibone allegedly battered him.

Palazuelos dismissed the suit’s products liability allegations.

Armstead filed his suit last Aug. 30. It alleges that Tibone and other USC doctors irresponsibly treated Armstead while he played for the Trojans, requiring him to take the painkilling drug Toradol several times without informing him of the possible side effects.   Armstead’s lawyers maintain Tibone battered Armstead by giving him Toradol “without limitation” and “without his informed consent.”

The suit — which also names Tibone and University Park Health Center — alleges that USC knew Armstead suffered a heart attack and purposely withheld that he had received Toradol from his doctors. Attorney Robert Bale, on behalf of Armstead, told Palazuelos that USC officials knew Toradol was inherently dangerous to administer to Armstead.

“It’s really not a lot different from steroids,” Bale said. “It made him feel like Superman, that he was invincible.”

According to Bale, Toradol is not used for medical reasons, but instead to keep injured players playing instead of recuperating.

“It keeps injured players on the field to benefit USC financially,” he said.  Armstead was given an ultimatum regarding the drug, Bale said.

“If you don’t get this shot, you don’t play, and if you don’t play, you don’t get scouted, and if you’re not scouted, you don’t play in the NFL,” Bale said.

Armstead had wanted since childhood to play in the NFL, Bale said.

“This was his goal, his dream, his desire,” Bale said.

But USC attorney Louis Pappas disputed Bale’s characterization of Toradol.

“Toradol is a safe drug,” he said.

Armstead, 22, played three seasons for USC from 2008-10, starting 17 games and recording 59 tackles. He was not medically cleared to play for the Trojans in 2011 because of a training incident.   Armstead was not taken in the draft, but played last season with the Grey Cup-winning Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. The Argonauts released him in January and that same month he signed with the New England Patriots. He is listed on the team roster as a defensive tackle.

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Bell prosecution characterizes defense: Hold former city manager Rizzo responsible for everything that we did

Feb 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES – A jury was handed the case today against a former Bell mayor and five ex-city council members charged with misappropriating funds by collecting exorbitant salaries.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy turned the case over to the seven-woman, five-man panel just before 10:30 a.m., after more than two days of closing arguments by attorneys in a trial in which testimony began Jan. 25.

Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 65, former Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo, 55, and former Councilman George Mirabal, 63, are each charged with 20 counts of misappropriating public funds between January 2006 and July 2010.

Former Councilman Victor Bello, 54, is charged with 16 counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2009, while former Councilman Luis Artiga, 52, is charged with 12 counts of misappropriation between January 2008 and July 2010 and former Councilman George Cole, 63, is charged with eight counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2007.

Just before the case was handed over to the jury, Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller argued that the defendants “want to fool you just like they fooled the city of Bell.”

The prosecutor told jurors that it was not government for the people.

“This was government for themselves,” Miller said. “They were the ones who profited by this.”

The deputy district attorney said the evidence “points unquestionably to guilt.”

“There’s no city council that’s more powerful than a jury,” he said, in asking the panel to “hold the defendants responsible for the wrongs they committed.”

The prosecution maintains that the defendants were paid illegal salaries for sitting on four city boards — the Community Housing Authority, Surplus Property Authority, Public Financing Authority and Solid Waste and Recycling Authority — that he contends rarely met and were “part and parcel” of their duties on the council.

He told jurors that the defendants’ salaries reached $100,000 in a city that was 2 1/2 square miles and the median household income was $35,000.

“Their defenses come down to this — hold (former city manager) Robert Rizzo responsible for everything that we did,” Miller told jurors. “Don’t let them get away with it.”

Rizzo is awaiting trial separately along with former assistant Angela Spaccia on corruption-related charges.

Outside the jury’s presence, defense attorneys unsuccessfully sought a mistrial based on a closing argument comment by the prosecutor, in which he asked jurors to consider why auditors for the city had not been called to testify.

The judge, however, told jurors that she had ruled before the trial that the audits and the auditors were not admissible and instructed them to “disregard those particular arguments.”

Defense attorneys maintain that their clients had been wrongly accused, arguing that their clients had worked diligently for the city and earned their salaries.

“I think the acquittals here should be across the board,” Mirabal’s attorney, Alex Kessel, told jurors during his closing argument Thursday.

“He can’t show any of these defendants have been lazy, neglectful … Every one of these people have earned the money that they legally obtained …,” Kessel said. “They deserved the money they got. This is not a product of stealing from the city.”

Hernandez’s lawyer, Stanley Friedman, showed jurors a list that included the names of the city attorney, city clerk, the city’s auditing firm, police chief and city engineer, and said none of them told Hernandez that the council members’ salaries were illegal.

“Nobody thought the salaries were illegal … He didn’t think it was illegal. Nobody did,” Friedman said. “It certainly wasn’t criminally negligent for him to rely on the advice of (then City Attorney) Ed Lee.”

“The prosecution’s case is an imaginary evil. It’s an evil that doesn’t exist,” Bello’s attorney, Leo Moriarty, said, telling jurors that there was “nothing of substance” in the government’s case.

Jacobo, Mirabal and Cole testified in their own defense during the trial, insisting in part that they were paid in accordance with the amount of work they performed for the city.

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Ex-Long Beach cop pleads guilty to rape, sex with minors

Feb 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES – A former Long Beach police officer pleaded guilty today to raping an 18-year-old woman he met while on duty, along with additional sex charges involving several underage girls.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen immediately sentenced 40- year-old Noe Yanez to 11 years and eight months in state prison and ordered him to register as a sex offender for life, said Deputy District Attorney Natalie Adoman.

As a hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to require him to stand trial was about to enter its second day, Yanez pleaded guilty to one count each of forcible rape, meeting a minor for lewd purposes, using a minor for sex acts and possession of child pornography and two counts of false imprisonment by fraud or deceit.

The charges involved four girls who were between 13 and 17 at the time, along with the 18-year-old woman.

Forty-five other counts against him were dismissed as a result of his plea.

Yanez was a nine-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department when he was initially arrested last April on suspicion of possessing child pornography and then re-arrested in May after the charges were filed.

He has remained jailed since then.

Yanez is no longer employed by the city of Long Beach, according to a spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department.

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Cop fails to report child abuse by church

Feb 22, 2013

RIVERSIDE – A Corona police officer who did not disclose allegations that a 13-year-old boy was possibly being abused by the pastor and other members of her church was convicted today of failing to report child abuse or neglect.

A six-man, six-woman jury in Riverside took less than a day to reach a verdict on the misdemeanor charge against Cpl. Margaret Bell, a 23-year law enforcement veteran.

The 44-year-old defendant could face six months probation and fines when she’s sentenced by Riverside Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz on April 12.

Bell, who remains on paid administrative leave from the police department, showed no reaction as the verdict was read and declined to comment when she left the courthouse a few minutes later with a small group of family and friends.

Corona police Lt. Jerry Rodriguez said Chief Mike Abel will decide next week whether to terminate Bell or keep on her on staff in a different capacity. He said automatic dismissal does not apply when an officer is convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor.

“The actions of this officer are not reflective of the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Corona Police Department,” Rodriguez told City News Service.

The case against Bell stemmed from the March 2012 arrests of three men affiliated with Heart of Worship Church in Corona. The defendants — Lonny Lee Remmers, 54, Nicholas James Craig, 22, Darryll Duane Jeter, 28 — are facing a slew of felony charges for allegedly threatening and physically assaulting a 13- year-old boy.

The youth, Jacob, was turned over to the men by his mother, also a member of the church, to be disciplined for sexually abusing his younger sister, according to prosecutors.

Bell testified Wednesday that on March 26, 2012 — three days before Remmers and his co-defendants were arrested and charged in the case — an eccentric parishioner, Steve Larkey, had approached her during an evening service and told her that Remmers, the pastor, had “poked” Jacob’s chest with a pair of pliers.

According to Bell, she asked Larkey whether he had seen the incident, and he replied he hadn’t.

“He was all over the map, complaining about everything and anything,” Bell testified. “He was just rambling. Nothing was more important than the other. He didn’t say, ‘I want to report this. I need your help.”‘

Bell told Larkey to go speak with Remmers about his concerns, and the witness said he would. According to the defendant, she did not feel the encounter warranted immediate action and decided she would speak privately with the boy when she saw him at church later in the week.

Deputy District Attorney Will Robinson asked Bell why she didn’t feel it was justified to speak with Jacob right away.

“Because I know the church members’ history … and if it was that serious, Steve would not have agreed to go back and talk to the pastor,” the defendant said. “I did not know the context of what Steve was talking about. Anything can be considered abuse.”

Robinson presented mobile phone records indicating Bell either called or traded text messages with Remmers about 100 times between March 26 and March 29, 2012. However, the officer denied ever broaching the subject of Larkey’s allegations and insisted that Remmers never disclosed anything potentially criminal to her.

Remmers, Craig and Jeter are awaiting trial on charges that include kidnapping, making criminal threats and inflicting corporal injury on a minor.

The men allegedly strapped Jacob to a chair in the bathroom of Remmers’ home and pepper-sprayed him, and Remmers alone is accused of pinching the boy’s chest with pliers to punish him.

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Wife, girlfriend accuse ex-Huntington Beach cop of rape

Feb 21, 2013

SANTA ANA – A fired Huntington Beach police officer stalked, terrorized and raped his estranged wife and girlfriend in a “cycle of violence,” in which he repeatedly lured them back into a relationship with vows to change his ways while several co-workers helped him keep the law at bay, a prosecutor told jurors today.

The defense attorney for James Roberts III, however, told jurors his client’s accusers are liars who eventually teamed up to sue him and the Huntington Beach Police Department.

Roberts and his wife married in September 2003, and four days later their son was born, Deputy District Attorney John Christl said in his opening statement.

In February 2006 the marriage began to unravel and he was kicked out of their house when the defendant’s wife saw multiple text messages and calls on his cell phone from other women, including a stripper, Christl said.

In February 2007, Roberts began dating the other alleged victim in the case, the prosecutor said.

“The defendant was a very jealous person, controlling and he abused his position as a police officer,” Carlson Meissner said, adding Roberts would use computers at work to do unauthorized research on ex-boyfriends of his lovers. Roberts would go back and forth between both women, drinking heavily as he “spiraled out of control until he snapped,” Christl said.

After beating and sexually assaulting them he would “lure the women back with his loving words,” Christl said.

A psychiatric expert will testify about how an abusive man pulls victims into the “cycle of violence,” from beatings to the “calm and loving phase where he pleads for forgiveness,” Christl said.

On March 1, 2007, Roberts allegedly grabbed his girlfriend’s cell phone away from her because he suspected she was talking to her “high school sweetheart,” and pushed her against a wall, Christl said. The girlfriend said she spent about $1,000 replacing phones that the defendant allegedly wrecked during their on- and off-again relationship, the prosecutor said.

On July 3, 2007, when his wife was out to dinner with her cousin the alleged victim began receiving messages from the defendant threatening to throw the out-of-town cousin’s belongings out on the street, Christl said. After the two returned home, Roberts allegedly shoved his wife, bruising her arm, Christl said.

On July 22, 2007, while his estranged wife was in Arizona visiting with a new boyfriend, Roberts used a propane tank to destroy several pieces of her furniture in her home, Christl alleged.

Roberts called his wife and allegedly said she was a “whore and a slut,” and threatened to beat her to death, Christl said.

That same night Roberts allegedly forced his girlfriend to have sex, Christl said.

The following day, a sobbing Roberts called his estranged wife saying he was sorry and he wants to “eat a bullet,” as he assured her his girlfriend was “out of the picture,” Christl said.

On her way home, the wife called Huntington Beach Sgt. Robert Warden reporting her husband was suicidal and that she was afraid for her own safety and wanted a protective order, Christl said.

Warden called Roberts and left a message saying, “So whatever happens it’s going to be between you and I … I need to just talk to you,” according to a tape of the call played for jurors.

Warden later told the wife, “It seems to me that everything is fine … And there’s no reason for us to be involved at this point,” according to a call played for jurors.

Another one of Roberts’ supervisors, Sgt. J.B. Hume, told the defendant, “I didn’t want you to be worried about the lieutenant in me… You’re 100 percent OK with me,” according to another call played for jurors. Hume later admitted that police “dropped the ball,” Christl said.

“She was unable to be helped by Sgt. Warden, J.B. Hume or anyone else,” Christl said.

On July 24, 2007, when the wife returned home to see the damage she called police to report the defendant had threatened her and was suicidal, Christl said. A dispatcher — Erin Berry-Dereszynski — turned around and alerted Roberts, the prosecutor said.

“She’s on 911 right now, crying hysterically, saying you’re refusing to leave the house,” the dispatcher said in another call played for jurors. Roberts told the dispatcher, “I’m not even at home, I’m at Jack in the Box.”

Berry-Dereszynski was living with Roberts and her fiance at the time, Christl said.

Later, she grew to believe the wife’s allegations and she asked her fiance to kick Roberts out, the prosecutor said.

On Halloween in 2007, Roberts kicked in the door of his wife’s home, ripped off her clothes and said, “I’m going to get you pregnant” as he raped her, Christl alleged.

Roberts begged forgiveness the following morning and the two then had consensual sex and tried to get back together, Christl said. Roberts, however, showed up drunk on Thanksgiving and he attacked her, according to Christl.

On May 1, 2008, Roberts is accused of attacking his girlfriend in an alley of a Huntington Beach bar, but when he later apologized she came over to his apartment, where he allegedly raped her, saying, “I want to get you pregnant,” Christl said.

Both women did get pregnant and eventually had abortions and suffered from depression and were suicidal, Christl alleged.

On Mother’s Day in 2008, Roberts and his wife got into another fight as their son jumped on the defendant’s back as she tried to get the boy to call police, but Roberts broke her phone, Christl said.

Roberts is also accused of threatening the girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend and a platonic friend of his wife’s, Christl said.

Roberts’ attorney, John Barnett, said both women were lying and later filed a civil suit against Roberts and the Huntington Beach police. That suit is pending.

“Although they started off as rivals they became a team,” Barnett said. “It’s not shocking that their stories begin to line up.”

The defense attorney noted the two did not initially report the rape allegations to police. Barnett also alleged that the wife tried to extort money from Roberts with her accusations and when he did not capitulate after she filed the lawsuit against him.

Barnett told jurors the women sent the defendant several lewd and affectionate texts, voice mails and e-mail messages after the alleged attacks.

Roberts — who was fired from the Huntington Beach police force in April 2010 — faces charges that include eight counts of false imprisonment, three counts of criminal threats, two counts each of corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, and one count each of rape of a spouse, rape, forced sodomy, vandalism and dissuading a witness by force, all felonies, according to court records.

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Former state assemblyman admits defrauding banks

Feb 21, 2013

LOS ANGELES – A former assemblyman who now works for the Los Angeles County Probation Department is expected to plead guilty Monday to federal bank fraud charges, admitting that he bilked financial institutions by falsely claiming to be the victim of identity theft.

Carl Washington, 47, of Paramount admitted masterminding a four-year scheme in which he obtained credit cards and loans from banks and credit unions, racking up thousands of dollars in charges for airline tickets, hotels, restaurants, rental cars and cash advances, according to a plea agreement filed Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court.

After obtaining about $193,000 in goods, cash and services, Washington filed police reports, claiming to be the victim of identity theft and reporting that the cards and loans had been opened by someone unknown to him, according to court papers.

The indictment in the case states that Washington subsequently filed a copy of the bogus police report with Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, in order to have the charges and past due amounts removed from his credit report.

Once Experian removed the charges, Washington applied for new credit cards without disclosing his outstanding debts or the fact that he had charges and unpaid balances removed from his credit report, according to federal prosecutors.

When new credit cards were issued, Washington again ran up debts worth another couple of thousand dollars and filed yet another police report, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Washington, who admitted operating the scheme from February 2007 to August 2011, is the probation department’s director for intergovernmental relations and legislative affairs.

A Democrat from Compton who represented Paramount, Washington began his service in the state legislature in 1996, and was active in fighting street gangs. He was termed out in 2002 and lost a race for a Los Angeles City Council seat to Jan Perry.

Prior to his legislative service, he served on the staff of former Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke.

Washington’s arrest was part of a year-long probe of alleged misconduct among probation department employees that has resulted in dozens of arrests, according to Probation Department Chief Jerry Powers has said.

After he enters his guilty pleas, a sentencing date will be set.

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Bell closing arguments: Defendants relied on city attorney, independent auditor who never questioned salaries

Feb 21, 2013

LOS ANGELES – Defense attorneys urged jurors today to acquit a former Bell mayor and two ex-city council members of charges that they misappropriated funds by collecting exorbitant salaries, arguing their clients had been falsely accused of criminal misconduct that has tarnished their reputations.

Lawyers for former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former councilmen Luis Artiga and Victor Bello told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the three, who are charged along with former council members Teresa Jacobo, George Cole and George Mirabal.

Hernandez, 65, Jacobo, 55, and Mirabal, 63, are each charged with 20 counts of misappropriating public funds between January 2006 and July 2010.

Bello, 54, is charged with 16 counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2009, while Artiga, 52, is charged with 12 counts of misappropriation between January 2008 and July 2010 and Cole, 63, is charged with eight counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2007.

Hernandez’s attorney, Stanley Friedman, told jurors during his closing argument that the council members “did a lot more” than kissing babies, shaking hands and cutting ribbons.

The defense lawyer showed jurors a list that included the names of the city attorney, city clerk, the city’s auditing firm, police chief and city engineer, and said none of them told Hernandez that the council members’ salaries were illegal.

“Nobody thought the salaries were illegal … He didn’t think it was illegal. Nobody did,” Friedman told the seven-woman, five-man panel. “It certainly wasn’t criminally negligent for him to rely on the advice of (then City Attorney) Ed Lee.”

Artiga’s attorney, George Mgdesyan, said the prosecution had not even gotten close to proving its case.

“This case is full of holes and speculation against my client,” he told jurors, describing Artiga as “working hard every day” at a post he thought was a full-time job.

“He’s being prosecuted for receiving money that he worked hard for,” Mgdesyan said.

Artiga’s attorney said his client had been on the council for less than two years and didn’t vote on his salary, which he described as being $65,000 to $70,000 — rather than $100,000 as Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller said in his closing argument.

“What was my client supposed to do? Did he have a right to presume it was lawful?” Artiga’s attorney asked jurors.

He described Artiga as a man who “wanted the best for the citizens of Bell” and was “not this greedy person that the prosecutor wants to portray.”     Mgdesyan said his client had been “falsely accused” and that his reputation had been “tarnished” as a result of the charges.

Bello’s attorney, Leo Moriarty, told jurors that they would be acting as a bridge over troubled waters for his client, referring to the troubled waters as “the criminal prosecution in this matter.”

“The prosecution’s case is an imaginary evil. It’s an evil that doesn’t exist,” he said, telling jurors that there was “nothing of substance” in the government’s case.

Moriarty said the prosecutor’s characterization of Bello being “nothing more than a charlatan” and a man who was paid $100,000 a year to work at the city’s food bank after leaving the council was “absolutely contrary to what Mr. Bello is and was.”

He said the six defendants had “done nothing wrong to justify them being here today,” and “were not just paid to be at the city council meetings.”

Bello’s attorney called his client “totally innocent,” saying it was “not a matter of the city of Bell defendants here thinking they were above the law” as the prosecution contends.   The jury was set to hear this afternoon from Mirabal’s attorney, Alex Kessel.   Jurors were also expected to hear a rebuttal argument from the prosecution before the case is turned over to them.   In his closing argument Wednesday, the prosecutor told jurors that the six gouged taxpayers by collecting “outrageous salaries” for serving on various city agencies in a “city turned upside down by a culture of corruption.”

Miller contended that the defendants paid themselves illegal salaries for sitting on four boards — the Community Housing Authority, Surplus Property Authority, Public Financing Authority and Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.

“There was no authority of law for these outrageous salaries the defendants paid themselves,” the deputy district attorney told jurors. “… There’s none, zip.”

“The defendants in this case believed they were above the law and carried out their duties with a criminal disregard …,” Miller said. “This was a city turned upside down by a culture of corruption.”

Miller showed jurors an organizational chart of the city, with the electorate at the top. He then flipped it over, saying the defendants didn’t have residents at the top of their chart.

In closing arguments Wednesday, attorneys for Jacobo and Cole maintained that their clients relied on the city attorney and an independent auditor who never questioned their salaries, and said the defendants honestly believed the money reflected a reasonable amount given the time they spent doing city work.

In urging jurors to acquit his client, Jacobo’s attorney, Shepard Kopp, said the vast majority of his client’s work was “not done within the confines of a city council meeting” and said the government’s case was “based on a fundamental misunderstanding.”

“They’ve been focused all along on the meetings and only the meetings, and that’s not where the work was done,” Kopp said, calling Jacobo a “person who was deeply dedicated to her community.”

Cole’s attorney, Ronald Kaye, called his client “a decent, hard-working and honest human being” who worked tirelessly on behalf of the city and “relied on professionals” to advise him if there was a problem with the council members’ salaries.

Kaye said the former councilman — who stopped taking a city salary in 2007 — voted in 2008 to increase the salaries of his fellow council members “because he feared his programs would be attacked by Robert Rizzo,” who was then the city manager.

Jacobo, Mirabal and Cole all testified in their own defense during the trial, insisting in part that they were paid in accordance with the amount of work they performed for the city.

Rizzo and his then-assistant, Angela Spaccia, are awaiting trial in a separate corruption case. More than 50 counts of fraud have been filed against against Rizzo, seen as the ringleader of the alleged effort to loot the city’s treasury by paying bloated salaries to himself and other officials and arranging illicit loans of taxpayer money.

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Car thief suspect dies in shoot out with Long Beach police

Feb 21, 2013

LONG BEACH  – A man suspected of stealing a car during a burglary at a Redondo Beach home was killed by Long Beach police this morning after firing at officers at the end of a vehicle chase, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol officers chased the suspect from Redondo Beach into Long Beach shortly before 1 a.m. but lost sight of him as he exited the southbound San Diego (405) Freeway at Studebaker Road, Long Beach police Officer Marlene Arrona said.

Minutes later, Long Beach police spotted the vehicle and gave chase, she said.

The suspect crashed into a garage in the 6400 block of Keynote Street near Hackett Avenue and was killed in an officer-involved shooting after he brandished a gun and fired on officers, Arrona said.

The suspect, who Long Beach police Sgt. Dave Marander described as a young man, was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were injured, Marander said.

The suspect was driving a white BMW, according to a news photographer. The vehicle was stolen during a burglary, Arrona said.

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Gas prices hit 4-month high

Feb 21, 2013

LOS ANGELES – The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County rose today for the 28th consecutive day, increasing seven-tenths of a cent to $4.316, its highest amount since Oct. 25 and the highest in the state.

The average price has increased 56.6 cents during the streak, the longest since a 36-day streak from Feb. 9-March 16, 2011, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service.

The average price is 11.3 cents more than one week ago, 56.9 cents higher than one month ago and 23.4 cents greater than one year ago.

The Orange County average price rose today for the 28th consecutive day, increasing three-tenths of a cent to $4.306, the highest amount since Oct. 25.

The Orange County average price is 11.4 cents more than one week ago, 58.4 cents higher than one month ago and 23.5 cents greater than one year ago.

The Orange County average price has risen 58.8 cents during the streak of increases, the longest since at least 2009.

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LAPD commander: Reports of body being found not true

Feb 12, 2013

RIVERSIDE – A six-day manhunt for a fired Los Angeles police officer suspected in the slayings of two people in Irvine and a Riverside police officer came to a head today in Big Bear, where he allegedly stole a car then shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy in a raging gun battle while barricaded in a cabin that later burned to the ground. It was unclear if 33-year-old Christopher Jordan Dorner died in the inferno that engulfed the cabin on Seven Oaks Road just off Highway 38 shortly before 4:30 p.m. The cabin was still burning two hours later. “Law enforcement officers on scene have not been able to enter the cabin,” San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said around 8:35 p.m. “It is too hot. It is still smoldering. It is not safe for them to enter.” Bachman said she could not say when it would be safe for officers to enter the cabin. Bachman earlier said investigators had reason to believe the person holed up in the cabin was Dorner. By about 6:30 p.m., multiple media outlets reported that a body believed to be Dorner had been recovered inside the burned- out cabin, although law enforcement officials had not confirmed the discovery. “Any reports of a body being found are not true,” LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said around 8 p.m. “Any reports of that body being identified as Christopher Dorner are not true.” The fiery scene culminated a wild day of violence in the normally tranquil mountain community, which has been the focus of the Dorner manhunt since his pickup truck was found burning in the area last Thursday. But at 12:20 p.m., San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies received a report of a man matching Dorner’s description stealing a car from a cabin in the 1200 block of Club View Drive in Big Bear. According to various reports from the scene, two female housekeepers had gone into the cabin and found someone matching Dorner’s description inside. The suspect tied the women up and fled in their vehicle, according to witnesses and sheriff’s officials. The women were not injured. It was unclear how long the suspect may have been hiding in the cabin, which was ironically located close to the law enforcement command post that had been established during the Dorner manhunt. The stolen vehicle was spotted a short time later along Highway 38 by a state Fish and Wildlife officer who had been taking part in the hunt, according to the sheriff’s department and the state agency. The officer followed the vehicle and the suspect opened fire, striking the pursuing officer’s vehicle, according to Fish and Wildlife. The officer was not injured. Authorities said the suspect got out of the vehicle and fled on foot. A witness told KCAL9 the suspect later emerged from the woods and carjacked a man driving a silver pickup truck. The suspect drove off in the truck, but later crashed it down a forest embankment. With an army of law enforcement in pursuit, the suspect scampered into the Seven Oaks Road cabin, sparking a gunfight that — according to some reports from the scene — involved the firing of hundreds of rounds. During the battle, two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were shot. Both were airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where one was pronounced dead, according to Sheriff John McMahon. Bachman said the other deputy was expected to survive. Meanwhile, the standoff at the cabin continued, but shortly after 4 p.m., tear gas canisters were fired into the building. By about 4:20 p.m., the cabin was engulfed in flames. Some reports indicated that a single gunshot was heard emanating from the cabin. KCAL9, which had a reporter close to the cabin during the firefight, reported that the sound of exploding ammunition could be heard inside the cabin as the fire raged. On Feb. 3, Dorner — also a former Navy lieutenant — allegedly gunned down the daughter and future son-in-law of an ex-police captain who represented him at a hearing that resulted in his dismissal from the LAPD. The bodies of 28- year-old Cal State Fullerton assistant women’s basketball coach Monica Quan and her fiance, 27-year-old USC public safety officer Keith Lawrence, were found in Lawrence’s car in the parking structure of their Irvine condominium building. The next day, Dorner, 33, allegedly posted a 6,000-word manifesto on Facebook, vowing to kill named LAPD officers and their families. About 50 Los Angeles police officers and their families were being protected during the manhunt, authorities said. On Thursday, Dorner was allegedly involved in a shootout with Los Angeles police guarding an officer’s home in Corona, leaving one officer with a graze wound to the head, police said. About 20 minutes later, he allegedly fired on a pair of Riverside police officers stopped at a red light, killing Officer Michael Crain, 34, and wounding the other. The wounded officer was expected to recover. Crain, an 11-year department veteran, was a former Marine. He is survived by his wife, Regina, and two children, Ian, 10, and Kaitlyn, 4. Crain left “an unforgettable impression” on everyone he met, Riverside police Lt. Guy Toussaint said. His funeral is set for Wednesday. The search for Dorner has been focused in the Big Bear area since Thursday afternoon, when his pickup truck — apparently disabled by a broken axle — was found burning in a wooded area. During an afternoon briefing today in downtown Los Angeles, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said investigators were following up on 1,045 tips received by the department — most generated after a $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner’s capture and conviction was announced Sunday.

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