In June 2007, an anonymous blogger started a thread on the Bell Gardens Topix board titled “Daniel Crespo.” What began as an opportunity for the author to vent about his mistrust of the city official, quickly turned into allegations of adultery and abuse, charges that years later would grip local and national headlines in the wake of the mayor’s untimely and violent death.
Shot Heard Around The World
It’s been nearly a year since the small working class city of Bell Gardens was invaded by swarms of news trucks and reporters covering the shooting death of the city’s mayor at the hands of the woman he called his “high school sweetheart.”
News of the shocking shooting death of a beloved city official would quickly give way to a story alleging scandal, infidelity and spousal abuse by Mayor Daniel Crespo.
Initial reports out of the city on the afternoon of Sept. 30, 2014, said the mayor was shot at his home. But a shocking detail soon emerged — the person who pulled the trigger was none other than the mayor’s wife, Lyvette Crespo.
According to police, Lyvette admitted to shooting her husband in self-defense: The couple’s teen-aged son Daniel told police his mother was defending him against his father who had hurt him. Later, it was revealed Lyvette alleged she had suffered years of abuse at the hands of Crespo.
For some, the allegations seemed to come out of left field. The image of Crespo as a wife beater did not match their view of him as a man dedicated to helping the city’s working class, mostly immigrant residents. They saw him as a noble man dedicated to ensuring Bell Gardens thrived and did not end up like other southeast cities riddled with corruption.
Others, however, were not surprised that the man who seemed dedicated to keeping city hall transparent, may have actually kept his biggest secrets at home.
Foreshadow of Tales to Come
Back in 2007, bloggers angrily blamed Crespo for the city’s volatile political climate, which at the time included threats of recalls and voter fraud. Some accused then Councilman Crespo of personal indiscretions.
“Daniel Crespo is a womanizer,” wrote Concerned Resident. “I know there was talk about him having an affair… I hear he is very friendly with his commissioners.”
Another blogger brought up a sexual harassment lawsuit that accused Crespo of harassing a city employee. The city was later forced to settle the suit brought by a former employee for $70,000.
“He always denies it, but the truth is it happened,” wrote Refreshed Memory.
The blogger acknowledged Crespo’s longstanding claim that the whole incident was a misunderstanding and political set up.
“I feel sorry for his wife,” another blogger posted.
Within months, the thread had a dozen posts. Many of the comments attacked Crespo and other political figures in the city.
That same year, a blogger referenced an incident where Crespo was said to have exhibited a gun during a homeowners association meeting at the complex where he lived.
“This is yet more proof on how he abuses his power to threaten people and feels superior,” wrote Case 990831.
His fans came to his support on the blog, calling him a “good church-going” man.
“You guys talk nonsense about him and his family,” wrote I support Crespo. “I heard he is working undercover to clean up city hall.”
Years later, the blog comments seemed to foreshadow what was to come — accusations mirrored in testimony in the Grand Jury indictment of Lynette on a charge of voluntary manslaughter for the death of her husband.
She pleaded not guilty and is currently out on bail.
In 2007, one blogger wrote he had witnessed Crespo and his wife arguing in front of their children outside St. Gertrude’s Church. According to media reports, Crespo’s daughter Crystal told the Grand Jury her father once punched her mother on their way home from church.
Another blogger also claimed to have witnessed evidence of Crespo’s abuse of his wife: “I have seen marks on her arms,” wrote Say No to Abuse. “He abuses his power and his wife too.”
Lyvette’s lawyer has released photos of injuries his client years earlier allegedly sustained at the hands of her husband. The images show Lyvette with a black eye and cuts around her lips.
Then, for nearly three years, the blog went cold, no comments or posts or accusations until 2010 when BGFeatherwood wrote: “Daniel Crespo is human and yet is very compassionate and caring not greedy and corrupt like the rest of the city council …Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about.”
Four years later, bloggers started to post again: Crespo had been killed.
“RIP Daniel Crespo … guess a lot of what [was] said on here might have been true … one thing for sure though … you died by your own gun,” wrote Life Long BG Resident on Sept. 30, the day of the shooting.
Crespo, a parole officer licensed to carry a handgun, was shot with his own weapon.
“You did all you could to help Bell Gardens and your family,” wrote Legal Resident the next day. “Good bless your wife and kids as they try to live without you. It will be hard for all.”
“He got what he deserved,” wrote a less sympathetic blogger.
In the weeks following the shooting, media outlets across the country dissected the mayor’s life, interviewing family, friends, neighbors, acquaintance and fellow elected officials.
Many people said “they never knew” about the “darker side” of the mayor’s private life. City officials and staff noted his wife and children rarely accompanied him to city events. During funeral services, many spoke of mended relationships and his happiness to after years of being passed over, finally being voted in as mayor by his council colleagues: a title he will now hold in perpetuity.
Things have quieted down in Bell Gardens in the ensuing months. The city has even cancelled the city council election that was supposed to take place in November since no one but the two sitting longtime councilmembers in those seats filed to run.
But that could change early next year as national attention is again focused on the small southeast city during Lyvette’s murder trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 4. A separate wrongful death civil lawsuit filed against Lyvette by Crespo’s mother, is also awaiting trial.
A crime show is filming an expose on the sordid story detailed in 1,500 plus pages of Grand Jury testimony, which includes statements from responding officers, Crespo’s two children, the mayor’s alleged girlfriends and others.
On the day of the killing, the couple got into a heated argument over the mayor’s alleged affairs, exchanging threatening and profanity laced text messages in the hours before the fatal confrontation at the couple’s home.
If convicted, Lyvette could face 21 years in state prison.
“[Crespo] was a womanizer who abused his power,” reads the last post on the blog.
“He paid the ultimate price.”
A 27-year-old male passenger was killed when the car he was riding in, driven by an allegedly drunken driver, rear-ended an SUV on the Long Beach (710) Freeway in Bell Gardens, police said Sunday.
At about 4:15 a.m., a 26-year-old man from South Gate was driving a 2012 Honda Civic south of Florence Avenue and the Clara Street overpass, said California Highway Patrol Officer Gomez.
While driving at an unsafe speed, the driver abruptly slowed down due to another collision ahead and collided with the rear of a 1999 Ford Expedition, Gomez said.
The passenger in the Civic, an unidentified man also from South Gate, suffered fatal injuries and died at Saint Francis Hospital, he said.
The driver was arrested for allegedly drunken driving, Gomez said.
He suffered moderate injuries and was also taken to Saint Francis Hospital.
The driver of the Expedition was not hurt.
“La dama (the lady) … el corazon (the heart) … la bandera (the flag): Loteria!
Coffee in hand and coin purses at the ready, a small group of abuelas meet weekday mornings at the Bell Gardens Senior Center for a lively game of loteria, the Mexican version of Bingo.
Regulars at the Monday through Friday game collect donations to buy the coffee; some bring pastries or cookies to share.
At ten cents a card they aren’t going to get rich, after all the pot rarely reaches more than a dollar. But for most of the senior-aged grandmothers, the three-year-long ritual has less to do with the game and more to do with the chance to spend time away from home talking and laughing with neighbors.
Between games, they talk about the latest news, movies they hope to see and trips they are looking forward to taking, but mostly they talk about family – their grandchildren to be exact.
“I’m going to go see that animated movie about the rooster with my grandson,” Irma Huerta, 65, informs the group in Spanish.
This Sunday, Sept. 13 is National Grandparent’s Day. It’s a day intended to honor grandparents, and perhaps lavish a little extra attention and cariño on them.
With 25 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren, Huerta is glad she became a grandmother while still young because she still has the energy to keep up with her grandkids and still has the strength to visit those living in Mexico.
Ironically, she points out, her in Southern California she’s abuela, but her progeny in Mexico call her grandma.
At 94, Maria Colmenares isn’t sure how many grandchildren she has, but laughs about the potentially large number when she explains that each of her 12 children have at least seven children of their own.
They all call me tita, short for abuelita, she says about the term of endearment.
“Being a grandmother means being there for the grandchildren when the parents cannot,” the senior says with conviction. She says she’s done her share of diaper changes, feeding and babysitting, but these days the grandchildren “take care of me.”
“One cooks for me every day, another makes sure I take my medication,” she said, reflecting on how life has changed over the years.
Being a grandmother is different from being a mother, but the feelings are just as strong, Andrea Arenteria, 67, told EGP.
“It’s a grand feeling, to reach a point in your life to be able to see your children become parents,” she said proudly.
“It was more beautiful a feeling than becoming a mother,” chimes in sixty-eight-year-old Maria Guzman.
Huerta says she cherishes her time with her grandkids. She makes the most of their time together by playing marbles, flying kites and, of course, playing loteria.
“It’s one of the ways I teach them Spanish and sayings from Mexico,” she confides.
It’s through these old-time games that don’t require technology that Huerta says she has taught her grandchildren the concepts of respect and the importance of spending time with family.
“Abuela no speak English,” she says she teases her grandkids, explaining it’s not that she doesn’t understand English but a way to force them to practice their Spanish.
It’s a trick also used by Arenteria, who says her children don’t speak Spanish to their offspring at home but know her rule: No English at grandma’s house.
“Here we speak Spanish,” she tells them so they don’t forget the language.
They’ll have more opportunities if they are bilingual, she says firmly, noting it gave her own children a leg up in their careers.
Most of Colmerares’ grandchildren have moved farther away, but she vividly recalls details about them, having raised nearly all of them.
“It’s been a joy being a grandmother,” she reminisces, a broad smile crossing her face aged with time.
Now, she cherishes the little things they do for her, signs of their affection. Every Mother’s Day and on her saint’s day they greet her with las mañanitas (a traditional Mexican birthday song) and a mariachi, making her feel so special, she told EGP.
Throughout the morning, after one by one moving the decorative stones used as placeholders onto their colorful loteria cards, someone yells out “buenas,” the Spanish version of saying “bingo” to indicate a winning card.
After all the winnings are dispersed and the coffee is finished, the women say goodbye to their other family at the Bell Gardens Senior Center, before making their way to see the grandchildren they have proudly been boasting about all morning.
“I think the happiness brought on from being a grandmother is what keeps me alive,” reflects Colmenares tearfully. “It’s really the greatest gift.”
Three people were shot Sunday in Bell Gardens, a Los Angeles County Fire Department official said.
The shooting was reported at 7:40 p.m. at Florence Avenue and Jaboneria Road, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Kyle Sanford.
All three were taken to hospitals, Sanford said. He did not have specific information about their conditions or genders.
For the first time in decades, a city known for its tough political rivalries may cancel its upcoming city council election because no one has filed to run against the two incumbents up for reelection.
On Monday, the city clerk’s office announced Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez and Mayor Pro Tem Pedro Aceituno were the only two candidates to turn in paperwork before the nomination period closed Friday, Aug. 7.
It’s a surprising turn of events considering Rodriguez, and Aceituno to a lesser extent, have in recent years been involved in some of the city’s most volatile elections. The difference this year could be the absence of former Mayor Daniel Crespo, who until shortly before his shooting death last year, was a vocal and often aggressive opponent of the two incumbents.
“In past elections there are usually no shortage of challengers, but I can only assume that residents are pleased with the job their representatives are doing on the city council,” said City Manager Phil Wagner.
Under the city’s election code, if there are no more candidates than offices to be elected, in this case two city council seats, the city council at its discretion can appoint those who turned in their required paperwork before the deadline and cancel the election. The city council also has available to it the option to appoint an eligible voter in the city to the seat, or still hold an election.
“Given that we have two qualified nominations the city council will most likely choose option one and not hold an election,” said new City Clerk Kristina Santana.
Canceling the election will save Bell Gardens $90,000, the amount it would have paid the County for election services, Santana said.
As long time members of the council, Rodriguez and Aceituno are expected to be appointed to new four-year terms when the council meets to consider the issue at City Hall, Wednesday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m.
Rodriguez and Aceituno will serve exactly as if elected during an election, according to the City Clerk’s office.
Rodriguez has served on the council since 2003. She works as a social worker and director of admissions at a local healthcare facility. Aceituno was first elected in 1999 and was one of the youngest elected officials to serve as Mayor in Los Angeles County.
Across the country this week, baseball fans were focused on Major League Baseball’s All Star Game played Tuesday and the L.A. (of Anaheim) Angel’s Mike Trout’s second consecutive game MVP, but in working class and mostly immigrant Bell Gardens, passion for the national pastime is focused on a preteen girls’ softball team on the cusp of making local history.
Lea este artículo en Español: All Stars de Bell Gardens: Son Niñas
The Bell Gardens All-Stars will head to San Diego this weekend to compete in a regional softball tournament, marking the first time a city-based fast pitch traveling team competes at this level of competition, according to the team’s founder and coach, Alberto Lucero.
Placing second in the LA/South Bay district and fifth in the State qualified Bell Gardens’ 10 and under softball team to compete in the California State Games tournament, a competition that draws highly competitive teams from as far away as Nevada.
According to Lucero, he started the league three years ago to give young Bell Gardens softball players like his daughters, twins Samantha and Tabatha, the chance to represent their city in a more competitive atmosphere.
“We’re trying to keep the talent here in Bell Gardens,” explained Lucero. The team practices at Veterans and Ford parks.
“There has never been a team from the city that has won State or placed in the district, we’ve done both.”
At practice Monday, the girls were focused on the tough competition they will face on and off the field in San Diego.
We’re the “underdogs,” remarked some of the parents, noting the team will face players from more affluent communities who not only don’t look like them, but also will have top-of-the-line equipment and be decked out head-to-toe in the latest sports gear.
The Bell Gardens girls on the other hand like to personalize their gray and burgundy uniforms – a homage to Bell Gardens High School – with different shoes, bags and helmets.
And when it comes down to it, the team says they’ll let their skills on the field do their talking.
“Other teams see us as the underdogs but after the first inning, they wake up,” Sonia Guerra, the mother of one of the players proudly told EGP.
“It’s been game after game, practice after practice, but we’re really excited and proud of our girls,” said Angie Lucero, the mother of two players on the team.
Ten-year old Gianna Gachupin plays second base told EGP she will step up her play this weekend.
“I’ve always been good at softball,” she said beaming with confidence.
“Our team is good! I like our spirit and we always cheer each other on,” echoed 11-year-old teammate Araceli Trout.
There are 14 players on the All-Stars team, which is part of the Bell Gardens Softball League, an amateur softball association separate from the city’s parks and recreation program. League rules dictate that players must be 10 or under when the season starts; some of the players have since had birthdays and are now eleven-years-old.
Competitive sports can be expensive, particularly in the world of traveling teams, which tend to have the most talent, and often train and play year-round.
It’s especially true for new teams like the Bell Gardens All Stars, which has yet to attract sponsors in spite of their winning streak.
“It’s Bell Gardens, unfortunately our parents don’t have that kind of money,” explained Lucero.
Most parents aren’t even sure how much they spend each season to pay for bats, bags, helmets, uniforms, socks, and cleats, but they know expenses can reach into the thousands of dollars when tournament entry fees, gas, food and hotels are calculated into the cost.
“What’s helped is the fundraising we do,” said Guerra. “If it weren’t for that it would be tough for all the parents.”
Parents said they are constantly in fundraising mode. They’ve raised money through casino trips, raffles, car washes and by selling candy. Otherwise, they said, the cost would be a deal breaker for most parents in the city.
They told EGP they are vigilant about looking for deals, which may mean their players use second-hand gear rather than the latest and most expensive equipment.
Bats, for example, can range from $200 to $450, said Anabel Mendez, who explained she can only afford to buy her daughter one item at a time.
“We just bought her a bat, next time we’ll buy her something else.”
So far, the team has each season raised enough money to pay the $500 it costs to compete in each tournament they play. The All-Star’s winning record has qualified the team for more tournaments and while that’s a good thing, the longer season has lead to more expenses than parents anticipated.
Still they push on, motivated by the determination and the love the girls have for the sport. “I’ve always wanted to play softball and I hope I one day get to play for UCLA,” said ten-year old outfielder Natalie Carbajal.
Priscilla Escalera, 11, dreams of making it big and one day playing softball at the Olympics.
“Sometimes practicing 6 days a week is hard, but … I want to be like [U.S. Olympian and world record-holder pitcher] Monica Abbott,” Escalera said excitedly.
It takes sacrifice, said one of the player’s mother, explaining how players have skipped out on their own parties to make it to a game.
Players say they are like a family.
“… I love knowing I have 13 other sisters,” said Natalie Bracken.
The three-day tournament in San Diego begins Friday. Money is tight and the team is hoping for more donations from the community to help offset the cost. Either way, they’re ready to play.
“We clawed our way up,” Lucero said. “Getting this far speaks to their dedication and the work they’ve put in.”
An alleged gang member wanted for attempted murder in a shooting that left two people in Bell Gardens wounded last week was arrested Monday following a five-hour long standoff with police.
Jose Navarro, 31, was set to appear in court Wednesday for arraignment facing a total of four felony charges. He is being charged with two counts of attempted murder, one count for shooting from a motored vehicle and one count for possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon, according to the Los Angeles County District’s Attorney’s office. It is not clear if Navarro will face additional charges in relation to the barricade.
Lea este artículo en Español: Hombre Atrincherado en Bell Gardens es Arrestado
At about 4 a.m. Monday, Bell Gardens police were serving an arrest warrant on Navarro when he barricaded himself in his home on the 6000 block of Live Oak Avenue, according to Bell Gardens Police Sgt. Dennis Timmons. When the suspect refused to exit the home, the County Sheriff Department’s Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) — often referred to as SWAT — was called in, said Timmons. Several people in the home at the time exited, but a child who was possibly related to the suspect remained inside, according to police.
A neighbor said she woke to the sound of a helicopter circling overhead and a loud voice ordering Navarro to surrender.
“I realized how dangerous the situation was when I saw a large SWAT vehicle parked near my window,” said the woman who asked that her named not be used.
According to police, Navarro allegedly shot and injured two men early in the morning July 1 as they stood on the 5800 block of Quinn Street, not far from where Navarro was barricaded. The two men are in stable condition, police said.
Three hours into the standoff Monday, around 7 a.m., the 11-year-old boy still inside the house with Navarro emerged and was immediately escorted from the scene by SWAT officers. The child had answered a phone call made to the residence before walking to safety, Timmons said.
A little after 9 a.m., SWAT launched tear gas into the home, forcing the suspect to come outside, where he was taken down by K9 dogs, said police. Navarro was taken into custody and treated for injuries sustained from the dog bites, according to Bell Gardens Police Sgt. Paul Camacho.
It was not clear whether weapons were located at the residence following the barricade.
As is often the case in these types of situations, neighbors were shocked by the incident in their neighborhood.
“They seemed like very calm people,” the female neighbor told EGP. “I had never seen anything chaotic on this block.”
But according to other neighbors, there had been rumors of drug activity at the home on Live Oak Street.
Navarro is being held on $2 million bail. His next court date is July 29.
An attempted murder suspect who was barricaded for several hours inside his residence in Bell Gardens was taken into custody by a SWAT team, authorities said.
Officers went to the 6000 block of Live Oak Street about 4 a.m. Monday to serve a warrant on Jose Navarro Jr., who was wanted in connection with a shooting last Wednesday that left two people wounded, according to Bell Gardens police Sgt. Dennis Timmons.
The sheriff’s SWAT team was dispatched to help Bell Gardens police after the man refused to come out, Timmons said.
An 11-year-old boy, possibly the man’s brother, was seen leaving the residence about 7 a.m., according to reports from the scene.
About 9:30 a.m., authorities fired tear gas into the residence and Navarro, 31, was taken into custody with the assistance of a police dog and was treated for dog bites, Timmons said.
Diesel burning trucks idling for long periods is a problem in the City of Commerce. On Tuesday, city officials, residents and local environmental groups unveiled the city’s latest effort to try to curtail the practice: 20 new “No Idling” signs to be installed in areas where truck drivers tend to stop off for a while but keep their engines running.
The new signs were created in partnership with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the California Environmental Protection Agency, (CalEPA) and meet the new regulations set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regarding the idling of commercial vehicles.
The new regulations require “No Idling” signs to be placed at locations where significant numbers of idling trucks have been found.
“We established a policy that protects climate change and to inform mobile sources—trucks, cars, ships, railroads—because they are the primary source of air pollution in south coast basins,” CARB Board Member Judy Mitchell told EGP.
In 2013, East Yards and their student led group at Bell Gardens High School, Youth in Action, conducted a study to determine how many trucks are on Commerce streets on any given day. “Truck Truthing” study volunteers biked and walked the city’s major corridors of Atlantic, Washington and Slauson Boulevards, and counted the number of trucks on the road.
“We chose those locations because they are closest to the 710 or 5 freeways, and very close to residential areas, homes or churches,” Hugo Lujan of East Yards told EGP.
Noel Pimentel, 14, is a Youth in Action member. He told EGP that volunteers would stand on corners every day for an hour, using a clicker to count how many trucks go by.
“In an hour, close to 1,000 trucks came by,” he said, adding that volunteers wanted to stay longer but couldn’t “because we would start having headaches from all the fumes.”
The study found that approximately 47,000 diesel trucks travel the 710 freeway daily, exposing Commerce residents and workers to large amounts of diesel, increasing their risk of cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Pimentel said one day he approached a truck driver and asked him why he left his engine running. “Because I don’t want the engine to burn out, because it takes forever to turn on,” he responded.
The results of the Truck Truthing exercise were turned over to the city to help inform officials about the importance of placing “No Idle” signs along heavy traffic corridors, the study states.
Commerce has started an outreach campaign to inform truck drivers about the new “No Idling” signage and policy, including enforcement. “The city has been working with local businesses to distribute letters explaining the new policy” before the signs go up, said public works Director Maryam Babaki.
She said the city will not begin enforcing the ordinance until businesses and drivers have had a “sufficient amount of time” to become familiar with the signs and policy chance. Enforcement could include fines, she said.
This new regulations apply to diesel-fueled commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds operating in California, regardless of where they are registered. School buses are prohibited from idling within 100 feet of a school, and drivers may not start engines more than 30 seconds before they start driving.
Mayor Lilia Leon told EGP that the change is a work in progress. “Trucks will have to get used to the signs and what we are trying to do is improve the quality of air in the city of Commerce,” she said.
Two suspects were in custody Tuesday in connection with the shooting death of a vendor at a makeshift food stand in the South Park section of South Los Angeles.
Police declined to provide details of the arrests or the names of the suspects. Los Angeles police Officer Norma Eisenman said the suspects have not yet been booked.
According to police and the coroner’s office, 30-year-old Alvaro Mata-Rizo of Bell Gardens was approached by several suspects around 11 p.m. Friday at the intersection of East 51st Street and McKinley Avenue, and one of them fired a single shot.
Investigators believe robbery may have been the motive behind the shooting.
Mata-Rizo was married with a 2-year-old son, and worked six days a week, sometimes giving free food to people who could not pay, ABC7 reported.