Man Collecting Recyclables Shot in Bell Gardens

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Authorities Thursday investigated the shooting death of a man in Bell Gardens.

The shooting occurred at 11:51 p.m. Wednesday in the 6000 block of Buell Street, said Deputy Trina Schrader of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s homicide detectives, who were assisting the Bell Gardens Police Department in the investigation, were summoned to the scene, where the victim was pronounced dead, Schrader said.

Bell Gardens officers, who were responding to reports of shots fired from area residents, located the victim, a 36-year-old man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, in an alley on Buell Street, Schrader said. It appears the victim had been in the alley looking for cans, bottles or scrap metal when he was killed, she said.

The victim also was a known street gang member, Schrader said, but added it was not immediately known if the shooting was gang-related.

The suspect and murder weapon are outstanding, she said.

Anyone with information about the shooting was urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. To provide information anonymously, people may call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477).

No Plea Deal In Crespo Murder Case

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Efforts to reach a plea deal with no jail time have fallen apart for the wife of slain Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo Sr., who claims she shot and killed him in self-defense after enduring years of abuse at his hands, her attorneys said Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy asked whether a plea deal had been struck when the parties were discussing potential trial dates for Lyvette Crespo, 45.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said, “We tried to, your honor.”

Defense attorney Eber Bayona replied, “We thought we had a deal,” but told Kennedy the offer apparently wasn’t approved by supervisors in the District Attorney’s Office.

“I understand the family had a strong voice in the decision-making,” Bayona said.

He said he believed the parties are now at an impasse.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Nov. 30, with a tentative trial date of Jan. 5.

Outside the courtroom, co-defense counsel Roger Lowenstein said two deals had been on the table.

The first, involving a plea of involuntary manslaughter, was withdrawn by prosecutors who then sought a voluntary manslaughter plea. Both deals were for probation with no jail time, he said.

“Lyvette Crespo is innocent. This is a self-defense case,” Lowenstein said, alleging her husband “tortured (her) for 28 years.”

However, given the risk of wrongful conviction, a possible 21-year sentence and a mandatory 10-year term for using a firearm, Lowenstein said it made sense for his client to take the deal and “start healing.”

He called the D.A.’s change of heart “political” and believes the decision to renege the agreement was influenced by the media attention Daniel Crespo’s brother William was stirring.

Last week, when news of a possible plea deal first broke, William Crespo told EGP that he and his family were surprised to hear that Lyvette might not have to do any time any jail.

“I’ve never heard of anybody killing somebody and walking away free,” he said in disbelief and anger.

Atty. James Devitt is representing Daniel Crespo’s mother in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Lyvette soon after the late mayor’s death. According to Devitt, a person convicted of driving under the influence on average serves more time in jail than Lyvette has to date. His clients want Lyvette to serve the maximum sentence possible in state prison, he told EGP,

Devitt believes the D.A. initially considered the plea because prosecutors were concerned about losing a high profile case and taking on a trial that would likely portray Lyvette as a battered spouse.

With no deal on the table, Lowenstein on Monday accused the District Attorney’s Office of “unprofessionalism” and “playing with people’s lives” in withdrawing the deal.

He also dismissed the idea that higher-ups were responsible.

“If Beth Silverman wanted this deal, she would go in and fight for it,” Lowenstein said.

Silverman could not immediately be reached for comment and a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office said they do not comment on plea negotiations conducted outside of open court.

Crespo was indicted by a grand jury on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the Sept. 30, 2014, shooting death of her husband.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have said the mayor and his wife were arguing when their then-19-year-old son, Daniel Crespo Jr., intervened, leading to a struggle between father and son.

Lyvette Crespo claims she was protecting the couple’s son when she grabbed a handgun and shot her husband, who had allegedly punched the young man in the face.

Bayona contends that Daniel Crespo “was a man who abused not only his wife but other women” and mentally and physically abused his children.

Valerie Alvarez, who runs the Facebook domestic violence support group “LYVETTE CRESPO, WIFE, MOTHER AND NOT GUILTY” told EGP she has hope any potential juror will see that Lyvette’s actions were justified following years of domestic abuse.

“People are starting to realize you can’t just get up and leave,” she said.

William Crespo has denied allegations that his brother was abusive, but said the mayor had a series of extramarital affairs that angered his wife. He claims Lyvette threatened her husband, was planning on leaving him but “wanted him dead.”

The multi-million dollar civil lawsuit filed Oct. 20, 2014, by Daniel Crespo’s mother alleges her daughter-in-law picked a fight with him knowing that their son would intervene, then opened a safe, grabbed a gun and killed her husband “with malice and in cold blood.” The suit is has been stalled until the criminal case comes to an end.

“I miss him everyday.” said William Crespo, while starring at a photograph of his late brother. “Whateverw happens we just need to let him rest in peace.”

EGP Staff Writer Nancy Martinez contributed to this report.


Plea Deal Rumored for Wife of Slain Bell Gardens Mayor

October 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Two years after the fatal shooting of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo, rumors are swirling that a court hearing Monday may lead to a plea deal for his wife Lyvette, who faces voluntary manslaughter charges in his death.

Wary that a sympathetic jury would be persuaded by the defense’s depiction of Lyvette as a longtime victim of physical abuse at the hands of her husband, prosecutors are considering a plea, ABC7 first reported Wednesday.

James Devitt is the attorney in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Lyvette by members the late mayor’s family. He warned members of the Facebook group “Justice for MAYOR Daniel Crespo,” that the plea deal would be presented before Judge Kathleen Kennedy Monday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. He added that the plea would mean no jail time for Lyvette.

“They want to give [her] probation,” he wrote. “We need to object to Judge Kennedy.”

“pls come to court Oct. 17,” he urged.

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators, Lyvette and her husband were arguing Sept. 30, 2014 when their 19-year old son Daniel Crespo Jr. intervened, leading to a struggle between the two men. Crespo Sr. allegedly punched his son and that’s when Lyvette allegedly grabbed a handgun and shot her husband three times in the chest.

Crespo with wife son Searing In

(EGP photo archive)

Lyvette pleaded not guilty last year to the voluntary manslaughter charge after being indicted by a grand jury. She was released from jail after posting $150,000 bail.

Her attorney claims the shooting was justified because his client was the victim of years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and was defending herself and her son when she shot him.

A 1,500 plus page grand jury testimony released last year revealed sordid details of the case including allegations of abuse and serial infidelity by Crespo. Both of Crespo’s children – Crystal Crespo and Daniel Crespo Jr. – testified their father had verbally and physically abused their mother over the years,

According to the transcript, Crespo had multiple affairs during his marriage, including a “faux wedding” ceremony in Las Vegas with one mistress. On the day of the crime, the couple argued over the mayor’s alleged affairs, according to the testimony.

Prosecutors told grand jurors that Lyvette repeatedly provoked her husband and witnesses claim she repeatedly threatened her husband.

A $50 million wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Lyvette on behalf of Crespo’s mother shortly after the shooting. Family members believe Lyvette picked a fight with her husband knowing that her son would intervene, allowing her to kill Crespo “with malice and in cold blood.”

If convicted, Lyvette could face 21 years in state prison.


4:15 p.m: Adds James Devitt is attorney in a lawsuit filed by members of Crespo family.

Bell Gardens: Five-Peat Winner for Financial Reporting

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

For the fifth year in a row, the City of Bell Gardens is being recognized for excellence in financial reporting.

Th city announced last week it had received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.

“This award is the culmination of the department’s hard work,” said Will Kaholokula, Bell Garden’s Director of Finance and Administrative Services. “It forces us to research and prepare additional schedules such as management discussion and analysis. Our department employees work very hard in a spirit of full disclosure and transparency, making sure that they process information accurately and provide accountability.”

Bell Gardens Finance Director Will Kaholokula is honored by the city council for his department’s work, which was recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada. (City of Bell Gardens)

Bell Gardens Finance Director Will Kaholokula is honored by the city council for his department’s work, which was recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada. (City of Bell Gardens)

He added that feedback from the association will help the city continue to grow and improve how the finance department operates.

“We’re not moving backwards,” he explained.

An impartial panel judges the submissions of participating municipalities. The panel evaluates whether the city is meeting the high standards of the program, including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial information.

Bell Gardens Man Arrested in Pomona Stabbing

September 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Larry Rodriguez, 47, of Bell Gardens was arrested Saturday night on suspicion of stabbing a man in Pomona, authorities said.

The stabbing was reported at 7:21 p.m. at 505 S. Garey Ave., said Pomona police Sgt. Manny Ramos.

“The victim and suspect were involved in some sort of verbal dispute” that turned violent, Ramos said.

“The suspect then stabbed the victim and ran from the location.”

The victim was taken to a hospital with wounds not believed life-threatening, Ramos said. He was identified as 62-year-old Richard Orona of Pomona.


Bell Gardens Busca Cómo Regular el Uso de la Marijuana

August 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Una serie de medidas que explícitamente prohíben toda la actividad comerciante del cannabis fueron adoptadas en la ciudad de Bell Gardens ante la posibilidad de pronto perder el control sobre el crecimiento y ejecución de la hierba.

La decisión sucedió después de que el gobernador Jerry Brown autorizó una programa estatal de regulación (Medical Regulation and Safety Act en inglés), el cual otorga licencias a dispensarios en California.

A los casi 20 años de la legalización de la marijuana medicinal en el estado, el programa aprobado por Brown intenta clarificar áreas confusas en la legislación cómo la actividad actual no reglamentada.

Bajo la ley, ciudades como Bell Gardens serían requeridas a adoptar ordenanzas o normas de zonificación para regular el uso de la droga entre sus límites municipales. Si esto no se a ejecutado, arriesgarían a que el estado se instale como árbitro final sobre la industria de la marijuana medicinal en la ciudad.

“O actuábamos ahora o dejábamos que el estado decidera”, dijo Abel Ávalos, director del desarrollo comunitario en Bell Gardens.

La ciudad decidió endurecer sus límites municipales en respuesta directa al plazo limite en octubre, de acuerdo a lo que Ávalos dijo a EGP. Además, agrego el director, los cambios también ayudarían a Bell Gardens a regular con más eficiencia el crecimiento y la distribución de la hierba en la ciudad, a pesar de que los dispensarios fueron prohibidos en 2007.

El uso ilegal de la marijuana ha sido un problema para la ciudad, de acuerdo a la concejal Jennifer Rodríguez, quien remarcó la dificultad de imponer las leyes que prohíben el uso en público.

“El olor se siente en dondequiera”, dijo Rodríguez a EGP. “El olor de la marijuana se siente en el gimnasio, mientras manejas -no hay ningún control”.

En noviembre, los votantes tendrán la oportunidad de emitir su voto en contra o a favor de la “Ley del Uso Adulto de la Marijuana” (o Adult Use of Marijuana Act en inglés) el cual legalizaría el uso recreacional de la hierba para adultos mayor de 21 años. La ley también aplicaría impuestos al crecimiento comercial y en la venta del cannabis recreacional.

“¿De qué sirven las leyes si son difíciles de imponer?”, pregunto Rodríguez.

De acuerdo a Troy Henshaw, detective y sargento del Departamento de Policía de Bell Gardens, ellos regularmente reciben llamadas de gente quejándose de jóvenes fumando marijuana en público. Los reclamos a veces son de personas que están parados cerca del infractor y en otras ocasiones son de personas que van manejando detrás de alguien emitiendo una nube de humo notable desde adentro de su vehiculo, explico Henshaw.

“Algunas de las llamadas no resultan en arrestos ya que no podemos localizar al infractor pero en otras veces sí acabamos arrestando o multando a los ofensores”, dijo Henshaw a EGP. “Yo diría que no es un problema grave en los parques públicos pero si recibimos quejas al respecto”.

Según la policía, cada caso varía ya que ellos tienen que determinar si el supuesto infractor tiene una receta médica para poseer la marijuana o no. En el caso de que no estén autorizados, el oficial entonces decide que tan severo tienen que ser los cargos, lo que usualmente acaba siendo determinado por la cantidad de la substancia en posesión.

“Si un individuo es encontrado violando la ley, esa persona puede recibir una multa, ser arrestado por un delito menor o por una felonía y la marijuana es confiscada”, dijo Henshaw.

Desde el 2011, el poseer una onza o menos de la droga es categorizada una infracción con una multa de $100 sin manchar el récord del infractor. Esto es un intento de despenalizar el delito para reducir la carga financiera en las cortes que resulta cuando se enjuician dichas infracciones.

En otros términos, “si te pescan fumando, te multan y te mandan por el lado en que viniste”, se quejó Rodríguez.

La regulación de la marijuana medicinal ha demostrado ser sumamente difícil en varias ciudades locales. Dispensarios ilegales y no reglamentados han afectado a Los Ángeles a pesar de la Proposición D, una medida que limita el numero de los negocios a 135.

La oficina del fiscal municipal de Los Ángeles, Mike Feuer, quien en una ocasión calculó que el numero de negocios ilegales sumaban a 800, tiene en pie un esfuerzo continuo para suprimir estas actividades que están fuera de control.

Mientras que el problema no es tan grave en Bell Gardens, tres dispensarios ilegales fueron abiertos en la Avenida Eastern, cerca del corredor comercial en el centro de la ciudad. Los tres fueron cerrados rápidamente cuando fueron descubiertos por la ciudad, dijo Ávalos a EGP.

“No conocemos de ningún dispensario que opere por el momento en Bell Gardens”, aseguró Henshaw.

La legalización de la marijuana podría atraer nuevos y más grandes problemas como problemas financieros y accidentes y/o actividad criminal a causa de la droga, según Rodríguez.

“Esto es sólo el comienzo y muy pronto tal vez no podremos hacer nada al respecto”, dijo.

City Moves Ahead On ‘Pot’ Enforcement

August 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

BELL GARDENS – Faced with the possibility of losing its authority to regulate the growth and delivery of medical marijuana in the city, Bell Gardens officials have adopted a series of measures that explicitly prohibited all commercial medical cannabis activity in the city.

Their actions come in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the Medical Regulation and Safety Act, a state-licensing program for dispensaries. Coming nearly 20 years after medical marijuana was first legalized in California, the three-pronged bill aims to clarify gray areas in the legislation that allowed “pot shops” and commercial medical marijuana activities to continue unregulated.

The Act requires cities like Bell Gardens to adopt ordinances or zoning laws to regulate medical marijuana operations within their borders, or risk the state becoming the final arbiter of the medical marijuana industry in the city.

“It was either act now, otherwise the state will decide,” explained Abel Avalos, Bell Gardens’ Director of Community Development.

Avalos told EGP the city decided to tighten its existing zoning codes in direct response to the state’s March deadline, but added that the changes also give Bell Gardens new tools to regulate the delivery and growing of marijuana in the city, activities that have popped up in greater frequency recently despite the city’s 2007 banning of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Illegal use of marijuana is an issue for the city, says Councilwoman Jennifer Rodriguez, pointing out the difficulty of enforcing laws prohibiting its use in public.

“Everywhere you go you can smell it,” she told EGP in frustration. “You can smell it at the gym, while you drive; there’s just no control.”

In November, voters will decide whether to approved the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which would legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults 21 years and older, and tax the commercial growth and retail sale of nonmedical cannabis.

The current Medical Regulation and Safety Act only allows cities to ban nonmedical marijuana businesses and to prohibit businesses that also sell alcohol and tobacco to also sell medical marijuana. But according to Rodriguez, the measure fails to adequately deal with enforcement-related issues.

“What good are these laws if it’s difficult to enforce them?” she asks.

According to Bell Gardens Police Detective Sgt. Troy Henshaw, the department regularly receives calls complaining of people, often juveniles, smoking or using marijuana in public. The complaint sometimes comes from someone standing near the offender, other times it comes from a motorist driving behind a vehicle emitting a noticeable smoke and smell, he explained.

“Some of the calls result in no one being located and others have resulted in citations and arrests,” Sgt. Henshaw told EGP. “I would not say it is a big problem in public parks or spaces, but we do receive calls about it.”


Police must evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine if a suspect’s possession of marijuana is legal, looking at such things as whether the person has a medical marijuana prescription card allowing them to be in legal possession of the substance. If not, the officer must make a decision as to how severe charges should be, which is often determined by the amount of illegal marijuana the person’s possession.

“Each situation is different, but if an individual is found to be violating a marijuana law…he or she can be issued a citation, arrested for a misdemeanor offense or for a felony offense and the marijuana is confiscated,” explained Sgt. Henshaw.

Since 2011, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is just an infraction with a maximum $100 fine and no criminal record, decriminalizing the offense as part of an effort to reduce the financial burden on the courts for prosecuting the charges.

In other words, “you get caught smoking, get a ticket and sent on your merry way,” complains Rodriguez.

The enforcement of the medical marijuana industry has proved difficult for many local cities. Illegal and unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries have long been a problem in the city of Los Angeles, with new facilities continuing to pop up despite voter approval of Proposition D, a measure that limits the number of dispensaries allowed to operate to no more than 135. The Office of L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, which at one time estimated the number of unlawful dispensaries in the city to be more than 800, has an ongoing effort to shut down the illegal facilities in what many have described as a constant game of “whack-a-mole.”

While the problem has not been no where near as bad in Bell Gardens, three medical marijuana dispensaries did illegally open along Eastern Avenue, near the city’s downtown commercial corridor.

In “plain sight,” but unbeknownst to the city, the businesses were quickly shut down once they were discovered, Avalos told EGP.

“No known dispensaries currently operate within Bell Gardens,” assured Sgt. Henshaw.

But the legalization of marijuana could bring new and bigger issues, points out Rodriguez.

She believes legalizing marijuana for recreational use will shift the burden of regulation onto municipalities like Bell Gardens, not to mention the issues of enforcement and the financial and societal consequences of marijuana-related crimes and accidents, problems she feels have surged since medical marijuana was legalized.

“This is just the beginning, it’s just starting and soon we may not be able to do anything about it.”

Coming Together at National Night Out

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Dozens of block parties were held across the Southland Tuesday night, drawing thousands of residents to join with local police officers, sheriff’s deputies and elected officials as part of the annual National Night Out crime-prevention event.

As many as 38 million people across the country were expected to take part in National Night Out activities, which annually takes place on the first Tuesday in August. Chief among its goals is to promote a partnership between the police and the community, which this year has been under greater strain due to some controversial police-involved-shootings and the ambush-style deadly assaults on police officers in recent weeks.

In Boyle Heights, the National Night observance included a peace march denouncing crime and violence.

LAPD National Night Out Santiago

(Office of Assemblymember Miguel Santiago)

Some cities, like Commerce, hosted BBQ-style block parties while other cities like Bell Gardens and Montebello held larger events at local parks that featured demonstrations from K-9 units, information booths and displays of public safety vehicles, to the delight of many children.

Started in 1984, National Night Out is billed as “America’s night out against crime.” It is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch and co-sponsored by local municipalities and law enforcement agencies nationwide.

(City of Bell Gardens)

(City of Bell Gardens)

The event initially began as a call for people to hold small public gatherings in a take-back-the-streets show of community pride.

Over the years, the event has grown to include block parties, parades, movie screenings and picnics.

(City of Commerce)

(City of Commerce)

During the event, residents are encouraged to lock their doors, turn on their front house lights and join with neighbors, law enforcement and Neighborhood Watch leaders at local neighborhood events. Activities vary by event but generally include free food, police and fire displays, live entertainment and a chance to interact with city officials and local police officers.

Information from City news Service used in this report.


Armed Robbery Suspect Leads Bell Gardens Police On Wild Chase

July 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

An armed robbery in Bell Gardens Thursday morning ended with one suspect in custody and at least one other still on the loose, after an hour long chase and officer involved shooting that continued into neighboring Downey.

After receiving multiple 9-1-1 calls, Bell Gardens police officers at around 10:47 a.m. responded to an armed robbery in progress at the Verizon Wireless Store located at 7220 Eastern Ave. Workers and customers were held at gunpoint by at least two men before the suspects made off with a significant amount of merchandise, Capt. Scott Fairfield told EGP.

One of the suspects, identified as 25-year-old Dillan Wilson, fled and a pursuit ensued when officers located his vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. At one point the suspect’s vehicle – a black Saturn SUV – struck two occupied vehicles at the intersection of Garfield and Gage Avenue, police said.

One of the lead police vehicles involved in the pursuit early on overheated and caught fire.

The chase continued into the city of Downey where at one point Wilson turned onto Denvers Street, a dead end. The suspect then threw his car into reverse, ramming two police cars as officers attempted to exit their vehicles, BG police said.

According to police,  Wilson allegedly drove towards an officer standing nearby prompting a second officer to fire multiple shots at the vehicle in an attempt to stop the suspect. The chase continued  onto Bluff Road, another dead-end, at which time the suspect jumped out of the car and fled on foot into the nearby Rio Hondo River.

Wilson was taken into custody following a short foot pursuit, police said.

At the time of the arrest Wilson was bleeding from his head and arm and was treated on scene by paramedics before being cleared for booking. It is unclear whether Wilson suffered injuries caused by a grazed bullet during the gunfire or from shattered glass. No officers were hurt.

A handgun reported stolen from Whittier was recovered from the suspect’s vehicle. Wilson is facing charges of armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, felony evading, hit and run and a possession of a stolen handgun, according to Fairfield.

Police are still searching for the other suspect or suspects involved in the armed robbery. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Bell Gardens Police Department.

The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is investigating the officer-involved shooting.

Man Stabbed at Bell Gardens Park

July 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A man was stabbed this morning in a Bell Gardens park, authorities said

It happened at 4:05 a.m. at John Anson Ford Park, at Park Lane and Garfield Avenue, Bell Gardens police Sgt. E. Aguirre said.

The victim was stabbed multiple times in the abdomen and right leg, Aguirre said. The suspects were described as two males, he said.

An investigation was underway into details of the stabbing and the hospitalized victim was not cooperative, Aguirre said.

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