Sheriffs Need Public’s Help to Catch Armed Robber

August 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Sheriff’s detectives sought the public’s help in identifying a gunman who robbed $20 from an East Los Angeles discount store.

The crime occurred about 4:20 p.m. on Aug. 3 at Mayra’s 99 Cent Discount store in the 100 block of Mednick Avenue, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“The victim saw what he believed to be the butt-stock of a firearm when the suspect lifted his shirt to display the firearm in his waistband,” according to a sheriff’s department statement.

The gunman made off with $20 in miscellaneous currency and was last seen on foot heading west toward Gleason Street.

He was described as 20-25 years old with facial acne and was wearing a black hoodie over a black cap, beige knee-length shorts and black shoes and socks.

Anyone with information about the suspect was urged to call the sheriff’s East Los Angeles Station at (323) 264-4151. Anonymous tips can be submitted through crime stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS or at the website

Charter Bus From East L.A. Crashes in Merced

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A charter bus operated by an East Los Angeles company and driven by a Los Angeles man crashed into a freeway-sign pole in the Merced area Tuesday, killing five people and nearly shearing the bus in half.

The crash was reported about 3:30 a.m. on northbound state Route 99 near Liberty Avenue, according to the California Highway Patrol. According to authorities at the scene, there were 25 people aboard the bus, with five killed and 16 injured.

The driver, identified by the CHP as Mario David Vasquez, 57, of Los Angeles, suffered major injuries. The cause of the crash was still under investigation, but authorities said the bus swerved off the highway and slammed head-on into the pole, which sliced length-wise through the coach.

The bus was operated by Autobuses Coordinados USA, which has an office in East Los Angeles. CHP officials said the bus was traveling from Mexico to Washington and was in Los Angeles Monday night.

The names of the people killed were not immediately released.

Man Fatally Shot at Party

August 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A 19-year-old man was shot and killed Sunday, apparently by someone in a group of people who were asking him to leave a large party.

It happened at 3:28 a.m. in the 200 block of North Alma Avenue in East Los Angeles, according to Deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

The victim was identified as Ernesto Cervantes of Los Angeles, according to the coroner’s office.

According to witnesses, Cervantes was seen outside a large party talking to a group of people. They were telling him to leave when several gunshots were fired at him, Deputy Mike Barraza of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said.

Deputies responding to the scene regarding gunshots heard in the area found the victim lying in the street suffering from gunshot wounds, Barraza said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheriff’s homicide detectives asked anyone with information regarding the shooting to call them at (323) 890-5500.

City Atty. Targets East L.A. Bar for Shut Down

July 28, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer is taking legal steps to halt alleged criminal activity centered around a bar in East Los Angeles.

Feuer announced July 21 that his office is requesting legal injunctions that include having a court-appointed receiver take over management of the El Troquero Bar at 2119 E. Cesar Chavez Ave.

City attorneys allege the bar is frequented by gang members, and employees use the bar as a base for selling cocaine and methamphetamine. They claim the activity has been going on for years.

The bar has been the site of at least two shootings, including 2014 gunfire that took place outside and resulted in the death of one person. The illegal and nuisance activity has been going on for several years, according to Feuer’s office.

City attorneys also allege employees get a commission for selling alcohol to patrons, and that alcohol is being sold to customers who are clearly intoxicated

Feuer said he is going after the bar because one property can often “erode public safety and the quality of life for an entire neighborhood.”

“Every business and property owner has a responsibility to the community,” he said. “My office will continue to hold accountable those whom we allege flout the law or facilitate illicit illegal activity.”

Other nuisance activity allegedly regularly spills out of the bar into the surrounding community, including a myriad of violent crimes such as assaults, robberies at gunpoint and shootings.

The lawsuit was filed against the bar’s owner, the property owner, as well as several employees. In addition to the receivership, Feuer also is requesting extra security features at the property, and for orders preventing the employees named in the lawsuit from getting within 1,000 feet of the bar.

ELAC Names Scholar-Athletes of the Year

July 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Basketball’s Izaiah Sweeney, left, and badminton’s Jean Mornelle Buenaflor were named the male and female athletes of the year, respectively at the East Los Angeles College Department of Athletics’ 16th Annual Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner. Sweeney was named all-state after helping lead the Huskies to the state final four, and Buenaflor helped ELAC win its first-ever state doubles championship. Alumnus James Sams, middle, the principal at Bell Gardens Elementary School, was the keynote speaker. Sams was a two-time all-conference tackle on the Husky football teams in 1988 and ’89. The event was held July 21 in the multi-purpose room in the new ELAC Student Center.

(Photo be Mario Villegas)

(Photo be Mario Villegas)

Bell Gardens Man Pleads Not Guilty to Murder Charges

July 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A Bell Gardens man accused in the shooting deaths of two brothers at a county park in East Los Angeles last November pleaded not guilty last week to murder charges.

Pedro Vasquez, 23, was charged April 6 with the Nov. 22, 2015, killings of Antonio Aguilar, 33, and Juan Aguilar, 28, at Ruben Salazar Park.

The murder charges include the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, but prosecutors have yet to decide whether to pursue the death penalty.

Vasquez allegedly approached the two men at the park and opened fire on them, with both suffering multiple gunshot wounds.

Juan Aguilar had once dated Vasquez’s sister, according to authorities, who have not disclosed a motive for the killings.

Vasquez has remained jailed since his April 4 arrest. He is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse Aug. 11, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

East L.A. Seniors Work Together to Fight Depression, Loneliness

July 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The setting was casual, from the coffee and Mexican bread on the table, to the prayer recited in both English and Spanish to get the meeting started.

The men and women, most of them elderly, Latino and low-income, had gathered July 7 at the Ruben Salazar Park Senior Center in East Los Angeles to share their life experiences. It was the first official meeting of the “Angels Support Group,” a volunteer effort to help seniors dealing with depression, loneliness and isolation. It’s a form of group therapy among friends, is how one person described the meeting.

Lea este artículo en Español: Personas Mayores del Este de Los Ángeles Luchan Contra la Depresión y la Soledad

Shy at first, one by one the participants, speaking mostly in Spanish, shared personal stories of pain.

Participants were told they could talk about anything and for many that meant digging into long time feelings of grief. For others, it was a chance to help someone by sharing ways to cope and move past the pain.

“My daughter died 11 years ago and I still cry over her death,” said Rosa Perez.

For years, I cried over my mother’s death, then one day she appeared to me in a dream and told me not to suffer anymore, shared Manuela Tlatenchi. “Tears don’t allow the dead to rest in peace,” she reflected.

“I felt depressed until I started volunteering and giving back to my community,” said Marcelo Vazquez, a volunteer instructor at the park.

Chris Mojica just celebrated his 85th birthday. He’s a long time senior center volunteer and co-leader of the Angels Support Group and says he personally knows of at least 20 seniors who died at home alone.

“They are elders who have family, but at the same time they [are all alone] because they don’t visit each other,” he said. The seniors “feel really sad and they stay home waiting to die,” he lamented.

According to the California Department of Aging (CDA), California has one of the fastest growing populations in the country. Los Angeles County’s elder population is nearly 1,190,000, according to the CDA. Of those, about 718,000 are minorities and 188,000 live alone.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

By 2020, it’s estimated that 14% of the country’s seniors (60 and older) will live in California.
Seeking mental health services or grief counseling is rare for elderly Latinos.

The idea for the senior support group came from talking to so many older people at the center who seemed depressed or were very sick, said Mojica.

Depression is a problem that needs to be addressed with love and compassion, adds Ray Guerrero, another long time volunteer and group co-leader. “Laughing out loud is great therapy,” he pointed out.

The group plans to meet Thursday mornings at Salazar Park. About 20 people attended the first gathering last week. As part of the “group therapy,” seniors are encouraged to get out more and take part in recreational activities with other members. It doesn’t matter if they choose to take a knitting class, work in one of the gardens outside the senior center, learn to play guitar or just socialize with their fellow elders, because the goal is just to keep the seniors busy.

An important component of the new group is keeping track of one another when away from the center. They’ve formed a phone tree of sorts, and members are encouraged to call other members regularly to see how they are doing. The group will also visit or send cards to seniors who wind up in the hospital or a convalescent home.

A $5 monthly donation—not required but suggested—will help pay for outings to museums, the zoo and the movies.

Seniors form circle of prayer at first meeting of Angels Support Group at Salazar Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Seniors form circle of prayer at first meeting of Angels Support Group at Salazar Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Every month the group will celebrate the birthdays taking place that month, said Mojica, adding that they rely on volunteers and donations to make things happen.

As with many new groups, the Angels Support Group must still overcome a number of management issues, such as keeping track of donations and planning field trips.

Our plans are big, but the need is bigger than what we can do on our own, said 71-year-old Guerrero. “We have the ideas, but we don’t have the strength” or know how to carry some of the ideas through, Guerrero said. “We need help from [younger] volunteers and we need donations from people and from our (elected) representatives,” he added.

Participants at the first Angels Support Group meeting said they are excited about the new venture and hope more people will start attending.

“Not everybody feels comfortable with the group and they don’t [yet] feel the need to be part of it,” explained Guerrero. “But it is always good to laugh and talk to other people because we tend to feel alone sometimes,” he noted.

“I could be fishing now, I could be doing something else, but I’d rather be here and help the group,” said Guerrero with a smile. “I like this center.”


Twitter @jackiereporter

Man Shot in East L.A.

June 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A man was shot to death during a discussion with two men in East Los Angeles, authorities said Tuesday.

The shooting was reported about 10 p.m. Monday at 664 South Ford Blvd., said Deputy Lisa Jansen of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. Deputies who responded to the shooting call found the victim suffering from a gunshot wound to the upper torso, she said.

Homicide detectives learned “two male suspects came to the residence and knocked on the front door,’’ Jansen said. “The victim came to the door and began talking to both suspects through the closed metal security screen door.

During the conversation, one of the unknown suspects fired multiple shots towards the victim, striking him in the upper torso.’’

The suspects fled on foot, headed north, she said, and the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Anyone with information about the shooting was asked to call sheriff’s homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or

Passions Swell Over Griffith Middle School Name Change

June 2, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

The Griffith Middle School community will begin two days of voting today on a proposal to change the school’s name, an initiative that has sparked passions on both side of the issue.

Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Monica Garcia represents the area and says the school district has “heard loud and clear how much people care” and “how much history can be tied up in a name.”

The vote comes nearly a year after a group of activists launched a petition to change the David Wark Griffith Middle School name, citing its association with a man who they say is “infamous for directing the 1915 ‘classic’ silent film Birth of A Nation that glorified the Ku Klux Klan and espoused white supremacy.”

The school has held “community conversations” on the proposal, Garcia said Wednesday. “They’ve gone through the process and now they are at the point of a vote,” explaining that students and faculty will vote Thursday and the community on Friday, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Responding to an article published in this newspaper last week about the impending vote, a teacher at the school, who asked to remain anonymous, angrily told EGP that efforts to change the name were “politically motivated” and “disrespected” students who want the name to remain Griffith, without the D.W.

“These are people who don’t care about our school,” he said, claiming they are just pushing their own agenda, Rosalio Munoz, one of the proponents of the name change, supports replacing it with Félix and Rebecca Gutiérrez Middle School in honor of “two former East Los Angeles educators who were part of an early Mexican American generation inspiring girls and boys to make progress through education.”
He said it’s important that the community have schools that honor the history of contributions made by Latinos in education, calling Felix and Rebecca Gutierrez early advocates for giving a voice to Latinos in their education and pioneers in their field.

Garcia said that other names had been thrown out, but did not draw much traction.

Earlier this week, the mother of an eighth grader who will graduate soon, told EGP that her daughter and other students strongly support keeping the Griffith name. “They are proud of all we have accomplished here,” she said in Spanish. She told EGP that she has worked as a school volunteer for three years and feels it’s important to support students like her daughter who are proud of their school and standing up for their rights.

She understands that some people think we need to have schools named after Latinos, but she doesn’t necessarily agree, adding, “no one knows who Felix and Rebecca Gutierrez are, or why they should have a school in their name.”

The woman’s 14-year-old daughter told EGP that she’s in “leadership” in the STEAM Magnet and is completely against changing the name. “What will it mean to our diplomas if the name changes,” she said. “This is where I met my friends, the place that made me who I am and even if they change the name I will always call it Griffith,” she said.

People are connected through this school even after they leave. “In leadership we go out and promote the school, volunteering to teach younger kids how to build robots or do math, under the Griffith name. We have pride in our school and if they change the name all our work will be gone: who is going to know what Griffith is, she said.”

While the mother of three and school volunteer initially agreed to be quoted using her name, she later withdrew permission for her and her daughter, stating she had been advised by the “director” not to because the “school is not about politics,” and that they should not “drop to the level” of those backing the change. Asked if that’s not a contradiction to what she had said earlier about the importance of teaching your children to stand up for what you believe, she agreed in part, but still asked to remain anonymous.

Board Member Garcia said Griffith is not the only school or community that has recognized the “importance of self-determination and rebranding to include the contributions of Latinos to the fabric of our schools, in service, leadership and empowerment.”

Stakeholders — students, faculty, staff and people living in the school’s attendance area — have three options to choose from: no name change, changing the name to Griffith STEAM Magnet, or changing to Felix and Rebecca Gutierrez Middle School.

If a new name is chosen, it will be sent to the school board for final approval.

Update: 11:15am June 3, 2016 Correction from David Wark Griffin to David Wark Griffith on school’s name.

Suspect in Custody Following Hammer Attack in East L.A.

June 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A woman was gravely injured in a hammer attack this morning at an East Los Angeles residence and the suspect was in custody, the sheriff’s department reported

The attack in the 3700 block of Whiteside Street was reported about 2:30 a.m., according to the watch commander at the sheriff’s East L.A. station.

The woman was rushed to a hospital in grave condition, he said. Her attacker was in custody.

The attacker was also transported to a hospital for treatment before booking after some sort of altercation with deputies, according to news reports from the scene.

The watch commander said an investigation was underway and detectives were looking into the case as possible domestic violence. The relationship between the man and woman involved in the hammer attack was not immediately disclosed.

It is unclear whether the incident is related to hammer attacks that occurred in the area back in March when a hammer-wielding man attacked an elderly man without warning. A woman, who was standing in front of her home was also struck with a hammer hours later after the March 25 incident.

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