Suspect in Eastside Church Assault Arrested

May 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

BOYLE HEIGHTS (CNS) – A 50-year-old man is being held in a Los Angeles jail on suspicion of sexually assaulting a woman in a Boyle Heights church, and police are seeking additional victims.

The attack occurred around 10:40 a.m. on May 6 in the sacristy of Resurrection Church on Opal Street, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

The victim defended herself and her resistance caused the man to flee the church grounds in his vehicle, police said. The suspect’s vehicle was later located and impounded by police.

The suspect was identified by police as James Melendez of Los Angeles. He was arrested May 9 on suspicion of assault with the intent to commit sexual assault. He’s being held in lieu of $125,000, according to online inmate records.

Anyone with information about additional victims was asked to call the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Area Detectives-Sex Crimes Detail at (323) 342-8995.

DTSC Director Apologizes to Eastside Residents

April 10, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

[Updated: April 16, 12p.m.]

“I’m sorry.” Two words Eastside residents never thought they would hear from the state agency charged with regulating a controversial Vernon-based acid-lead battery recycler found to have repeatedly violated toxic chemical air emissions standards.

For the first time since taking the helm of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Director Barbara Lee personally addressed a public meeting discussing the now-closed Exide Technologies plant. DTSC has been heavily criticized for “failing” to protect the public from arsenic and lead emissions, chemicals known to cause cancer and neurological damage.

“I know many feel the department has failed you, I want to start of by saying I’m very sorry,” Lee told hundreds of residents and environmental activists during a meeting April 9 at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights to discuss Exide’s closure plan.

The tone at last week’s meeting was quieter and less combative then past meetings, but skepticism and mistrust still hung heavy in the air.

“We want to know what happened …we want to know who is responsible,” demanded Mark Lopez, director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justices.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee apologizes to eastside residents Thursday at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC Director Barbara Lee apologizes to eastside residents Thursday at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Lopez asked Lee if she would consider opening a criminal investigation into DTSC’s handling of the Vernon plant, which it allowed to operate on an interim permit for decades despite being found to have exposed eastside residents to cancer-causing toxins.

Lee did not at first directly respond to the request, instead denying any criminal activity on the part of the department, but Lopez pressed on.

“We want accountability. What happened before was not your fault, but moving forward is all your responsibility,” said Lopez, drawing loud applause from the approximately 200 people at the meeting.

“Would you be willing to let me think about it?” Lee asked.

Dozens of members of the Los Angeles Latino Business Chamber of Commerce attended the Distinguished Speakers Series event April 10. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Dozens of members of the Los Angeles Latino Business Chamber of Commerce attended the Distinguished Speakers Series event April 10. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Lopez agreed, explaining he didn’t expect the DTSC director to make a decision right then and there. “I just want to make sure you respond on the record in front of all of us,” he said.

Lee was appointed to head DTSC about four months ago and was not part of the protracted battle to shutter the troubled plant, but said she understands why residents mistrust the agency.

“It’s important we do not let this happen again,” she said, promising to do things differently moving forward.

For more than a decade, area residents complained to DTSC and the South Coast Air Quality Management District about Exide, but it took an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office to permanently close down the facility.

Federal authorities announced last month that they had struck a deal to close the plant in exchange for Exide and its executives avoiding criminal prosecution for their illegal handling of hazardous waste. The deal requires Exide to pay the entire cost to clean its plant and homes in the surrounding community found to have been contaminated. DTSC will oversee the closure and clean up.

“We won folks,” Monsignor John Moretta happily told the crowd.

However, not everyone is as convinced or ready to forgive.

“I don’t want to hear I’m sorry because nobody is more sorry than me,” said a tearful Terry Cano before she shared that her father had died from cancer she believes was caused by Exide’s emissions.

“You’re telling me this is the best you can do,” she said, angry that there will be no criminal prosecutions.

Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano shared her concerns with the way DTSC handled the Exide plant in Vernon last week at Resurrection Church. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Boyle Heights resident Terry Cano shared her concerns with the way DTSC handled the Exide plant in Vernon last week at Resurrection Church. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The meeting drew residents from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Maywood, Commerce and Huntington Park, the area most heavily impacted by Exide generated pollution. Several people said the deal did not do enough to compensate the people harmed by the Vernon plant.

Teresa Marquez told Lee she believes the director wants to move the agency forward, but questioned whether any DTSC employee had been fired over the agency’s handling of the facility.

Lee said DTSC is being overhauled and new deputy directors have been brought in to replace staff no longer at the agency.

That prompted Lopez to again push for a criminal investigation.

“We want to know where they are now and if they are working for another similar agency making those same [bad] decisions,” he said. There is no victory until a closer look is taken at the systemic problems that allowed a company like Exide to keep polluting the community for so long, without that, real change is not possible, Lopez said.

A Huntington Park resident asked Lee to consider expanding the area being tested for lead and arsenic to include more nearby communities. Currently, testing is focused on East L.A., Boyle Heights and Maywood, which Lee explained was determined by AQMD modeling that identified the areas most likely to be contaminated.

“Predictions also come in the form of weather forecasts and they’re not always right,” the resident responded.

DTSC Director Barbara Lee, pictured right, apologizes to eastside residents at Resurrection Church April 9 (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

DTSC Director Barbara Lee, pictured right, apologizes to eastside residents at Resurrection Church April 9 (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Moving forward, Exide has to submit a closure/post closure plan to DTSC by May 15. The agency will review the plans for compliance then present the plan to the public for comment sometime in the fall. Removal of the buildings and structures at the site is expected to start in spring 2016 and take 19-24 months to complete.

“For too many years we did not listen well to you,” Lee told the audience, acknowledging that many residents are not yet ready to trust the agencies responsible for regulating Exide.

“I don’t expect by standing here I will change that, I have to earn your trust,” she said. “I can’t promise you I will always get it right, but I will always give it my best. I hope you will be ready to take one step forward with us,” she said.

“It’s refreshing to hear a different tone,” remarked Maywood Councilman Oscar Magaña.

But for Boyle Heights resident Joe Gonzalez, the fight is far from over.

“We haven’t won,” he said, “we just threw the first punch that will change the momentum.”



Los Últimos Problemas de Exide son Buenas Noticias para Residentes Cercanos

August 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Un pequeño convivio se llevó a cabo el lunes en la Iglesia de la Resurrección en Boyle Heights, lugar que usualmente da la bienvenida a residentes para expresar sus preocupaciones sobre asuntos de la comunidad y discutir su ira en contra de Exide Technologies localizada en Vernon.

Pero esta semana el estado de ánimo era diferente. Era de celebración, victorioso. Hubo pizza y pastel.

Los miembros del grupo de Vigilancia Vecinal Resurrección estaban celebrando la noticia de los más recientes problemas legales que enfrenta la planta controversial de reciclaje y fundido de baterías de plomo-ácido, que creen ha puesto la salud de sus familias, amigos y vecinos en riesgo.

  “Esta es una vista previa de la verdadera fiesta”, dijo Monseñor John Moretta, en referencia a la gran celebración que probablemente tendría lugar si Exide se ve obligado a cerrar de forma permanente.

Residentes de Boyle Heights celebraron las últimas noticias sobre Exide. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Residentes de Boyle Heights celebraron las últimas noticias sobre Exide. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Múltiples agencias han estado atacando a la fabricante de baterías y de reciclaje sobre sus repetidas violaciónes de emisión del aire y la presentación de la semana pasada  de la Comisión de Seguridad y Cambios de EE.UU. a Exide reveló que un jurado federal está investigando la planta ante posibles cargos criminales.

El citatorio del juez federal exige “documentos relacionados con transportación de materiales y emisiones a la atmósfera”. Los fiscales federales de Los Ángeles están detrás de la investigación que se dirige a Exide y a algunas “personas no identificadas”, según los documentos presentados.

Funcionarios de la compañía dijeron que cooperarían con la investigación, pero “no pueden estimar la cantidad del rango de pérdida, si existieran” que serían causadas por la investigación federal, de acuerdo con los documentos presentados.

Exide se declaró en bancarrota en junio del 2013 para darle espacio a la compañía para reestructurar su deuda. Los rumores de una posible quiebra en abril provocaron un gran venta masiva de acciones, pero las acciones de la compañía ya habían estado en constante disminución desde su alta en el 2011 debido al aumento de los costos de producción, los problemas de liquidez y la pérdida de cuota de mercado para sus baterías de plomo Exide y North Star a Johnson Controls Inc. Varias demandas colectivas relacionadas con seguridad han sido presentadas contra Exide por los inversores alegando que la compañía no dio a conocer la información relacionada con sus problemas de emisión de arsénico y plomo y una quiebra inminente.

Read this article in English: Exide’s Latest Troubles is Good News to Locals

Noticias de la investigación es exactamente lo que Moretta y grupos locales de justicia ambiental han estado esperando oír desde que se reveló el año pasado que hasta 110.000 residentes y trabajadores del área este y sureste fueron expuestos a productos químicos que causan cáncer.

“Una vez que tiene a los federales encima, es lo más alto que puede llegar”,  dijo Moretta. “Para mí eso significa que ellos están en una gran persecución”.

La última investigación del gran jurado viene de la mano de la carta al gobernador Brown por parte de la Junta de Supervisores del Condado de Los Ángeles instándole a ordenar la limpieza del suelo contaminado alrededor de las casas cercanas a la planta.

Un equipo de ataque de amenaza tóxica establecido por el condado ha identificado 39 viviendas en Boyle Heights y Maywood, donde se encontraron niveles elevados de plomo en los patios. El Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas (DTSC) ordenó a Exide la limpieza de sólo dos propiedades donde muestras del suelo revelaron altos niveles de plomo de lo usual.

En respuesta, la Supervisora Gloria Molina acusó a DTSC de ser un “obstáculo” para la justicia ambiental en las comunidades locales, citando el “fracaso” de la agencia para pedir una limpieza de los 39 sitios.

Sin embargo, los funcionarios de DTSC dijeron a EGP vía email que la agencia ha tenido una comunicación frecuente con el condado y “les dijo claramente que [DTSC] se ha comprometido a examinar el suelo en esos 39 hogares y la limpieza de las propiedades si es necesario”.

El diario Los Angeles Times informó la semana pasada que los reguladores estatales tienen previsto ampliar las pruebas de 144 viviendas en un área de 2 millas cuadradas al norte y al sur de la planta, incluyendo partes de Boyle Heights, Maywood, Huntington Park y el área no incorporada del Este de Los Ángeles.

En la reunión del lunes, el Alcalde de la Ciudad de Bell Nestor Valencia dijo que le gustaría ver que el área de prueba sea expandido para incluir a más comunidades del sureste, incluyendo a Bell, su ciudad natal.

Pero para Valencia y muchos de los residentes de Boyle Heights, las pruebas y limpieza por sí solas nunca serán suficiente.

“Esto no ha terminado hasta que Exide deje esta comunidad”, dijo Valencia.

“A la larga, el cierre es lo mejor para la comunidad”, hizo eco de Moretta.

Para residentes como Miguel Alfaro, las últimas noticias significan el comienzo del fin para la instalación en Vernon.

“Esta es la punta del iceberg, más está por venir”, dijo Moretta, anticipando más problemas legales para Exide.

La planta, que recicla cerca de 25.000 baterías al día en el 2700 S. Indiana St., ha estado cerrada desde mediados de marzo, mientras que la compañía trabaja para reducir las emisiones al aire con el fin de cumplir con los requisitos estatales y locales. La planta se cerró temporalmente el año pasado debido a violaciónes de las emisiones de arsénico y recientemente demandado por el Distrito de Administración de la Calidad del Aire de la Costa Sur sobre presuntas violaciónes de calidad del aire.

Además, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. anunció que la planta violó los límites federales sobre emisiones de plomo en más de 30 ocasiones entre septiembre y abril.

“Ustedes han estado en esto por mucho tiempo”, dijo Moretta a los residentes. “La corriente está subiendo finalmente a nuestro favor”.

Información City News Service fue utilizada en este reporte.


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