Fire Damages Boyle Heights Church

September 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(CNS) – A fire Tuesday damaged a two-story building housing a church, but no one was hurt.

About 50 firefighters were called to 2312 E. Whittier Blvd. in the Boyle Heights area at 2:40 p.m. and had the blaze knocked down in 36 minutes, said Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

He said the cost of damages is still being figured out as investigators worked to find out the cause of the fire.

The building was used as a theater before being converted into a storefront church, officials said.

Victims Recovering From Commerce Drive-By Shooting

September 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGPNews) – A man and a woman attacked while walking along a street in the City of Commerce late Saturday evening are in stable condition, say authorities.

Sheriff’s deputies have yet to track down the “three to five” assailants, described as males, possibly Hispanic, who drive by in the dark Honda Accord and allegedly shot at the two victims, said Sgt. Mike Duran of the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station.

The shooting occurred at around 11pm. A man drove by in a car and asked the two victims where they were from. He then produced a gun, shot at them and fled the scene.

D.A. Closes Case On Monterey Park Officer Involved Shooting

September 18, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Moments before he was shot seven times by Monterey Park police officers, Steve Rodriguez turned in a blank math exam to a baffled East Los Angeles College math professor. He had aced two previous tests and was considered a good student. Rodriguez told his teacher,”I didn’t take the test,” and without providing any more explanation, he left the classroom.

Fifteen minutes later, at around 9:15 am, Rodriguez was seen with an “angry expression on his face,” smashing in the windows of a nearby Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant using what was reported to be a ax, but turned out to be a heavy, metal pipe. When Monterey Park police officers responded, they saw people running out of the eatery yelling for help, giving them the initial impression that a “bomb had exploded inside the restaurant.”

These details revealing what authorities believe happened during the last hour of Rodriguez’s life were part of the findings released by the District Attorney’s office in an Aug. 7 letter closing the case. The letter was first made available to EGP last week.

County prosecutors will not be pressing charges against Monterey Park Officer Everado Romo and Agent Peter Palomino for the Jan. 23 shooting death of Rodriguez, an East Los Angeles College student.

The officers “acted lawfully in self-defense and defense of others,” according to the letter explaining why the district attorney’s office will not be pressing charges. Most officer-involved in shooting cases are not prosecuted.

Officers are allowed to use deadly force against someone they feel poses an “imminent danger of great bodily injury or death,” according to the D.A.’s letter.

According to the report, tasers failed to deter Rodriguez from advancing on Monterey Park police. When Palomino saw Rodriguez raise the pipe at his partner’s head, he responded by unloading five rounds at him. Romo fearing that Rodriguez was reaching for another weapon, fired another five rounds. They handcuffed Rodriguez, and he was transported to Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 9:59 p.m. According to the coroner’s investigation, Rodriguez died of seven gunshot wounds to his torso. There were no traces of alcohol or drugs in his system.

The report also mentions “several individuals” at Tommy’s Restaurant, a diner located a block away, who sustained “non-life-threatening” injuries from stray bullets originating from the officers’ guns.

The D.A.’s conclusions were based on investigative reports, evidence reports, and witness statements obtained during investigations by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Monterey Park Police Department.

The officer-involved shooting was caught on video by a bystander who shared it on the website, YouTube.com. The incident attracted the attention of fellow ELAC students and community members who accused Monterey Park police of using excessive force in dealing with Rodriguez, usually citing the number of gunshots. Some showed up at city council meetings to demand an independent investigation beyond the one being conducted by the Sheriff’s Department.

When asked for comment regarding the findings, Monterey Park Police Chief Jim Smith said he is “limited” on what he can say since there is the “threat of civil litigation in the matter.” He added the district attorney’s office “found the officers acted appropriately, and their report speaks for itself.”

The city received four claims in March and April stemming from the shooting. Two are from victims injured by stray bullets, one of whom said she sustained a bullet wound to her neck, and the other said flying broken glass cut the back of her head while she was sitting in a booth. The two other claims were submitted by Rodriguez’s parents, though the attorney listed on the claims, Luis Carrillo, told EGP recently that he is no longer involved in the case. Monterey Park’s Human Resources and Risk Management Director Tom Cody says when they receive claims, “it would be the beginning of a civil litigation, not always, but it’s possible.”

Related stories:
Monterey Park Police Fatally Shoot Man Outside Carl’s Jr. [UPDATED]
Police Chief Says Carl’s Jr. Shooting ‘Tragic For All Involved’
Vigil Held In Memory Of Man Killed By Monterey Park Police

$3.5 Million Secured For Belvedere Park Pool Project

September 18, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

A project to build the first Olympic-sized public pool in unincorporated East Los Angeles got a $3.5 million boost this week though funds made available by County Supervisor Gloria Molina’s office, bringing the total amount set aside for the project to $14 million.

“Now Eastside kids who dream of Olympic gold won’t have to travel to another side of town to finish the long hours of training required to be competitive,” said Molina.

Surplus county funds are divvied out every year to each county supervisorial district, and Molina has chosen to allocate $3.5 million toward major renovations and upgrades at the Belvedere Park Pool.

What the future Belvedere Park pool might look like. Construction is set to begin Spring 2013 and be completed the following summer. (L.A. County Dept. of Public Works)

The park’s existing 5,377 square foot indoor pool will be torn down and replaced with not only a 12,743 square foot outdoor pool, but also a shallow recreation pool for seniors and a ‘splash pad,’ an interactive water play area for children.

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There will also be improvements to landscaping, walkways, fencing, parking and underground facilities. The facility will be getting new changing rooms, restrooms, staff offices, storage and utility rooms, and mechanical room.

Construction is set to begin Spring 2013 and should be completed by the following summer.

The rest of the funds for the now $14 million project come from Prop. 62, utility user tax, the vehicle license, general fund and additional carry-over funds from the previous year.

Schools Now Serving Up Revamped Meals, Rules

September 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The first national overhaul of school and breakfast lunch menus in fifteen years took effect with the start of this 2012-2013 school year. Expect more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, says Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) Nutrition Services Director Victoria Cheung.

As for what qualifies under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 guidelines, Cheung says yes, is does include the tomato paste used in pizzas, but at least at MUSD, they are not planning on counting pizza as a vegetable.

First Lady Michelle Obama has lunch with students at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., Jan. 25, 2012. The First Lady and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the school to sample a healthy meal that meets the United States Department of Agriculture's new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In the first year, districts must serve at least half its starches as whole grains, which will be used in everything from pizza bread to tortillas, she says. By the second year, all starches they serve must be made from whole grains.

Lunch rooms must also begin offering both fruits and vegetables, whereas before they only had to serve one or the other. Cheung says for a district to be reimbursed by the federal government, they have to entice students to take and eat at least half a cup of vegetables or fruit.

Other requirements include only serving plain low fat 1 percent milk and non-fat milk that can be either plain or flavored. Previously, school meals did not have calorie caps, but beginning this year meals have a minimum and maximum calorie limit depending on grade level. For example, students in the kindergarten through fifth grades will get lunches between 550 and 650 calories, those in sixth through eighth grades will get 600 to 700 calorie lunches, and high school students will be served lunches with calorie contents between 750 to 850. School lunch providers are also required to cutback on sodium by the 2014-15 school year.

The lunches at MUSD are available at free or reduced prices for students’ whose family household incomes qualify; or at full prices that range between 75 cents to a dollar for breakfasts, and between $1.75 to $2.25 for lunches, depending on grade level.

Families can apply for free or reduced lunches by filling out an application with the school district to determine their eligibility. The person filling out the application is not required to have a Social Security number, and can indicate they do not have one.

For more information about MUSD school meal application, call (323) 887-7978.. MUSD lunch and breakfast menus can be found on the district’s nutritional services website: http://www.montebello.k12.ca.us/ns_menus

To learn more about the new national school meals guidelines, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/Legislation/nutritionstandards.htm

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