LBPD gather to honor fallen officers during annual ceremony

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Laguna Beach Motorcycle Officer Jon Coutchie died in a traffic accident in 2013 while tracking a reported erratic driver.

Officer Gordon French was shot in 1953 by Carl Miller, who was being booked on suspicion of check kiting, and he died on the trip to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. 

Both officers were honored at the Remembrance and Flag Folding Ceremony, held annually on Sept. 21, the anniversary of Coutchie’s death, in front of the police memorial, “Eternal Legacy.” 

“A memorial wasn’t erected in Gordon French’s honor (at the time of his death), but because of his sacrifice, something more important took place,” said former Police Chief Paul Workman. 

Recognizing that French’s life might have been saved if medical care had been closer, the community rallied to raise the funds to build South Coast Community Hospital, which opened its doors in 1959, the first hospital in South Orange County, now an affiliate of Mission Hospital.

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Photo by Sande St. John

LBPD gather outside the police station to honor fallen officers

French was 49 when he died, widowing his wife and leaving his two children fatherless. 

“It is the sacrifice of officers in past years, like Gordon, who so often have saved the lives of officers today,” said Workman.

 Training has vastly improved, Workman said 

In 1965, academy classes lasted two weeks. When Workman joined the force in 1975, graduation took 11 weeks. Now, it takes six months.

“Today, we do everything possible to teach young officers how to avoid placing themselves in harm’s way,” said Workman.

Sometimes training doesn’t help. 

Jon Coutchie’s life was cut far too short, but it was a life well-lived, said Police Capt. Jeff Calvert, Master of Ceremonies and chronicler of Coutchie’s life.  He never flinched from the duty, but it wasn’t as easy as he made it look.

Officer Jon Coutchie

Calvert spoke touchingly of Coutchie. Who better? The two had been friends since high school and it was Calvert who urged Coutchie to join the department after he was discharged from the U. S. Army.

“I knew Jon would love being a police officer because he lived by the same core values that police officers are sworn to uphold,” said Calvert. 

Coutchie, with four tours of duty as a Ranger in the mid-east under his belt, aced the Police Academy course in 2009 and established himself in Laguna’s department, as an officer and a comrade.

“Jon didn’t have children, so he would always volunteer to work shifts on Thanksgiving and Christmas for officers who did have children.” Calvert said.

However, he also served as instructor in firearms and defensive tactics and was selected to become a motorcycle officer. 

“I like to think of Jon at rest in heaven and vigilantly watching over his Laguna Beach team, his Ranger team, his family and his friends.” said Calvert.

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Photo by Sande St. John

Matt Rolfe, firefighter second time performing, first was for 911 event; John Falk, retired LBPD the very first time performing on drums; and Davy Lopez, bagpiper/firefighter engineer. Facing away from the camera, Derek St. John former director, Laguna Club for Kids

Calvert praised the Laguna Beach residents who stepped up to support the “grieving and deeply wounded department” after Coutchie’s death. 

“The construction of our police memorial, ‘Eternal Legacy,’ wouldn’t have been possible without the unwavering commitment of our community, the Police Employees Assn., the City Council, City Manager John Pietig, Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, and artists Gerard Stripling and Michele Taylor,” Calvert said.

Calvert concluded by introducing department Honor Guard Sgt. Dave MacGill, who presented a ceremonially lowered and folded flag to Captain Jason Kravetz, in recognition of his nearly 30 years of dedicated service to Laguna Beach. 

Kravetz was speechless.

“Everybody knows I am a crybaby,” Kravetz choked out, before his throat completely tightened. It was okay. 

The annual ceremony brought tears to the eyes of more than a few folks in the audience, as they, Mayor Toni Iseman, Police Chief Laura Farinella and solemn police officers, firefighters and lifeguards placed white roses at the foot of the memorial to fallen officers.

Hard to forget.


Police Files

LBPD will be out “in full force” Sunday, in anticipation of possible rallies

Sgt. Jim Cota told Stu News Laguna on Thursday evening that LBPD will be out “in full force” Sunday, Sep 24 at Main Beach, in anticipation of possible rallies including a previously scheduled (but possibly canceled) America First rally. There will be multiple agencies on hand again, including officers on horseback.

America First’s Johnny Benetiz told LBPD that he would “not be rallying on Sunday”, said Cota, after reports he had received death threats to his family.

However, it is unknown if others from the group will show up, as original plans were to gather Sunday starting at 3 p.m.

Regardless of whether or not America First supporters show up, a peace rally is scheduled for Sunday at Main Beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The rally will be aimed at “promoting peace and unity for our community”. Organizers encourage rally goers to wear pink to support The Race for the Cure.

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Photo by Scott Brashier

LBPD will patrol Main Beach Sunday in anticipation of possible rallies

 

Three more residential burglaries reported this week

Laguna Beach residents reported three more residential burglaries this week. 

On Sunday, an unknown suspect broke into a residence in the 200 block of San Joaquin Street. Artwork and kitchen items were moved or taken, and a $2,000 chair was also stolen from the residence. A complete inventory is still being compiled.

Two burglaries on High Drive were reported on Wednesday, both of which occurred sometime after August 30. 

“In the first, the suspect broke a bedroom window,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “The suspect went through specific drawers looking for small items but did not ransack the entire home.”

The second High Drive burglary had similar circumstances: the suspect broke a rear glass door and went through drawers, but did not ransack the residence. The exact loss for both is still unknown.

“So far, we do not have a connection in the burglaries, but we are not ruling it out,” said Cota.

Cell phone conversation interrupted by robber

On Sunday at 12:52 p.m., officers went to the bus depot on Broadway Street to respond to a call.

While there, the officers were approached by a man who reported that another man had stolen his cell phone.

“The victim stated that he was talking to his mother on the phone when the suspect hit him with a closed fist twice in the mouth and side of his face,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. “The suspect took the phone and ran away.”

Officers were able to locate the suspect, identified as Bryce Summers, 18, no fixed address.

Summers was detained and the phone was returned back to the victim.

Once video footage of the crime was reviewed and the victim’s story verified, Summers was arrested for robbery and was transported to Orange County Jail. Bail was $100,000.


Police Files

Three home burglaries in five days: Laguna police warn residents to be extra vigilant 

In Friday’s edition, we reported on a home burglary that had been interrupted by the North Laguna homeowner last Wednesday the 13th.

On that same evening, just before 8 p.m., a home invasion in the 400 block of Windsor Place was interrupted by a cat sitter entering the residence.

According to a post by the homeowner on NextDoor, the burglar broke a window to enter and left with jewelry.

“With the close distance from the other burglary that night, they could be associated, but we have nothing concrete yet tying them together,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

On Sunday at 12:41 a.m., a citizen in the 300 block of Loma Terrace saw an unknown man leaving a residence. The screen and window were removed from the home.

Police officers have not determined if there is a connection between this event and the other recent burglaries in Laguna.

“We will be beefing up patrol officers looking for the people responsible,” said Cota.

Laguna Beach residents must remain vigilant and report suspicious looking individuals and vehicles – and if you see something, say something, he advises.

Additionally, residents can take advantage of vacation checks offered by the police department. To apply for basic house check services, visit the Laguna Beach police station at 505 Forest Avenue. And, alert neighbors you trust about any upcoming trips and ask that they keep an eye on your property during that time. When you leave town, don’t leave signs of an empty house.

“Our police department cannot be fully effective without the community’s help and support,” said Cota. “We need you as much as you need us. Together we can make a big difference.”

LBPD welcomes two new officers

The Laguna Beach Police department swore in two new officers on Monday.

Officer Priscilla Angeloni was sponsored through the Golden West Police Academy after serving as a jailer.

Officer Jeremiah Kennedy spent the last three years working for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

 

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Photos courtesy of LBPD

Meet LBPD’s newest officers, Priscilla Angeloni and Jeremiah Kennedy


Police Files

North Laguna resident interrupts a burglary

On Wednesday at 9:02 p.m., officers received a call from a resident in the 500 block of Poplar Street.

“The woman heard some noise in a guest bedroom and when she went to investigate, a man wearing a black hoodie and gloves told her to ‘get out of here’,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

According to a post on NextDoor, the victim went back into her bedroom where she immediately called 911.

Officers arrived on the scene two minutes later, but the man was no longer in the house. They were unable to find him in the area as well. 

Officers believe the suspect entered the home through a screen in the guest bedroom that had been pushed into the room.

No loss was reported at this time.


Police Files

Boyfriend and girlfriend arrested in last week’s home burglary

On Tuesday, we reported that a Laguna Beach resident returned home on Friday to a burglary in progress – his garage door had been broken in and there was an unknown Hyundai parked in his driveway. 

The RP called police and waited for officers to arrive. While waiting, he saw a man and a woman walk out of his house with a clothes hamper. The pair entered the Hyundai parked in the driveway and left – with $5,000 in stolen purses and $12,000 in stolen jewelry.

On Wednesday, Laguna Beach detectives went to the City of Orange to visit Zachary Morales, 26, and his girlfriend, Tiffanie Moreland, 23, suspects in the case. When detectives spoke with the pair, they denied their involvement in the Laguna Beach burglary despite the following:

1. A white Hyundai Sonata was seen fleeing from the Laguna Beach burglary. Tiffanie drives a white Hyundai Sonata.

2. The female suspect in the Laguna Beach burglary case was described as thin, with pink hair. Tiffanie is also thin, and had pink hair up until this past weekend, when she changed it to magenta.

3. Stolen property from residential burglaries in Villa Park and Laguna Hills was found in a storage unit leased to Zachary and Tiffanie.

4. Zachary is on parole and served time in prison for residential burglaries.

LBPD Booking photos

Zachary Morales and Tiffanie Moreland

Morales and Moreland were arrested for burglary.


Police Files

Man who sucker-punched Trump supporter will see jail time

On Tuesday, August 22, Richard Losey, 20, from Ohio, was arrested for sucker-punching an African-American Trump supporter after the rally that took place on Sunday the 20th at Main Beach. He was charged with misdemeanor battery.

On Friday, September 1, Losey pleaded guilty and was sentenced to thirty days in county jail followed by three years of informal probation.

Resident discovers burglary in progress at his home

On Friday, September 1, a resident in the 30600 block of Driftwood Drive arrived home only to realize that an unfamiliar car was parked in their driveway. The resident also noticed that the garage door appeared to be broken in.

The RP called the police and waited for officers to arrive. While waiting, he saw a man and a woman walk out of his house with a clothes hamper. The pair entered the white Hyundai parked in the driveway and left, hitting the victim’s vehicle on their way out.

When officers arrived, they confirmed that the home had indeed been broken into, and the duo had made off with $5,000 in purses and $12,000 in jewelry.

The suspects were described as a woman in her 20s or 30s with pink or red hair, and a man wearing a blue bandana across his face.


Police Files

Something’s up in the neighborhood…

On Thursday morning, the Laguna Beach PD was called to help out Homeland Security and the IRS with a federal search warrant. 

“The warrant was executed at approximately 8 a.m. at a residence in the 2000 block of Crestview Drive,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “Two vehicles and documents were seized by the federal agents.”

Because it is an ongoing federal investigation, no further details are available at this time. 

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Courtesy LBPD Facebook


Police Files

Property manager arrested for jewelry heist of South Laguna home

On Tuesday, August 15, Laguna Beach Police Officers responded to investigate a report of a residential burglary in South Laguna. The residence is a vacation home, and the owners were out of town at the time. The property manager, 36-year-old Raul Aguilera, had notified police about the burglary and the homeowners listed multiple pieces of jewelry missing from their residence. The total reported loss of jewelry was more than three quarters of a million dollars – $765,912.00.

On August 21, detectives from the Laguna Beach Police Department began their investigation and through additional follow-up, identified Aguilera as the suspect in the case. The investigation led detectives to a pawn shop in Orange County, where they were able to locate some of the missing jewelry and seize it as evidence.

On August 23, detectives served a search warrant on Aguilera’s residence. During the search of Aguilera’s home, detectives located additional stolen property and jewelry belonging to the victims in this case.

Aguilera was taken into custody without incident and booked into Orange County Jail, where he is being held on $765,912 bail – the exact amount the jewelry had been valued at. He has since pleaded not guilty to the felony grand theft charge.

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.  For further information, please contact Sergeant Jim Cota at (949) 464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

DUI Checkpoint nets five arrests

LBPD conducted a DUI/Drivers License checkpoint on August 26, in the area of Coast Highway and Aliso Beach between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety for officers and the public. 

Here are the stats from Friday: 1,834 vehicles went through the Checkpoint; 864 drivers were greeted. Five DUI-Alcohol suspects were arrested. Four drivers were cited/arrested for operating a vehicle unlicensed or while suspended/revoked and four citations were issued. 

Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, other expenses that can exceed $10,000 not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out. 

The Laguna Beach Police Department will be conducting numerous DUI education/enforcement details throughout 2017 in an ongoing commitment to lowering deaths and injuries upon our streets and highways. 

The checkpoint was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Drivers – Call 9-1-1.”


Police Files

Peace, love – and then a punch at Sunday’s rally

Placards pleading for love and peace dominated at the 2,500 strong rally last Sunday afternoon – mixed in with aggressive slogans carried by extremists on the left and right – and finally, after hours of relative calm, came “The Punch.” 

And now video of The Punch is all over social media, from You Tube to activist websites.

“The victim, an African American Republican and supporter of President Trump, was speaking peacefully with a group of people when he was sucker-punched,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota said. “The attacker fled from the scene and incident went unreported at the time. The next day the victim, R.C. Maxwell of Los Angeles, reported the attack.”

This video captures the punch

According to media reports, Maxwell said he was trying to make the point that being against illegal immigration didn’t make someone a Nazi sympathizer. Associates of his were filming with their cell phones when the incident took place.

“There was no indication that the violence was a set-up in any way,” Sgt Cota said. “There’s no way to take a punch like that and not be hurt.”

Sgt Cota said that the suspect, identified as Richard Losey, 20, was “a familiar face” around town and within 24 hours “in typical LBPD no-nonsense style,” Losey was in custody.

Losey’s motivations for throwing the punch remain unknown.

“The suspect is not a transient, but he does not appear to have a permanent home here in Laguna,” Cota added. “He’s from Lancaster, Ohio, and was caught while trying to get a bus pass back there.”

Losey was booked into Orange County Jail with a $50,000 bail for misdemeanor battery with a hate crime enhancement.

His arrest brings the number of arrests related to Sunday’s rally to four, including the arrest of Harlan Pankau Jr., 38, for felony for carrying a concealed dirk or dagger. Bail in his case was set at $20,000.

Attempts to reach Mr. Maxwell for comment were unsuccessful.

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701. 

 

This week, someone got a visit from the LBPD…

More to come, Sgt Cota promises – we’ll be following up…

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Photo from LBPD Facebook page

Det Cornelius Ashton pays a visit

 

Remember, DUI doesn’t just mean booze: checkpoint planned for this weekend

The Laguna Beach Police Department will be conducting a DUI/driver’s license checkpoint on Saturday, August 26 at an undisclosed location within the city limits between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

California has seen a disturbing increase in drug-impaired driving crashes, according to the press release. Laguna Beach PD and the Office of Traffic Safety aim to educate all drivers that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.” Prescription drugs and marijuana can also be impairing, especially in combination with alcohol or other drugs, and can result in a DUI.

Research shows that crashes involving an impaired driver can be reduced by up to 20 percent when well-publicized, proactive DUI operations are conducted routinely. In California, alcohol involved collisions led to 1,155 deaths and nearly 24,000 serious injuries in 2014 because someone failed to designate a sober driver.

Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment and checking drivers for proper licensing. Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, license suspensions and other expenses that can exceed $10,000…not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out. 

Funding for this DUI operation is provided to the LBPD by a grand from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 911.’

For further information, contact Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Peace, love and protective police kept Saturday rally safe, joyful and positive

Approximately 350 people gathered at Main Beach on Saturday morning to celebrate love, diversity and equality, and to protest racism and neo-Nazi philosophies following the tragic events in Charlottesville. 

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Photo by Lynette

Almost all demonstrators carried placards with positive messages

The decision to rally before the following day’s planned America First march would, Mayor Toni Iseman and Democratic groups hoped, offer residents an opportunity to express their emotions while denying oxygen to the anti-immigration group meeting on Sunday evening. 

“Here in Laguna, we don’t just tolerate diversity,” Iseman said, “We embrace diversity.”  

The “Unity Rally” was peaceful (in a loud way, given the chants) from beginning to end. Police officers were visible, deterring the likelihood of aggression on anyone’s part, though this particular crowd seemed composed almost entirely of like-minded people. 

Several speakers, including Mayor Iseman, paid tribute to the LBPD for their vigilance and support, as well as their work in communicating with the community about the rally.

A lone Trump supporter, Cherie Allen, aimed a double thumbs-down sign a few times in the direction of the placard-carrying crowd. But Allen said she shares the desire for peace, yet feels that as a Christian she is targeted sometimes by liberals. 

She supports President Trump, “Though I don’t agree with everything he says,” Allen said. “But he hasn’t been given a chance. He needs to be given the respect of the office.” 

The 50-year-Laguna resident sat quietly during the speeches, occasionally mouthing agreement or disagreement, but listening respectfully.

“I can’t support people who [support abortion],” noted Allen, who says she has sometimes been known as the “Peace Lady of Laguna.”

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Photo by Lynette

L-R: Rick Fletcher and his wife, Lori Werstein and Dan Mariner

Most at the rally felt particular protective of Laguna.

Resident Dan Mariner said, “What makes Laguna great is that it is such a melting pot, a microcosm of America. Different cultures are welcome here.”

Rick Fletcher nodded. “Laguna is all about love.”

Rick’s wife (my apologies, I can’t find her name in my notes!) told Stu News Laguna, “My parents brought me here when I was just five years old, decades ago. I know they’d approve of this. Laguna is no place for hate.”

Daughter-in-law Lori Werstein commented: “It felt hopeful and peaceful, very positive, this morning. That’s what we need.”

Thank goodness, there were no sounds of gunshots or screams of injured victims: only the honk of horns, chanting, and the barking of dogs; no smell of smoke, only the briny breeze; no shoving, only hugs and pats on the back.

Laguna’s reputation as a peaceful town remained intact. And then came Sunday…and (see Barbara Diamond’s report), peace pretty much continued to reign.

--Lynette Brasfield

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

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