Rescue of trapped teen at Aliso Beach was a “slow, delicate procedure” Monday afternoon

Rescue 1

Photos courtesy Laguna Beach Police Dept

Firefighters, paramedics and lifeguards worked for nearly an hour to extricate a teenager after a large rock toppled down and pinned his leg in soft sand

A 15-year-old boy became trapped under a large rock after a sand berm he had been climbing across collapsed pinning his leg on the south end of Aliso Beach yesterday. Police and fire units responded at 12:34 p.m. to assist lifeguards from U.S. Ocean Safety.

“Once our first units arrived on scene and assessed the situation, it became clear that it could become a dangerous situation,” fire department Division Chief Dan Stefano explained. There were concerns about swells that could reach where they were working that could undermine the soft sand even though the high tide wasn’t a concern. “A few swells did come up that hit the workers on the beach.”

Stefano added that concerns about the soft sand and possible swells led him to notify the Orange County Fire Authority. “Aliso is a county beach and we felt it best to call for their Urban Search and Rescue response. They sent a heavy rescue unit and Truck 9, which is a technical rescue unit, to assist. We had three engine companies including our Engine three with cliff rescue gear. Captain Gary Ganger of Engine three was the lead officer along with his crew, Engineer Jeff Priest and Firefighter Tom Burdick. They coordinated the work using air bags and cribbing…[the use of hardwood to brace]. He was extricated in about 50 minutes.”

Firefighters were concerned that the soft sand might loosen allowing other large rocks to fall on the boy. Paramedics stabilized him with IVs and transported him via ambulance to Mission Trauma Center in Mission Viejo.

His injuries weren’t deemed to be serious.

Rescue 2


Forgetful burglar nabbed after a DNA match on water bottle

Several wooden storage bins were ransacked when broken into overnight on Jan 11, 2011 in an underground parking area in the 2000 block of S. Coast Hwy.

Police said at the time that among other things tools valued at $600 had been stolen out of one of the bins.

The culprit forgot to take away a plastic water bottle he had been drinking from as he went about his efforts. Police submitted a DNA sample from the bottle to the California Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Matching samples in the CA CODIS (the third largest database of its kind in the world) takes time and earlier this month, Laguna detectives learned that a positive match had been made by the database on the Jan 11 case.

John Griffeth Beck, 50, from Capistrano Beach, was arrested after an interview Thursday afternoon and charged with felony burglary.


Vacationing Virginia man charged in rape case

Berkan Muzaffer Kansu, a 23-year-old Dulles, Virginia resident, was arrested Friday afternoon by Laguna Beach detectives and charged with rape. Police said he was visiting here on vacation and staying in a local hotel. Detectives made the arrest in the 100 block of N. Coast Hwy.

Lt. Jason Kravetz said in an emailed statement that Kansu had met a 31-year-old Laguna Hills woman in a Laguna restaurant earlier in the week and went to his hotel where it is alleged by the victim that Kansu had sex with her against her will.

The victim went to a doctor on Thursday and police were notified. An investigation began immediately and Kansu went to Starbucks after police used an undisclosed ruse to get him there. He was contacted and arrested without incident.

After booking here, he was taken to county jail with bail set at $100,000.

Kravetz said the victim was physically unharmed.


Smoke alarm kept Friday night fire damages from an unattended candle to a minimum

Division Chief Dan Stefano of the Laguna Beach Fire Department credited a working smoke alarm with limiting actual damages and potential risk to people when an unattended candle started a fire in a bathroom Friday night. It was contained in the first floor bathroom of a 20-unit apartment building in the 2100 block of Catalina Street.

Catalina Fire Photo

Photo courtesy LB Fire Department

Firefighters make sure the fire was out after the flames had been extinguished

A 9-1-1 call was received at 8:33 from a nearby neighbor who heard the smoke alarm activation.

The first of four fire engines and a ladder truck responding to the structure fire response was able to put out the fire in the bathroom. Damages were estimated to be $10,000. Other firefighters and police made sure that neighbors in the complex were evacuated as a precaution. All but the occupant of the affected apartment were able to return to their units Friday night. The American Red Cross responded to the scene to assist the fire victim.

Chief Stefano wrote in an email, “This incident is a perfect example of how a working smoke alarm can save lives and minimize property damage. It also provides a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the importance of candle safety.”

He also provided tips on candle safety – Download a PDF


Pair of spectacular crashes – minor injuries

Two traffic crashes Monday looked much worse than they turned out to be as far as injuries were concerned.

Crash Photo

Staff photo by Faye Chapman

The Toyota SUV on its side above was t-boned at Glenneyre and Brooks Street. Police received a first 9-1-1 call at 9:51 and both fire and police responded. Sgt. Louise Callus said the preliminary information indicated the Toyota, driven by a Laguna Beach man, 19, was heading toward Coast Hwy on Brooks Street when it was struck by a second vehicle driven by a 28-year-old male from Costa Mesa traveling northbound on Glenneyre. The impact flipped the SUV onto its side. Sgt. Callus said it appeared that the pickup driven by the Costa Mesa man had failed to yield for a stop sign. She added, “Luckily, there were no injuries.”

LCR PhotoPhoto courtesy of LBPD

The Mustang (left) hit a pole at Laguna Canyon Rd and El Toro Rd at 2:45 p.m. As police responded to the intersection, witnesses called 9-1-1 reporting that four teenagers were running away from the scene. Police located the four juveniles, two boys and two girls, about a half-mile away on El Toro. The girls both had minor facial lacerations and were taken to hospital. Sgt. Callus said that a search of the car gave rise to officers on the scene that the Mustang may have been stolen but that had not been confirmed as of last night. The scene wasn’t cleared until about 4:30 and traffic was snarled from Coast Hwy to the Toll Road.


Car stop leads to arrest of two for drug sales

A routine traffic stop at 8:41 Friday morning resulted in the arrests of two Inland Empire men for possession of dangerous drugs discovered in the vehicle.

When the erratic driving of Riverside resident William Thomas Whitenack led to the car stop at Upland Road and S. Coast Hwy, police immediately suspected him of driving under the influence. When he subsequently failed field sobriety tests, he was arrested for DUI and held for two Riverside County felony warrants for sales and transportation of drugs with $50,000 bail. Officers suspected that Whitenack was under the influence of drugs and charged him with that as well.

When stopped, he first gave police the name of a real person and was charged with false personation, a felony and providing false information to a police officer. For good measure, he was also held on a charge of driving on a suspended license.

A search of the car turned up nearly an ounce of liquid GHB, the so-called date-rape drug and an ounce and a quarter of methamphetamine.

Whitenack and his passenger, Hesperia resident Alejandro Hernandez, 35, both were charged with felony possession of drugs for sales and felony transportation of drugs for sales.

After booking at the police station here, they were taken to county jail.


Teen driver exiting Emerald Bay starts 4-car chain reaction crash with 3 trauma victims

Three people were taken to the Mission Hospital trauma center in Mission Viejo by ambulance Thursday morning as the result of a four-car chain reaction traffic crash south of the main gate entrance to Emerald Bay.

Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Louise Callus said yesterday that the preliminary traffic investigation findings indicate that a vehicle driven by a teenager exited the main Emerald Bay gate to go southbound on Coast Hwy. Once across the northbound lanes the teen clipped a second car going southbound on Coast Hwy causing it to cross over into the northbound lanes where it collided head-on into a third vehicle heading north.

The third vehicle veered to the right side of the northbound lane striking another vehicle, which was stopped on the shoulder waiting to enter Emerald Bay.

Sgt. Callus said the car that had been heading southbound was occupied by a Garden Grove couple in their fifties. Both of them “…sustained major injuries…” including broken bones, multiple lacerations and internal injuries. The 22-year-old driver of the third car, from Oxnard, received a knee injury and a neck sprain. All three were treated by paramedics at the scene and transported in two ambulances to Mission Trauma Center

Neither the teen nor the driver of the stopped vehicle suffered injuries.

“This case is still under investigation. There were no arrests on scene and neither drugs or alcohol seem to be involved,” Sgt. Callus explained.


Mini Cooper squeezed into a tight spot

Cooper Photo 1

Photos by Kurt Grosz

A Mini Cooper managed to miss two close together trees and somehow run into a commercial building at Glenneyre and Mountain Road (above) on May 30 at 8:51 p.m. As we reported in Police Beat Friday, police followed a trail of leaked motor oil (below leaving the scene) to a home on Skyline Drive where they arrested a 24-year-old Laguna man for DUI and hit and run into property. No one was injured.

We thank Kurt Grosz for these photos.

Cooper Photo 2

Skateboarder, 15, crashes into moving vehicle

A 15-year-old boy skateboarding near his home crashed into a moving vehicle at Shadow Lane and Catalina Tuesday evening. Police received a 9-1-1 call at 6:35.

Sgt. Louise Callus said the boy, whose name was not released, “…was bombing …westbound on Shadow and failed to stop for the stop sign at Catalina as he turned right onto Catalina.” She added that he took a wide right turn and ran into the right front end of the moving vehicle.

The skateboarder flew onto the hood of the vehicle then rolled off and struck his head on the roadway.  Callus commented, “Although there was no visible injury to the skateboarder, he was taken to Mission Hospital Mission Viejo due to the complaint of pain to his head.  [He] was not wearing a helmet or pads.  His mother was contacted and she responded to the scene before the skateboarder was transported.”


Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Two men to appear in court for illegally importing $2 million in counterfeit Disney pins from china to sell over the Internet

May 12 – Two defendants will be in court tomorrow for illegally importing $2 million in counterfeit collectable Disney pins from China and selling them over the Internet.

Robert Edward Smyrak, 52, Anaheim, is charged with one felony count of manufacturing and sale of counterfeit mark and faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison if convicted. Smyrak is out of custody on $50,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Department N-3, North Justice Center, Fullerton.

Co-defendant Larry James Allred, 57, Walnut, is charged with one felony count of manufacturing and sale of counterfeit mark and sentencing enhancements for two prior strike convictions for rape in 1975 and kidnapping in 1978. Based on his two prior strike convictions, Allred faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted. He is out of custody on his own recognizance and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Department N-3.

Smyrak is accused of masterminding a fraudulent operation and selling counterfeit Disney pins over the Internet while passing them off as collectibles. Allred is accused of working with Smyrak and assisting in the scheme. The defendants are accused of sending legitimate collectible pins to a manufacturer in China to be replicated and having the fake pins shipped back to them. During the course of the scheme, Smyrak and Allred are accused of receiving approximately 80 shipments of counterfeit pins from China with an approximately value of $2 million.

The fraudulent operation was discovered in February 2011 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and import specialists intercepted a parcel at Los Angeles International Airport addressed to Smyrak containing more than 150 pounds of counterfeit Disney pins.

Smyrak and Allred were arrested April 14, 2011, by the Anaheim Police Department (APD). At the time of his arrest, Smyrak is accused of being in possession of more than 100,000 counterfeit pins. Defendant Cynthia Lynn Pratt Vedder, 43, Smyrak’s former girlfriend, was also arrested at that time and charged with one felony count of manufacturing and sale of counterfeit mark (Case # 11NF1478) for independently engaging in the same type of scheme.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) and APD.

“American businesses and American brands are under assault from counterfeiters,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Los Angeles. “The sale of counterfeit products robs Americans of jobs, stifles American innovation, promotes crime and introduces substandard and sometimes harmful products into commerce. The only ones who benefit from schemes like this are the counterfeiters and they’re getting rich at America’s expense.

“Collaboration with agencies such as ICE, the Anaheim Police Department and the Orange County District Attorney is essential to successfully combat crimes involving counterfeiting and piratical goods,” said CBP Acting Director of Field Operations Los Angeles, Carlos Martel. “Our cooperative efforts serve as a force multiplier in thwarting the attempts of those who try to enter illegal goods into the commerce of the United States. Through these partnerships, we work to protect America’s innovation based economy and the health and safety of its consumers.”

DUI driver to be arraigned for killing passenger by crashing into tree and electrical pole after speeding over 100 mph

May 12 – A drunken driver will be arraigned tomorrow for killing his passenger by crashing into a tree and electrical pole after driving at speeds over 100 mph.

James Ralph Huff, 46, Buena Park, is charged with one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison if convicted. He is being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. in Department N-12, North Justice Center, Fullerton.

At approximately 4:20 a.m. on March 29, 2009, Huff is accused of driving while intoxicated at speeds over 100 mph in a 1996 Porsche. He is accused of having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit of .08 percent while driving. Huff’s friend, 28-year-old Miguel Barahona, was riding in the passenger seat. The defendant is accused of losing control of his vehicle on Valley View Street in Buena Park and colliding with the curb. He is accused of crashing into a tree, causing it to uproot, and then hitting an electrical pole.

The defendant’s vehicle caught on fire and bystanders called 911 and attempted to put out the fire with extinguishers. Witnesses were able to remove Huff from the burning vehicle. The defendant was transported to the hospital to be treated for internal injuries and third degree burns.

As a result of the crash, Huff is accused of killing Barahona, who was still in the passenger seat of the burning vehicle when paramedics arrived. Barahona died at the scene due to multiple traumatic and thermal injuries.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Susan Price of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Newport Beach man charged with raping and threatening to kill woman before initiating 7-hour standoff with police

May 11 – A man has been charged with raping, sexually assaulting, and threatening to kill a 29-year-old woman in his home before engaging police in a 7-hour standoff.

David Charles Wilson, 48, Newport Beach, is charged with one felony count each of aggravated assault, criminal threats, forcible oral copulation, false imprisonment by violence, three felony counts each of forcible rape and sexual penetration by foreign object by force, and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing an officer. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 58 years in state prison.

At approximately 10 p.m. on May 9, 2011, 29-year-old Jane Doe went to Wilson’s Newport Beach home at his invitation after meeting him a few months earlier and speaking with him several times on the phone. As soon as Jane Doe entered the house, Wilson is accused of choking her and threatening to kill her if she did not cooperate.

Wilson is accused of raping Jane Doe in his bedroom and other rooms of the house. He is accused of forcing her to orally copulate him and sexually penetrating her with his fingers, a pen, and a toothbrush. Wilson is accused of refusing to let Jane Doe leave and keeping her in his home against her will.

Prior to going to meet the defendant, Jane Doe told a friend that she was going to meet Wilson. Beginning at approximately 12:30 a.m. Jane Doe’s friend tried calling the victim but was unable to reach her. At approximately 3 a.m., after several failed attempted to reach Jane Doe and becoming concerned for Jane Doe’s safety, the victim’s friend drove to Wilson’s house and called out for her friend from outside. Jane Doe was able to escape through a window and run to her friend’s car.

A neighbor heard yelling and called 911. The Newport Beach Police Department, who investigated this case, responded to the defendant’s home. Wilson is accused of barricading himself inside his house and refusing to comply with the officers’ orders to come out. After an almost 7-hour standoff, Wilson is accused of finally coming out of his home at 9:40 a.m.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Lou Gutierrez at (714) 347-8794.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

Woman charged with shooting-murder of husband and attempted murder of 16-year-old son

May 9 – A woman has been charged with murdering her husband and attempting to murder her 16-year-old son by shooting them in the family’s Tustin Ranch home.

Annamaria Magno Gana, 41, unincorporated Tustin, is charged with one felony count each of murder and attempted murder with sentencing enhancements for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death and the personal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 82 years to life in state prison. Gana is being held on $1 million bail.

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on May 8, 2011, Gana is accused of arming herself with a firearm and shooting a bullet into the ceiling of a bedroom in her Tustin Ranch home. When her 72-year-old husband Antonio Potenciano Gana and their 16-year-old son ran into the bedroom in response to the gunshot, Gana is accused of turning the firearm toward her husband and murdering him by shooting him in the chest.

She is also accused of then shooting at John Doe as he turned and attempted to escape. The victim was shot in the arm but was able to get out of the home and call 911 on his cell phone. Gana’s other son, age 9, witnessed his mother holding the firearm and was able to wrestle it away from her and take it outside.

The OC Sheriff’s department, who investigated this case, arrived at the scene and arrested Gana. She was transported to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries sustained while shooting the firearm.

The defendant’s two sons are in protective custody. Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillepsie, Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com for questions about advertising

949.315.0259

Email: Lynette@StuNewsLaguna.com with news releases, letters, etc

949.715.1736