Police Files

Three burglary suspects in custody after chase through backyards in the Temple Hills area

Lagunans woke this Friday morning to the sound of circling helicopters and sirens. 

Mary Hurlbut, of Cerritos Drive says she was sitting in her living room when she heard footsteps. “I looked outside and there was a police officer on our back deck with guns drawn,” she said. “He told us to make sure all our doors and windows were locked as they were pursuing two suspects.”

Three suspects in all were taken into custody, Sgt Jim Cota tells Stu News. “The incident began as a response to a burglary occurring in the 2900 block of Zell Drive,” he said.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

This was Mary Hurlbut’s view this Friday morning first thing—immediately after finding a cop with gun drawn on her deck

“Officers responded to the area, near Temple Hills Drive and Bluebird Canyon. They saw a suspect fleeing on foot. With the assistance of a helicopter and the K-9 unit he was apprehended without further incident,” Cota added.

This was no easy task for police officers, given, as Mary Hurlbut describes, the lush backyards of homes in this area.

Once again, LBPD nabbed their suspects.

We’ll update details on our Facebook page.

Burglar will face felony animal cruelty charges after gecko is injured

When the LBPD takes on a case, they want justice for all the victims of a crime.

And last week, a much-loved gecko became one of those victims. She WILL see justice done.

Residents will recall that on July 26, five Laguna Beach jewelry businesses at the Shops at the Cliffs shopping center were burglarized, and more than $200,000 in merchandise was stolen by "well-dressed" thieves. 

Last week, exactly two months after the burglaries, LBPD detectives arrested one of the two suspects caught on surveillance video during the thefts.

Detectives went to Oceanside and located Edward Torrison, 30, at a home where he resides with his girlfriend.

“Torrison was very surprised,” said Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “So surprised that he took off running from Laguna Beach PD officers through downtown Oceanside. I think he was shocked that he was finally caught.”

Torrison fled down an alley, over a fence, and into a business, where he attempted to jump through a window and shattered the gecko’s cozy aquarium, the only home the little lizard knew.

“The gecko (a girl, named Aloha) is fine,” Sgt Cota assures us. “She is resting and back with her owner. Although tail-less, I am told she will be alright, and her tail is not supposed to grow back.”

Still, little Aloha could have died. And also, a tail is not something you want to lose if you’re a gecko.

So it is that the LBPD is adding a charge of felony animal cruelty to the list of charges against Torrison, which include multiple theft and burglary related charges as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

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Photo courtesy LBPD

Aloha’s owner Cory Whitlock, seen here with Detectives Dave Gensemer and Joy Butterfield, is just happy she’s alive

Stu News learned some additional interesting information about the arrest, one of the most significant for the LBPD in recent years, its successful conclusion a reflection of the smarts of its hard-working investigative team.

Sgt Cota tells us that the thief had an enormous amount of jewelry inside the garage of the residence. 

“Two loaded handguns were also located inside the house and garage. There was so much jewelry in the large tool chest with multiple pull drawers that we did not have the room in our detective vehicles to transport it all back to Laguna Beach,” he tells us. 

Sgt Cota had to pay a Oceanside tow truck company to haul the very large chest and jewelry back on a flatbed the night of the arrest. 

(By the way, we hear that Sgt Cota drew the short straw and got stuck following the tow truck at slow speeds all the way back to Laguna Beach from Oceanside, which even included a stop at the San Clemente border check area.) 

“Border patrol agents inquired what we were hauling back into Orange County because not every day does a flatbed tow truck haul a very large tool chest with hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen jewelry at 2 a.m. in the morning,” Cota accurately observes.  

He says that it is going to take a long time to investigate this particular case given the magnitude of the crimes and the number of stolen items. 

Police departments around Southern California laud the arrest

Other police departments from Orange County and San Diego and Riverside are celebrating the arrest and working with the LBPD on the case, because Torrison had been involved with many burglaries prior to his arrest by LBPD.

Sgt Cota told Stu News, however, that right now there is no link between the recent residential burglaries in Laguna Beach and the commercial burglaries committed by Torrison. 

“It appears he targets businesses more, but we will not rule out any involvement in residential burglaries,” Sgt Cota added. “If it is not Torrison, then that means there are other people coming into our city and committing the crimes. We’ll get those guys too. We always do. 

“Our investigative team is the best around as their track report speaks for itself in terms of the high volume of arrests they make. They do not know how proud of them I really am. They work countless hours and take the crimes they investigate very seriously. I am just fortunate enough to supervise a great group of detectives. They deserve all the credit!”

Police Files

LBPD offers advice and empathy in response to Las Vegas shooting

The Laguna Beach Police Department is closely monitoring the tragic events from Sunday’s “Route 91 Country Concert” in Las Vegas, during which at least 59 people were killed and 527 injured. 

Preliminary news reports indicated that among the innocent victims of the active shooter incident were a number of off-duty police and firefighter personnel from jurisdictions throughout the country, including Orange County. 

“Our thoughts are with everyone involved in the incident, including the family and loved ones affected by this tragedy, and law enforcement, other first responders and medical staff who responded to the scene and worked tirelessly to preserve life,” said Sgt. Jim Cota in an interview on Monday.

The Laguna Beach Police Department offered the following possible courses of action in an active shooter situation:

Get out, if possible. Try to remain calm, and find cover and/or concealment. You MUST take action to protect yourself. Assist the injured, if it is safe to do so. Secure your location. Silence any cell phones and remain quiet. And, defend yourself. 

Thieves steal laptops from local business, get caught trying to sell them in town

On Wednesday, September 27 at about 6:30 p.m., Seven-Degrees reported the theft of two laptops. The suspects were described as two white men in their mid-twenties. 

About three hours later, two white men in their mid-twenties approached a man at Oak Street and Glenneyre Street, and offered to sell him some stolen laptops. The man turned them down, and called the police after they left.

Surveillance footage from the theft confirmed the suspect’s identity, and officers arrested Nicholas Huffman, 21, Colorado, for possession of stolen property.

Police Files

LBPD nabs “big fish”: suspected thief with $500k in jewelry, loaded guns

On July 26, five Laguna Beach jewelry businesses at the Shops at the Cliffs shopping center were burglarized, and over $200,000 in merchandise was stolen. 

On Tuesday, exactly two months after the burglaries, LBPD detectives arrested one of the two suspects caught on surveillance video during the thefts.

“This was the big fish,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. “We’ve been working on this investigation for two months.”

Detectives went to Oceanside and located Edward Torrison, 30, at a home where he resides with his girlfriend. When detectives attempted to detain him, Torrison fled on foot, down an alley, over a fence, and into a business, where he attempted to jump through a window and successfully shattered a gecko aquarium. (We were assured that the gecko was unharmed and given a new home.)

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy of Laguna Beach PD

Edward Torrison was detained with the help of Oceanside police following a brief chase that involved a broken gecko aquarium and an attempt at jumping through a window.

Torrison was arrested with the help of the Oceanside PD and some brave citizens.

“This arrest was the culmination of excellent police work coupled with a steadfast determination by our investigations unit to apprehend the offenders,” said Captain Jeff Calvert in a statement. “It serves as a reminder that when individuals commit a crime in Laguna Beach, we will leave no stone unturned in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

A search of his residence revealed an estimated $500,000 in stolen jewelry, two loaded firearms, and stolen pieces of art. The investigation is ongoing, and LBPD is working with law enforcement agencies throughout Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties to identify additional victims.

Torrison was arrested on multiple theft and burglary related charges, as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was taken to Orange County Jail where he is being held on $500,000 bail.

The second burglar is still outstanding, and encouraged to turn himself in to the Laguna Beach Police. 

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call the Laguna Beach PD at 949-494-0701. For further information, please contact Sgt. Jim Cota at 949-464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Feces smeared at residence

A resident in the 31800 block of Circle Drive reported an unusually disgusting event on Tuesday. 

Somehow, an unknown suspect got through two locked gates to smear feces on the property.

“Neither of the gates had been tampered with, so we have no idea how the suspect got onto the property,” said Sgt. Jim Cota.

A few weeks ago, a similar feces-smearing incident occurred when someone reported feces on their car door. Officers are not sure if the two events are related.

“About 8 years ago we had a caretaker from Newport Beach throwing used diapers onto the streets of North Laguna,” said Cota. “But we haven’t had any occurrences of feces being spread on walls before.”

Police Files

What will Laguna do to prepare for future rallies?

Since the rally on Sunday didn’t happen after all – with just a scattering of protesters and counter-protesters wandering around the cobblestones – what will the police department’s strategy be for future possible rallies?

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

All was quiet on the western front on Sunday

How does Laguna strike a balance between costs of preparing, and the need to prepare for possible violence?

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Police outnumbered protestors on Sunday

These are difficult questions, and we appreciate all that LBPD does to keep our community safe.

Stu News asked Sgt Jim Cota what the police department’s plans were at this time for the America First rally that is scheduled for Sunday, Oct 22 at Main Beach.

Sgt Cota told Stu News, “We will have the same coverage. This one appears that it will be much larger.”   

It’s an ongoing question. We’d love our readers’ feedback.

LBPD gather to honor fallen officers during annual ceremony


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.

Click on photo for a larger image

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.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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