Police Files

Arizona realtor turns himself in on felony domestic assault warrant: “This is an arrest that had to happen,” says LBPD

An Arizona realtor turned himself in on a felony domestic assault warrant from LBPD last week. According to LBPD Spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota, Laguna Beach Police detectives had been working on the case for several months. “This is an arrest that had to happen,” said Sgt Cota in an interview with Stu News on Monday.

According to Scottsdale, Arizona police reports taken on October 4, 2017, the suspect, Seth Solwa, came to Laguna Beach with his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s daughter to stay at a friend’s house on a mini-vacation over Labor Day weekend last summer (2017). While on the trip, Solwa reportedly assaulted his girlfriend, before leaving town and returning to Arizona. The incident reportedly took place in the 700 Block of Cliff Drive. The reporting party’s daughter reportedly witnessed the suspect throw her mother to the ground, causing her mother to sustain major rib injuries.

“On September 14, 2017, the victim went to the doctor to have her ribs examined because she was having pain and difficulty breathing,” said Sgt Cota in an interview on Monday. “She was diagnosed by an Arizona doctor with a major injury to her ribs. She provided evidence of the doctor’s note to the (Scottsdale) officer.”

“The finished report was submitted to LBPD and forwarded to the investigations division, where it was assigned to a detective. LBPD began a criminal investigation on the incident. LBPD then began working with the Scottsdale Police Department and the victim and an arrest was obtained within the last week,” explained Sgt Cota.

While speaking with Sgt Cota in an interview, it was learned that the subject has a prior arrest history of domestic violence.

“As the investigation came to a close and the arrest warrant was granted, officers prepared to head to Scottsdale, Arizona for his arrest. Conveniently, Mr. Solwa elected to turn himself in to Harbor Court in Newport Beach for the LBPD arrest warrant with a bail of $100,000,” said Sgt Cota.

“He immediately posted bail and was given a future court date in July. A protective order was immediately granted by the judge for the female victim,” said Sgt Cota.

 

Car burns to a crisp in Canyon crash, igniting a fire

On Sunday, May 13 at 3:34 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to a brush fire/traffic collision on SR-133 at the S/B SR-73 off-ramp.

“Officers arrived with Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and found a vehicle fully engulfed in flames inside of brush along the side of the road,” said Sgt Cota. “The vehicle was recovered from the brush. The driver reportedly fell asleep at the wheel.”

Officers conducted traffic control and CHP handled the traffic collision, while LBFD, OCFA and OC Parks fire crews worked on the brush fire. 

“The fire was quickly contained, but outbound traffic was redirected down El Toro road for approximately two hours. The driver did not sustain injury,” Sgt Cota was happy to report.

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBPD PIO Twitter Page

A vehicle was scorched following a crash in the canyon on Sunday

 

Prowler reportedly walks through front door of unlocked residence with a knife in broad daylight

On Friday, May 11 at 1:14 p.m. in the 31800 block of Coast Highway, a man reported that a woman was in his home. He described that her hair was in a bun, she had a tattoo on the back of her neck, and that she was wearing long dark pants and a short-sleeve dark shirt.

The woman, who reportedly entered the home through an unlocked door, claimed that she was looking for her friend and that she needed to use the bathroom.

The resident did not see anything overturned, missing, or anything out of place, according to the police report.

LBPD arrested 19-year-old Alexandra Rachel Lujan, of La Puente, for felony burglary, carrying a concealed dirk/dagger, and trespassing.

According to Sgt Cota, officers found a 7” black knife, locked open with an exposed blade, on Lujan.

“The knife was located on a search of the person. It fell from her waist area. She trespassed and illegally entered,” explained Sgt Cota.

The suspect was arrested for felony burglary, carrying a concealed dirk or dagger, and trespassing and refusing to leave the property.

Bail was set at $50,000.

 

LBPD is cracking down on noisy cars

LBPD is on the trail of noise polluters of the V-8 variety this week. According to LBPD’s Facebook page, officers are revved up on ticketing loud exhaust offenders with a crackdown this week.

According to Sgt Cota, “There have been no arrests but citations have been issued. Records is still tallying up the amount of citations.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBPD Facebook Page

Cops on the trail for loud tail…pipes


Police Files

Wind knocks down trees onto vehicles downtown and Bluebird

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Photo courtesy LBPD

Three parked cars were damaged on Forest Avenue Saturday night

The winds that blew hard almost all day Saturday knocked down large limbs from eucalyptus trees damaging parked vehicles downtown on Forest Avenue and on Regatta Road in Bluebird Canyon.

Police said a large limb fell at 6:54 p.m. downtown landing on three parked cars in the 300 block of Forest Avenue. All three were damaged but no one was injured.

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Photo by Mark Christy

The large limb fell across Forest Avenue and the Fire Department cut down the limb and removed it opening the roadway. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jean Keys

Just before 9 a.m., another large limb fell onto a golf cart parked across the street in the 1400 block of Regatta Road in Bluebird Canyon. No one was injured.

City crews responded and cut up the remnants to open the street.

Stolen car eludes police at 100 MPH on Coast Hwy

An officer spotted a black Audi stolen out of Santa Ana at 10:35 Christmas morning. When the patrol unit pulled behind the car heading northbound from the 200 block of S. Coast Hwy, the Audi accelerated hitting speeds of 100 MPH as it approached Boat Canyon Drive. The officer lost sight of the car near Ledroit Street.

20 minutes later, Newport PD found the car parked at Crystal Cove and located the passenger in the parking lot, according to LBPD Sergeant Tim Kleiser.

LBPD responded and arrested Savannah Wilson, 23 of San Juan Capistrano for resisting arrest.

The driver has not been located.


Police Files

Six teens detained in stolen vehicle at 4 a.m.

On Tuesday, Feb 28, at 4:08 a.m., officers were notified of a Honda Civic that had been reported stolen in Aliso Viejo earlier in the morning entering Laguna Beach from Laguna Canyon Road. 

Officers found the vehicle near Canyon Acres and stopped it in the 300 block of Broadway. All six of its occupants were detained.

The driver, 18-year-old Cedric Campbell from Aliso Viejo, was arrested for felony vehicle theft.

One passenger, Aldous Aaron Manasala, 19, Aliso Viejo, was arrested for false identification to a peace officer, felony vehicle theft and conspiracy.

The other four passengers, all 15 years old, three from Aliso Viejo and one from Irvine, were issued citations for curfew, detained and released to their parents.

 

Would-be car thief has Cadillac tastes – but unlocked car door leads to her lockup

On Monday Feb 27 on the 500 block of Forest Ave, at 11:53 a.m., a woman was seen checking door handles on parked vehicles, and entering a silver Cadillac. An officer detained her while she was trying to start the Cadillac, which was not hers. They also found .96 grams of methamphetamine and .33 grams of heroin on the woman. 

Lindsey Patterson, 35, Los Angeles, was arrested for felony vehicle theft, misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor possession of narcotics. 

Another drug dealer busted – and ID theft is involved also

At 2:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb 28, an officer stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation in the 200 block of N. Coast Hwy. While conducting a search of the vehicle, officers found drug paraphernalia, credit cards, driver’s licenses, and mail that did not belong to either occupant. 

The driver, 23-year-old Anthony Aparicio from Fullerton, was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. The passenger, Silvia Dominguez, 26, Tustin, was arrested for theft of a credit card. But that wasn’t all for Dominguez.

“When Dominguez arrived at the station, officers found a glass methamphetamine pipe and a total of 14 grams of methamphetamine,” said Lieutenant Tim Kleiser, LBPD spokesperson. She was then charged with possession and transportation of a controlled substance for sales.

Continuing their investigation at the station, officers located other evidence pertaining to identity theft which was determined to belong to Dominguez. Possession of personal identifying information was added to her list of charges for the morning.


Police Files

Drug dealer busted with Ecstasy & Adderall

Thursday at 2:33 a.m., an officer stopped a vehicle in the 700 block of Cliff Drive for failing to stop at a stop sign. The vehicle was searched.

“Officers found 30 Ecstasy pills, one clear pill containing powder MDMA (Ecstasy), and 10 Adderall pills,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

Rodrigo Padillo, 22, Irvine, was arrested for possession and transportation of a controlled substance for sales.

Man throws pizza at woman after she offers him free food

On Saturday afternoon, a woman offered food to a man on Ocean Avenue.

The man, identified as Michael Moody, 36, did not like this very much. A verbal altercation ensued, culminating in Moody throwing the pizza at her.

After officers contacted both parties and witnesses, Moody was arrested for assault against the woman. 

Laguna Beach PD is hiring

The City of Laguna Beach is now hiring men and women who have an interest in law enforcement. Come join the great team at LBPD!

The application deadline for Police Recruit & Academy Graduate is Monday, April 24, at 4 p.m.

You do not have to have been through the Police Academy to apply, but if hired you will be required to complete the 6-month intensive training.

Watch the Laguna Beach Police Department recruitment video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EO1_8xNZ3M.

For more details and to apply, visit http://www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/personnel/opportunities.htm


Police Files

Third time DUI offender battles cops and gets tased 

A 9-1-1 caller alerted Laguna police about a Honda Accord headed into town on Laguna Canyon Road shortly before 7 o’clock last Thursday evening. A patrol unit saw the Honda parking in a Broadway retailer’s parking lot.

Zackary Andrew Gillenwater, 22, La Mirada, allegedly threw trash from the car before getting out. 

LBPD Sgt. Jim Cota said Monday, “As the officer contacted him, the driver refused to stop and stated he would not comply. The officer attempted to get him to comply repeatedly but Gillenwater refused to cooperate. The officer reached out and grabbed him to detain him. 

“Gillenwater resisted the officer’s efforts and pulled away. He was tased and then handcuffed. Even after being handcuffed, Gillenwater threatened officers and medical personnel.  

“Gillenwater was arrested for DUI (third offense), and felony resisting arrest. He also had an outstanding North Court warrant for his arrest and his driver’s license was suspended. Gillenwater was booked and transported to OCJ with $20,000 bail.”


Police Files

Identity stolen, car rented, then car stolen

Last week, a victim of identity theft reported that fraudulent accounts had been opened in his name and used to rent a vehicle, which had not been returned. 

On Thursday at 8:11 a.m., officers were alerted to a stolen vehicle inbound on Laguna Canyon Road – the same vehicle that had been rented in the victim’s name.

Officers stopped the vehicle and detained the two occupants. The driver, John Elton Aguirre, 42, Santa Ana, was arrested for vehicle theft as well as various fraud related charges.

The case is being investigated by LBPD Detectives.


Police Files

Halloween jumper from 5th floor deck to private pool

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Greg Carpenter, Homeowner’s Association President at Laguna Sands in the 1500 block of S. Coast Hwy provided this photo of a young man who jumped from the fifth floor deck there into the private pool below…“barely missing the edge of the pool”. The incident happened at 5:40 p.m. on Monday.

Carpenter said the HOA will prosecute him for trespassing and a police report has been made.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said detectives are investigating the report.

A resident reportedly detained the jumper only to be hit in the face as the suspect ran away with four others who were nearby when he jumped, Carpenter said. 

Laguna Beach woman charged with DUI, hit and run

At 10:52 Sunday morning, a 9-1-1 caller told a Laguna Beach public safety dispatcher that as he was getting into his car in the 200 block of Cypress Drive, another vehicle had clipped his car and “…taken out…” the driver’s side door.

Police located the suspect vehicle and arrested Tania Jane Alexander, 57 of Laguna Beach, for DUI with a second offense and misdemeanor hit and run. 

There were no injuries according to the police log.


Police Files

Tesla sideswipes semi-truck while on autopilot

Tesla started equipping its Model S vehicles with self-driving hardware in October 2014, to “relieve drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel,” according to their website. The Autopilot function works like the same systems airplane pilots use – the driver is still responsible for and in control of the car.

This function didn’t work out too well for the driver of a Tesla S70 on Laguna Canyon Road Monday afternoon.

“The Tesla was headed outbound on Laguna Canyon Road when it collided into a semi-truck that was stopped on the side of the road just past Raquel Road,” said Sgt. James Cota of the LBPD. “At the time of the collision, the Tesla was in the autonomous mode.”

Neither parties were injured, but according to the police log, a tractor and trailer needed to be towed from the scene due to rear axle damage. 

Homeless man caught driving stolen car

On Monday at 9:40 a.m., officers were alerted to a 1990 Volvo stolen in Laguna Woods making its way down Coast Highway.

The car was stopped near El Paseo and Laguna, and its occupants detained shortly after 10 a.m.

The driver, Christopher Paul Mack, 49, no fixed address, was arrested for felony vehicle theft and possession of a stolen vehicle. 

Motorcyclist sustains head injury after hitting curb on Park Ave

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Laguna Beach Police officers arrived at Park Avenue and Tahiti Avenue following reports of a traffic collision.

“Officers on scene determined that a motorcyclist had collided with a curb and into the guardrail,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesman. 

The rider sustained a head injury and was taken to Mission Hospital Mission Viejo for care.


Police Files

Man swam nude off Aliso for two-plus hours Thursday and refused to allow lifeguards to pull him to safety

South Laguna resident Linda Saville told us Thursday morning that she had shook her head when she saw a man trotting down Coast Hwy near Aliso Beach with only a white towel around his waist. “It was way too chilly for that,” she added.

That was about 9:36.

She arrived at her nearby home and looked toward the beach after she heard a siren. The man had dropped the towel. “He didn’t have anything else on and was swimming out from shore. After about 10 minutes, a lifeguard entered the water and went after him.”

Linda said that she watched the situation and the man constantly put on a burst of speed to avoid whatever the lifeguards tried to get him out of the water.

“He was a very good swimmer against the wind and current […and chilly water],” she said adding that he was out near the mile buoy quickly and still swimming easily.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol boat and wave runner arrived on scene and made attempts to get to the man – who kept swimming away from them.

At about noon, after he’d been in the water in the buff for two hours, lifeguards had convinced the unidentified man to allow them to pull him from the water and take him to shore. He was loaded into an ambulance and taken to hospital for a 72-hour mental evaluation, police said.


Police Files

$100,000 in losses from burglarized SoLag home 

Details are few at this time, but a homeowner who had been away for the past two weeks returned to find the home in the 31100 block of Aliso Circle had been burglarized. Police received the call at 11:33 a.m. this past Tuesday.

The police log indicated that the victim spoke of missing collectibles, electronics, furniture and miscellaneous items.

The OC Sheriff Department’s CSI team responded to the scene Tuesday.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said the owner’s preliminary estimate of the losses was $100,000.

Detectives are investigating.


Police Files

Emerald Bay resident pleads guilty for causing the death of bicyclist John Colvin on June 17, 2014 near Emerald Bay

Dylan Thomas Rand-Luby, 21, Emerald Bay, pleaded guilty to one count of felony hit and run with injury and one count of misdemeanor manslaughter Monday afternoon. He was sentenced to one year in jail and three years of formal probation. 

Rand-Luby was accused of driving a 2005 Toyota Prius northbound on North Coast Highway in the Emerald Bay area. He allegedly veered out of his lane and struck 55-year-old Laguna Beach resident John Colvin as he rode his bicycle northbound in the bike lane adjacent to Coast Highway.

After the collision, Rand-Luby failed to stop to render aid and continued driving northbound. His front windshield was shattered and witnesses said he had to lean out the driver’s side window in order to see the roadway ahead. 

Two witnesses followed the Toyota Prius until Rand-Luby finally pulled over in the El Morro School parking lot and was confronted by them. One detained Rand-Luby while a second called 911. 

After an extremely thorough and exhaustive investigation into the accident, Laguna Beach Traffic Investigators submitted the case to the District Attorney’s Office seeking criminal charges against Dylan Rand-Luby. 

Prior traffic offenses

StuNews did a check of court records after he had been charged in Feb 2015 and found that Rand-Luby was ticketed in Oct of 2012 for using a cell phone while driving; issued a citation in July of 2013 for texting while driving and in April, 2013, for running a red light. He attended traffic school for the latter charge and was released from that obligation on June 13, 2014 – four days before the fatal collision with the bicyclist.

 

Homeless man arrested for robbery of a bike at Main Beach

Police responded to a report of a fight between two men on the cobblestones at Main Beach at 3:30 last Wednesday afternoon. On scene, one man was still there and told officers that a man he didn’t know came up to him as he rode his bike and challenged him to a fight.

The victim said the suspect then pushed him down causing him to fall off of his bike then the other man rode away on the bicycle.

Police did an area search and according to Sgt. Tim Kleiser, Shawn Stover, 38, no fixed address, and the stolen bicycle were located at the Broadway Bus Depot.

Stover was arrested for felony robbery and bail was set at $100,000. 

 

Two more stolen car arrests made in town

Laguna Beach police stopped two more stolen cars in town over the weekend and arrested two people on felony charges.

At 3:42 Saturday morning, a patrol officer stopped a white Kia Optima at N. Coast Hwy and Aster St for a traffic violation.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said the driver made statements that led the officer to suspect that the Kia had been stolen. The registered owner was contacted and it in fact had been stolen earlier in South Laguna.

Kevin Patrick Sheehan, 19, Lakewood was arrested for felony vehicle theft.

Early Sunday morning, an officer spotted a stolen 2017 Hyundai Elantra that had been reported stolen from Hertz on Aug 19 heading into town at 2:42. Sufficient units were able to make a felony car stop at Canyon Acres and Laguna Canyon Road.

Rosalinda Romero, 38, Hemet, was arrested on charges of felony possession of a stolen vehicle, giving false information to an officer misdemeanor possession of drugs.

She was also held for two felony warrants – one from Los Angeles and the other from Riverside with total bail of $45,000 on the warrants. 


Police Files

Newport Beach teens smash into 5 cars speeding in Mercedes Saturday 

Two Newport Beach teenagers, a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, drove a Mercedes CLK through Laguna Beach for a little over 15 minutes and collided with five vehicles along the way.

Police were called about a hit and run at Alexander Road and Ashton Drive just before ten o’clock Saturday morning. The boy was driving the black Mercedes when he struck an occupied car and drove away, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said Monday.

“The victim followed the Mercedes and confronted the 17-year-old male driver in the area of Rounsevel Terrace. The driver exited the car and while speaking with the victim a 16-year-old female climbed into the driver’s seat and drove away in the Mercedes. While driving away, the Mercedes collided into several parked vehicles,” Sgt. Kleiser added.

The boy then ran to the Mercedes and took over the driving as they fled the area.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Janelle Hilton

Police with one of the two girls detained at the Mobil station

Laguna’s 9-1-1 dispatchers received multiple calls about the Mercedes speeding north on Coast Highway in the middle lane. Officers gave pursuit near Bluebird canyon Drive before making a felony car stop in the Mobil parking lot downtown.

A 15-year-old Irvine girl was also in the Mercedes.

All three were taken to the police station and issued citations before being released to their parents.

The charges included possession of alcohol and drugs, hit and run, and driving without a license. 

Two arrested after strong-arm robbery in Gelson’s parking lot

Two men walked up to a man in the parking lot near Gelson’s in South Laguna around 3:45 Thursday afternoon and asked if he had a cigarette. When the man began to speak with them, one of the pair began to repeatedly punch him in the face. His wallet was grabbed out of his hand and the two fled in a Mercedes with paper plates.

Officers spotted the suspect vehicle northbound on Coast Highway and made a felony car stop in the Circle K parking lot in the 800 block of Glenneyre.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mark Nelson

Police search the suspect’s Mercedes in the Circle K parking lot

Police arrested Jose Victor Zuniga, III, 30, Santa Ana and Brannon Morse Hazelrigg, 25, Newport Beach. Both were charged with felony robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime. Hazelrigg was also charged with felony battery causing bodily injury and possession of a controlled substance.


Police Files

Pair of bad girls went to jail

In two separate incidents just an hour apart this weekend, Laguna Beach police officers arrested two women.

The first was on Saturday at 11:32 p.m. An officer stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation and while he was speaking to the driver, he saw an open can of beer on the rear floorboard and a vape pen with marijuana. After conducting a DUI investigation, Arianna Medicina, 23, Oceanside, was arrested for DUI. But that wasn’t all.

“During a search of the car, the officers found 13 pills of Alprazolam, a bottle of nitrous, and 3 pieces of candy laced with LSD,” said Sgt. Tim Kleiser. She was also charged with felony transportation of a controlled substance for sales, felony possession of a controlled substance, and felony possession of a controlled substance for sales.

Sunday morning at 12:41 a.m., officers stopped a woman for public intoxication. 

“When the officers were searching her, she kicked one of the officers on the leg,” said Kleiser. “When they were escorting her to jail she spit at two other officers.”

Nicole Adams, 25, Mission Viejo, was charged with being drunk in public and violence to prevent an officer from doing their duty.

Stolen Prius leads to arrest

On Friday evening at 8:59 p.m., officers were alerted to a Toyota Prius entering Laguna Beach via Laguna Canyon Road that had been reported stolen to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The vehicle was stopped on S. Coast Hwy at Cleo Street. The driver, 19-year-old Jason Plunkett-Salvador from Huntington Beach, was arrested for felony vehicle theft. 


Police Files

A fly-by-night scheme?

Seems like it’s been the calm before the (literal) storm…no major criminal incidents reported this week…except for a theft of 100,000 frequent flyer miles: Is the perpetrator a flight risk? We await the outcome with high anxiety.

Stay safe in the storm, everyone.


Police Files

Man eats meth – or tries to

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., a concerned caller reported fears that an angry man might attempt to vandalize her vehicle. The man had threatened the RP that “he’d tear the whole place up if she called the police,” according to the police log.

Officers arrived at the 300 block of Broadway Street and detained Ralph Francis Bowers III, 47, Huntington Beach, who “attempted to swallow a baggie of methamphetamine in front of them,” said Sgt. Jim Cota.

Unfortunately for Bowers, the arresting officer was a former narcotics detective and identified the drugs.

Bowers was ultimately arrested for possession of a controlled substance, resisting officers, and parole violation.

Even death certificate is stolen in document burglary

On Monday afternoon, a resident in the 1200 block of Brangwyn Way came home to discover someone had been in his home and had gone through personal items. 

Amongst the missing items were a $1,000 camera lens, various CDs, a jar of change, an antique camera, prescription sleeping pills, and a filing container with auto insurance documents, birth certificates, vaccine records, and more.

A neighbor reported seeing a woman on the property in search of the victim, but it is not clear if this is related. 

Remember, if you see something, say something – you could prevent a crime.


Laguna Beach Police Department now accepting applications for Citizens Academy, deadline Jan 19

The Laguna Beach Police Department is currently accepting applications for the upcoming Citizens Academy. The academy starts Thurs, Jan 25, 2018, and will meet from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for 12 consecutive weeks (the 13th week is graduation). 

Applications will be accepted until Jan 19, 2018. 

This is a non-stress course designed to provide community members with a better understanding of the LBPD and to help foster communication between police personnel and citizens. 

Click on photo for larger image

Graduating Class of 2016

The academy course includes instruction in the following areas: History of the LBPD, investigations, traffic enforcement, accident investigation, driving under the influence investigation, gangs, narcotics, neighborhood watch, crime prevention, crime scene investigation, police K-9 program, volunteer programs, and other relevant topics. 

There will also be a tour of the LBPD and the OC Jail. Academy members will be given the opportunity to shoot at the police firing range and participate in mock scenarios. 

Applications are available on www.lagunabeachcity.net or www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/police/cominfo

For questions regarding this program, contact class coordinator Ross Fallah at

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 464-6624.


Police Files

DUI checks planned for Jan 12 and 18

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team will be deploying this weekend to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy Friday, Jan 12 and Thurs, Jan 18, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests.

In California, this deadly crime led to 1,155 deaths and nearly 24,000 injuries in 2014 because someone failed to designate a sober driver. Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes.  

Studies of California drivers have shown that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. A study of active drivers showed more tested positive for drugs that may impair driving (14 percent) than did for alcohol (7.3 percent). Of the drugs, marijuana was most prevalent, at 7.4 percent, slightly more than alcohol.

Hand over your keys if you’ve had too much to drink

Everyone should be mindful that if you’re taking medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the impairment affects.  

Law Enforcement emphasizes the preventable nature of drunk driving, reminding everyone that all it takes is a little planning ahead. Designate a sober driver or call a cab. But whatever you do, don’t drink and drive. The cost of a ride home is cheap! 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 Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 9-1-1. 

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. .

Active shooter exercise scheduled for Jan 10, tomorrow, at LCAD: Do not be alarmed by simulated gunfire, sirens

Laguna Beach Police Department has partnered with the Laguna College of Art & Design (LCAD) who will be hosting a full-scale active shooter exercise on Wed, Jan 10, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at their main campus, 2222 Laguna Canyon Road. All activities will occur on LCAD property. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LCAD campus will be the epicenter of an active shooter exercise on Jan 10

The purpose of this exercise is to test our interagency capabilities and the mission readiness of our first responders during an active shooter incident. In addition to Laguna Beach police officers and firefighters, the exercise will involve personnel from our surrounding law enforcement and fire department agencies including Irvine, UCI, Newport Beach, and Costa Mesa. 

During the exercise you may hear sirens and simulated gunfire coming from the area of Laguna College of Art & Design, 2222 Laguna Canyon Road. 

Laguna Canyon Road will remain open throughout the event and traffic control officers will be in place to mitigate any traffic congestion. 

The exercise will not be open to the public and only authorized personnel and the media will be allowed to attend. 

This exercise is partially funded through a federal grant received by the Anaheim/Santa Ana Urban Area Security Initiative. 

For further information, contact Public Information Officer Sgt. Jim Cota at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 949-464-6671. 

Sandbags available to protect against flooding: tips to keep your property dry during winter storms

With winter storms forecast this week, the City is offering pre-filled sandbags at no cost to residents and business owners of Laguna Beach who may need them to protect their property. These sandbags are not for private contractors or commercial purposes. 

Pre-filled sandbags are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week as of today on a first-come-first-serve basis; (limit 10 per resident). Sandbags can be picked up at either of the two following locations: 

ACT V Parking Lot – 1900 Laguna Canyon Road or 

Aliso Beach Inland Parking Lot – 31118 Coast Highway.

Additionally, the City offers free, unfilled sandbags at the four fire stations.

The unfilled sandbags cannot be filled with sand from Laguna’s beaches or playgrounds. For locations where sand can be purchased go to www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/police/emergprep/sandbags.htm.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Floods can cause serious damage

The City is also doing its part to protect the community by cleaning and inspecting the Laguna Canyon Channel, maintaining public terrace drains and manholes, and conducting outreach including workshops and mailers to property and business owners. 

The City encourages residents to protect their homes from flooding by remembering the following tips: Clear out rain gutters and pick up litter and loose objects on your property. Anything loose can be washed away; check your own yard drains to make sure they are not clogged; while not required, flood insurance is recommended for flood prone properties.

Visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/police/emergprep. for further information about Emergency Preparedness and for video footage from past Laguna Beach disasters.

For further information, contact Jordan Villwock, Emergency Operations Coordinator, at 949- 497-0389 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


LBPD welcomes two new officers into its ranks

LBPD has welcomed two new officers into its ranks, Officer Wade Kraus and Officer Ryan Radel. Both men graduated from the Golden West College Police Academy on March 16.

Courtesy of LBPD

Officer Wade Kraus

Officer Wade Kraus was born in Laguna Beach and raised in Laguna Niguel. His previous employment includes working as a Guest Services Captain for Towne Park Valet Service in Dana Point, a varsity football coach at Dana Hills High School, and an electrician’s assistant for Pacific Coast Electric.  

Kraus started his college education at the University of North Dakota and will be completing his Bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University.

Courtesy of LBPD

Officer Ryan Radel

Officer Ryan Radel worked for CARE Ambulance Service as an EMT for four years while completing his Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the California State University of Fullerton.  

Prior to that, he worked as an office assistant at a local church, was a line cook in a family restaurant, volunteered at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County from 2011-2014, and also earned his Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts of America.


Police Files

Running a red light on foot at 3:15 a.m. on Cinco de Mayo while stashing meth is not a good idea

On Saturday, May 5 at 3:15 a.m., a Laguna Beach Police Department officer made a pedestrian stop after seeing two males cross the street against a red light at Laguna Avenue and South Coast Highway.

The males were identified as Jordan Escobar, 25, and Juana Hernandez-Perez, 30, both of San Clemente.

LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said, “LBPD found out that both men had warrants for their arrest. Escobar had an OC warrant for drug charges ($5,000) and Hernandez-Perez had an OC warrant for vehicle code violations ($2,500).”

According to Sgt Cota, both men were taken into custody and were admonished about the additional charge if any contraband was brought into the jail. 

“Once inside the jail, a jailer observed a white piece of paper protruding from Escobar’s buttocks. Escobar claimed it was nothing. A strip search was conducted and revealed that inside the paper was 4.4 grams methamphetamine worth about $350,” said Sgt Cota.

 A felony charge was added to Escobar’s initial warrant charge, and both subjects were transported to OC Jail. Bail was set at $25,000 for Escobar.

 

Hit by a car, motorcyclist ends up in the hospital 

On Saturday, May 5 at 12:58 p.m., officers were dispatched to a traffic collision with injuries involving a vehicle and a motorcycle at South Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue. The motorcycle was down. Officers blocked three lanes of traffic at the intersection, two northbound lanes of Coast Highway and one southbound lane.

 

Click on photos for larger images

Courtesy of Marshall Aren/Angela Russick

A motorcyclist went down and ended up in the ER after a traffic collision on Saturday

“The motorcycle rider was transported to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach with orientation concerns due to head trauma,” said Sgt Cota. “Traffic was impacted for approximately 40 minutes. The driver of the vehicle was placed at fault.”

 

Not your ordinary Joe, LBPD saddened by passing of former LBPD Police Chief Joseph Kelly at age 99

On LBPD’s Facebook page this week, the team expressed their grief after the loss of one of their own, Joseph Kelly, former LBPD Police Chief, 1971 to 1973.

“Members of the Laguna Beach Police Department are sadden (sic) by the passing of former Chief of Police Joseph Kelly at age 99. Chief Kelly lived a life as a public servant, first as a Marine where he retired in 1970 as a Colonel, and then as a Chief of Police in both the cities of Laguna Beach and Tustin. Thank you for your service! #RIP.”

Joseph John Kelly, age 99, Col., U.S.M.C. Ret., passed away May 1, 2018 in Laguna Woods. 

Kelly was born June 1, 1918, in the Bronx, N.Y., the son of Joseph Francis and Selma Kelly. He attended Fordham Prep in the Bronx and graduated in February, 1935 at age 16. Joe enlisted in the Marines in January, 1942, beginning a 28-year career both in enlisted and officer’s positions. 

He married the former Patricia Ann O’Connor on September 5, 1942. They were married 57 years, raising a family of nine children that eventually grew to18 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. 

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Courtesy of LBPD Facebook 

Former LBPD Police Chief Joe Kelly, who cracked down on the drug epidemic during his tenure in the early ‘70s, passed away on May 1 at age 99

During his tenure as LBPD Police Chief, Kelly (along with his predecessor, LBPD Chief Neil Purcell) was known for cracking down on drugs in Laguna Beach.


Police Files

Cops observe man push his girlfriend to the pavement downtown on Ocean Avenue early Saturday morning

Mir Hosseini Arash, 25, Laguna Beach, was arrested for felony domestic battery and resisting arrest at 12:56 a.m. Saturday after approaching officers saw him forcibly push a woman causing her to fall on the sidewalk.

The incident happened in the 200 block of Ocean Avenue.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “Patrol officers first saw the male and female arguing in the middle of the street. They walked into a club but were quickly escorted out by security.”

The officers began to approach them when another man tried to stop the argument. Before the officers reached the couple, the saw Arash push the woman causing her to fall, according to Sgt. Kleiser. “The female sustained a cut to her face from the fall,” Sgt. Kleiser added. Police later learned that they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that the other man was the suspect’s brother.

The officers detained Arash after a short struggle.

He was booked with bail set by statute at $50,000.

Did all those sirens on Coast Hwy awaken you Friday?

We heard from several residents who were awakened in the wee hours Friday by sirens and a helicopter rushing northbound through the city on Coast Highway.

The OC Sheriff’s Department began chasing a stolen Mazda sedan in San Juan Capistrano at about 3:15. The Mazda, with three occupants, headed into Dana Point then northbound on PCH and into Laguna Beach.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said one Laguna patrol unit followed the chase through town beginning at 3:22. The Mazda and the six or more Sheriff’s units and the copter kept going north and into Newport Beach before entering the southbound 73 toll road.

The OCSD used a spike strip in Aliso Viejo to stop the Mazda and arrested the three men – all documented as San Clemente gang members – for felony possession of stolen property. 


Police Files

LB cop punched by intoxicated man – required stitches

An intoxicated man outside of an Ocean Avenue bar punched a Laguna Beach police officer in the face Saturday night. The officer required stitches in his chin.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, “An officer saw two intoxicated men walking on the 200 block of Ocean Avenue near Hennessey’s at 9:58 p.m. The officer approached them to let them know they were too intoxicated and one walked towards the officer and tried unsuccessfully to grab his badge.”

Kleiser said the two men then tried to enter the bar but were told by the officer and a security guard that they were too drunk to go inside.

After a few words, the same man (Ben Percival, 29, Huntington Beach) that tried to grab the badge then aggressively approached the officer.

“The officer tried to push the male away, but was struck in the face by the male with a closed fist,” Kleiser said. “The officer was able to take the male to the ground and a security guard from Hennessey’s assisted the officer. Several other PD units arrived on scene and the male suspect was subsequently placed into handcuffs.”

Percival was arrested on charges of felony battery, felony resisting arrest, and misdemeanor battery on a peace officer.


Police Files

Cops find concealed stolen rifles at Alta Laguna Park

A Laguna patrol officer checked out two men just before midnight in Alta Laguna Park last Wednesday. One of the men took off on foot as the officer detained the other. Additional units responded to the scene.

Eventually, officers connected Kyle Enoka, 23, Fountain Valley, with a parked vehicle and discovered an empty rifle bag behind the back seat. A further search, which encompassed nearly an hour, turned up concealed rifles – a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 (that brand’s AR 15 equivalent) and a Ruger.

The two rifles had been reported stolen in Fountain Valley in mid-January, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said.

Enoka was arrested for carrying a concealed stolen firearm, possession of stolen property and possession of methamphetamine.

Power outage, trees down, high wind and rain Sunday

4,000 Edison customers had power outages of up to two hours Sunday when a tree fell on a power line from high winds in the 2100 block of Temple Hills Drive. That caused a transformer to blow up.

The outages covered the downtown area and several blocks south of Thalia Street. No injuries were reported.

Other wires and several trees were knocked down.

Click on photo for a larger image

 

Parking is always a problem in Laguna Beach – but this is taking that truth too far. Municipal Services cleared the tree quickly allowing traffic to suffer only a short time on Broadway. We thank Jason Pannell for posting this photo on Facebook.

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Scott Brashier

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Mary Hurlbut


Police Files

Five injured, (two critically) in crash near El Morro Monday night

A two-vehicle crash on Coast Highway near the entrance to El Morro Elementary School at about 9:15 Monday night sent five people to area hospitals.

A 20-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man were critically injured when they were ejected from a Ford SUV that rolled over after colliding with a Dodge Caravan.

A 10-year-old girl in the SUV received minor injuries and was transported to Children’s Hospital in Orange. A fourth occupant of the SUV was also injured, as was the only occupant – an older woman – of the Dodge Caravan.

All four adults were taken to trauma centers – two went to Mission Trauma Center in Mission Viejo and the others to OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana. 

Coast Highway was closed in both directions from Newport Coast to the north city limits of Laguna Beach.

No details about the cause of the crash were immediately available.


Police Files

Stolen car hits 100 MPH thru Laguna Canyon while being chased by Santa Ana PD; stop made in No Lag

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Tom Crank

Santa Ana PD, OC Sheriff’s units, CHP and LBPD all pursued the stolen Honda in this photograph before it was stopped headed the wrong way on Monterey Drive near Poplar Street in North Laguna last Thursday afternoon. The Honda hit speeds of 100 mph on Laguna Canyon Road, police said. LBPD officers used a spike strip in the 600 block of Laguna Canyon Road flattening the two tires on the left side. The driver managed to keep going until being stopped in North Laguna. Santa Ana officers detained and arrested the suspect at about 3:30 p.m.

If you get drunk, yell and fight in a car, put the top up

9-1-1 callers last Wednesday afternoon reported that a female passenger in a convertible was screaming loudly that she wanted to be let out of the car. The callers said the convertible, with its top down, had left northbound.

Police stopped the car on Hillcrest Drive near Riddle Field at 4:35.

After speaking with the man who was driving and the woman passenger who had been screaming, LBPD officers arrested Newport Beach resident Gemma Johnson, 37, for being drunk in public, violation of a court protective order and felony domestic battery. Her bail was $50,000.


Police Files

House rented through Airbnb – safe missing $192,000

Laguna Beach PD detectives are investigating a theft report from last Thursday in the 2700 block of S. Coast Hwy.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said the homeowner had rented on Airbnb for three days to a known individual.

“The victim checked on the home and noticed that a safe had been accessed,” Sgt. Kleiser said. “Cash and gold coins totaling $192,000 were missing.”

Police did not release any further details.

Store employee follows suspect to retrieve $445 sunglasses

An employee of a retail store in the 200 block of Ocean Avenue saw a man walk out of the store after pilfering sunglasses valued at $445. The employee followed the suspect to a black Honda Fit parked on Coast Hwy.

The employee tried to stop the suspect before he entered the car.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “After a brief struggle, the suspect threw the sunglasses into the air and drove away.”

According to the police log, the RP said the Honda had “…lots of…items inside…” 

The suspect was described as being about 40 with graying hair and a mustache.


Police Files

Man grabbed backpack from bus rider and took off running – police nabbed the suspect a half-hour later

A 9-1-1 caller reported to police that his backpack containing $1800 had been grabbed out of his hands as he exited a Laguna Beach transit bus on S. Coast Hwy Friday at 6:14 p.m. He said the man that took it just came up, took the backpack and ran off east on a side street.

The victim described the suspect as having dark hair and wearing a maroon shirt.

As officers were discussing the man’s description, a woman told them she had just seen a man with a maroon shirt a couple of block east of the location.

Officers did an immediate area search and located the possible suspect in the 500 block of Flora Street about 30 minutes after the 9-1-1 call. 

The victim was taken to the location and identified the suspect. His money was recovered but the backpack was missing, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said.

 Anthony Louis Ulrich, 24, San Juan Capistrano, was arrested for felony grand theft.


Police Files

Knocking on the door of a home where there is a court restraining order against you with your pocket full of drugs isn’t a good thing to do

Ashton Jon Riley, 29, Huntington Beach, pounded on a door in the 300 block of Oak Street at 9:36 last Friday night. It was a door he was prohibited from coming close to by a court issued restraining order.

Police were called and soon had Riley detained as they sorted though things and verified that the restraining order was in effect.

Riley was arrested first for an outstanding Central Court warrant for vandalism and for intentional violation of a court order when its status was confirmed. 

A subsequent search turned up four and a half grams of methamphetamine and over four grams of marijuana leading to a drug possession charge.


Police Files

Homeowner and cops catch a burglar in the act

On Monday at 4:35 a.m., Laguna Beach police officers responded to a residence on Monterey Street after the homeowner called to report a man trying to break into a window on his property.

According to the police log, the suspect was clawing and crying on the ground before entering the residence’s garage.

Officers made contact with the man shortly after arriving and arrested him after the homeowner positively identified him. 

Stephen Michael Cobb, 24, West Hills, was taken into custody for burglary, trespassing and vandalism.

Couple of car thieves caught by cops

Laguna Beach Police officers helped return two stolen cars to their owners this week.

On Tuesday, officers were alerted that a vehicle stolen from a local rental car agency was entering the city via Laguna Canyon Road. The Kia Soul was supposed to have been returned in February.

Officers located the car in a parking lot on Laguna Cyn Rd, and followed the driver once he drove off. He ultimately stopped near the 73 onramp and El Toro Road.

The driver, Thomas Nordberg, 38, of Manhattan Beach, was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle.

On Sunday, officers were alerted to a stolen car near Ledroit Street & N. Coast Hwy. The Hyundai Elantra had been reported stolen out of San Diego, and was ultimately stopped in the 700 block of S. Coast Hwy.

The driver and sole occupant, Vladimir Feldman, 37, of San Diego, was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle. 

Laguna Beach PD is hiring

The City of Laguna Beach is now hiring men and women who have an interest in law enforcement. Come join the great team at LBPD!

The application deadline for Police Recruit & Academy Graduate is Monday, April 24, at 4 p.m.

You do not have to have been through the Police Academy to apply, but if hired you will be required to complete the 6-month intensive training.

Watch the Laguna Beach Police Department recruitment video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EO1_8xNZ3M.

For more details and to apply, visit http://www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/personnel/opportunities.htm


Police Files

Laguna Niguel man arrested for two attempted robberies Saturday

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Kay Metis

Several police units set up downtown to make arrest of suspect

LBPD officers arrested a Laguna Niguel man, 27, at Glenneyre and Forest Ave at 11:43 a.m. Saturday after he attempted to rob two downtown businesses.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, “Officers responded to Art of Dr. Seuss in the 400 block of S. Coast Hwy for a robbery that had just occurred. The officers located the male suspect near Glenneyre and Forest and he struggled with the officers. They were able to detain the male and learned that he had also committed a robbery at Tuvalu located nearby. 

The suspect had entered Tuvalu and approached the store clerk at the register and ordered the employee to empty the register and give him all the money. The employee ran next door and called the police. The same male had previously run into Art of Dr. Seuss and demanded money an employee there. The employee told the suspect she did not have any money and he left. Nothing was taken from either business.

Joshua Poeske was taken into custody felony robbery, misdemeanor battery on a peace officer, and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Sgt. Kleiser explained: “While in the booking room at the PD, Poeske kicked an officer and additional officers responded to the jail. After a struggle with Poeske they were able to detain him within the jail. An officer received minor injuries from the altercation.

The combative suspect was immediately taken to Orange County Jail, police said.

Stolen vehicle recovered on El Paseo – arrest made

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dennis Rooney

Police secured the scene on El Paseo without incident

Police spotted a stolen 2009 Hyundai and managed to perform a felony car stop on El Paseo near the Main Beach cobblestones late Sunday afternoon.

Details were sparse other than it is known that Michael Mitchell, 51 of Orange, was arrested for felony possession of stolen property.


Police Files

Boy, 17, with no license, nabbed for speeding with 5-yr-old in car

A Laguna Beach PD motor officer stopped a car on North Coast Highway near Irvine Cove Drive for speeding at 9:49 Sunday morning.

When the officer spoke to the driver, he learned that he was a 17-year-old without a driver’s license. He had also been reported as a missing juvenile but police were able to confirm that he had returned home but that had not been reported to police.

There were three passengers with the 17-year-old – boys 5 and 13 who were his brothers and a 19-year-old friend.

The officer also detected something else – a definite odor of marijuana. Once an additional officer was on scene, an investigation for pot began. The 19-year-old soon admitted to having more marijuana and a small amount was located in his shirt. He was issued a citation for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Police detained the three juveniles from Costa Mesa and took them to the police station where they were released to an adult family member after further investigation.

It is possible that additional charges might stem from the incident.


Police Files

Yes – that really was an adult sea lion on Coast Hwy

Click on photo for a larger image

Still from a video courtesy

of Danny Rendon of

Stop N Go – North Laguna

An adult sea lion stopped traffic in both directions for several minutes when it tried crossing N. Coast Hwy near Cajon Street Monday morning before 7 a.m. Police responded and held off the traffic until animal services and a rescue unit from Pacific Marine Mammal Center arrived. It was gently coaxed off onto a lot next to Midas where PMMC safely captured it and took it for observation.

Felony hit and run driver pulled over on 405 Fwy

Police and paramedics responded to a report of a hit and run injury crash outbound on Laguna Canyon Road near the dog park at 5:22 p.m. Saturday. One person was injured, police said.

One LBPD patrol unit hurried out Laguna Canyon Road and located the suspect vehicle on the 133 heading onto the northbound 5 Freeway. A stop was made near Jeffrey Road and the 405.

In the process, the hit and run driver, Allan Anthony Bulsiewicz, 68, Seal Beach, was involved in another crash. Details of the second crash were unavailable Monday.

Bulsiewicz was arrested for DUI and felony hit and run causing injury.


Police Files

Trio has poor timing for a grab and run burglary from downtown store; a cop was driving up the street as they ran to getaway car 

Photos by STAN NISHIKAWA

An officer was on routine patrol in the 200 block of Forest Avenue at 6:08 p.m. Saturday when he saw a young female and a male running from Robin’s Jean. Both had “…arms full of merchandise…towards a getaway vehicle parked on Forest Avenue,” according to a Thursday afternoon press release from LBPD spokesman Jordan Villwock.

“After a short foot pursuit and with the assistance of additional officers, a total of three suspects were detained at the getaway vehicle and subsequently arrested.”

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A suspect is taken into custody after the female had been apprehended

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A second suspect was removed from the vehicle and arrested

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Officers approach the vehicle to be sure it was cleared per standard protocol

The press release identified the two men arrested as Matthew Morgan, 21 and Geron Funches, 20, both of Los Angeles. The female, 16, also from LA, was held and later released to a parent at the police station. All three were charged with felony burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The two leaving the store dropped merchandise valued at $11,553 in the street where it was recovered and held as evidence. 

Forest Avenue was opened a short time later according to the press release.


Police Files

Scam alert from the LBPD – their officers never solicit money – but there are scammers claiming to be with the LBPD who are 

Late last week the Police Department was made aware of telephone scam where the calling party identified themselves as a Police Captain with the Laguna Beach Police Department and appeared to be calling from its non-emergency number. The individual demanded that they withdraw $2,000 in order to not be arrested for a supposed warrant for not attending jury duty.

Neither the Laguna Beach Police Department nor any governmental agency will ever call and solicit money for fines and does not solicit warrant information by phone. The Police Department will never ask you to get a money order, gift card, or wire transfer. If you receive this type of phone call, always verify who the caller truly is, do not use a phone number they provide you as verification. Usually, the number provided by the thief will go to a voice recording/message. 

Call the Laguna Beach Police Department to verify any solicitation.

If you have sent money or believe that you are a victim of a crime, please call the Laguna Beach Police Department to report the incident.

Anyone with information regarding this crime can contact Sgt. Tim Kleiser, Public Information Officer, mailto: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 949-464-6671.


Police Files

18-year-old arrested for impersonating a police officer

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

Allan Sauer, 18, Costa Mesa, was arrested at 1:31 Sunday morning near West Street on Coast Hwy in South Laguna after being stopped for speeding.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD told us Monday, “The officer initially thought the vehicle (above) was possibly associated with a law enforcement agency as the vehicle was a white Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor model that also had a front push bar. When the officer was speaking with the driver he noticed the vehicle was equipped with a prisoner cage in the rear seating area, a laptop computer mounted in the center console similar to what police agencies have and it had spotlights on both A-pillars.”

A search of the car turned up “…a California Department of Fish and Game citation book, yellow ‘Sheriff’s Do Not Cross’ tape, and several other items that were law enforcement associated. They also noticed the vehicle was equipped with emergency lights and siren,” Sgt. Kleiser added.

The driver was wearing green pants and a jacket that resembled what OC Sheriff’s deputies wear as their regular uniforms.

Sauer denied that he was a police officer.

He was charged with misdemeanor impersonating a police officer.

Laguna Beach man among four charged with bilking investors of over $1 million in development scheme

The OC District Attorney said that Jourdan Tyson Groves, 37, Laguna Beach, and three other South OC men have been charged with 12 felony counts of using an untrue statement in the purchase or sale of a security and one felony count of using a device with a scheme to defraud with sentencing enhancement allegations for over $100,000 loss, aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, property damage or loss over $65,000, and property loss over $200,000. If convicted, Groves and the other men each face a maximum sentence of 24 years in state prison. Groves is out of custody on $1 million bail.

The charges stem from a plan to develop a project to build a miniature golf course, restaurant, and water park in San Clemente.

They are accused of using the money to pay for attorney fees, pay themselves salaries, and taking large cash withdrawals without disclosing it to investors and of misappropriating investor funds by spending investment money on restaurants, gas, hotels, utilities, air travel and at retail stores.

IRS scammers convince Laguna resident to pay $5000 

A Laguna Beach resident received a phone call last Thursday from a female who said she was an IRS employee who demanded that the victim immediately deposit $5,000 into a specified bank account to avoid an immediate arrest.

The victim complied because the $5,000 was the amount actually owed to the IRS in taxes. 

The victim became suspicious when the female called again and demanded that an additional $3,750 be deposited.

According to the police log a call to the IRS by the victim resulted in their being informed that the IRS system had been breached.

The victim then called the Laguna Beach PD and made the fraud report. 


Police Files

Homeless man tries to throw rocks and does spit in officer’s face

Joseph Robert Kirkpatrick, 51, no fixed address, was arrested on three felony charges Tuesday afternoon after officers awakened him from trespassing and sleeping in an underground parking lot in the 900 block of Glenneyre.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said that when officers made contact, “Kirkpatrick was agitated and threatened to throw some nearby rocks at the officers. During the conversation, he sat up quickly and grabbed several rocks. The officers were able to quickly grab onto his arms to prevent him from throwing the rocks at them.

  “As the officers were trying to detain him, he spat directly in one of the officer’s face.” Police placed a spit mask on Kirkpatrick’s face as soon as he was handcuffed.

Kirkpatrick was charged with felony resisting arrest, felony assault on a police officer and felony bringing a controlled substance into a jail. Sgt. Kleiser said he had methamphetamine, which was found during his booking at the city jail.

Two arrested at campsite ended up in greater trouble

LBPD officers contacted Jose Enrique Faulmendoza, 57, no fixed address and Dawn Purdy Kuehl, 58, no fixed address at a campsite they shared near the animal shelter on Laguna Canyon Road at 7:28 Tuesday morning.

Kuehl initially gave a false name to the officers leading to an arrest for providing false information. She also had marijuana and methamphetamine among her belongings and was charged with misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

During her booking, another quantity of methamphetamine on her, which led to a felony bringing a controlled substance into a jail charge.

 Faulmendoza also gave a false ID to officers and was charged with providing false information. Wants and warrants were checked and he was held on a no bail warrant from Los Angeles.


Police Files

Capo Beach man arrested for robbery, 3 other felonies at Montage 

Montage Laguna Beach security saw two men attempting to break into vehicles in the valet lot at 6:19 Monday night. 

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said security was able to detain one man, Capistrano Beach resident Michael Velazquez, 21, on the resort property while the second suspect was last seen running across Coast Hwy toward Gelson’s Market. 

Velazquez struggled with the security officers in an unsuccessful attempt to get out of their custody as police responded. 

According to the police log, Montage security set up surveillance to watch store exits and entrances but the second suspect was never located.

Velazquez was detained and placed under arrest for a $2500 warrant out of Harbor Court for resisting arrest.

Police and Montage security reviewed surveillance tape of the two suspects breaking into vehicles and taking items and also saw that Velazquez attempted to steal at least one of the cars.

The result of those tapes led police to hold Velazquez on a charge of robbery with bail of $100,000 as well as attempted vehicle theft, burglary and felony threats to do harm to a potential witness.


Police Files

City Council gadfly and son arrested in alleged plot after the son threatened councilmembers and city manager

Police said that on Wednesday, Jan 4, city hall employees led department detectives to a Craigslist posting titled, “Going to Laguna Beach city council with My Gillie suit.”

Robert Mason Ross, 75, and Michael James Ross, 33, were arrested that night. The elder Ross is a recognizable city council gadfly who has made veiled and open threats against the city over the past several years. He threw his hat into the political ring in 2012 as a candidate for the council and received over 750 votes. 

A press release from LBPD this week added, “The posting contained five different photos of a man with an automatic rifle hiding in the brush while wearing a Ghillie suit (camouflage clothing). The posting by the author stated, ‘I am warning the city council that I am going to show up with my gillie [sic] suit, to remove these tyrants from office, in 2017.’ The post also stated, ‘Call the police and the city, council and tell them I am coming to end this corruption, from the Laguna Beach City Council, once and for all. Hahahahahaha, you are going down now.’”

A search warrant was secured and served on their Treetop Lane residence that night.

LBPD joined the OC Sheriff’s SWAT team and made their first knock at about midnight without the door opening. The SWAT team used “flash bang grenades” according to the police log and there were lights on inside the house at 12:17 a.m. for about six minutes. Police continued to announce their presence to no avail before making a final call out to the occupants and entered at 1:17 detaining both men.

The press release continued: “Inside the home, investigators located six rifles, a semi-automatic handgun, and over 100 boxes of ammunition.

“At the conclusion of the search warrant, investigators arrested Michael James Ross for Criminal Threats and Threats to Public Officials. His father, Robert Mason Ross was arrested for being a Convicted Felon in Possession of Firearms. 

Bail was set on Jan 6 at $250,000. Michael Ross posted bail and was released earlier this week. The elder Ross was still in county jail as of Tuesday night.

Woman injured in traffic crash had a surprise bindle in her bra  

A woman was slightly injured in a rollover traffic crash on S. Coast Hwy Tuesday afternoon. Paramedics transported her to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach for medical observation.

Two dogs inside the vehicle were also transported for observation by animal services officers.

At hospital, San Clemente resident Dellia Ledwidge, 53, was found to have a bindle of methamphetamine in her bra – and that led to her being charged with felony possession of a controlled substance for sales and felony transportation for sales.

Her bail was set at $25,000.

Reminder: DUI enforcement operations planned this weekend

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team will be deploying this weekend to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. 

DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy on Saturday, Jan 14, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests.

In California, this deadly crime led to 1,155 deaths and nearly 24,000 injuries in 2014 because someone failed to designate a sober driver. Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes.


Police Files

Sounds as if this burglary may been an “inside job”

When we think of burglaries, we rarely consider them to be an inside job, i.e., someone who had or has knowledge of where the money is and the best time to go for the taking.

There’s no evidence from the LBPD that we are correct in our deduction, but we want you to see what “fake news” can be.

A woman left her Laguna Beach from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. When she got home, she saw that an outside door to her laundry was open and upon looking around, she saw that an office desk drawer was open.

$15,000 in cash was missing.

Laguna Beach PD detectives are on the case. 

Tree outside Urth Caffe is benched by the storm

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dianne Russell

No, this is not the controversial tree in North Laguna


Police Files

18-year-old caught in a stolen car with two juveniles on board

At 5:33 a.m. on Friday, April 14, officers were notified that a Honda Odyssey that had been stolen in Costa Mesa a week earlier had entered Laguna Beach.

Officers stopped the vehicle near Anita Street and Coast Highway and detained its three occupants. 

The driver, Spencer Hastings Jr., 18, Costa Mesa, was arrested for felony vehicle theft with $20,000 bail.

The two female juveniles were transported to the police station.


Police Files

Woman robbed walking home on Brooks Street Tuesday night 

A woman called police Wednesday morning to report that she had been strong-armed by an assailant who then robbed her taking her purse and cell phone.

 LBPD Sergeant Tim Kleiser told us, “She told officers that while she was walking home from a downtown bar at around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on Brooks Street, someone had pushed her from behind, causing her to fall to the ground. The victim said her purse and cell phone were taken.” 

Sgt. Kleiser said she neither saw nor heard the assailant.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call LBPD at 497-0701.

Sunday morning rollover on Coast Highway

Click on photo for a larger image

 

Dennis Rooney

Dennis Rooney took this photo before police arrived on scene Sunday at 6:05 a.m. The Honda Pilot heading southbound in the 400 block of N. Coast Highway struck a parked car and rolled over. Police said the single occupant was uninjured and that no charges were pending. The cause is still being investigated, police said.


Police Files

Department of stupid criminals – don’t hold pot out of car window – especially when you have $35,000 worth in containers inside and there’s a cop car beside you

Two patrol officers were on S. Coast Hwy near Cress Street at four o’clock New Year’s Eve afternoon when they saw something very unusual. The passenger of a car next to them was leaning out of the window holding two bottles full of marijuana – one in each hand. The officers stopped them when they turned onto Agate Street.

LBPD booking photos

Brandon Herrera, 18 of Dana Point, the driver, and Austin Vernon, 18, Dublin, Ohio, were both immediately detained and the vehicle was searched.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, that in addition to the two jars Vernon was holding out of the window, other bottles were located with a total weight of nearly 43 ounces.

A bag containing another 44 ounces was also located – 2,436 grams with a street value of $35,000…not exactly personal use.

Both were arrested for felony transportation of marijuana for sales.

Herrera was also charged with felony possession of concentrated cannabis and driving without a license, a misdemeanor.

For good measure, Herrera was held for a felony warrant out of Harbor Court with charges of – are you ready – possession of marijuana and transportation of marijuana for sales. He was held for a total bail of $50,000.

Man suffers major cut from New Year’s sucker punch

Police received two distressed emergency 9-1-1 calls at 2 a.m. New Year’s morning from a female caller who managed to get the point across that someone had been hurt when assaulted at S. Coast Hwy and St. Ann’s Drive.

Police and medics were dispatched.

On scene, it was learned that a man who was walking his female friend home had inadvertently bumped into someone while checking his cell phone.

He didn’t see it coming when he was struck on the side of his face causing a major cut over his left eye. Medics stabilized the man who then was transported to Mission Trauma Center in Mission Viejo in critical, but not life threatening, condition.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said detectives are investigating the case.

Apparent vandalism at LBHS created a brief stir for authorities

Emergency dispatch received a call from an alarm company at 11:56 p.m. New Year’s Eve for the activation of both a fire and burglar alarm.

The alarm company said that an associated camera activation in the classroom involved – a chemistry lab – showed a white powder substance strewn about.

After several minutes of investigating, it was determined that someone had sprayed a fire extinguisher around an area of the lab.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said, “Officers noticed that someone had gained access to the room through a window. No items have been reported missing from the classroom at this time.”

Later in the day, it was also learned that several lockers in the boy’s locker room had been opened and their contents were strewn across the floor area. There is no direct evidence that the two incidents are related.


Police Files

Two arrested after fighting cop downtown early Saturday morning

A man and woman were arrested after police responded to a reported melee at S. Coast Hwy and Forest Ave at 1:46 Saturday morning.

By the time the first patrol unit arrived on scene, the fight involved just two men. That officer managed to halt the fighters but when he attempted to detain one man, that one slugged the officer in the face and broke free.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said Monday, “The man ran from the officer, but the officer was able to catch him and after another struggle a nearby Good Samaritan assisted the officer with handcuffing the suspect.”

Dennis Mondragon, 23 of Lake Forest, was arrested for misdemeanor assault on a police officer and felony resisting arrest.

LBPD booking photos

After other officers arrived, they learned that a female with Mondragon had fought with two bouncers at the White House a few minutes earlier. Courtney Ellis, 20, of Rancho Santa Margarita, was arrested for misdemeanor battery.

The officer who fought with Mondragon sustained cuts to his face and legs.


Police Files

Woman confronted a man getting into her car as she stood nearby – when she did, he swung a knife at her 

A woman called 9-1-1 from a driveway on Camel Point Drive at 3:53 Tuesday afternoon reporting that a man she didn’t know had swung a knife at her.

The caller said she had pulled into a friend’s driveway and had left her doors unlocked and the engine running while she talked with a friend about 25 feet away.

The woman told police that she had seen the man, later identified as Michael Cowan, 45, no fixed address, open a car door and begin to get inside.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Thursday, “The victim confronted the man and asked why he was going into the car. The man became upset and pulled out a folding knife from his waistband and swung it toward the victim. He had told the victim that he was a former Marine and military.”

The knife did not strike the woman. 

Officers did an area search located Cowan within five minutes at the Aliso Beach parking lot where he was arrested for felony assault with a deadly weapon. 

Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operation on Tuesday 

The Laguna Beach Police Department will step up Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operations on Dec 6, with focused enforcement on collision causing factors involving motorists and pedestrians. 

The department will be focusing on locations, since January 2012, where pedestrian involved accidents have occurred along with the violations that led to those crashes. Officers will be conducting directed enforcement at those locations looking for traffic offenses made by drivers and pedestrians alike that can lead to life-changing injuries. Special attention will be given to drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks or any other dangerous violation. 

Additionally, enforcement action will be taken against pedestrians committing violations such as crossing the street illegally or failing to yield to drivers who have the right of way. Pedestrians should cross the street only at marked crosswalks or at corners.

In 2013, California witnessed 701 pedestrian deaths accounting for over 23 percent of all roadway fatalities, much higher than the national average of 15 percent. A national study reveals that pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently, and many often use cell phones, text and listen to music while walking or driving. Only 60 percent of pedestrians said they expected drivers to stop when they were in crosswalks, even though they have the right-of way. 

The Laguna Beach Police Department would like to remind both drivers and pedestrians to be alert and share the roadway. Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Police Files

Drone drives resident to distraction – and worse

Drones are a contentious topic, and on Friday, one resident in the 1300 block of Skyline Drive decided to take matters into his own hands – literally.

“After a thorough investigation, officers found a resident had taken a drone that belonged to a professional videographer, who was filming for real estate purposes,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt. James Cota. “The citizen refused to give it back to the owner.”

According to the police log, the man also punched the videographer, who declined medical attention. 

Eventually, officers were able to get the man to come out of the house with the now-damaged drone.

Joshua Radwan, 36, Laguna Beach, was arrested for robbery and transported to Orange County Jail.

Cliff Drive burglary foiled

On Saturday evening, a neighbor reported a woman sitting on a doorstep and pounding on the door of a residence in the 1000 block of Cliff Drive. 

Officers arrived at the scene and detained the woman and her companion.

According to Sgt. James Cota of the LBPD, “They were in the process of stealing items from the residence.”

Marcela Encarnacion, 45, Long Beach, and Arnoldo Chavez, 49, Norwalk, were both arrested for residential burglary. Additionally, Chavez was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Merced County for vandalism, resisting, and battery.

Man spits at officers during arrest

Officers responded on Friday night to Main Beach following a report of assault. After making contact with the two men involved, it was determined that Daniel Del Rosario, 24, no fixed address, was the aggressor.

“While officers attempted to arrest Del Rosario, he spat at an officer but missed,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “Aside from being charged with assault, additional charges were added for assault on a police officer.”

Del Rosario was taken to Orange County Jail and held with $20,000 bail.


Police Files

Teenage girls rob woman on Anita St at knifepoint in broad daylight

Police said a woman walking alone in the 500 block of Anita Street Wednesday afternoon was robbed at knifepoint by teenage girls. 

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said police were not sure if two or three blonde haired teenage girls had approached the woman.

He said the victim called 9-1-1 within minutes of the robbery. “They drove past her on Anita Street as she walked toward the beach and stopped in front of her. The suspects approached her and demanded her purse and cell phone. She gave them $5 and they fled…”

Sgt. Kleiser said they were in a dark grey or black sedan or small SUV and were last seen westbound on Anita Street. The vehicle may have had out of state plates according to police who added that the driver appeared to be a male.

LBPD detectives are investigating the case.

Woman arrested after driving stolen car from the IE to visit the beach 

Police patrol units learned that a stolen white Saturn reported from Riverside had driven into Laguna Beach at the north City limits at 3:03 a.m. Tuesday morning. They searched for the car and located it parked in the 1000 block of Cliff Drive.

As officers watched the Saturn, other officers began an area search nearby, Sgt. Tim Kleiser indicated. They encountered a woman at Shaw’s Cove beach who denied knowledge of the car.

At 5 a.m., they saw her nearby the parked Saturn and questioned her once more. Her answers led them to a search and the keys to the stolen vehicle were discovered.

Tamra Trueblood, 43, from Murrieta in Riverside County, was arrested at 5:15 a.m. and charged with felony vehicle theft.


Police Files

Man arrested inside women’s room taking pictures

Jonathan Celis-Sorrosa, 25, of Santa Ana, was arrested for invasion of privacy with a camera and resisting arrest early Sunday morning at the White House.

Police were called after a woman told a security guard that a man had taken photos of her while she was inside a stall of the women’s restroom.

Police responded at 1:51 a.m. and found Celis-Sorrosa still in the restroom and escorted him outside.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “He attempted to pull away several times from the officers and after a brief struggle, was placed in handcuffs.”

No further details were available.   

Two stolen cars led to numerous charges and three in custody

LBPD patrol officers successfully stopped two stolen cars on Laguna streets on Thursday and Sunday resulting in three suspects being arrested on felony charges.

Early Sunday morning, a 2016 Nissan Sentra that had been reported stolen in Anaheim on Friday was stopped at S. Coast Hwy and Legion Street.

After clearing the car at gunpoint at 4:49 a.m., officers found burglary tools on board and arrested the two men who had been in the car.

Michael Moran, 27, Santa Ana, was charged with felony vehicle theft, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools. Nestor Garcia, 28, also from Santa Ana, was arrested for the same charges plus false ID to a police officer and driving on a suspended/revoked license.

On Thursday at 1:14 a.m., police stopped a red Honda CRV in the 600 block of Laguna Canyon Road. It had been stolen in Bishop on Wednesday.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, “During a search of the vehicle, officers located a methamphetamine pipe and methamphetamine.”

Seattle, WA resident Anthony Wendell Evans, 37, was arrested on charges of felony vehicle theft and possession of a controlled substance.

Laguna resident defrauded by IRS phone scammers

The FBI made a national announcement last Thursday about a phone scam that was being reported all over the country.

That same afternoon, LBPD learned from a North Laguna resident that scammers claiming to be IRS agents had instructed that two Apple gift cards be purchased in the total amount of $800 to satisfy a tax debt.

The victim complied and gave the caller the card numbers and lost $800.

One sure thing, cops will be out in droves on Cinco de Mayo

Fiesta time or jail time?

If you are planning to party this Cinco de Mayo, keep this number in mind: 343 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes over the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend in 2014. Of those 343 people who lost their lives, 34 percent (116) died in drunk-driving crashes. And the drivers in those crashes weren’t just a little drunk. Sadly, almost one out of five (17 percent) of all the drivers in fatal crashes that weekend had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .15 percent or higher – almost twice the legal limit in every state.

Everyone should be mindful also that if you’re taking medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the level of impairment.

LBPD will have additional patrol units all over town looking for impaired drivers this Thursday evening with the goal of lowering the number of deaths and injuries.


Police Files

Laguna man, 26, arrested for felon with a gun while he was arrested for stealing a car on Laguna Canyon Rd

A Laguna Beach man, 26, was arrested last Wednesday afternoon for felony vehicle theft and felon in possession of a gun after he was detained about a block away from where a 2006 Mazda SUV had been reported stolen about three hours earlier in the 21000 block of Laguna Canyon Road.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Michael Matekel was observed in the area of the stolen Mazda after a patrol officer had found it in the 20400 block of Sun Valley. 

“The officer watched it from a distance. While the officer was there, a man approached the patrol car from the rear. The officer exited the patrol car and saw a wooden handle of a pistol sticking out of one of his pockets.”

Matekel also had the keys to the stolen Mazda in his possession along with the .22 caliber pistol.

Detectives nab two Inland Empire women trying for a $20K fraud

A plastic surgery center reported earlier in the month that a woman had paid for over $4,500 in surgery after submitting a fraudulent credit application.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser explained that a detective followed up on the report and while investigating the original fraud, discovered that two other women had pulled off the same type of fraud.

“Those two were approved for their surgery costs after filing the fraudulent application and had charged a total of $20,400 in deposits with the financing firm,” Sgt. Kleiser said.

The two women, both from Moreno Valley, had set appointments for their initial surgical consultation for this coming week, which they cancelled.

Both women, Donicka Baker, 39 and Makeida Blackman, 27, drove to the surgery center last week and attempted to have their deposit amounts returned and credited to their actual credit cards.

They were detained by detectives and arrested on felony charges of grand theft, ID theft, impersonating another person to obtain credit, and obtaining money under false pretenses.


Police Files

Five 40-yr-old eucalyptus trees cut at base of trunks in front of Montage Resort – arborist not sure if they will survive  

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Two of five 40-year-old eucalyptus trees cut in front of Montage Laguna Beach

Police said that Montage Laguna Beach staff estimates the value of replacing five tall eucalyptus trees cut at the base of their trunks overnight Sunday to be between $400,000 and $500,000.

The cuts were discovered and reported to the LBPD Monday morning. 

Sgt. Tim Kleiser told us, “An arborist advised it would take approximately four to six weeks to determine if the trees would recover from the damage and estimated the trees were 40-45 years old. The case has been assigned to detectives.”


Police Files

Two men, woman, arrested for strong-armed robbery

Officers were called to the parking lot at Mission Hospital just after 6 o’clock last Tuesday night for a report of a robbery.

Sgt. Tim Heisler of the LBPD said the victim called 9-1-1 and told officers when they arrived on scene that he “…was walking in the parking lot and two males exited a Ford Mustang and called him a narc and snitch. The two males then struck the RP several times and took his wallet and fled in the Ford. The victim sustained swelling to his left eye and complained of pain to his head. He was taken to the hospital for his injuries.”

LBPD stopped the Mustang heading northbound on Coast Hwy near Wesley Drive. There were two male passengers and a female driver, police said.

Sgt. Kleiser said the four people knew each other and there had been contact between them a few days before the incident.

 Derek Schmalle, 21, and Timothy Solomon, 28, both from San Clemente, and Shanoa Mitchell, 27 of Capistrano Beach, were all arrested for felony robbery and felony conspiracy and held on $100,000 bail each.

Man with two dogs struck on S. Coast Hwy – one dog was killed

A man walking across S. Coast Hwy at Brooks Street with two dogs in a crosswalk was struck by a vehicle heading northbound. Police said the Laguna Beach man, 45, was crossing Coast Hwy toward the inland side when the collision occurred.

He was hospitalized with a broken leg, police said. One of the dogs died at the scene as a result of the collision and the other was injured.

Police said it did not appear that ether alcohol or drugs were a factor and the driver was not arrested on scene. 

The investigation has not been completed. 

Another eucalyptus cut – across from Montage Laguna Beach

Another eucalyptus tree was cut at the base apparently overnight Friday. It was in the parking lot almost directly across Coast Hwy from where the trees with the same cuts were discovered on Montage Laguna Beach property.

Montage told police that an arborist was uncertain about the ability of their trees to survive the cutting. An arborist will look at the tree in the parking lot in the 30800 block this week.

No further details were available.


Police Files

Police arrest driver in Friday felony hit & run Saturday morning

Photo by Mark Nelson

This Chevrolet SUV was hit head on in a hit and run crash Friday afternoon

Police and fire responded to a head on traffic crash an N. Coast Hwy and Beverly Street at 3:32 Friday afternoon. A 17-year-old girl from Rancho Santa Margarita sustained minor injuries and was taken to hospital according to LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser.

On scene, it was learned that a Jeep SUV had left the scene. That vehicle was found parked on Hillcrest Drive shortly after the crash.

Photo by Christopher Kling

The suspect vehicle on Hillcrest Friday

Suzanna Olson, 54, of Laguna Beach, the registered owner of the suspect vehicle, was arrested at her home on Cliff Drive ay 9:48 Saturday morning. She was charged with felony hit and run with bail set at $50,000.


Police Files

Suspect fled police – careened off 11 cars on Coast Hwy

On Saturday, Laguna police investigated a report of credit card fraud reported by an out of state cardholder who told them about $1,000 had been charged at a North Laguna hotel. The victim said he had spoken with the front desk and was told that the person who had charged the room was there now.

Officers spoke with the front desk and knocked on the door at about 12:45. Four people inside ran out of the room onto the second floor balcony when the saw the cops. Two were detained and two others, a man and a woman, jumped to the ground, Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday. They managed to get away as the officers dealt with the two who had been detained on the balcony.

He added, “A male and female were detained in the room and the female, Lauren Rivero, 20, from Anaheim, had an outstanding $3,000 warrant for theft from Los Angeles. She was arrested for the warrant.”

As the officers were leaving the hotel at about 2:09 p.m., a hotel employee told them that the woman who had rented the room was in a tan SUV outside. Officers, on foot, managed to get to her before she drove away only to have her take off.

An area search was launched in North Laguna and a patrol unit spotted the tan Cadillac Escalade heading south on Coast Highway near Aster Street.

Sgt. Kleiser provided the following: 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dennis Rooney

This is one of the first five vehicles struck north of Broadway by the Cadillac Escalade Saturday afternoon. Note the wheel in the foreground, which fell off the Escalade. The driver continued on Coast Hwy before turning onto Park Ave after crashing into five more vehicles traveling in both directions on Coast Hwy.

“The officers attempted to stop the SUV, but it immediately drove over into the opposing lanes of traffic and collided with two vehicles in the 300 block of N. Coast Highway. The Escalade continued south on Coast Highway and struck three more vehicles north of Broadway in heavy traffic. Two people, an adult female and female child, complained of pain as a result of that collision. 

“The Escalade continued south and collided with five other vehicles in the 100 and 200 blocks of South Coast Highway. She then turned east on the 200 block of Park Avenue and struck a parked vehicle there. The car finally stopped in the library parking lot after it ran into a cement pillar. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dennis Rooney

Photo by Kelly Viszolay

“The driver fled on foot and was not located. Two passengers in the car were detained and later released.” 

Detectives are working on identifying and locating the driver.

We hope to have added details in our Friday edition.   

Body discovered on Heisler walkway Sunday morning

A person walking in Heisler Park at 6:21 Sunday morning called 9-1-1 reporting that a man was lying on the walkway near the picnic tables.

Police and fire units responded and discovered that a man was deceased from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The OC Coroner will perform and autopsy and release the man’s name later this week.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said the man was 78 and a Laguna Beach resident. 


Police Files

Man arrested in men’s room after pulling a knife on another man

Chad Garcia, 30, Garden Grove, was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon just after midnight Friday after brandishing a knife and threatening another man.

A security guard was also in the Marine Room men’s room at the time and heard the threats. The guard escorted Garcia outside where they awaited the arrival of Laguna Beach Police officers.

Garcia was taken into custody for the felony charge without incident according to LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser. 

Bail was set at $25,000. 

Hacienda Heights man arrested after trying to smash store window

Police responded to the 300 block of Forest Avenue at 11:35 p.m. Saturday after a man was seen trying to smash the window of a store with a rock.

Jake Tineo, 20, of Hacienda Heights was detained while still in front of the store window when officers arrived on scene. The witness who had called 9-1-1 verified that the cops had their man.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, “The window at the business had marks on it from a rock that the male was using to try and break it. They also saw that a nearby mailbox was opened and mail was scattered on the ground. Some of the mail had been opened.”

Tineo was arrested for felony attempted burglary and misdemeanor mail theft.

He was booked here and taken to county jail with bail of $20,000.


Police Files

Murder conviction overturned in 2009 beating death of Damon Nicholson in his North Laguna apartment

Damon Nicholson was murdered with a baseball bat in his Dolphin Way apartment in October 2009. At the time, the 40-year-old man was the banquet manager at Hotel Laguna and well known around town.

After an investigation, Laguna Beach Police detectives arrested two Lake Forest men, Matthew Dragna and Jacob Quintanilla, both 19, for Nicholson’s murder. Both men had gone to the Dolphin Way residence to have sex with Nicholson.

Dragna had been there on more than one occasion and court records show that he invited Quintanilla to the location on the night of the murder.

Dragna and Quintanilla were convicted of the murder in separate jury trials with Dragna convicted in December 2013 and later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed that conviction finding that Laguna Beach detectives had continued to question Dragna after he had invoked a request for an attorney. That, the court ruled, was a violation of Dragna’s rights under Miranda v. Arizona. That ruling removed the evidence that had been obtained during the questioning.

California’s Attorney General’s office acknowledged that the detectives made the error but argued that there was other independent evidence sufficient to convict Dragna. That evidence included DNA. 

The Orange County DA is expected to file charges for a new trial but have made no announcement.

A spokesperson for the Laguna Beach PD said they have no comment at this time.   

 

New “Coast to Coast” seat belt enforcement effort starts May 23 and aims to increase Click It or Ticket participation, save lives 

From May 23 to June 5, local law enforcement personnel will participate in the national Click It or Ticket campaign in an effort to save lives through increased seat belt use. This education enforcement period comes ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. 

According to research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while 88.5 percent of passenger vehicle occupants buckled up in 2015, almost 50 percent of occupants of fatal crashes nationwide are not restrained. In some states, the rate is as high as 70 percent unrestrained in fatal crashes. In California, more than a half million people travel our roadways at grave risk without proper restraints. These facts highlight the need for increased education, awareness, and enforcement of seat belt use. Law enforcement agencies statewide are joining the Click It or Ticket effort to emphasize the “Coast to Coast” seat belt safety awareness campaign in all 50 states. 

“As law enforcement, we have a special role in helping protect the safety of our citizens,” said Lt. Jeff Calvert. “Time after time, we see the deadly results that come from drivers and passengers refusing to wear a seat belt. Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important steps in increasing survivability in a crash. Our job is to stop those who are not buckled up, and to keep them from repeating this potentially deadly mistake.” 

In 2014, nearly half of the 21,022 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes nationally were unrestrained, according to NHTSA. During the nighttime hours of 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., that number increased to 57 percent of those killed. 

“Hundreds of thousands of citizens will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend, as well as throughout the summer vacation season. We want to make sure that people are buckling up to keep themselves and their families safe. It is the greatest defense in a vehicle crash,” said Rhonda Craft, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety. 

For more info on the Click It or Ticket campaign, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/ciot


Police Files

Two men and a woman arrested on total of 19 charges including stealing a vehicle 

A car stop on Goff St at a quarter before midnight last Saturday turned out to be a lot more than the vehicle code violation that attracted an officer’s initial attention.

Vanessa Wilson, 24, Colton, Justin Kimbro, 25, San Bernardino and Anthony Flores, 22, also from San Bernardino, were arrested for 19 charges.

Officers learned post haste that the vehicle had been reported stolen on Friday in Riverside and began treating the incident as a crime scene.

Wilson and Kimbro were both charged with felony vehicle theft and possession of a controlled substance when methamphetamine was located. Wilson also was charged with possession of unspecified stolen property. Flores was held for the meth charge.

In addition to the fresh charges above, all three had warrants.

Wilson had eight outstanding warrants including a no bail warrant out of Pasadena for two counts of ID theft. The other seven were from San Bernardino containing charges of grand theft, drug possession, shoplifting and possession of stolen property. The total bail on those warrants was $105,000.

Flores had warrants with charges of drug possession and shoplifting. His total bail was set at $50,000.

Kimbro had three San Bernardino warrants, each with two charges: one for grand theft and possession of stolen property, one for grand theft and petty theft and the third for being under the influence of a controlled substance and utility theft. Total bail: $70K.

All three were booked here and taken to county jail.


Police Files

Parolee on a rampage drives vehicle onto crowded Main Beach sidewalk

Israel Chavez resists arrest, attempts to shove officer into traffic, spits, is tased; police find an eight-year-old girl in the vehicle

Last Sunday evening at 7:21 p.m., LBPD received multiple reports of a possible DUI driver and a vehicle on Coast Highway swerving dangerously in and out of traffic, at one point almost hitting a bicyclist. 

“An officer observed the vehicle making an illegal left turn from northbound Coast Highway onto the 100 block of Laguna Ave,” Sgt Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson told Stu News. 

“The driver then turned onto El Paseo, hit a parked car, and continued north. He drove onto the cobblestones at Main Beach, then over the grass area, across the sidewalk, which was crowded with pedestrians. It’s amazing that no one was injured.”

The driver, later identified as Israel Chavez, 39, of El Monte, headed south on Coast Highway. Police officers caught up with him near Third Ave on PCH and conducted a high-risk car stop. Officers learned that Chavez was on parole for carjacking,

“Chavez showed signs of alcohol intoxication. He exited the vehicle as requested by officers but then became increasingly uncooperative, attempting to shove the officers back into the traffic,” Sgt Cota says. “Officers were shocked to see that there was an eight-year-old girl seated in the right rear passenger seat.”

Chavez challenged officers to fight and spat at one of them, becoming increasingly combative.

“An officer deployed his Taser. After a struggle on the ground, with Chavez kicking and trying to twist away, officers were able to handcuff him but he continued to fight,” Sgt Cota said.

OC Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene to assist and Chavez was finally put in the back of a patrol car. A spit mask was used to prevent him spitting at the officers.

Chavez was taken to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach for a medical clearance. After being cleared, he was taken straight to Orange County Jail and booked on charges of violating his parole, fighting/resisting officers, and child endangerment.

The child was released to her mother and grandmother. 

Chavez, the LBPD has learned, is not the child’s biological father.


Police Files

Weaving crimes together never ends up as a good thing

Sometimes, people create what police call a cluster @#&} while trying to score big on a crime spree. We have two of those to report today – one that happened way back in March and the other this past Monday and Tuesday. We promise there won’t be a quiz after you read these…

A reader sent us this photo in March

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jeff Greenough

A woman was arrested on Jasmine Street

An alert officer’s attention was drawn to suspicious occupants, a man and a woman, of a car when the officer saw the man walk away from a parked car near Cypress on Jasmine Street in North Laguna back in March. When the officer spoke to the man, Jason Sacdalan, 45, Costa Mesa, he admitted going into the parked car but hadn’t taken anything.

Sacdalan had been in a car driven by Emily Blaney, 20, of Huntington Beach, which was parked on Jasmine.

Meanwhile, another officer was taking a report on High Drive and Poplar Street for items taken from a vehicle. That officer recognized the description of the car stopped on Jasmine as the same as had been given by the victim on High Drive.

It was also at about that time that the officer on Jasmine arrested Sacdalan for two West Court warrants for drug possession with $20,000 bail.

The officer from the High Drive report assisted in a search of the car that Blaney and Sacdalan had driven, which, it turned out, was also a stolen car.

Property stolen on High Drive was inside the stolen car as was a considerable amount of other property that may have been stolen. Even now, all of it has not been accounted for, which is why we didn’t have the details to write this…before…

When the officers who responded to the scene turned their attention toward Blaney, they soon determined that she was a 10:30 in the morning drunk driver. 

Once sorted through, Blaney was charged with felony auto theft, DUI, and possession of stolen property.

Sacdalan was held for the two warrants, false information to a police officer, felony auto theft, possession of stolen property, misdemeanor possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. 

Earlier this week…

An officer took a simple shoplifting report at Montage Laguna Beach early Monday evening for a purse valued at $488. Security told police that the suspect had been seen taking the purse by a witness before he drove off.

On Tuesday morning at 10:37, an officer responded to Urth Caffe on N. Coast Hwy about a suspicious man who matched the description Montage security had for the suspect from Monday.

When the man was contacted, according to Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD, “He was standing near a vehicle on Coast Highway in front of the restaurant with a purse that matched the description of the one stolen at Montage. The purse was later confirmed to be the one taken and the man was also identified as the person who took it.”

For good measure, the vehicle the man had driven off from Montage in and he had parked on Coast Highway was a stolen car form LA County.

Lebarr Darell Littlejohn, 34, Imperial Beach, was arrested for felony vehicle theft, possession of stolen property and shoplifting.


Police Files

Man arrested at Mission Hospital after OC Sheriff’s deputies had dropped him off there for detox

While details are sparse, according to Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD, a Dana Point man, Ian Keegan, 54, who was on formal parole was arrested last Wednesday night outside of Mission Hospital, Laguna Beach after deputies from the OC Sheriff’s Dept. had earlier dropped him off to detox.

Sgt. Kleiser said Monday that the police report had not been completed and that he had no details as to the Sheriff’s deputies.

The police log said that the caller who reported the incident had said that a man who had been dropped off at Mission by OC Sheriff’s deputies was, from the log, “…walking around with a bottle of vodka and got in an SUV to leave…”

Officers stopped Keegan and after an investigation, arrested him for DUI, driving on a suspended or revoked license due to a DUI conviction and driving on a suspended or revoked license due to a DUI conviction without an interlocking device.

After contacting Keegan’s parole officer, he was ordered to be held without bail for violation of his formal parole conditions. He was transported to Santa Ana for Department of Corrections pick up there.


Police Files

Cocaine-fueled man attacks self with towel rack

Guests at the Hotel Laguna were awoken at 12:35 a.m. Thursday morning by some loud banging and yelling. 

Officers arrived and found the source of the commotion to be a man who had ripped the towel bar off the wall. The man, James Hathaway, 32, of Sky Valley, told officers he had been hitting himself in the head with the towel bar.

After further investigation, both Hathaway and his girlfriend, Ashley Neail, 29, Fullerton, were found to be in possession of cocaine. Hathaway claimed that the drugs had been given to them by a man at a bar.

LBPD Booking Photos

Ashley Neail and James Hathaway

Both were arrested and booked into the Laguna Beach Jail for possession of a controlled substance. 

Tips for trick-or-treaters tonight from the LBPD

LBPD hopes that Stu News readers have a lovely evening while they are doing their trick-or-treating. However, there are a few safety tips that they want everyone to keep in mind. 

Be sure to use flashlights or glow sticks so that you are more visible to cars.

Travel in groups or with an adult that you trust. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

These are some fierce pumpkins

Use the crosswalk, looking both ways before you cross. 

Only consume prepackaged candy, 

And make sure to have dad and mom check the candy out before you eat it. 

Keep in mind, the Laguna Beach Police Department has candy as well, so please stop by if you wish.


Police Files

Golf cart driver gets third DUI after fender bender

Last Friday, December 15, a Fullerton resident rear-ended a silver Honda sedan at about 4 p.m. 

When the driver of the Honda approached her about the incident, she offered $20 for the damages, and then fled to a Blue Lagoon condo. The driver called the police after smelling alcohol on the suspect’s breath.

The suspect, Breanne Nicole Budzien, had two prior DUI charges and her license is on probationary status. 

 

Budzien, 25, of Fullerton, was arrested on DUI charges and later released from LBPD with a future court date.


DUI enforcement operations deploy today, 4/20, starting at 4:20 p.m.

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team are deploying today to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. 

DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy today, Friday, April 20, between the hours of 4:20 p.m. and 3 a.m., in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests. 

This date, 4/20, is associated by many as, “national holiday for cannabis culture.” Researchers examined a quarter-century of national data and found a 12 percent increase in the relative risk of a fatal traffic crash after 4:20 p.m. on April 20 compared with identical time intervals on control days. 

Additionally, the risk to teenage drivers is even higher on that day and the risk of crash involving drivers under 21 years of age was 38 percent higher. 

DUI charges aren’t only about alcohol

Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes.  

Studies of California drivers have shown that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. A study of active drivers showed more tested positive for drugs that may impair driving (14 percent) than did for alcohol (7.3 percent). Of the drugs, marijuana was most prevalent, at 7.4 percent, slightly more than alcohol. Everyone should be mindful that if you’re taking medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter, drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the impairment affects.  

Hand over your keys if you are impaired in any way

Law Enforcement emphasizes the preventable nature of drunk driving, reminding everyone that all it takes is a little planning ahead. Designate a sober driver or call a cab. But whatever you do, don’t drink or use drugs, and drive. The cost of a ride home is cheap. 

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 Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 9-1-1’.

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.


Police Files

Two different drunk drivers were more than just DUI

Julie Sabol, 54, Fullerton, was arrested for drunk driving and misdemeanor battery on a police officer Saturday afternoon. A cell caller reported that a woman driver was swerving, stopping in the roadway and that she had hit a parker car, according to Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD. She was heading into town on N. Coast Hwy.

A patrol unit saw the car the caller had described in the Shell gas station and made contact with Sabol.

After she exited the car and was being interviewed by the officer, she kicked him.

She was placed under arrest.

At 1:20 a.m. Saturday, a cell caller reported that a car had struck a metal dumpster and a parked car, totaling the car in the 3000 block of Laguna Canyon Road.

Sgt. Kleiser said that when an officer arrived on scene, “…he saw two males walking away from the collision and detained them. The driver, 25-year-old Mamerton Gomez-Juarez from Lake Forest was arrested for misdemeanor evading, DUI with a prior, driving with a suspended license, and resisting arrest. He also had an outstanding $15,000 warrant. 

The passenger, Eliseo Lopez, 22, from Lake Forest, was arrested for resisting arrest.


Police Files

The lure of lingerie leads to arrest

From an LBPD press release

On May 2, LBPD Officers responded to a burglary investigation at Delicate Illusions, located at 1857 South Coast Highway.  Delicate Illusions is a romantic boutique. The store owner and victim reported over $1400.00 worth of merchandise and cash had been taken during the burglary, which occurred while the business was closed.

During the initial investigation, LBPD Officers reviewed surveillance video from inside the store and recognized 53-year old Reese Westenberger as the perpetrator.  A crime bulletin was distributed throughout the police department listing Westenberger as a suspect in the case.  

On May 31, a bicycle patrol officer recognized Westenberger standing outside of 20652 Laguna Canyon Road. Westenberger attempted to flee the area on foot, and after a short chase, he surrendered.  Westenberger was taken into custody and charged with burglary, grand theft, and vandalism.  

Is thief no longer under any illusions?

When interviewed by Detectives, Westenberger denied involvement.  Westenberger was booked into Orange County Jail and held on $25,000 bail.

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation or other similar incidents 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. .  

To submit tips anonymously, please contact Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS or 855-847-6227. You can also reach Crime Stoppers online at www.crimestoppers.org.

Rash of vehicle burglaries Saturday night

Throughout the day on Saturday, at least seven victims reported that their cars had been entered overnight and items stolen. 

Amongst the stolen property were sunglasses, wallets, paperwork, a computer, and a purse with cash inside. Some of the vehicles had been locked and others were forced open.

“Detectives are currently looking at all leads,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “Progress is being made on locating a suspect.”

Remember, if you see something, say something.

Renters on the rampage

In two unrelated incidents this week, occupants of rented residences are suspected of burgling multiple items from the homes in which they were staying. 

A vacation home in the 31800 block of Circle Drive had TVs, carpet, electronics and computers missing, to the tune of $20,000. The incident occurred in the last two weeks.

In the 21700 block of Ocean Vista Drive, a refrigerator, washer/dryer, dishwasher, and microwave were removed.

Though the incidents are not related, neighbors are once again encouraged that if you see something, say something.


Police Files

Shipwrecked in Laguna

The evening of Tuesday the 14th on Main Beach, Laguna residents were met with something unexpected.

Laguna Beach Police, Fire, and Marine Safety, as well as OCSD Harbor Patrol, congregated at the shore following reports of a 26’ boat running aground. 

The two uninjured occupants, a local transient and a man from Laguna Niguel, had arrived on Main Beach after the vessel had suffered from electrical problems.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Valerie Sokola

The sailboat was not in very good shape when it ran aground Tuesday

“Marine Safety personnel called in a vessel assist company to assess the options,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “The two subjects did not have enough money to pay for the boat to be extracted and wanted to push it back into the ocean.”

Instead, the boat was deemed a hazard, and Marine Safety took custody and responsibility of it. They monitored the boat overnight and called in Public Works in the morning to pull the boat further up the shore during high tide, twelve hours after the boat ran aground.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Tracy Newton

Heavy equipment was brought in for the removal of the vessel Wednesday morning

The boat was removed Wednesday morning. 

Yoga locker burglar and credit card thief pleads guilty

In February, a man entered a Laguna Beach yoga studio and ransacked the lockers, later using stolen credit cards to pay his bill at a local restaurant.

He left town on a train, and continued his life of crime at stops between San Francisco and San Diego over the next few months.

Douglas Schlichting was arrested in June by the Coronado Police Department, and on Monday, pled guilty to charges of residential burglary and identity theft.

Photo courtesy LBPD

Douglas Schlichting

As a third strike felon, Schlichting faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 11 years and 8 months. 

“He also has a probation violation out of San Francisco, where they will choose to sentence him to an additional 8 years consecutive or concurrent,” said Cota.

Schlichting’s sentencing will be on January 9, 2018.

Man bites officer, gets arrested

Wednesday evening, a drunk man on Cleo Street got unruly with officers.

Joshua Szalanczy, 21, Florida, was passed out on the sidewalk when officers arrived to check on him. 

When officers placed him under arrest, he tried to fight with the officers, biting one in the leg in the process.

LBPD Booking Photo

Joshua Szalanczy

In the end, the officers prevailed and Szalanczy was arrested for being drunk in public and felony battery on a police officer. The bitten officer was not seriously injured.


Police Files

The details of what happened at Cress Street Friday

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Chris Tomlin

The OC Sheriff’s SWAT Team rescue vehicle at Cress Street Friday

The following is a statement from the La Casa Del Camino Hotel and has been verified through the LBPD by Stu News Laguna as being accurate.

Around 6:45 a.m., several guests reported a perfume-like odor and complained of itchy eyes and sore throats. As a precaution, a member of hotel staff phoned the Laguna Beach Fire Department. 

Firefighters arrived promptly on the scene and began conducting voluntary evacuations as a precaution. Police were requested by the LBFD at 7:15.  

Avila’s El Ranchito and the Surf and Sand Resort stepped in to lend a hand. Michael Avila assured La Casa Del Camino they could move their guests over to El Ranchito even though they weren’t even open yet. The Surf and Sand generously offered a room for the overflow as well.

During these evacuations, a guest on the third floor who appeared to have a negative reaction to the smell, refused to evacuate his room. 

Around 7:30 a.m., the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad and SWAT team, along with the Orange County Fire Authority’s Hazmat unit were called to the hotel in order to investigate the suspicious circumstances and identify the source of the smell. The scene was immediately contained and no threat was present to the Laguna Beach Community. 

“The SWAT team went into the room [at 2:30]. We did not locate the individual. We did not see anything suspicious,” said Laguna Beach Police Department Emergency Operation Coordinator Jordan Villwock. “It’s believed that the subject possibly left before our arrival this morning.” 

After a thorough search of the establishment, no threat was found. The smell was caused by a bottle of cologne being left unattended on a heater. 

Despite complaints of feeling ill, no hotel guests have been hospitalized or reported any injures due to these events. 

“This is a good exercise for us to go through as hoteliers,” said owner Chris Keller. “The Fire Department and the Police Department have been outstanding. Our guests are really amazing and understanding. This is how a community comes together.”

La Casa Del Camino and its restaurant concepts reopened at 4 o’clock and guests were allowed to return to their rooms. 

Details & update on the Arch Beach Heights house fire

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Christina Shook

The home that burned on La Mirada Street Thursday night (and reported in our Friday edition) was completely destroyed according to the Laguna Beach Fire Department. Two firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

LB Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse said there were two unusual circumstances about the call that came in just after six o’clock. “Our dispatchers had just received a call about multiple fire alarms in a multi-unit building on S. Coast Highway and a full structure response was dispatched.

“As those units were responding, the La Mirada Street calls came in and it was quickly apparent that we had the probability of a fire there.”

A second structure response was dispatched meaning eight fire engines and three ladder trucks were responding to calls in Laguna Beach at the same time.

Chief LaTendresse redirected the first response apparatus, which included all four Laguna Beach engines, from the alarm call to Arch Beach Heights. 

The call on S. Coast Highway turned out to be a false alarm.

Chief LaTendresse then explained the second unusual circumstance. “The lower levels of the home on La Mirada Street were fully involved almost immediately; probably at the same time the home’s fire alarms went off.

“Our engines could see the flash [of massive flames] quickly as they were responding and we were able to call it a working fire Justas quickly. That meant a second alarm and because of the false alarm call downtown, the second alarm response was already en route.”

Eight fire engines and three ladder trucks were in Arch Beach Heights within minutes of the call and that made a big difference in keeping the massive flames from spreading to any neighboring residences.

There were two people in the residence at the time of the fire. Chief LaTendresse said they were able to get outside quickly. “One of the women decided to go back inside in an attempt to save her pet birds. A neighbor saw that and followed her to extoll that she needed to leave, which she said she was doing because there was too much smoke for her to stay. She did not require any assistance for smoke inhalation.”

The three pet birds perished in the flames. 

The cause of the fire is still being determined.

For the record – police will be looking closely for drunk drivers who over-celebrated St. Patrick’s Day 

Laguna Beach Police will have beefed up DUI saturation units on the streets of town Thursday night – St. Patrick’s Day.

Don’t drink and drive and if you see a suspected impaired driver, don’t hesitate – call 9-1-1 immediately.


Police Files

Intoxicated woman, 27, grabbed officer’s wrist trying to pull him down

Officers made contact with two women and a man on Crescent Bay Beach at 9:33 last Friday night after seeing them with a bottle of vodka.

While the officers were speaking to the trio, one of the women, 27-year-old Franchesca Jennie Anderson of Alhambra, who appeared to be intoxicated to the officers, began filming them and soon began placing the camera within inches of one officer’s face.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “The officer backed up a number of times to avoid having the camera in his face and told her not to do it any longer. When she refused his direction to keep the camera a reasonable distance from his face, the officer reached out to take the camera and hand it to the woman’s husband.’

Sgt. Kleiser added, “Anderson grabbed the officer’s wrist and attempted to pull him to the ground. More officers arrived to assist and arrested her.”

Anderson was arrested for battery on a peace officer and for being drunk in public.


Police Files

Sometimes a suitcase is just a suitcase…

Sometimes a suitcase is a just a suitcase, but these days nothing is certain. On Monday, July 3 at 12:18 p.m., a concerned citizen reported seeing a suitcase locked to a stop sign at Temple Hills Drive & Alta Laguna Boulevard. 

“Due to the suspicious nature, the bomb squad was called,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “They responded and determined the suitcase was not a dangerous device, but it was destroyed during their investigation.”

Officers are not sure how long the new looking suitcase had been there.

…but sometimes, a cell phone is actually a knife

On the evening of Sunday, July 2, officers responded to the 300 block of Y Place after a resident said his neighbor had threatened him with the 12” hunting knife he had in his hand.

“The suspect stated he did not have a knife, but only his cell phone in his hand,” said Sgt. Jim Cota of the LBPD. “A video recording proved otherwise.” The video showed the suspect making threats with the knife in his hand. 

Martin Edens, 53, Laguna Beach, was arrested for criminal threats and brandishing a knife. He was held with $50,000 bail. 

 

DUI saturation patrols will be on the streets this weekend between 5 p.m. & 3 a.m.

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team will be deploying this weekend to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. 

DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy Friday, July 7 & Sat, July 8, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests. 

When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes. Studies of California drivers have shown that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. 

If you are impaired by drugs or alcohol, hand over your keys or get a ride home

Everyone should be mindful that if you’re taking medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the impairment affects. Law Enforcement emphasizes the preventable nature of drunk driving, reminding everyone that all it takes is a little planning ahead. 

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 Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 9-1-1.

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. .


Police Files

Former employee Christine Black embezzles $65,000 from Laguna Nursery

On March 17, 2016, Economic Crimes Detectives opened a fraud investigation into a former employee of Laguna Nursery, who was accused of embezzling money from the business. 

“The year-long investigation revealed that Christine Black, 47, issued checks to herself and reported the checks as payments for various vendors,” Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

Black embezzled more than $65,000, Sgt Cota added. 

The investigation also revealed Black was on probation for a similar case in Rockingham County, North Carolina. In that case, she embezzled approximately $100,000. 

On July 5, Black pled guilty to 38 felony counts of forgery and identity theft in Harbor Court. She was sentenced to 16 months in jail, restitution, and is scheduled to be extradited to North Carolina at the conclusion of this case. 

“This case is yet another reminder that when you victimize small business owners and innocent people in our city, the Laguna Beach Police Department will investigate it thoroughly and bring in the resources necessary to work toward successful prosecution of the case,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD Investigations Division. 

The case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy District Attorney, Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit. 

Looking for someone to talk to? Don’t call 911

On Tuesday, July 11, officers received a call from a man reporting a domestic violence incident. 

Unfortunately for him, there was no such incident.

“He made up the call to have officers respond so he could have ‘someone to talk to,’” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “He was advised that this was misuse of 911.”

The man, Brennan Afrasiabi, 19, Laguna Beach, was arrested for misusing 911. But that wasn’t the end of it for him.

“During the booking process, he became aggressive and caused a disturbance in the jail,” said Cota. “He spat in the face of the jailer.”

Afrasiabi was subsequently charged with using violence to resist officers and was transported to Orange County Jail. 

 Snake too cool to move 

On Saturday, July 8, at 11:45 a.m., a man with a zipper cooler bag entered the library and went to the computers. 

Inside that cooler bag was a live rattlesnake.

Rattlesnake perp pic, courtesy the Internet. Not the actual perpetrator

“The man intended to sell it at the city library,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “He was also in possession of methamphetamine.”

The man, Robert Holsinger, 57, Santa Ana, was cited for possession of methamphetamine and possession of a feral/exotic animal. 


Police Files

Caught red-handed at Cleo: teamwork by cops leads to arrest of man who burgled local businesses

Reed Swingley, 54, of Sun City, thought he’d just, you know, swing by Laguna Beach last Sunday – but it turns out that it isn’t such a good idea for a suspected criminal to revisit the scene of a crime.

Especially with stolen goods inside his truck.

“During the first two weeks of July, we investigated three separate commercial burglaries and a residential burglary,” Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson, told Stu News Laguna. “The businesses included Mozambique Restaurant, Tortilla Republic and an architecture business downtown.”

Items stolen included a safe, a large amount of cash, an antique saxophone and a bronze statue.

According to Sgt. Cota, a review of surveillance video from one of the businesses, as well as the residence, identified a person of interest and a suspect vehicle. 

Then, on Sunday July 16 at approximately 5 p.m., LBPD officers learned that suspect vehicle was seen in the city. 

Patrol officers located the vehicle and initiated a high-risk traffic stop on Coast Highway and Cleo.

“This arrest was a true team effort by both Patrol Officers and Detectives. Patrol handled the high-risk stop and detectives took over the investigation. Truly a combined effort,” Sgt Cota notes.     

The vehicle driver, 54-year-old Reed Swingley of Sun City, was detained after officers saw what they believed to be some of the stolen property from these burglaries inside the truck. 

Swingley was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, as well as other theft related charges. He was booked at the Laguna Beach Jail and transported to Orange County Jail. 

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

And the day before, our cops had a red-letter day at Ruby’s

Despite working countless overtime hours on a spate of criminal activity and high risk vehicle stops in Laguna Beach – stops often initiated by sharp-eyed cops noticing a stolen vehicle cruising through our town – 25 LBPD police officers took the time to raise an astonishing and wonderful record-breaking $46,000 to support the Special Olympics, working alongside 12 athletes from Laguna Hills Hawks to serve customers at Ruby’s Diner on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Jennifer Mills, who manages volunteer and special events for the Special Olympics, was quoted as saying that “law enforcement usually raises about $5,000.”

Laguna’s police officers earned nine times as much. 

Thursday chase ended with crash on Wave Street

Last Thursday, Newport Beach Police pursued a driver heading south along Coast Highway. At 5:28 p.m., Casey Adamczyk, 28, of Corona del Mar, who was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon, crashed into a power pole at Wave Street.

Click on photo for a larger image

Reader Scott Methvin submitted this photo of the dramatic crash

Laguna Beach PD officers responded and assisted with the investigation. Adamczyk was arrested by Newport Beach PD and taken back to their PD for booking.


Police Files

Dogged action helps cops nab car thief

Last Friday, July 21 at around 10 p.m., diners at Moulin Bistro and Alessa Laguna looked up from their plates to see a high-risk vehicle stop taking place – and Laguna’s police dog, Ranger, being quite persuasive in encouraging a car thief to surrender.

Valarie Hewin  (58), no fixed address, was arrested at gunpoint for possession of a stolen vehicle and driving on a suspended license. Hewin also had an outstanding felony no-bail warrant for her arrest. 

“Ranger was helpful in persuading her to surrender,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt. Jim Cota said. “If you’re a criminal, you don’t want to mess with that dog.”

The black Nissan Altima had been reported stolen from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Officers first spotted the stolen vehicle driving northbound on S. Coast Highway from Nyes Place. 

German Auto thief apprehended

On Friday, an RP from German Auto brought police officers surveillance video from a burglary that took place at the business. An unknown individual entered the premises and took items from several vehicles.

“A suspect was located and admitted to stealing the items. He was identified as homeless resident Brandon Heath,” Sgt. Cota said.

Heath, age 23, was charged with grand theft, possession of stolen property, attempted vehicle theft, and tampering with a vehicle.

New police officers join LBPD

Three new Laguna Beach police officers were sworn in recently: Officer Ashley Krotine, Officer Shahriyar (Shar) Hariri, and Officer Rajen Patel. 

Officers Ashley Krotine, Shahriyar (Shar) Harrir and Rajen Patel

Officer Krotine and Officer Patel are graduates of the Golden West Police Academy and Officer Hariri is a lateral officer from the San Diego School Police Department.

Officer Patel was a police officer in London, England before moving to the United States with his family. 

“We are very happy to have them as part of our team,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt. Jim Cota said.


Police Files

Glenneyre Street residences get a smashing wake-up

On Friday night at 11:45 p.m., after getting kicked out of Skyloft, 21-year-old Laguna Beach resident Zachary McGuinness was doing burnouts in the upper Glenneyre parking structure.

Photo by Kris Kovach

What it looked like the night of…

After his Tahoe struck a parked Mazda, he left the structure and took his burnouts to the street. That didn’t end up so well for the residents in the 500 block of Glenneyre Street.

Photo by Scott Brashier

The garages were red-tagged after a drunk driver crashed into them Friday night

“He lost control of the Chevy, which veered to the right and plowed through the triple garage doors,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He was not injured,” and according to the police log, was able to get himself out of the vehicle.

McGuinness, who turned 22 on Saturday, was subsequently arrested for DUI with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above. 

Though a city building inspector red-tagged the garages, no residents were displaced.


Police Files

Driver in 2013 fatal collision sentenced to community service, probation

At 6:40 a.m. on April 2, 2013, a Tesla Model S driving northbound on Laguna Canyon Road collided head-on with a Honda Accord, killing the 47-year-old driver Alberto Casique and 38-year-old passenger Armando Gonzalez. The Tesla was driving next to a Mercedes as both vied for the single lane north of El Toro Road.

On Monday, October 16, 2017, the driver of that Tesla, Dr. Robert McFarland Pettis, pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, and was sentenced to community service and three years of probation. As part of the deal, he admitted that he had been driving at an unsafe speed at the time of the collision.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

Two men were killed in April 2013 after the Honda (left) they were in was hit head-on. The driver of the black Tesla, seen facing the wrong way on Laguna Canyon Road in the background, was sentenced this week.

The families of the victims have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pettis a well as Dekker McKeever, who was driving the Mercedes, Orange County, Caltrans, and the city of Laguna Beach, among others. 

Laguna Canyon Road closed twice in a day

On Sunday morning around 9, a motorcycle driving outbound on Laguna Canyon Road near Canyon Acres was struck by a vehicle making a left turn out of a residence. 

The motorcyclist was transported to Big Mission and the extent of his injuries were unknown.

Laguna Canyon Road reopened after approximately an hour and a half, but that didn’t last too long.

At 9:40 p.m., police and fire personnel responded to the 2600 block of Laguna Canyon Road after a vehicle collided with a utility pole. 

“It was likely that the driver fell asleep at the wheel,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He sustained minor injuries and was transported to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach as a precaution.”

The collision, in which the Honda Civic sheared a utility pole, caused low hanging wires to hang low over both sides of Laguna Canyon Road.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dave Day

Due to downed wires late Sunday night, Dave Day had to commute to his workplace on Laguna Canyon Road by bicycle, where he snapped this photo

Crews from Frontier Communications arrived on Monday to fix the affected pole and wires. The road was reopened approximately 17 hours later, at 3 p.m.


Police Files

Lizzie Mulder, embezzler who stole more than $1.5 million from local businesses, is sentenced to prison

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Mulder, the owner and operator of a financial services company based in Laguna Beach that provided accounting, tax and bookkeeping services to small businesses throughout Orange County, was sentenced this week to five years and three months in federal prison for embezzling more than $1.5 million from her clients.

Mulder, a 34-year-old former Laguna Beach resident, pled guilty in June to wire fraud and subscribing to a false income tax return for failing to report the misappropriated funds to the IRS. 

She convinced nearly all of her victims to make checks payable to “Income Tax Payments” under the guise that the money would be used to satisfy clients’ past and future tax obligations. Instead, these checks went to a fictitious business called “Income Tax Payments,” and the funds used by Mulder to pay for her rental home in Laguna Beach, cosmetic surgery, vacations, a horse, and more. 

Photo courtesy LBPD

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Mulder befriended most of her victims before stealing more than $1.5 million from them between July 2009 and May 2016

“By developing and continuing personal friendships with the victims, Mulder was able to assume responsibilities for their small business accounting needs and then proceeded to steal from them,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Her conduct resulted in various levels of financial loss and emotional distress to the victims, many of whom were required to drain their personal bank accounts or retirement funds in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.”

In addition to her time in prison, Mulder has been ordered to pay $1,538,781 in restitution to seven victims, including the IRS.  

Spate of residential burglaries continues: three more reported in the last week

On Tuesday, a resident was dropped off at her home on Smithcliffs Road and realized immediately that something was not right. Suspecting that someone was inside the residence, she called the police. 

Officers and a canine unit confirmed that the residence was empty, but someone had definitely been inside. 

A final loss inventory has not yet been completed, but some of the victim’s jewelry was taken.

“This is possibly related to other residential burglaries,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.“We’re investigating the links.”

On Monday morning, a resident in the 200 block of Lower Cliff Drive came home after being away for three weeks and realized that someone had been inside the residence.

The loss, which included UPS uniforms, a fur coat, a computer, Kindle, iPad and other miscellaneous items, was estimated at about $3,000. 

The suspect may have accessed this home through an unlocked door.

And again, on Sunday, in the 200 block of Crescent Bay Drive, a resident returned home to find random items taken from their house – a computer worth $1,200, an iPhone 6 worth $800, makeup, a classic print Louis Vuitton bag, a UPS package and more – the total loss was estimated at $5,000.

At this residence as well, the suspect may have entered through an unlocked door.

“Residents must be sure to lock all doors and windows – always – and take additional precautions if the home will be empty for a few days,” said Sgt. Jim Cota.

Along with these precautions, residents need to be reminded, Sgt. Cota said, that

the LBPD offers vacation house checks. Just stop by the police station during business

hours to fill out a request form.

America First rally scheduled for Main Beach on Sunday – what residents need to know

A rally to “…bring awareness to Extortion 17 and Benghazi” has been organized for Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m. at Main Beach.

At time of writing, 44 people had RSVPed as “Going” on the Facebook page, with another 262 “Interested.”

The Laguna Beach Police Department is prepared for this event and will have officers on foot as well as some on horseback patrolling the area.

Photo by Scott Brashier

Officers on horseback patrolled at the America First rally in August, where an estimated 2,500 people gathered

LBPD and outside agencies will be setting up at 5 p.m. 

“Residents should continue with any plans that they have,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. “LBPD is here to protect residents. Don’t change your life or lifestyle because of the activities of protestors.”

At least one counter-protest group has been in touch to seek an area set aside for them.


Police Files

LBPD motor officer injured by a passing motorcycle

A Laguna Beach Police motor officer suffered a dislocated arm Sunday night on Thalia Street near Wendt Terrace when a passing motorcyclist the officer was signaling to stop struck his outstretched arm. 

The motorcycle rider was among a group of an estimated 25 bikers that callers had complained about around 8 p.m. for “…revving their engines and speeding…” in the area of Alta Laguna Park in Top of the World.

The motor officer and other LBPD officers were responding to the location when the motor officer encountered five motorcycles near Thalia and Wendt and attempted to detain them. 

After the motor officer was hit, a patrol unit pursued the offending motorcycles and located one of the riders in the 900 block of S. Coast Hwy. Two of the motorcycles had collided on Thalia as they rode side-by-side, according to police.

The second rider was taken into custody inside a nearby restaurant after a 9-1-1 caller reported that a man with a helmet and motorcycle gear was talking on his cell phone, “…yelling, limping, yelling into the phone in a panic…” 

An officer detained him at the restaurant within a minute of that 9-1-1 call.

That man was identified as Luis Antonio Gonzalez, 30, Pico Rivera. The first rider held was Victor Manuel Velazquez, 26, Whittier. Both men were arrested for felony DUI, disobeying a police officer and hit and run, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD, said.

The extent the officer’s injuries were not immediately disclosed. 


Police Files

Serial car thief caught: more individuals under investigation

Laguna Beach Police officers located and arrested one of a group of individuals who have been committing thefts from vehicles in the city.

22-year-old Johnny Cervantez from San Bernardino was arrested on Saturday for receipt of stolen property, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

Officers are still investigating the thefts. Stu News Laguna will provide more information once it is available. 

Dog gets involved in arrest: is rescued by LBPD

An interesting side-note from the LBPD’s Facebook page related to the San Bernardino search: While serving a search warrant, detectives came across an eight-week-old German Shepherd, who had obvious injuries to its legs and paws and was not being properly cared for. 

The owners of the dog said they didn’t want him and also said they had been trying to get rid of him, but because of his injuries no one would take him. Working with a local rescue, detectives arranged to have the dog surrendered for adoption. 

From LBPD Facebook page

German Shepherd puppy is rescued thanks to LBPD detectives

Detectives did this while recovering stolen property from the house and identifying additional suspects in the case. The LBPD says they are happy to report that the owners voluntarily turned over the dog to rescuers and he is now healthy and preparing to be adopted, thanks to the excellent work of Sgt. Cota, Cpl Sendele, Ashton, Gensemer and Officers Mirakian and Ocampo. 

 

$5 million+ of software, camera equipment taken from a truck

Overnight on Thursday, a truck parked in the 400 block of Jasmine Street was entered. The owner discovered the door cracked open, but no damage to the car.

Missing was $15,000 in cash as well as approximately $5 million in computer software.

“The investigations division is looking into the incident to identify any suspects,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson.


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. 

Click on photo for a larger image

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.”

Click on photo for a larger image

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


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. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy LBPD Facebook


Police Files

Squatters arrested for burglary and ID theft, spray paint home walls with their initials

An observant resident noticed some suspicious activity at his neighbor’s vacant house in the 600 block of Ramona Avenue on Saturday. An unfamiliar truck was parked in the garage, a window was open, and people unknown to the neighbor were seen around the property.

Officers arrived around 11:45 p.m. to investigate and found that a man and a woman had been living inside the residence for about 10 days without permission from the owner. During that time, they had spray painted the walls with their initials. 

Photo courtesy of LBPD

While squatting inside the home, Justin Westgaard and Dionne Hart left their mark in the form of graffiti

In addition, the pair, Justin Westgaard, 39, Laguna Beach, and Dionne Hart, 45, Costa Mesa, were found to be in possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia, numerous IDs, mail, and financial information belonging to other people.

LBPD Booking Photos

Justin Westgaard and Dionne Hart

Hart and Westgaard were taken to Orange County Jail on charges of burglary, identity theft, and drug related charges. 

More police than protestors at Sunday’s rally

“They recently changed their name to Onward America from America First,” said Sgt Jim Cota of the group that promoted a rally in Laguna Beach this last Sunday.

 The group was allowed to speak in front of the boardwalk...with a slew of law officers in riot gear covering the entire walkway behind them, becoming just silhouettes as the sun began to set. “We have a strong law enforcement contingency that’ll involve all of our law enforcement partners throughout the county, so I would expect upwards of 150 officers total, ready to go. There are horses that are staged. They’re not going to be dispatched immediately, only if they are needed,” Sgt Cota told Stu News as they waited to see what the evening would bring.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jason Feddy

Police from all over Orange County were at Main Beach Sunday night to help ensure public safety

The group began to speak with a bullhorn to onlookers, mainly protesting how the 2012 Benghazi attack was handled. This lasted for all of 15 minutes before a counter protest group was on the scene. There was an intense law enforcement presence all around. At this point, a group of 20 or so police came into the sand area, separating the two groups, with one group leaving first. Another squad of 30 officers across the street standing two by two on Broadway Street began crossing the Pacific Coast Hwy at around this time (approximately 8 p.m.).

A total of about 60 protesters and counter-protesters were in attendance on Sunday. No arrests were made and the crowds dispersed by 8:45 p.m.

One resident pointed out that the cost was something to consider for all of the equipment expended for this rally. The police barriers, the police with their riot gear – how much did this all cost, the resident wondered. Another passerby lamented that Laguna Beach is so peaceful, usually, and that the contrast recently was very evident –definitely not the usual tranquil beachfront that residents and tourists alike are used to enjoying.

Red Flag Warning issued for Laguna Beach

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the Orange County Coastal Zone, including Laguna Beach, effective through Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. A wind advisory has also been issued where wind speeds between 15-25 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph are possible. Temperatures will be near or in excess of 90 degrees. An elevated sense of awareness is imperative during extreme weather conditions.

Laguna Beach residents should take this time to evaluate their preparedness levels. The City asks residents to refer to the Ready! Set! Go! Program available on the Fire Department website (www.lagunabeachcity.new/cityhall/fire). Register for AlertOC, the city’s mass notification system, by going to www.alertOC.com. Make sure to include your cell phone number, text number, and email addresses so emergency alerts can reach you no matter where you are. In order to ensure you are contacted during a Red Flag Warning, register with the Nixle Red Flag group by texting “LBRedFlag” to 888-777.

During a Red Flag Warning, parking restrictions are implemented for the Diamond/Crestview neighborhood. Any vehicles parked in marked parking spaces with a “red flag” painted in the center of the asphalt may be cited or towed. 

When Red Flag Warning are issued from the National Weather Service, this information will be shared on the city’s website, social media accounts, official press release, and through the Red Flag group in Nixle.


Police Files

Pharmacy on wheels: Cops find enormous stash of pills on traffic stop

On Saturday, at around 1 a.m., a driver on Laguna Canyon Road noticed someone driving erratically, weaving and almost hitting the reporting party. Naturally concerned, they called the police. Officers arrived shortly thereafter and began a routine traffic stop. 

They soon realized that they had on their hands a veritable mobile pharmacy. 

“There were so many different pills, it would take half a page to write them,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. A few of the more popular drugs found upon searching were: marijuana, morphine, oxycodone and methamphetamine. By volume, the most confiscated were 120 Topiramate tablets, 57 Carisoprodol tablets, 40 Hydrocodone tablets, and 30 Suboxone tablets. Despite this impressive array of medications, the driver was not a doctor, and did not have any affiliation with a medical clinic.

The driver, Shauna Kester, 30, Garden Grove, was arrested for two accounts of possession of drug paraphernalia, for being under the influence of a controlled substance, and for possession of a drugs for sale. Bail was set at $20,000. 

This was one of the largest if not the largest pill busts of the year by LBPD, according tos Sgt. Cota.


Time to have Coffee with a Cop (and a doughnut too, of course): Bring your questions with you

LBPD invites residents to meet police officers for coffee and doughnuts this Sunday, April 22 from 8 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. at Laguna Beach Cyclery, 240 Thalia St.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Bring questions, ideas, and even your dogs to Coffee with a Cop, just as these locals did a month or two ago

 “Join your neighbors and personnel from the Laguna Beach Police Department for coffee, doughnuts and conversation. No agenda or speeches, just a chance to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know the officers in your neighborhood. We hope to see you there!” says LBPD Spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota.


Police Files

Mountain biker tumbled 200 feet down sheer cliff above Laguna Canyon Rd Friday afternoon is still listed to be in critical condition

An unidentified mountain biker in his 50s fell from his bike along Telonic Trail Friday afternoon and tumbled some 200 feet down a sheer cliff to a ledge, fire authorities said. The cliff is located above the 2800 block of Laguna Canyon Road between Alta Laguna and the canyon floor.

The man suffered fractures and internal injuries that included his chest area and was still listed in critical condition at Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana as of late Monday evening. 

Laguna Beach and Orange County Fire Authority firefighters and paramedics along with a fire authority copter responded to the remote rescue after the 4:02 p.m. 9-1-1 call from a friend of the fallen biker. Rescue operations were begun from both above and below the cliff ledge.

The difficult and dangerous terrain made reaching the injured man a challenge and it took about an hour for a paramedic to be lowered to the ledge. The paramedic did what could be done to stabilize the victim and at the same time, made observations as to the safest and best way to extricate the biker who was barely conscious.

Harnesses were established and a stokes basket was lowered that allowed the fire authority copter to airlift the man to Santa Ana leaving the area at about 6:40 p.m.

The biker was wearing a helmet, authorities said.

Capo Beach man arrested for delivering marijuana

Robert Cadman, 57, Capistrano Beach, was arrested Saturday evening for possession of marijuana for felony sales and furnishing marijuana. 

At 5:42 Saturday afternoon, an officer made contact with a man seated in a car in the 200 block of Fairview Street, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, Monday.

“During the conversation, the officer learned the male had marijuana in the vehicle that he claimed he was delivering,” Sgt. Kleiser explained.

Non-profit collectives can make deliveries under current Laguna Beach law.

Sgt. Kleiser added, “The man admitted to receiving money form people he delivers to.” Collectives don’t do that.

Cadman was in possession of a little more than a pound and a half of marijuana.


Police Files

16-yr-old Laguna Beach boy arrested for robbery Saturday night

Officers responded to the 1400 block of S. Coast Hwy at 7:33 Saturday night for a report of a robbery by fore – no weapons.

A Laguna Niguel man said a teenager had forcibly taken his BMX bicycle and his skateboard then took off.

Police did an area check and located a 16-year-old Laguna Beach boy with the stolen items.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said Monday that the suspect was “…detained in the alley behind the Koffee Klatch and arrested for robbery.

No other details were immediately available, Sgt. Kleiser said. 

Woman suffered leg injury at Tablerock was hoisted out by copter

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by John Thomas

An injured woman and a paramedic being hoisted from Tablerock Beach

Fire rescue paramedics responded to Tablerock Beach at 3 o’clock Monday afternoon after a 9-1-1 caller reported a woman with a leg injury.

She was at Little Cove and unable to walk. Fire personnel called for an OC Fire Authority helicopter to perform a hoist rescue because the tide was rising quickly.

Paramedics stabilized the woman on the beach and the hoist rescue was handled without any difficulties. The copter brought her on board along with a paramedic and she was flown to hospital in less than an hour after the 9-1-1 call was received.

Three young children who were with the woman were taken to the hospital by LB police officers.   

First date was the last date – woman told police

A woman called 9-1-1 at 9:56 Saturday night from a S. Coast Hwy restaurant and said her date had hit her in the face. She added that it was their first date and that she wasn’t sure of his name.

He had left the restaurant on a motorcycle, she said.

A patrol officer stopped a motorcycle a short time later headed outbound in the 600 block of Laguna Canyon Road and investigated and arrested the male rider for DUI.

It didn’t take police too long to connect the rider, Gregory Louis Piazza, 46 from Mission Viejo, to the 9-1-1 call.

The woman who had called said she was sure this was their first and last date.


Police Files

Burglary victim sees suspect – wasn’t easy, but cops nabbed him

Steven Edward Cain, 49, no fixed address out of Oklahoma, was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property and resisting arrest last Thursday night after police received a call from a burglary victim last weekend.

The victim called police at 9:29 p.m. after spotting a suspect the RP had caught on a surveillance camera when his garage was burglarized on June 25. $300 in cash had been taken from a wallet inside the RP’s unlocked vehicle inside the garage.

Police responded to a parking lot in the 31500 block of Coast Hwy where they encountered and detained the possible suspect, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said.

“As they were in the process of investigating the incident, at about 10 o’clock, Cain fled on foot to Table Rock Beach. Other officers responded along with the OCSD’s airship to the area and eventually found him hiding on the rocks. Officers located his car nearby and found several stolen items inside,” Sgt. Kleiser added.

Cain was taken into custody at gunpoint at 10:24.

Copter used to hoist stranded victim from rocks at Thousand Steps

Fire and police responded to Thousand Steps Beach at 7:47 Saturday morning to assist two young women who had become stranded on the rocks offshore. 

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “Due to difficulty in extracting one patient from the rocks, OCSD’s helicopter/rescue team responded and was able to rope hoist the victim from the rocks.” She was taken to hospital with minor injuries, authorities said.

The other, uninjured, victim was assisted to shore by lifeguards.


Police Files

“Smashed window” car thief grabs goods worth $5,000

On Monday afternoon, a burglar smashed the windows of a Mercedes parked in the 200 block of High Drive – different from the usual MO of stealing items from unlocked cars. A suitcase with $5,000 worth of clothing was stolen from the car, which belonged to the visiting friend of a resident.

“We have had quite a few thefts from unlocked vehicles,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “It’s an easy crime of opportunity.”

“With summer approaching and many visitors coming to town, citizens have to lock their vehicles and their residences,” Cota urged.

But he reminded people that even locked cars can be subject to crime, and that it is important to be aware of suspicious behavior. 

“Remember, if you see something, say something,” Cota added.

Woman gives TV the brush-off, goes to jail

Officers were called to the ASL on Monday morning to remove a woman who was not allowed to be on the property.

When they got there, she had done more than trespass.

According to the police log, 10 witnesses confirmed that Sarah Beach, no fixed address, had used a broom to break the flat screen TV that belongs to the shelter.

Beach was arrested for trespassing and felony vandalism. Bail was set at $20,000.


Police Files

There’s no Jell-o in jail

On Saturday, August 5 at 5:17 a.m., a residential alarm went off in the 800 block of S. Coast Hwy. Officers went to the scene and found an open slider door, which they entered. After announcing their presence, they heard movement on the upper floor.

Ross Simard, 34, Malibu, was detained in handcuffs after coming down the stairs. He first claimed to be the owner of the property, and then claimed his girlfriend owned the property. But, the names he gave were not associated with the property. The caretaker and owner verified that Simard should not have been on the property.

Surveillance footage shows Ross Simard, 34, Malibu, at a residence in the 800 block of S. Coast Hwy.

 “A search of the interior showed Simard had taken food out and made himself a snack, which included Jell-o,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

Simard was arrested for burglary, providing a false name to police, and a $300,000 felony warrant for a prior burglary in Los Angeles. 

“He also told officers he swallowed two grams of heroin before he was contacted inside the residence,” said Cota. “He was taken to Mission Hospital for a medical clearance and then transported to Orange County Jail,” where, we are told, there is no Jell-o. 

Doctor shopper is prescribed jail

On Wednesday around 4 p.m., a woman arrived at Mission Hospital for multiple medical ailments. But, medical staff was aware that a woman matching her description would visit hospitals, request medications and extend her stay. 

Officers were contacted, and the woman, Texas resident Tenetra Jones, 31, attempted to leave upon finding this out.

“Inside Jones’ bag was discharge paperwork from various hospitals,” said Cota. “They all had different names. Also located was prescription pills in another name.

“Officers believed she was ‘Doctor Shopping’ and had over 30 different medications and associated ailments in which certain medication was given,” he explained.

Jones was ultimately arrested for providing false names for medical services, providing a false name to an officer, and entering a business with the intent to defraud.


Police Files

Motorist vs bicyclist: bicyclist wins

On Thursday, August 10, at 9:42 a.m., Laguna Beach police officers responded to a report of a disturbance at the intersection of Bluebird Canyon Road and S Coast Hwy.

According to witnesses on scene, the disturbance began when the suspect, a motorist, intentionally struck a person riding his bicycle. When confronted about this by another bicyclist, the suspect then intentionally tried to run him over as well. The suspect fled the scene prior to officers arriving.

Laguna Beach Police Department patrol officers and detectives responded to the scene and obtained a description of the suspect and his vehicle. Using this information, detectives identified Kevin O’Neill, a 53-year-old resident of Laguna Beach, as a possible suspect. Witnesses and victims positively identified O’Neill in a photo lineup.

On Sunday, August 13, police officers stopped O’Neill while he was driving his vehicle and placed him under arrest. He was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and booked into Orange County Jail.

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. .

Road rage results in DUI arrest

On Saturday around 3 p.m., callers reported that a Toyota Camry rear-ended a Tesla and attempted to drive away.

When officers arrived, they discovered that the victim stood in front of the Camry as it was attempting to leave the scene and was struck by the vehicle.

“The driver, identified as 57-year-old Anaheim resident William Boeck, exhibited signs of driving while impaired and was investigated for driving under the influence,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. 

Boeck was arrested for a fourth offense of driving under the influence and, since he tried to hit the other party with his car, assault with a deadly weapon.


Police Files

LBPD reminds residents to lock their doors following vacation rental break-in

Laguna Beach residents aren’t the only victims in the recent spree of burglaries across town. 

A visitor staying in a vacation rental in the 1100 block of N. Coast Hwy woke up at around 3 a.m. on Wednesday to find someone in her room. Upon seeing that the previously sleeping guest was awake, the suspect fled – but not before grabbing a jacket with $40 inside.

“The suspect entered through unlocked doors,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “People need to lock the doors to their residences and vehicles.”

The jacket was recovered, but the money was gone. And, there was a beer on the front porch the following morning that hadn’t been there the night before.

LBPD is looking into the case to see if there are any leads.

Rats! We have a gnawing suspicion that a certain thief was disappointed when he opened stolen packages 

Imagine the scene: you’re just your average burglar ambling along Cerritos Street early Thursday morning, wondering whether today will be your lucky day, looking for open windows or doors, when you see a few nice size boxes sitting on the doorstep of a home…so you pick them up. 

They’re heavy and rattle when you shake them. Seems like this could be valuable stuff – the kind of stuff thieves like you can make money on. It’s been a slow thief day.

You scurry away, packages in hand. Feeling beady eyes on you, you turn – has the homeowner noticed you? But no, it’s a pair of rats sitting on a fencepost, whiskers upturned. If you didn’t know better, you might think they were smiling at you, as if to say, hey, we recognize you, and thanks, buddy! 

Thanks, buddy – we see you’re one of us…

Funny what nerves will do to your mind.

When you get home, you open the boxes to find – 60+ rat traps. Nearly $85 worth of rat traps and their associated equipment, to be exact. A plague on the house you burgled!

It’s not your lucky day after all. And you have a gnawing feeling the cops will be after you soon. 

And we think you’re right about that.


Police Files

LBPD officer arrested in elder abuse case: internal investigation launched

On Tuesday, November 28, officers from the Fullerton Police Department arrested three individuals in connection with an ongoing elder abuse and fraud investigation.

One of those individuals was LBPD’s Officer Rock Wagner, 58, a nine-year veteran of the police department. Arrested along with him were his sister, Wendy Wagner, 55, and her boyfriend, Norman McBride, 58. All three were arrested for elder abuse and fraud, and were released from the Fullerton City Jail after posting bail.

Officer Wagner has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

In an interview with Stu News Laguna, Police Chief Laura Farinella estimated that the internal investigation would take approximately 30-45 days.

“We will not compromise a thorough and accurate investigation for the sake of getting it done earlier than it takes,” she said.

While disappointed with the arrest, the LBPD wants to express to the community that no criminal activity is alleged to have occurred within Laguna Beach or while Officer Wagner was on-duty.

“The arrest of Wagner was definitely unexpected and has sent a disappointing ripple throughout the entire department,” said Farinella. “With that said, this arrest is not a reflection of the hard-working, ethical men and women of the Laguna Beach Police Department, and nothing in this case has ever pointed to his work here as a police officer.”

Fullerton PD was informed of the alleged misconduct in June 2017 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Orange County Adult Protective Services. Chief Farinella was made aware of the investigation a few months ago by Fullerton PD. 

“One of our lieutenants was there at the time of the arrest and [Wagner’s] badge, gun, and ID ware taken. It was at that time he was placed on paid administrative leave and given the appropriate paperwork related to this status,” Farinella said.

Fullerton PD officers said that there was more than one alleged victim, related to the suspects, and the allegations relate to the theft of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suspects are not accused of any physical abuse. 

“We have a war on trees [in our town],” says Mayor Iseman after vicious attack kills eucalyptus

In August, an unknown suspect poured gasoline on a eucalyptus tree a block away from Thousand Steps Beach. The fire department responded to absorb the fuel, and a consulting arborist was called in by the city’s Public Works and Code Enforcement departments to evaluate the tree.

“Public Works staff followed the consulting arborists’ recommendations to remove the fuel and periodically visited the site to monitor the situation and evaluate the health of the tree,” said Shohreh Dupuis, director of Public Works, in a letter. At that time, the tree did not appear damaged beyond recovery.

That did not last long. A few weeks later, the foliage turned brown and the canopy began to die. A dozen nails were found in the tree trunk, which were removed immediately. 

“During the follow up inspection, the arborist suggested that the damage caused by the vandalism had systematically affected the tree to a level that was likely to be irreversible,” said Dupuis.

The tree has not recovered and is now dead. The Public Works department is following the City Council’s Public Tree Removal Policy for its removal, as it has become a fire hazard.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

A 50-foot tall eucalyptus tree will be removed after a series of attacks killed it

“We have a war on trees going on [in this town],” said Mayor Toni Iseman. Last November, someone cut gashes into five eucalyptus trees in front of Montage Laguna Beach. And in May of this year, several nails were hammered into a tree in the 1000 block of Cortez.

Unfortunately, LBPD is not actively investigating the recent vandalism that killed the eucalyptus tree because they have no leads on the incident.

“If you can prove that a tree was purposely or maliciously killed by a person, a case can be presented to the DA’s office for filing consideration,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “A report was generated and Code Enforcement conducted an investigation. If there had been any solid leads on who committed the crime, a report would have been sent to Investigations for assistance in either an arrest or filing a charge with the DA.”

Red Flag Warning issued for Laguna Beach

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning effective through Thurs, Dec 7 at 11:59 p.m. A high wind watch has also been issued where wind speeds between 20-40 mph and gusts of up to 60 mph are possible. Laguna Beach residents should refer to the Ready! Set! Go! Program available on the Fire Department website (www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/fire). 

Register for AlertOC, the city’s mass notification system, by going to AlertOC.com. To ensure you are contacted during a Red Flag Warning, please register with the Nixle Red Flag group by texting “LBRedFlag” to 888-777.

Residents should be aware of parking restrictions in the Diamond/Crestview neighborhood during Red Flag Warnings. Any vehicles parked in spaces marked with a “red flag” in the center may be cited or towed.


Fire Files

Firefighters on full alert as Red Flag Warning is extended: “Elevated sense of awareness urged”

The National Weather Service extended the Red Flag Warning for the Orange County Coastal Zone through Saturday, Dec 9 at 8 p.m. Police and fire personnel urge an elevated sense of awareness during these extreme weather conditions.

Laguna Beach Fire Chief Kirk Summers reported that LBFD had two engines and two Battalion Chiefs assigned to the Thomas Fire in Ventura County on the fire lines Thursday.

“Closer to home, we have staffed up every available engine, including our wildland engine and our reserve engines, and the rescue squad,” Summers continued. “All but four of our firefighters are on duty in anticipation of the extreme fire weather conditions.”

Jordan Villwock, the city’s Emergency Operations Coordinator, reported that CERT volunteers were posted at Alta Laguna Park this week as a visual deterrent and for public outreach. 

“The PD is using Beach Patrol Officers to maintain a fire watch there during the night,” Summers added. 

The Police Department is also enforcing Red Flag parking restrictions in the Diamond and Crestview neighborhoods.

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Click on photo for a larger image

CERT volunteers on patrol at Alta Laguna Park this week

 “The Great Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council activated their Red Flag Patrol earlier this week, so you might see cars driving around town with red flags,” Villwock said. 

City Council Bob Whalen said that he believed the situation brought attention to the need for undergrounding utility poles along evacuation routes. 

“Over the past few days the wildfires raging throughout Southern California have required over 100,000 to flee their homes in minutes. The speed with which the fires have spread is incredible,” said Whalen said. “Watching people run from their homes underscores for me how crucial it is to all of us in Laguna to underground the utility poles on Laguna Canyon Road and other evacuation routes in the city. This will be the first priority in the city’s undergrounding plan.

“I am confident that voters will understand how crucial this plan is to public safety and will support it at next November’s election,” he concluded.

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy LBFD

Laguna Beach Firefighters were involved in firefighting at the Thomas Fire for 48 hours before getting a break on Thursday

Laguna Beach residents should take this time to evaluate their preparedness levels, Villwock said. He asked that residents refer to the Ready! Set! Go! Program available on the Fire Department website (www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/fire). 

Villwock also encouraged residents to register for AlertOC which is the City’s mass notification system by going to www.alertoc.com. Residents should make sure to include cell phone number, text number, and email addresses so that they can be contacted no matter where they are. 

In order to ensure they are contacted during a Red Flag Warning, residents should register with the Nixle Red Flag group by texting “LBRedFlag” to 888-777. 

Despite reports of a “purple flag” warning, Summers explained that there’s no such thing. “There is a fire severity scale that uses colors to indicate fire risk in various areas. The purple indicator is fairly new and has made its debut in this weather event.” 


Police Files

Package thief captured before Christmas

With the massive rise in online retailers, many people do all their Christmas shopping from the comfort of their couch. With the click of a few keys, a package can be delivered to your doorstep – unfortunately making many people an easy target for thieves.

One such thief, who stole packages from doorsteps all over Orange County, including Laguna Beach, was arrested by the Garden Grove PD on Tuesday, December 19.

Anthony Palusso

Photo Courtesy of LBPD

Anthony Brian Palusso was located and arrested thanks to the community and the use of home surveillance. He has prior arrests for thefts as well. 

For future package deliveries, LBPD provided the following advice:

-Require a signature for deliveries and bring packages inside immediately.

-Provide specific delivery instructions to keep packages out of view of the general public.

-Give an alternate delivery address, such as your work or somewhere were someone is present, to prevent packages from sitting on the porch for a long period of time.


Police Files

Laguna Beach resident charged with defrauding Orange County businesses of more than $1.5 million

On January 26, 2016, LBPD Economic Crimes Detectives began a fraud investigation against Elizabeth Mulder, a resident of Laguna Beach, after a local business owner identified Mulder as his accountant and alleged that Mulder embezzled $200,000 from his wine business, JAC Wines.

The investigation revealed that between July 2009 and May 2016, Mulder devised and executed a scheme to defraud and obtain money from small businesses by gaining the trust of their owners, some of whom allowed her to gain control over their financial accounts. In total, Mulder embezzled over $1.5 million from her victims, according to documents filed in federal court.

When sentenced, Mulder faces up to 23 years in prison.

A victim talks about her experience with the embezzler

Among her victims was JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, president of Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates, an upscale travel agency based in San Juan Capistrano. 

Kurtz-Ahlers tells StuNewsLaguna that she thought everything was going smoothly during the five years, 2011 – 2016, that Elizabeth Mulder acted as her accountant, primarily handling income tax issues for Kurtz-Ahlers’ upscale travel agency.

Then Kurtz-Ahlers found out that all the money she thought she’d paid to the IRS had disappeared into Mulder’s pocket. 

“I was in shock. I’d known Elizabeth Mulder’s mother, Alice Whynaught, for years, which made me feel quite comfortable hiring her daughter,” Kurtz-Ahlers said. “To be honest, I admired Elizabeth, I thought she was a terrific entrepreneur, very successful – meanwhile she was a skillful manipulator. She took advantage of her mother’s connections to get clients and then embezzle from them.”

Along with the shock of realizing her funds had been embezzled, Kurtz-Ahlers still has to deal with IRS. They expect Kurtz-Ahlers to pay what she owed for those five years – plus penalties and fines – and it is taking a great deal of negotiation to come to a settlement with the IRS.  

Skillful, yes, but in deception, not finance

“Elizabeth came across as someone who was sincere and really wanted to help you. Plus she had so many clients, I thought she must be good at what she did. That’s what everyone thought.”

But Mulder was in the process of embezzling what would turn out to be 1.5 million dollars from clients who trusted her. She was good at what she did – except her skill was in theft.

“Police detective Jordan Mirakian of the Laguna Beach Police Department was amazing,” Kurtz-Ahlers says. “We all went to him in a group and he was diligent about taking the information about every case. She was quite inventive in the different ways she took advantage of her clients.”

Search warrants executed by LBPD Detectives at the Mulder residence and her bank accounts revealed additional victim businesses throughout Orange County. These companies included Toni & Guy Hair Salon (Newport Beach), Kurtz-Ahlers LLC (San Juan Capistrano), Bella Pilates (San Clemente), Andra Builders, Inc. (Costa Mesa), and California Print 2 Copy (Irvine).

Mulder deceived clients into making checks payable to a phony business she created called “Income Tax Payments,” under the guise that those payments would satisfy the clients’ outstanding IRS tax obligations. She also created false personas as representatives and/or investors of companies to lead her clients to believe various expenses were being paid for the benefit of the business.

LBPD “brought in every available resource”

“This investigation serves as a reminder that our police department will pursue individuals in positions of trust who take advantage of innocent victims. We brought in every available resource, including our partners from the Federal Government, to ensure that this case would be appropriately prosecuted and justice would be served,” said Captain Jeff Calvert, LBPD.

Mulder used the money embezzled from the victims for a variety of personal expenses including a rental home in Laguna Beach, cosmetic surgery, personal vacations, living expenses, horse rentals and the purchase of horse equipment.

This case was investigated by the Laguna Beach Police Department Investigations Division, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the IRS Criminal Investigation, and the United States Attorney.

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. .

 

Two helicopter rescues in two days

The Fire Department has been busy this week. On Wednesday, June 8, at 2:57 p.m., the Department received a call from the 600 block of Diamond Street. A construction worker had fallen from a construction site. 

 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy of LB Fire Department

Helicopter rescue in progress

The lack of stairs made it impossible to reach him other than by helicopter, and moving the patient was critical due to the extent of his injuries. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy of LB Fire Department

Patient is safely en route to the hospital thanks to our firefighters and the OCFA

The Fire Department, working with the OC Fire Authority, was able to hover and then drop someone down to rescue the patient and deliver him to Mission Hospital.

Golfers hear call for help

Then on Thursday morning at 9 a.m., golfers at The Ranch at Laguna Beach reported hearing calls for help from a steep hillside.  Access to the person was impossible by foot and the patient was unable to move due to a foot injury.  

Working again with the OCFA, Laguna Beach Fire Department deployed a “short haul” approach to airlift him to the hospital in Mission Viejo.

 

Stolen vehicle leads to chase, spike strips deployed

Laguna Beach Police were alerted to a stolen vehicle located at Forest Avenue and Laguna Canyon Road. The driver, Juan Gutierrez, chose to flee in the vehicle through the downtown area without stopping. 

The vehicle ultimately headed north to Newport Beach. With the assistance of Newport Beach PD, the vehicle was disabled utilizing Spike Strips. 

Three occupants were detained and two were arrested. They were Gutierrez and Arriaga. Gutierrez was also in possession of approximately one gram of methamphetamine.


Police Files

Here’s a shocker in Police Files – good news!

Remember our story last week about Reed Swingley, 54, of Sun City, who stole goods from individuals as well Mozambique Restaurant, Tortilla Republic and an architectural business downtown? Items that included personal jewelry, a safe, a large amount of cash, an antique saxophone and a bronze statue, found in his truck?

To recap, last Sunday, after a high-risk traffic stop, Swingley was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, as well as other theft related charges.

But (in addition to his arrest) here’s the good news: detectives were able to track down some of the people who had their valuables stolen.

Courtesy LBPD

Betty Jo Young is thrilled to have her jewelry back, courtesy LBPD

According to police reports, 89 year-old Betty Jo Young, whose belongings and jewelry were stolen from her hotel room in town while she was in the hospital recovering from a fall, was thrilled to know that her diamond wedding rings and a diamond heart pendant, given to her by her late husband Coleman Young, had been recovered.

Also, LBPD Sgt Cota tells us, a rare bronze art piece was returned to its owner, Horst Noppenberger, who owns Noppenberger owns Horst Architects in Laguna Beach.

An antique saxophone was also returned to its owner.

Photo courtesy LBPD

Detectives Mirakian and Ocampo celebrate the return of stolen goods

“This has been a great experience for our detectives and a tribute to LBPD teamwork,” Sgt Jim Cota said. “We are in the process of giving the stolen property back to the owners. We just gave a woman back her purses and we’re going to be giving a woman back her wedding ring. She is ecstatic!”

Sgt Cota added that the investigation of this case is still ongoing and, because of its complexity, will take time to complete.

You’re never too old to … steal?

Just because you get older, of course you still want to wear the kinds of clothes that’ll help you steal the show at a party – but most senior women prefer to buy rather than burgle when choosing an arresting outfit.

Not so for three “older” women (according to police reports, not me, I’m 61) who attempted to swipe clothes from Sunny Days and were arrested on the corner of Laguna Ave and S. Coast Highway. 

Diana Lynn Carnivalli, 51, of Nevada, with charges pending, and Linda Maria Webster, 46, Nevada, with a Ventura warrant bail $5000, were taken into custody.

Arrests were for petty theft, possession of stolen property, and burglary tools – small pliers used to cut the sensors off clothing.

Apparently a Chihuahua, pushed in a cart, was an unwitting accomplice.  

The third woman was released with no charges.


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

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

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.

Click on photo for a larger image

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 nabbed three burglary suspects from Riverside on Friday morning, with help of K-9 bite

As we reported on Friday, LBPD was able to apprehend three suspects involved with a burglary reported on Zell Drive that morning. A resident had reported a suspicious truck in his neighbor’s driveway, and another caller reported three suspects had attempted to force entry through a side bedroom window. 

Within minutes of the call, officers on scene saw three suspects inside the truck driving away. 

The three suspects abandoned the truck in a nearby residential area and fled on foot. With air support from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as well as their K-9 units, the suspects were located. 

LBPD Booking Photos

Gwendulyn Ceballos Jimenez, Allen Ykwang Lin, and Michael Murilloh

Gwendulyn Ceballos Jimenez, 21, Allen Ykwang Lin, 29, and Michael Murilloh, 31, all from Riverside, were taken into custody after an extensive search of the area. Ykwang Lin had to be persuaded to come out of the canyon where he was hiding – OCSD’s K-9 unit was more than happy to assist. The minor bite injuries Ykwang Lin sustained were treated. 

“Our residents acted quickly and did a fantastic job reporting the suspicious activity that led to these arrests,” said Captain Jeff Calvert in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such engaged residents who understand that it is a team effort to keep our community safe.”

The suspects were booked into Orange County Jail for residential burglary and possession of stolen property. LBPD detectives are in the process of identifying additional victims through the stolen property recovered in the truck…which was also stolen. The investigation is ongoing.

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Photo courtesy of LBPD

Officer McGuire and Detective Gensemer are looking for the owner of the other stolen truck, which they think belongs to a 2- to 4-year-old. If you know who this truck belongs to, please call the LBPD at 949-497-0701.

 

Well-dressed Edward Torrison pleads guilty

This week, Edward Torrison pled guilty to the thefts that occurred this summer in Laguna Beach at the Shops at the Cliffs, where the losses exceeded $200,000. 

He pled guilty to four counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of grand theft, and one count of receiving stolen property. 

LBPD detectives arrested Torrison on Sept. 26 in Oceanside. A second suspect shown on the surveillance footage is still at large. 

Torrison is suspected to be involved in several other burglaries that occurred throughout Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties.


Police Files

Thieves are doing their Christmas shopping in Laguna, it seems – by breaking into cars…

“These thieves are looking for anything visible of value in plain view or vehicles left unlocked,” said LBPD’s Sgt. Jim Cota when asked about a recent string of vehicle burglaries. Whether or not the seven thefts that occurred between Sunday and Tuesday are related is still being investigated.

Sometime late Monday night, two pairs of sunglasses valued at about $1,000 were taken from a vehicle (most likely left unlocked), and $500 worth of Christmas presents were stolen from another unlocked vehicle. One victim noticed items missing from their car on Monday. Two cars on a driveway were searched by a burglar on Sunday, and both were said to have been left unlocked.

One victim’s vehicle was locked on Sunday, but the burglar still managed to steal $500 worth of shoes and clothes. Another strike on Sunday left the victim missing their wallet and $400 in gift cards, and yet another victim’s glove box was riffled through.

“We need to get the message out: remove all personal items of value from your vehicle, and always lock your doors,” Cota said.


Police Files

Jaw-dropping scam on Glenneyre takes bite out of victim’s bank account

A heavy-set man in his thirties or early forties, wearing navy blue medical scrubs, recently conned a victim on the 1100 block of Glenneyre Street into buying vouchers for three teeth-whitening kits, including the promise of discounts for dental procedures.

“He paid $328.41 on his credit card,” said Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “When he called and made an appointment with a Laguna Niguel dentist’s office, that’s when he learned that the vouchers were fraudulent.”

Unfortunately, it looks like the victim is just going to have to grin and bear the loss, because the suspect has not been located.


Officer-involved shooting rattles community: Woman had gun in hand upon emerging from vehicle

At 2:41 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 11, the Laguna Beach Police Department received a call about an apparently distressed woman in a blue gray Lexus SUV driving erratically.

“More than one call came in. At least one (or more) caller(s) indicated that this person appeared to have a handgun visible in her possession,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota.

While officers were responding, another caller reported speaking to a woman who had a gun in the area of St. Ann’s and Gaviota. The woman with the firearm had asked the bystander to call the police because she wanted to take her own life.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Police gather at the crime scene

Officers arrived in the 100 block of St. Ann’s and made contact with the distressed woman, later found to be a 36-year-old Huntington Beach resident. She was parked at the far end of the cul de sac on Saint Ann’s facing the beach, alone in her car.

“She was initially uncooperative with the officers,” said Sgt Cota. “One officer approached her on foot. The other officer pulled up behind her vehicle and exited on foot. Then the woman emerged from the car with a gun in her hand. The officer on foot discharged his weapon. The woman was struck in the upper torso.”

Officers immediately rendered aid and called paramedics, who also worked on her. She was transported to Mission Hospital – Mission Viejo, where she underwent surgery.

As of last night, she remained in critical condition. 

No officers were injured during the incident. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Kim Pearson

A bullet penetrated a window at the Laguna Riviera: The room was unoccupied

It appears that at least one bullet went through the window of an unoccupied room at the Laguna Riviera hotel during the incident, as seen in this photo provided by hotel owner Kim Pearson. LBPD is not commenting on the number of bullets fired.

Sgt Cota tells us that the Laguna Beach Police Department will conduct an investigation and review of this incident through a multi-step process that evaluates the legal, policy, and tactical considerations surrounding the event. 

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office responded as standard protocol and will conduct a parallel and independent investigation.

--Lynette Brasfield


Police Files

Update on officer-involved shooting: audio and video recorded the interchange between cops and distressed woman

The 36-year-old Huntington Beach woman who was shot by police on Sunday after emerging from her vehicle with a gun in her hand, has been medically upgraded from critical to stable condition, said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota on Wednesday. 

“LBPD will seek charges against the female suspect,” said Sgt Cota.

An investigation is currently underway by both LBPD and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the incident. Video and audio recordings from patrol vehicles and residences are being reviewed, which will shed light on the interchange between cops and the distressed woman, who is reported to have threatened to take her own life, as well as the number of bullets fired.

 “Officers verbally attempted several times to let them help her with her ongoing issues,” said Sgt Cota. “(They) were very patient and attempted to help her.”

Stu News will continue to follow and report on this story in the coming weeks.

 

Three suspects arrested and charged in connection with assault at The Saloon

On August 11, 2017, at 1:30 a.m., Laguna Beach Police Officers responded to a fight in progress in the 400 block of South Coast Highway. Officers contacted two separate victims of an assault and began an investigation into who committed these acts of violence. 

At the conclusion of the initial investigation, it was determined that three male subjects assaulted two male Laguna Beach bar patrons and a Good Samaritan female who tried to intervene. Both male victim sustained injuries, including broken bones and lacerations. The female victim sustained minor injuries.

Laguna Beach Police Detectives began a lengthy investigation in the search for the individuals responsible for the assault. Over a dozen interviews were conducted during the investigation and hours of video reviewed. At the conclusion of the investigation, three male suspects were ultimately arrested for Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Battery with Serious Bodily Injury.

The three males were identified as City of Ontario resident Jeremy Bishop (pictured here), Daniel Little (not pictured), and Joshua Little (not pictured). Both Daniel and Joshua Little reside in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

“This lengthy and time-consuming investigation serves as a reminder that our police department will pursue any individual(s) who commit acts of violence in Laguna Beach. Our Investigations team did an outstanding job identifying, locating, and arresting these three suspects,” said LBPD Captain Jeff Calvert.

--From a press release

 

Laguna Beach enjoys an overall reduction in crime for 2017, although burglary is up 10 percent

The Laguna Beach Police Department is happy to report a reduction in crime for 2017. The Police Department tracks crime and a number of other statistics on a yearly basis in an overall effort to evaluate their effectiveness as well as identify areas of community outreach and enforcement.

While larcenies have dropped significantly, there has been an increase in residential burglaries. These burglaries are attributed to unlocked doors and open garage doors. “This is a reminder that we can prevent a majority of property crime by taking the time to properly secure our homes,” said Chief Farinella. The decrease in larcenies are directly related to the increased staffing of Beach Patrol Officers which were funded through Measure LL and the Strategic Plan. These once part-time positions are now full-time, providing a much-needed added layer of presence on the beach, which is where we saw the decrease in the crimes.

Other highlights:

No fatal traffic collisions: Second year in a row

Traffic collisions are down 12%

Total calls for service are up 4%, equaling 1,919 additional calls

Citations are up almost 100%, which is attributed to the additional Beach Patrol Officers enforcing local municipal codes such as no alcohol and glass on the beach.

CERT is now over 300 members strong, CERT Academy graduated Class #9

Citizen Academy participates are now over 400 strong with the graduation of Class#24

The below are Laguna Beach statistics for 2017 Part I Violent Crimes, as compared to previous years. 

Tables courtesy of LBPD

The below are Laguna Beach statistics for 2017 Part I Property Crimes, as compared to previous years. 

Every police department is mandated to report Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on a yearly basis, so that increases and decreases in crime can be tracked and evaluated on a national level. The reporting of crime is separated into two classifications, Part I and Part II. Comparing these statistics year-to-year can tell a story both locally and nationally, and help police agencies strategically focus their resources. Part I crimes are the only crimes that are mandated to report. Reporting of Part II crimes is not mandated, and include crimes such as forgery, vandalism, and drug abuse violations. The Laguna Beach Police Department does track these crimes in an effort to identify trends.

--From a press release


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.

 

Click on photos for a larger image

Photos courtesy of LBPD

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


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

Mid-day burglar arrested for stealing clothes and cash

On Sunday afternoon, a LBPD officer was in the right place at the right time.

“The general manager of a restaurant in the 200 block of Brooks Street flagged down an officer around 2:15 p.m.,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He pointed to a man running away from the patio area.”

The officer took chase and tracked down Cesar Badillo-Munoz, age 28.

“He was wearing a jacket that still had a merchandise tag on it from a local business,” said Cota. “He claimed he paid $80 for it, but later admitted he had stolen it along with other clothing items that he was in possession of, including hats and t-shirts.”

Back to the restaurant manager…

“Badillo-Munoz had been acting suspicious inside the restaurant,” said Cota. “The employees noticed that he had gone into the office and taken cash from an unlocked safe – that’s what alerted the manager to flag down the officer.”

Inside the pocket of the stolen jacket, officers found a total of $2,166.

Badillo-Munoz was arrested for burglary, grand theft, and, since he ran from officers, resisting arrest. 

Community meeting regarding recent burglaries a success – more coming in the future

On Wednesday night, LBPD hosted a community meeting at the Susi Q Center regarding the recent burglaries in North Laguna.

Sgt. Cota estimated there were 25 people in attendance, as well as himself, Sgt. White, Sgt. McGill, and Detective Ocampo. 

“We talked about the uptick in burglaries in the city, security measures residents can take, vacation home checks conducted by the police department, and other resources for the public to learn about major events,” said Cota. “Overall it was a very good meeting.”

“Based on the attendance and questions that were asked, we will be doing a lot more of them,” he added. “It was really good and informative for citizens.”

Remember, if you see something, say something – you could stop a crime. 

A pigeon and a pumpkin – was it the full moon?

Last Thursday there was a full moon – and we’re attributing that to some recent odd occurrences around Laguna….

On Monday morning, a business reported that there had been pumpkins smashed, hay scattered, and posted signs ripped. Was it a werewolf on the rampage? Perhaps, but the victim provided security footage of the incident.

On Monday evening, a man was reported wandering downtown carrying a dead pigeon. When questioned about it by police officers, he was unable to recall where he had picked up the unfortunately deceased bird. The man, 18-year-old Emil Brenenstuhl, was ultimately arrested for public intoxication, but we won’t rule out vampires as the cause for the dead bird.

After all, it is Friday the 13th….


Police Files

Thief waltzes away with dancing woman

On Friday evening, a resident in the 200 block of Chiquita Street reported that a sculpture had been stolen from their home. 

The sculpture, a bronze dancing woman on a base of green marble, had been listed on eBay. The loss was estimated at $7,000. 

Copycat sought in wilderness parking lot burglary

Last May, LBPD apprehended a suspect who had been breaking into cars parked in Laguna Coast Wilderness lots on Laguna Canyon Road.

Now, it seems a copycat is back at it.

On Saturday morning, a woman’s car, parked in the lot in the 3200 block of Laguna Canyon Road, was broken into while she was hiking. 

When she returned to her vehicle, she found that her purse, credit cards, house keys, and two iPhones had been stolen.

“Detectives arrested the last guy responsible for all of those vehicle burglaries, but it looks like someone new is back at it,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

Remember to lock your vehicles and hide your valuables.


Police Files

LBPD officer arrested in elder abuse case

On Tuesday, November 28, officers from the Fullerton Police Department arrested three individuals in connection with an ongoing elder abuse and fraud investigation.

One of those individuals was LBPD’s Officer Rock Wagner, a nine-year veteran of the police department. Arrested along with him were his sister, Wendy Wagner, and her boyfriend, Norman McBride. All three were arrested for elder abuse and fraud, and were released from the Fullerton City Jail after posting bail.

While disappointed with the arrest, the LBPD wants to express to the community that no criminal activity is alleged to have occurred within Laguna Beach or while Officer Wagner was on-duty.

“As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest of standards and in no way is the arrest of Officer Wagner a reflection of the hard-working men and women of this outstanding police organization, said Police Chief Laura Farinella in a statement.

Fullerton PD was informed of the alleged misconduct in June 2017 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Orange County Adult Protective Services.

Little details are currently available, though Fullerton PD officers said that there was more than one alleged victim, related to the suspects, and the allegations relate to the theft of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suspects are not accused of any physical abuse. 

Officer Wagner has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.


Police Files

Robbery arrest made at Husky Boy Burgers

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14, officers received a call that a robbery had just occurred at the Mobil gas station in the 100 block of N. Coast Hwy. 

“Four suspects entered the gas station and took beverages from the store,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “When they were confronted by the sales clerk, one of the four struck him in the face and took his cell phone. They fled in a Chevy Camaro.” The crime was captured on surveillance video.

An immediate area search was conducted and the suspect vehicle was located at the Husky Boy Burgers parking lot. Inside the vehicle were four juveniles and one adult, all from San Bernardino County. The four juveniles were taken into custody; one of them (the main aggressor) was charged with Robbery, Theft, and Assault.

According to Emergency Operations Coordinator of the LBPD, Jordan Villwock, at no time did the police department believe the community was at risk. 

Detectives identify individuals responsible for rash of vehicle burglaries

On June 3, LBPD Officers responded to multiple vehicle burglary reports throughout North Laguna Beach. LBPD Detectives were called in to assist with the investigation. During their follow-up two suspects were identified in the case, Rachel Alvarez and Johnny Cervantez.

LBPD booking photos

Rachel Alvarez and Johnny Cervantez

On June 8, LBPD Detectives went to the City of Redlands and interviewed Alvarez, and she confessed to her involvement in the burglaries and relinquished the stolen property in her possession. The stolen property included a laptop that belonged to a schoolteacher, which contained the only copy of her student’s grades.  

Alvarez and Cervantez were booked for possession of stolen property, drug, and theft related charges. Alvarez has already plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution. 

This investigation is ongoing, and LBPD Detectives are still pursuing additional suspects in this case. 

“In almost all of these cases, the victims left their vehicles unlocked. Crooks enjoy the path of least resistance, and it is much easier to target victims who do not protect their property. The best way to prevent crimes of opportunity is to secure your belongings and hide valuables from the public view,” said Captain Jeff Calvert.

Anyone with information related to this case is encouraged to contact Sergeant Jim Cota at (949) 464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . To submit tips anonymously, please contact Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS or 855-847-6227. You can also reach Crime Stoppers online at www.crimestoppers.org.


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

Lumberyard vandal apprehended in Tustin

In the wee hours last Thursday morning, a suspect destroyed lights in front of the Lumberyard Restaurant. The damage was estimated to be about $2,000. 

Unfortunately for the suspect, the Lumberyard is right across from the Laguna Beach Police Department, and the entire incident was caught on camera. Not to mention, the suspect had been called to bail out a friend of theirs who had been arrested that night. 

“Sometimes people make bad decisions when they are mad, and this was one of them,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

Click on photos for larger images

Photos Courtesy of LBPD

LBPD detectives were able to positively identify the suspects who vandalized the Lumberyard lights thanks to security footage 

“The Investigations Team quickly identified the suspect and located him. There was no hesitation in making the arrest,” said Cota. 

 LBPD Detective Jordan Mirakian called the suspect before the arrest. “I told him, you’re caught, now let’s put this behind us. He agreed. The arrest was uneventful, which is the way we like it,” he said.

LBPD Booking Photo

Noah Laguna

Noah Laguna, 19, Tustin, was taken into custody without incident in Tustin on Thursday. He admitted to what he did and was booked into the Laguna Beach Jail on charges of vandalism.

“We will not tolerate extensive damage done to our businesses and have someone think they are going to get away with it,” said Cota.

More than termites gone after fumigation

Having a home fumigated for termites is not uncommon. Unfortunately, when the tents go up, the home can become a target for crime.

This was the case for homeowners in the 800 block of Coast View Drive. When the owners returned after their house was fumigated, they discovered that the closets had been ransacked, with $10,000 in cash and two watches valued at $40,000 taken.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this happening,” Sgt. Cota said.

There are no suspects at this time, and the extermination company is conducting its own investigation into the matter as well.


Police Files

Logan Street gang members arrested during high risk traffic stop on Ramona Boulevard

At 8:39 p.m. on Wednesday, December 27, on the 600 Block of Ramona Boulevard, officers were alerted about a 1998 Lexus 400 that had been reported stolen heading inbound on Laguna Canyon Road. A high risk (felony) traffic stop was conducted. 

Six occupants were found to be inside the vehicle: two adult men, Allen Moreno (23) and Jonathan Duran (20), along with two juvenile boys and two juvenile girls.

All occupants of the vehicle were from Santa Ana, with the four men admitting to being members of the Logan Street Gang. Upon a record check, Moreno, the driver of the vehicle, was found to be on active parole. No bail was issued. 

Duran, who was found to be in possession of six grams of methamphetamine, was released after booking.

The juveniles ranged in age between 13 and 16, and were issued citations for possession of alcohol.

High risk traffic stops, according to policeone.com’s video, demand three fundamental steps: compensate for the risk, control the threats, and conduct a safe traffic stop. Having a plan and training to the plan are paramount when it comes to officers facing situations such as these.


Police Files

Multiple guns stolen from home on Coronado Drive: fingerprints might provide DNA evidence

At 8:07 p.m. on Saturday, Dec 30, an officer took a burglary report from a resident at the 1200 block of Coronado Drive. Sometime between Dec 25 and 30, an unknown suspect pried open an exterior bedroom door and stole three firearms and an Xbox.

According to the logs, DNA was obtained on the scene.

“This case was just given to the Investigations Division and [is now] an active investigation,” said Sgt. Jim Cota of the LBPD.  “DNA can be someone’s handprint, saliva off a cup, even a fingerprint.”

We wonder how many burglars and would-be burglars realize how far the science of DNA has come in recent years. 

12 pairs of designer glasses snatched from tented house, also on Coronado Drive

Laguna residents, also in the 1200 block of Coronado Drive, left on vacation between Dec 21-23 and had their house tented for termites. When they returned, they noticed that a box of 12 designer prescription glasses had been taken from one of their vehicles inside the garage. The approximate loss is valued at $40,970.

“War on trees” continues

Two eucalyptus trees on a property located in the 31000 block of PCH were cut down sometime on the night of Wednesday, Dec 28.

“The property manager stated that when he returned to the property on Thursday Dec 29, two of the eucalyptus trees on the property had been cut down,” Sgt. Cota stated. “The trees were located on the hillside approximately 50 yards from the house. The estimated value of the trees is $400.”

Detectives are looking into whether a dispute over a view was at the heart of this incident. They will be looking into the matter to see if it is a criminal or civil matter.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

A recent victim of the “war on trees,” this eucalyptus was poisoned and had to be cut down by the City

Don’t let possible buyers take your car for a test drive or this could happen to you

On Wednesday, Dec 27, on the 3200 block of Laguna Canyon Rd., two people took a 1999 Ford for sale on a “test drive” and did not return – they must have liked its performance. It was located out of town in Westminster shortly before 5 p.m.

“People selling their cars need to be cognizant who they are selling the car too and never let someone take the vehicle for a test drive alone,” advises Sgt. Cota. “If you choose to let someone take it, retain their driver’s license and take a photograph of them. A cash deposit would also be a great deterrent as well.” 


Police Files

Scam alert: Letter claims to know about “secrets you are keeping from your wife”

A reader sent us a copy of a letter he received from a scam artist and would-be blackmailer, delivered via snail mail. The reader knew he had no reason to be concerned but was shocked, naturally, that this scam was in play. He dropped the letter off at the police station.

Stu News asked police to comment but at press time had not heard back. Common sense suggests that residents ignore these demands and advise police should they hear from “BadBird-93.”

Here are excerpts from the letter:

“My name is BadBird-93 and I know about the secret you are keeping from your wife and everyone else. More importantly, I have evidence of what you have been hiding. I won’t go into the specifics here in case your wife intercepts this, but you know what I am talking about. “

“You don’t know me personally and nobody hired me to look into you. Nor did I go out looking to burn you. It is just your bad luck that I stumbled across your misadventures while working a job around Laguna Beach. I then put more time than I probably should have. Frankly, I am ready to forget all about you and [redacted] and let you get on with your life. So I am going to give you two options that will accomplish that very thing. These two options are to either ignore this letter, or to simply pay me $8,150.

Let’s examine those two options in more detail. 

Threats

Option 1 is to ignore this letter. Let me tell you what will happen if you choose this path. I will take this evidence and send it to everyone in your life, especially [redacted] And as insurance against you intercepting it before she gets it, I will also send copies to her friends, family, associates, and all your neighbors on and around [where you live/redacted]. So even if you decide to come clean to your wife, it won’t protect her from the humiliation she will feel when everyone she knows finds out your sordid details from me. 

Option 2 is to pay me $8,150. We’ll call this my “confidentiality fee.” Now let me tell you what happens if you choose this path. Your secret remains your secret. You go on with your life as though none of this ever happened. Though you may want to do a better job at keep your misdeeds secret in the future. 

“Letter cannot be traced to me”

At this point you may be thinking, “I’ll just go to the cops.” Which is why I have taken steps to ensure this letter cannot be traced back to me. So that won’t help, and it won’t stop the evidence from ruining your life. I’m not looking to break your bank. I just want to be compensated for the time I put into investigating you. 

“Confidentiality fee”

Let’s assume you have decided to make all this go away and pay me the confidentiality fee. In keeping with my strategy to not go to jail, we will not meet in person and there will be no physical exchange of chas. You will pay me anonymously using bitcoin. If you want me to keep your secret, then send $8,150 in BITCOIN to the Receiving Bitcoin Address listed below. Payment MUST be received within 9 days of the postmark date on this letters envelope. If you are not familiar with bitcoin, attached is a “How-To” guide. You will need the below two pieces of information when referencing the guide.”

The letter then goes on to explain exactly how to pay the scammer via Bitcoin.

Don’t be taken in. We’ll update this story when we hear from the LBPD.

 

Bookkeeper charged with defrauding Laguna Beach business owner of over $265,000

On January 22, 2016, Laguna Beach Police Detectives began a grand theft investigation against Nhora Johanna Tellez, a resident of Costa Mesa. The investigation began when a Laguna Beach business owner identified his bookkeeper/office manager, Tellez, as the person who defrauded him of over $80,000 from his marketing business, Laguna Coast Corporation.

Tellez was the bookkeeper and office manager at the victim’s business and had access to the victim’s financial information. It was discovered that Tellez had accessed and changed the login information for all of the victim’s investments and credit card accounts. Tellez created passwords for each online account and notifications of access or fraud to these accounts was rerouted to an email address held by Tellez.

This lengthy investigation revealed that Tellez devised and executed a scheme to defraud and obtain money from Laguna Coast Corporation by gaining the trust of the owner, who allowed her to gain control over the financial accounts. Documents and business records obtained in this investigation were forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney Major Fraud Unit, which, upon further review, determined that Tellez had embezzled approximately $265,390.67. Tellez used the money embezzled from the victim for a variety of personal expenses including veterinarian visits, entertainment expenses, living expenses, and vacations that involved the purchase of airline tickets. Cash advances were also conducted at various ATM’s throughout Orange County. Images of the ATM cash advances were obtained, and Tellez was positively identified as being the individual who completed the fraudulent transactions. To date, none of the embezzled funds have been returned by Tellez to the victim.

On January 24, 2018, Laguna Beach Police Department Detectives arrested Nhora Johanna Tellez in the City of Costa Mesa for California Penal Code 487-Grand Theft.

“This lengthy and time-consuming investigation serves as a reminder that our police department will pursue any individual(s) in positions of trust who take advantage of businesses and innocent victims. We brought in every available resource, including our partners from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, to ensure that this case would be appropriately investigated, prosecuted, and justice would be served,” said Captain Jeff Calvert, LBPD.


Police Files

Paddleboarder saves friend’s life at Moss Street Beach

On Sunday at 10:17 a.m. at Moss Street Beach, Laguna Beach police received numerous 911 calls about a man yelling for help in the ocean. Due to the fog that morning, none of the callers could see the man.

“Two friends were paddle boarding when one of them went down for an unknown reason,” said Sgt. James Cota of the LBPD. 

The man brought the woman to shore and provided CPR. According to the police log, the woman was in full cardiac arrest, but began breathing at 10:35 a.m.

Mercy Air was called to transport the woman to the hospital. According to a GoFundMe page set up for her, she suffered a seizure due to a brain tumor. She is currently under sedation in the ICU.


Police Files

Run + ignore officer’s commands = maybe a  Taser

On Thursday around 9:30 p.m., officers contacted a man at Jasmine Street and N. Coast Hwy. The man was drinking alcohol from a cup and gave officers a false name.

During the interaction with officers, the man, later identified as Ralph Bowers, 47, Huntington Beach, took off running from the officer in the middle of Coast Hwy.

“Bowers ignored the officer’s commands to stop,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He was told to stop or a Taser would be utilized to stop him.”

Despite these verbal warnings, Bowers continued to run and was subsequently tasered. Additionally, a brief fight ensued between him and the arresting officer.

Bowers was taken into custody and charged with resisting a police officer, delaying/obstructing an officer, providing false information, and battery on an officer. He was booked and transported to Orange County Jail. 

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. .


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

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?

Click on photo for a larger image

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?

Click on photo for a larger image

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.


Police Files

Graffiti on the rise in Laguna? LBPD says no, but it happens, and if you see it, report it

Walls, trees, you name it, are susceptible to graffiti. Even plants, sometimes. We’ve all seen writing on some of the succulents in Heisler Park.

According to LBPD’s Sgt Jim Cota, these markings are not on the rise in Laguna Beach, despite recent reports, for example of the graffiti at Victoria Beach. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Aurora Clabaugh

Recent graffiti at Victoria Beach

However, they want to be sure, as we all do, to keep our town as free of graffiti as possible.

The LBPD suggests that anyone who happens to observe someone in the act of applying graffiti should call the police immediately, but not make any sort of contact with the suspects.

If suspects are caught, they face a misdemeanor vandalism charge (if the damage is under $400). 

If graffiti is seen after the fact, police will ask the reporting party to explain as much information as they can about the case.

Either way, the community is urged to be vigilant to prevent our beautiful beaches and buildings from being vandalized.


Police Files

Man urinates on street, refuses to cooperate with police: Forgets he has a large firecracker in his pants

On Saturday, Feb 10 at 12:52 p.m., on the 1100 block of S Coast Hwy, Randy R Sison, 41, of Mission Viejo, was cited for urinating in public – normally a relatively minor infraction – but he refused to sign the necessary citation. 

“If you don’t sign a citation, you automatically get arrested and go to jail,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota told Stu News.

That’s when things got interesting.

After Sison was taken into custody and prior to entering the jail, officers asked him if he had any contraband on him, otherwise he would be charged with an additional crime.

“Upon booking him, officers found a large firecracker in his possession,” Sgt Cota said.

The firecracker was an M-250, with a fuse three inches long, measuring three quarters of an inch in diameter – that is to say, a large firecracker.

And the large firecracker was in his right front pant pocket.

“I forgot I had it on me,” Sison said, according to LBPD.

Sison was charged with “possession of a dangerous [and illegal] firework or explosive,” in jail with him.

He was transported to Orange County Jail and faces a felony charge.


Police Files

18-year-old arrested for stealing a car

On Monday, August 14, at 9:12 p.m., officers were alerted to a stolen Toyota Tacoma entering the city. It had been stolen out of Lake Forest on Friday.

Laguna Beach police officers located the car and had all three of its occupants detained by 9:25 p.m.

The driver, 18-year-old Luis Reynasoto from Lake Forest, was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle, receipt of stolen property, and burglary.

The truck was returned to its owner.

Don’t light tree branches on fire

On Sunday afternoon, a caller reported seeing two men using rags to extinguish a tree branch that was on fire near Stan Oak Drive and Laguna Canyon Road.

Orange County Fire Authority was called, but requested that Laguna Beach handle the situation due to the small size of the fire.

The branch was extinguished just six minutes after the initial call.

One of the two men, Kameran Cherrier, 29, Laguna Beach, was arrested for resisting officers and for misdemeanor reckless burning.


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

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.


Fire Files

Fire inside Central restaurant leads to evacuations, business closures

On Friday, Dec 29, at around 3 p.m., a structure fire was reported at Central restaurant at 361 Forest Avenue. Laguna Beach and Newport Beach Fire Departments quickly responded and the area was cordoned off, causing severe traffic congestion for hours. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Ellen Coleman-Germano

According to reports, Friday’s fire originated in the walls of Central’s kitchen

At this time, it is not clear as to the exact cause of the fire, but reports coming in to emergency dispatch mentioned that the flames were in the walls of Central’s kitchen. 

Neighboring businesses in the building, including The Vault and the Hudson Salon & Spa were evacuated, and, according to owner of the Hudson Salon, Katrina Martino, power was out for a few hours. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Firefighters were quickly on the scene

Martino says that the smoke smell took a while to dissipate but thankfully no one was injured, as prompt action by LBFD and NBFD ensured that the fire did not spread.

No closures of businesses due to the fire occurred the next day, except for Central, which will remain closed for a few weeks while repairs take place, according to sources.

Stu News will update this report as more information becomes available.

LBHS Schedules

Varsity

•••••

Friday, March 3

Boys Volleyball

@ Edison – 5:45 p.m.

•••••

Saturday, March 4

Girls Softball

@ Rialto – 10 a.m.

Boys Baseball

Valencia – 11 a.m.

•••••

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Maggi Henrikson is our Contributing Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are the staff photographers.

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