<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Southern California News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Sat, 20 Dec 2014 11:35:49 -0800 Sat, 20 Dec 2014 11:35:49 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Christmas Shoppers Flock to Stores on 'Super Saturday']]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 10:07:01 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gifts-holidays-wra%5B%5Bed.jpg

'Twas the Saturday before Christmas and all through the Southland, not a department store wasn't filled up and cutting prices on name brands.

Well, maybe not every store, but "Super Saturday" is considered one of the busiest days of the holiday shopping season, with stores opening early, closing late and offering door-buster deals for shoppers who procrastinated on checking off their Christmas lists.

Some Kohl's locations are staying open 24-hours-a-day through Christmas Eve, starting Saturday. Walmart cut prices on TVs, electric scooters, cameras and more, according to a press release.

Some people were dressing up for the shopping event -- one man at Westfield Santa Anita in Arcadia was wearing a onesie.

Brick-and-mortar stores tend to offer good deals Saturday, according to an analysis by DealNews: 30 percent of their editors' choice deals came the Saturday before Christmas last year, compared to 23 percent on Sunday.

With Saturday being the last day the U.S. Postal Service could guarantee packages shipped standard to reach their destinations by Christmas Day, some analysts think the day's sales might help make up for a lackluster Black Friday at retail stores.

But not everyone agreed - websites continue offering sales as well.

"I think becuase a lot of retails are offering these last-minute shipping guarantees as late as Monday or even Tuesday, a lot of last-minute consumers are going to be doing their shopping online," said Trae Bodge, an analyst with Retailmenot.com.

<![CDATA[Woman Crashes Into Apartment Building in Brea]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:40:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/201*120/12-20-2014-BreaCrash.JPG

A woman allegedly fell asleep at the wheel and smashed into an apartment building in Brea early Saturday.

She crashed her Cadillac Escalade into the ground level of 2 story apartment unit at the 300 block of State College Boulevard,, Brea Police Department said.

A couple and a dog were in the 2nd floor of unit, however no injuries reported,The building itself was badly damaged in the crash.

The female driver refused transport, and alcohol use was ruled out after a field sobriety test.

Photo Credit: Southern Counties News]]>
<![CDATA[Boy Hospitalized After Fight in Locker Room]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:04:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DOWNEY+HIGH+SCHOOL.PNG

A boy was hospitalized after a fight broke out in a school locker room.

The student was taken for treatment after brawling with another pupil at Downey High School at 2:50 p.m Thursday, Downey Police Department said.

It is not believed any weapons were used during the fight, and both parties have been contacted by police.

Detectives are conducting a follow-up investigation into the incident.

It is not the first time Downey High has been at the center of controversy this year.

For in August the school band faced allegations of hazing after a 14-year-old girl told her mother what she experienced during a band initiation.

Stephanie Hughes told NBC4 that her daughter, who did not want to be identified, was blindfolded “with what looked like a dirty sanitary napkin” as part of the initiation Monday. Hughes said her daughter’s wrists were taped up and she had to walk up stadium stairs blindfolded.

<![CDATA[Pet Food Reserves at SPCA LA Dangerously Low]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 07:11:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/196*120/12-20-2014-PetFoodShortage.JPG

Pet food reserves at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCALA) are dangerously low.

The charity is appealing for people to make donations during the festive season, when demand tends to be especially high.

Food can be dropped off at any SPCALA location, while monetary donations for pet food can be made here.  It needs both dry and wet pet food for dogs, cats, kittens, and puppies.

"We are taking in more animals than ever before," said Madeline Bernstein, SPCALA President.  "These animals have been though trauma.  Whether it is becoming lost from their family, or suffering from abuse and neglect.  It is our mission to nurture and protect them and we need the public's help to do that."

SPCALA uses an average of 40,000 pounds of pet food a year, which feeds about 500 animals a day at its  three pet adoption locations, plus the animals at Long Beach Animal Care Services.  

When there is a surplus the charity distributes food to local animal rescue groups who are participants in their food bank program.

Unopened pet food donations can be dropped off at any SPCALA location during business hours.

<![CDATA[Man Critical After Being Gunned Down in South LA]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 03:54:42 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/shooting-generic.jpg

A man is critical after being gunned down in South Los Angeles early Saturday.

The incident happened at around 12 a.m. at 110th st and Wilmington Avenue in Watts, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

The victim was taken to hospital, and is in a critical condition. It is unknown what led to the shooting, or if it's gang related.

Police are looking for two male suspects in connection with the incident.

<![CDATA[Stolen IE Dog Gets New Look to Dye For]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 10:23:33 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/193*120/12-20-2014-DyedDog1.JPG

An Inland Empire, Southern California, dog owner has been reunited with her stolen pooch — but the dog is now a completely different color.

Heather Lowery was overjoyed when she discovered her missing mutt had been identified via a microchip after being found wandering the streets by animal control workers.

However she had to do a double take when she went to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus Thursday, because her once-blond pit bull puppy Cocoa had been dyed a distinct shade of coal by the thieves.

"She actually recognized me when I went in there to verify it was her," Lowery said. "She shakes her whole body as if she were Pluto basically, and she did it again today. She jumped right on (me) and took pictures with me."

The 8-month-old pit bull had disappeared from her yard in San Jacinto during Thanksgiving week, and Lowery was delighted to be finally reunited with her dog.

She had only adopted Cocoa in November, and she was identified because all adopted pets from county shelters are automatically microchipped.

<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Misses, Lakers Lose to Thunder]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 02:10:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jeremy-Lin-Lakers-Thunder_12-19-14.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers trailed by one point with 6.3 seconds to play.

Kobe Bryant only had nine points and had missed 11 of the 14 shots he had attempted on the night. Still, 19 years of experience and a career of game winners put the ball in Bryant's 36-year-old hands. He got a clear look, but his shot did not fall.

The buzzer sounded, and the Lakers lost 104-103 in a competitive contest to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night at Staples Center.

When asked about the final play, teammate Jeremy Lin responded, "How many game winners has he (Bryant) hit like that?"

Friday, however, was not Bryant's night. Of the 10 Lakers that took the court against the Thunder, only Robert Sacre and Wesley Johnson had fewer points than Bryant. Lin, who was only on the court late in the game due to Nick Young's ejection for a forearm, appeared to realize the superstar did not have his shot going only one play earlier.

With the Lakers down by three points, Lin drove to his right and sunk a 15-foot jump shot with 32.5 seconds to play to set the stage for a fantastic finish.

"I thought we got what we wanted at the end," Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the game. "We got a good shot, a good look at it. Just missed it."

Bryant was the player that missed the shot, and judging by how his night was going for him, it was hardly a surprise. Lin, on the other hand, appeared to be in a great offensive groove and was an overlooked option with the game on the line.

In 22 minutes, Lin managed 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. On the night, Lin only missed two shots. Not just that, Lin hit a clutch shot in the final minute to trim the deficit from three points to one point.

"32,000-plus points," Scott answered when asked why he did not give Lin the final shot.

Scott, of course, was alluding to Bryant's all-time total points. Moving up to third place in NBA history on the Lakers' last road trip, Bryant's points total was honored before the game. After the game, that same point total was used to excuse the loss.

"I like game winners, too," Lin said after the game. "I would love to shoot some, but I get it. That guy is kind of the king of game winners."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal Backyard Mountain Lion]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:50:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/12-19-14-mountain+lion+sherry+kempster+newbury+park.JPG Newbury Park resident Sherry Kempster captured images of a mountain lion as it walked along her backyard wall, a mountain view in the background.

Photo Credit: Sherry Kempster]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Lion Spotted in SoCal Backyard]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 06:25:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/12-19-14-mountain+lion+sherry+kempster+newbury+park.JPG

A mountain lion creeping alongside a Southern California woman's backyard wall forced road closures as wildlife officials tried to capture it.

Sherry Kempster of Newbury Park in Ventura County was in her kitchen Friday morning when she heard crows cawing in the backyard, which usually means "a hawk or something" is in the area, she told NBC4.

Kempster looked out the window about 10:20 a.m. and saw the back leg and tail of a creature moving past the barbecue grill. She soon realized it was a mountain lion.

She captured a picturesque image of the lion as it walked along her backyard wall, a mountain view in the background.

Friday's sighting was the first time she and her husband have seen a mountain lion in the 17 years they lived in their home, she said.

After Kempster called 911, Ventura County sheriff's deputies and Fish and Game wardens started looking for the mountain lion. Officials found it in underneath a trailer in a mobile home park about 5 p.m.

Authorities blocked roads for nearly 90 minutes as they worked to contain the big cat.

Officials said the 14-month-old mountain lion, dubbed P-34, came from the Santa Monica Mountains. She was captured about 8:34 p.m. and released "at an undisclosed location," officials said.

Photo Credit: Sherry Kempster]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Whose Car Was Stolen Gets Early Christmas Gift]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:58:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12-19-14-+car+donate+mom+america+delacruz.JPG

A Southern California mother whose car was stolen and never found got an early Christmas present when a tow company joined deputies for a parking lot surprise.

Air Expressway Towing company had a used car they wanted to give away to someone who needed it. They called the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department Victorville Station, and deputies thumbed through their records to find someone who qualified.

Deputies arranged a meet-and-greet with America Delacruz in a parking lot with the help of her boss and family.

"Yeah, you're vehicle was stolen," one deputy said to Delacruz, whose car was stolen in October. "We didn't find it did we?"

She answered, "No not yet."

Next thing she knew, she had car keys in her hand.

"Here's your new car," a deputy said as he handed her the keys. Delacruz looked around confused, and smiled. "We wanted to give you a car this holiday season. Merry Christmas."

"You guys are kidding me!" she said. "There's still good people out there."

"I'll be able to look into going back to school because I have a car now to get to and from school," Delacruz said. "That'll benefit my son as well, me and my son."

Delacruz also got $300 in service cash to keep the car in good shape.

"I'm just going to keep on saying that God is good," she said. "He'll provide."

<![CDATA[Customers Complain of DWP Grass Rebate Program]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:20:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/12-19-14_DWP-Rebate.JPG

Just months after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power increased its rebate for replacing lawn with drought-friendly landscaping, some customers who've signed up say the program is slow to respond and hard to navigate.

In an effort to encourage removal of water-loving turf, the LADWP, in partnership with the Metropolitan Water District, pays $3.75 per every square foot of grass its customers remove.

The recent .75 increase makes it the highest reimbursement rate for residential customers of any utility in Southern California.

To qualify, customers must submit an application with photos of their lawn and their landscaping plans.

Once their project is finished, they're supposed to get a check.

"We spent approximately $2,500 to pull up the lawn, prep the ground, replace the sprinklers, buy the plants and plant the plants," Hollywood Hills resident Alan Winters told the KNBC4 I-Team.

The LADWP promised to issue a rebate check for about $2,000 within a few weeks.

"Three months later, we still had not seen anything," said Winters.

The I-Team has reported on frustrations with another LADWP rebate program.

Customers who've applied for rebates after installing solar panels told KNBC4 Consumer Investigator Randy Mac it's taking months to have their new system activated.

In the case of solar panel rebates, LADWP officials said they weren't prepared for the increase in demand that came as the price of solar panels declined.

In his struggle to be reimbursed for removing his turf, Winters only got results after making contact with a customer service representative, and calling her relentlessly.

"I bugged her every few days for six weeks," Winters said. "About five months later, we got our reimbursement check."

Penny Falcon, the LADWP’s water conservation policy manager, insisted Winters' experience is unusual.

"Typically, it takes about six weeks to cut the rebate check," she said.

However, Falcon admitted that red tape can slow down the reimbursement process.

"It's a custom program, so there's a lot more parts to it," she said. "It requires a lot more time and effort on both the customer's end, but also on the staff side."

Despite the delays, Winters is glad he took part in the program.

"The good news is, we ultimately got the money we were supposed to get. The good news is, we’re saving $150 a month on our water bills," he said. "So it's a great program … that's very difficult to navigate."

<![CDATA[Purse-Snatchers Sought After Targeting Councilman's Grandma]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:12:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12-19-14_LAPD-LoGrande-Buscaino-Theft.jpg

Police are asking for the public's help in locating two brazen purse-snatchers who targeted the 94-year-old grandmother of an LA City Councilman.

Surveillance video shows the two young suspects first scoping out Rosario LoGrande inside the Santa Fe Seconds store on Avalon Boulevard in Wilmington on Nov. 29.

As she used her walker to head to her car in the store parking lot, one of the two men rode his skateboard by LoGrande, snatching her purse and taking off.

Police said the two young men are between 16 and 20 years old.

"We know that they were working together, but the main suspect is the one in the black shirt on the video," said Det. Kelvin Higa of LAPD’s Harbor Division. "We have an idea that these people have done this more than once, so we're hoping to get leads on anyone who may know these guys."

Inside her bag was $900 in cash to buy Christmas gifts for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, her passport, her green card and her California ID.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, LoGrande’s grandson, said her family was grateful she wasn’t hurt.

"The first thing I told my aunt was, is she OK? Being a frail 94 year old, who survived two hip replacements, that was my only fear," he said.

He said the theft hit home for his family.

"I've seen it as a police officer, as a council member, but this hits home for us,” he said. “Regardless of where you live, you don't victimize senior citizens. You crossed the line."

Rosario's family says she cried for a week after it happened, but now this faith-filled Sicilian grandmother, the matriarch of her family, said she has forgiven the two young men.

“My message to these boys is you should respect the elderly,” she told a translator in Italian. “Go to school, get an education and please don't do this again.”

Photo Credit: LAPD]]>
<![CDATA[Teen Critically Hurt in Palmdale Shooting ]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:53:26 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lagenerics-1-a-breaking-news-la-generic-graphic-april2014.gif

A teenage girl was in critical condition Friday after being shot in Palmdale, officials said.

A shooter or shooters fired at the girl in the 37800 block of Melton Avenue about 12 p.m., according to the LA Sheriff's Department.

She was in critical condition as of Friday evening. Additional details were not immediately clear.

Deputies detained a person of interest in the shooting, Lt. Adam Ellison said.

<![CDATA[Join NBC4 Fritz Holiday Lights, Donate Toys]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:00:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/FHL+logo_FINAL.jpg

For more than a decade, NBC4 Fritz Holiday Lights has criss-crossed the Southland to celebrate the holiday season with beloved Weathercaster Fritz Coleman broadcasting live from family-friendly locations. And this year is no exception.

The mission is to collect toys for underprivileged children in partnership with Toys for Tots and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and for NBC4 to make a charitable contribution to a local nonprofit organization at each location. 

Tune in to the live broadcasts during the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. and 6.pm. from December 4 - 19. Local viewers at each location are also welcome to join NBC4 on-site to meet Fritz and the Marines, and donate a toy.

Thursday, Dec. 4

L.A. LIVE (at LA Kings Holiday Ice)
801 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights Kicks Off

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights Gives Away $50K

Friday, Dec. 5

The Americana at Brand (front of Santa's House)
889 Americana Way, Glendale

Watch:Fritz's Holiday Lights: Day 2

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights Day 2 Honors Community

Friday, Dec. 5

Toluca Lake (in front of Christmas Tree)
Riverside Dr. & Forman Ave.

Watch: Fritz Lights the Christmas Tree as Honorary Mayor

Thursday, Dec. 11

Westfield Santa Anita
400 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights Week 2

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights Week 2: Food Forward

Friday, Dec. 12

Victoria Gardens (in front of Santa's Cottage)
12505 N. Main St, Rancho Cucamonga

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights Honors Marines and Toys for Tots

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights: $100K Donation

Thursday, Dec. 18

Westfield MainPlace
2800 N. Main St, Santa Ana, CA

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights: Homeaid Orange County

Friday, Dec. 19

Bella Terra (in Amphitheater near Christmas Tree)
7777 Edinger Ave, Huntington Beach

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights: Huntington Beach

Watch: Fritz's Holiday Lights: SPIN

To watch Fritz Holiday Lights in previous years, visit here.

<![CDATA[Family of Man Killed By Deputies Sues Sheriff's Department]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:25:07 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Oscar+Ramirez+Paramount+deputy+involved+shooting.PNG

The family of an unarmed man shot and killed by deputies in Paramount earlier this year is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, attorneys said Friday.

Oscar Ramirez, 28, was shot and killed along the railroad tracks near Paramount High School Oct. 27 after deputies responded to a report of a pending fight and were told one of the men had a handgun.

"It’s so cruel," Leticia Moreno, Ramirez’s mother, said in Spanish Friday. She said it’s the one word that comes to mind when she thinks about how her son died. "It destroys my heart."

During a conference to announce the lawsuit, Moreno clung to a birthday card from her son, which she says she found after he died.

The family said the sheriff’s department has sealed the coroner’s report and won’t tell them what led to the fatal shooting.

"I went through so much frustration and emotion and now we're just desperate for answers," Christian Ramirez said of the time since his brother’s death.

Christian Ramirez said when the family got the body for burial, they noticed four bullet wounds in Oscar Ramirez’s back. There was one in the back of his head.

"If they knew the kind of person that Oscar was, there's no way I believe they would have shot him and killed him in that manner," Christian Ramirez said.

Soon after the shooting, Ramirez’s family told NBC4 he was trying to break up a fight between two other men when police arrived.

The family has filed a formal complaint against the department but have not specified how much money they are seeking.

Leticia Moreno said that part is not important to her, but that she just want to know why her boy was shot.

In Spanish she asked, "Why did they kill my son?"

<![CDATA[Real-Life Grinch Steals Girl's Wheelchair]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:12:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/12-19-14-Wheelchair_Stolen.JPG

A Southern California community isn't letting the real-life Grinch who stole a wheelchair from a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome ruin the family's Christmas.

They're getting a replacement for the one that someone callously took off their Corona porch on Thursday.

The family from Corona suffered major heartache and the loss brought little Jocelyn Ordones to tears. She relies on her specialized wheelchair to get around because she can't walk. She struggles to stand.

"She's helpless," Alex Flores, her sister. "She's dependent on us.

"It's like who does that? Who takes something away from somebody who has special needs?"

Josie's mom, Gabriela Nolasco, couldn't hold in her emotions as she talked about the grief she feels for her daughter, who can't go to school without the wheelchair.

The family is barely making ends meet and can't afford the $2,500 for a new chair.

The heartless theft has had a profound effect on Corona police officers.

"My immediate reaction was, the Grinch that stole Christmas," said Sgt. Brent Nelson.

Ever since word got out, the police department has been flooded with emails and calls. Strangers have been offering to donate a new motorized chair to Jocelyn's family.

"This support for this family isn't just the Corona community, it's all of Southern California," he said.

Others have also been contacting the family directly, offering their help.

It's an overwhelming show of kindness that's helping ease at least some of the heartache.

"I'm just very happy, very thankful. I feel blessed," Flores said.

Corona police officers are working with several organizations to get the right chair for Jocelyn.

They plan to give her a new one in the coming days, Flores said.

"Words can't explain about how I feel about my sister," Flores said. "I love her very much."

Asher Klein contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Slain Bell Gardens Mayor's Autopsy Released]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 09:55:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/file-bell-gardens-mayor-daniel-crespo.jpg

The wife of then-Bell Gardens, California, Mayor Daniel Crespo fatally shot him three times in the chest while the two fought more than two months ago, according to the autopsy report released Friday.

Daniel Crespo, 45, was shot by his wife, Lyvette, Sept. 30 in their home, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies said Crespo and his wife were arguing, and their 19-year-old son intervened, leading to a struggle between the mayor and his son that ended when Lyvette Crespo opened fire.

She admitted she shot her husband but that it was in self-defense during a fight in which he punched their 19-year-old son in the face, deputies said.

Lyvette Crespo was questioned by deputies, but released after claiming self-defense.

Her attorney, who declined to comment Friday, has contended that she was a longtime victim of domestic violence and shot Daniel Crespo in defense of herself and her son.

Daniel Crespo's daughter told investigators that he was verbally and physically abusive to her mother for over 20 years, according to the autopsy by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

The abuse had become more physical in the last two years.

Crespo and his wife were not sleeping in the same bedroom and he "was known to drag her by the hair to force her to do so," the autopsy report said.

The injuries were not enough to require medical attention and the incidents were not reported, the autopsy said.

He had threatened to kill her and the children if she tried to report the abuse, according to the daughter.

Crespo's mistress had been reportedly making annoying phone calls to the wife at home and her parents had been arguing over his infidelity.

The report also said that Crespo owned handguns and had kept them locked in the home until recent years, when he began leaving them unlocked, his daughter told detectives.

A 9 mm handgun and three expended cartridges were recovered at the shooting scene.

At a news conference, Crespo's brother, William, denied the abuse claim, calling the killing a murder. He has filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Lyvette Crespo.

"I just want to curl up in a ball every morning," William Crespo said at a news conference Friday. "I just think I'm going to wake up and my brother is going to be here."

He said the autopsy report does not support the notion that Crespo's wife shot him in self-defense.

He also said he was disappointed that Lyvette Crespo has not been arrested or charged.

"It's sad," he said. "It's wrong because it is just showing that you know you can get away with murder. Killing your husband is wrong. There was a lot of other ways, she could have called 911."

William Crespo has said that Lyvette was trained with firearms.

His attorney, James Devitt, said he received a copy of the autopsy report about a week ago, and he claims it does not support Lyvette's claim of self-defense.

He said he is hopeful that District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whose office is reviewing the case, will charge Lyvette Crespo.

Lacey has "assigned a very tough prosecutor to this case and I have a feeling we're going to have an indictment or an arrest by Christmas, is my hope," Devitt said.

Asher Klein and City News Service contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: BellGardens.org]]>
<![CDATA[Not Guilty Plea in Fatal Redondo Crash]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 23:57:13 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12-18-2014-redondo-beach-dui-margo-bronstein.jpg

The driver accused of killing four people and injuring a dozen others when she plowed through a busy Redondo Beach crosswalk while allegedly driving under the influence of prescription medication pleaded not guilty Friday afternoon.

Margo Bronstein, 56, has been charged with four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Bronstein was wheeled into court on a gurney by two paramedics.

Police said Bronstein was on prescription medication when she collided with the group of parishioners who had just left a children’s Christmas concert at St. James Catholic Church Wednesday night.

She also collided head-on with another car.

Outside court Friday, her attorney, Jeffrey Gray, said he feels there's a mob mentality behind this case. He said his client, who is disabled because of a birth defect, feels terrible about this tragedy.

"Everybody's jumping to conclusions about this case," he said. "We have no toxicology levels. We have no blood-alcohol level. We know that Ms. Bronstein is an individual who does not live her life recklessly."

Since her arrest, friends have come to Bronstein’s defense, noting that she has a disability that requires heavy medication and that she had to use hand-controlled brakes for her car.

"She's not somebody who went to a bar and got wasted, (and) plowed through an intersection at a concert," friend Timothy Eakin told NBC4. "This is probably something that was a complete accident. Never something she would have done on purpose."

Four people have died, including 6-year-old Samuel Gaza and his mother Martha Garza and two other women.

Mourners gathered Friday night to remembers those killed and injured.

"I was looking for some way to acknowledge this tragedy, and it just seemed like you couldn't go on your regular daily routine," parishioner Steve Balderas said.

To hear that a mother and little boy were taken so young, it's just heartbreaking," Tami Hoffman said. "And the grandmothers, and everybody else that's injured."

Beverly White contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Redondo Beach PD]]>
<![CDATA[Man Robbed By Fake Narcotics Officers]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:42:01 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/siren3.jpg

A Bassett man was robbed by four men pretending to be police officers with a narcotics investigation unit, sheriff’s deputies said Friday.

Around 8:15 a.m. the victim arrived home at a house in the 2200 block of Kella Avenue, where the four robbers escorted him inside and identified themselves as working for a narcotics unit, according to a watch commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Industry station.

They held the man at gunpoint and searched the house for drugs and money.

They took $700 from the man before leaving.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Industry station at 626-330-3322.

<![CDATA[Suspected Suicide Victim Fell From South Bay Cliff]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:13:23 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/crime-tape.jpg

A man was found dead after a fall from a 250-foot cliff in Palos Verdes this morning, officials said.

A caller reported the incident to the fire department at 9:30 a.m. The body was found in the area of Paseo Del Mar and Chelsea Road, a Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman said.

It was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, not the fall, that killed the man, according to an LA County Coroner's representative, who reported the death as a suicide.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Church Mentor Arrested For Teen Sex Allegations]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:58:32 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/Joseph-Kealoha-arrest.jpg

A youth mentor was arrested this week over allegations he had a year-long sexual relationship with a 17-year-old in his San Bernardino church, officials said.

Joseph Kealoha, 26 of Victorville, met the minor on a youth beach trip in August 2013 with Victorville's High Desert Church, which they both attended, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Investigators said Friday.

The unnamed minor told investigators that he and Kealoha, a volunteer whose job was to mentor the teenagers in a study group, had sex monthly during the relationship, which ended this September, deputies said.

He was arrested on Tuesday, Dec. 16, on two charges of having sex with a minor, and is being held on $500,000 bail. The investigation was handled by the San Bernardino Sheriff's Crimes Against Children Detail.

The boy's father reported the relationship to sheriff's investigators after his son revealed that he'd been dating Kealoha, deputies said.

Kealoha also works as an aide at two schools in the Adelandto School District, Morgan Kincaid Preparatory School and Bradach Elementary School, deputies said. He has been relieved of his duties at the schools and High Desert Church, according to deputies.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the incident or minors who may have had one-on-one contact with Joseph Kealoha to call the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's Crimes against Children Detail at 909-387-3615.

Photo Credit: Courtesy San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Smash-and-Grab Thieves Focus on Opticians in OC]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:59:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/12-19-2014-SpecsTheft.JPG

Opticians in Orange County are being targeted by smash-and-grab thieves.

The robbers have been caught on camera breaking into stores and stealing expensive designer frames.

Anaheim Hills optometrist Dr. Harry Charm lost $5000 worth of merchandise in three minutes when his business was hit, and he believes the culprits know exactly what they are looking for.

"They're looking for smash and grab, to fence what they sell (then) gone and they go from place to place," Dr Charm said.

However he said dealing with criminals is just part of doing the job he loves.

"So you… accept that there are bad people in the world, and you protect yourself as best you can and you have insurance and you take your lumps. What (else) are you going to do?" Dr Charm said.

However police say the losses have been so great that opticians are now finding it difficult to obtain coverage from insurers.

Another Orange County eye doctor hit by thieves in October also suffered expensive losses.

Brazen robbers removed the door to Dr. William Mosier’s business in Fullerton, then made off with thousands of dollars’ worth of frames. He is now investing in beefing up his security on many levels.

"The economic loss, the invasion of your space and privacy. It's an insult," Dr. Mosier said, "It's somebody who doesn't want to work for a living so they turn to crime."

However law enforcement specialists are now focusing all of their efforts on framing a case, withdetectives across Orange County working together to catch the culprits. 

"All of those crime analysts will get together and they will share information, and hopefully we’ll be able to develop a pattern and/or M.O. and then go about identifying who the suspect or suspects are,"  Lt. Bob Dunn of the Anaheim Police Department said.

<![CDATA[6-Year-Old Victim Dies in Christmas Show Crash]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:27:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/12-19-2014-gaza-redondo-beach-crash.jpg

A fourth victim, identified as a 6-year-old boy, has died after a DUI suspect struck a group of people in a crowded crosswalk as they left a children's Christmas show Wednesday night at a Southern California church.

Samuel Gaza was among a dozen people who were in a crosswalk outside St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach when they were struck by a driver who, according to witnesses, ran a red light and swerved around vehicles stopped at a red light. Gaza was hospitalized Thursday in critical condition and died late Thursday night, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's office.

Gaza's mother, 36-year-old Martha Gaza, also was killed in the crash. Mary Wilson, 81, and Saeko Matsumura, 87, all from Torrance, also died Wednesday night.

Police confirmed at a Thursday morning news conference that prescription drug use by the driver is part of their investigation. Police also confirmed a witness account that the driver went around other vehicles stopped at about 8 p.m. at the intersection of Vincent Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

Two adults and a child were in stable condition Friday morning. Six other victims were treated for minor cuts and bruises before they were released from the hospital.

Witness accounts provided to police indicated the driver, headed northbound on Pacific Coast Highway, went around vehicles stopped at the intersection and entered the left turn lane. The driver then continued north on PCH, striking another vehicle and pedestrians, according to police.

Parishioners returned to the church Thursday morning and at noon for services to remember the victims. Michael Tovar, a St. James parishioner, said he will never recover from what he saw.

"I was standing by the front of his car and looked down, me and another gentleman, and there was the little boy underneath his left front tire," he said. "I thought it was a jacket his car was on. It was underneath the left front tire. I could not believe that."

Police identified the suspect as 56-year-old Margo Bronstein. She was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony DUI. Bronstein was treated at a hospital for injuries before she was taken to the Redondo Beach Police Department jail, where she is being held on $300,000 bond.

She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Friday.

DMV records indicated the Bronstein does not have prior criminal offenses. Her vehicle was equipped with modifications for drivers with disabilities, including an additional passenger-side mirror and hand controls, according to California Department of Motor Vehicle records.

Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

St. James Catholic Church set up a donation account for victims' families. To donate, visit donations.la-archdiocese.org/sjvf/.

Photo Credit: Gaza Family]]>
<![CDATA[Man Killed, Another Badly Injured in LA Shooting]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 03:57:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/police-tape-day-shutterstock_81281836.jpg

One man was killed and another badly injured after they were gunned down in Arlington Heights Thursday.

The men, who are in their late 30s, were shot on the 1600 South block of Van Ness Avenue at 11:15 p.m, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

One victim was pronounced at scene, while the second victim was transported to a local hospital in critical but stable condition. 

There is currently no suspect description, but it is being investigated as a walk up shooting.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands Without Electricity After Car Hits Poles]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:27:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/191*120/12-19-2014-SunValley.JPG

More than 3,000 customers were left without electricity early Friday after a hit-and-run driver crashed into power poles in Sun Valley.

The power cut happened after a Chevrolet Avalanche smashed into several power poles and a fire hydrant in the 8100 block of Lankershim Boulevard at 1:09 a.m, LAPD said.

The driver fled the scene after the collision, police said, and has not yet been located.

"I thought it was like an earthquake or something. I was like 'what's going on?'" said Omar Bian, who works at nearby ProAudio, car stereo installation shop.

The sheared hydrant was shooting several hundred feet into the air, across downed power lines, which were still live, making access to the vehicle difficult.

Power was out for blocks in all directions.

Lankershim Boulevard was shut in both directions for several blocks while the power and water was shut off. Water gushing from the damaged hydrant was contained.

Around 1,900 of those customers affected had their power restored just after 6:10 a.m, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said.

Just more than 1,000 customers were without power by 10 a.m., and DWP said it would be early afternoon before it is completely restored.

A hazerdous materials clean-up was necessary, as the driver's truck leaked oil after striking the hydrant and poles.

Photo Credit: OnScene.tv]]>
<![CDATA[Man Dead, Another Critical After Car Hits Pole]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 03:20:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/siren3.jpg

 A man was killed and another badly injured after a car crashed into a pole in La Puente Thursday,

The passenger died at the scene of the crash, which occured at North Meeker Avenue and East Temple Avenue, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

The driver was transported to USC Medical Center, and is in a critical condition. 

So far it is unknown what caused the crash, however there were long skid marks leading up to the pole.  There was no other vehicles involved in the crash 

<![CDATA[Alleged Police Impersonator Arrested in Highland]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 02:59:08 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/171*120/12-19-2014-CopImpersonator.JPG

A former security guard was arrested after allegedly impersonating a police officer early Thursday.

Kory Charleton, 23, was collared after a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department detective approached him as he spoke to a pedestrian near 13th Street and Bangor Avenue in the city of highland

The suspect, whose car looked almost exactly like an unmarked police vehicle, tried to drive away, but the detective then pulled him over.

At this point he has only being charged with driving under the influence of drugs, however investigators want to know if he approached anyone claiming to be a law enforcement officer.

Charleton’s vehicle has the same blue lights that are on cop cars, as well as a police scanner inside the dashboard.

Deputies later searched his home in Highland, and discovered a bb gun that looks like an assault rifle, a replica police badge, a utility belt, security uniforms and pepper spray.

However it was not only crime fighting equipment he had in his possession, as burglary tools were also found.

According to neighbors he would often drive up and down the streets with his lights on.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller said people should always get in touch with authorities if they believe they have been approached by a police impersonator.

"If you are pulled over and you are concerned whether or not it is indeed a law enforcement official pulling you over, we urge you to immediately contact 911 (and) talk to a dispatcher who can then confirm for you if you are indeed being pulled over by a law enforcement officer," 

<![CDATA[2014 SoCal Images in the News]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:59:42 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/191*120/12-19-2014-SunValley.JPG Take a look at some of Southern California's biggest stories in 2014.

Photo Credit: OnScene.tv]]>
<![CDATA[Friend Defends Driver Accused of Killing 3 in Crash]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:20:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12-18-2014-redondo-beach-dui-margo-bronstein.jpg

A friend of the woman accused of killing three people in a crash outside a church in Redondo Beach, California, has said she is not someone who would drink and drive.

Margo Bronstein, 56, has been booked on suspicion of felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter, but Timothy Eakin believes medication she takes due to being disabled or a mechanical failure may have caused the accident, which also left 10 others injured, including children.

Police say toxicology reports on Bronstein are pending, and she is being held at a Redondo Beach Police Department jail on a $300,000 bond. Investigators confirmed prescription drug use by the driver is part of their investigation.

"She had had a whole bunch of surgeries on her legs and on her hips, and that’s why she’s barely 4 feet tall. She was always in a wheelchair, but she was able to drive with hand controls," Eakin said. "Maybe the hand controls might have failed, and that might have caused it. But she also did take a lot of prescription medications, and the medications she took were like, muscle relaxers, and for pain."

He also does not believe his friend, who he met at Disneyland, is the sort of person who would get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol.

"She's not somebody who just went into a bar and got wasted and plowed through an intersection at a concert. This is something that was probably a complete accident, never something she would have done on purpose," Eakin said.

Prayers have been said all day at St James Catholic Church, where victims had just attended a Christmas concert. Eiken believes his friend may have been a visitor to the event herself.

Witness Michael Tovar said he screamed at Bronstein after the crash, demanding to know if she had been drinking. He said he had to be pulled away by his wife.

"(I said) what is wrong with you? What did you do? Are you drunk? I yelled that about five times, 'Are you drunk?' And she looked up at me, made eye contact."

Children had just finished singing Christmas songs for their parents and other members of the church.

Mary Wilson, 81, Saeko Matsumura, 87, and Martha Gaza, 36, all from Torrance, died, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. One of Gaza's three children, a 5-year-old boy, was hospitalized in critical condition.

One other adult also was in critical condition Thursday.

Photo Credit: Redondo Beach PD]]>
<![CDATA[LA Taxis May Get Apps as Ride-Shares Get LAX Nod]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:44:31 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/generic+traffic+taxi+vg.jpg

Imagine using an app on your smartphone to hail — not a ride share car — but any taxicab in Los Angeles.

Imagine a ride share car being permitted to drop off passengers at LAX — just like a taxi — because the ride-share company has agreed to be regulated.

Both perhaps unexpected prospects moved forward Thursday as two different Los Angeles City commissions took steps to advance Mayor Eric Garcetti's policy "to ensure equal competition among transportation platforms."

Within a handful of years, the emerging ride share industry — think Uber, Lyft, Sidecar — has grown to take as much as one-third of the fares that once went to traditional taxis.

Taxi companies are licensed by the city and subject to stringent regulation that ride share companies maintain do not apply to them. The taxi industry sees an unfair situation.

"It needs to a level playing field," said Simon Gevorkian, a taxi driver who also is a part owner of two taxi companies.

"We should be on the same level — under the same rules," said Andrey Primushko, President of United Taxi.

Ride-sharing has flourished through smartphone apps that enable riders to connect directly with nearby drivers, without any need to go through a dispatch service.

In response, several of the major cab companies, as well as tech companies, have developed so-called "e-hail" apps for taxis.

E-hail apps enable a rider to view a map showing all the available taxis in his area, and to choose by clicking. Advocates say the more taxis logged-on, the more likely one will be close to the rider, making the service more appealing.

"You need to see twenty cabs around you," said Sachin Kashal, chief product officer for Flywheel, an e-hail app. "If you have only a two minute, you'll call."

At this point, such e-hail programs are used by fewer than half of the city's cabdrivers, according to Eric Speigelman, the president of LA's Board of Taxicab Commissioners.

A motion introduced by Spiegelman proposes making it mandatory for all drivers and all taxis.

"E-hail technology has the potential to allow the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to enforce minimum standards of quality, safety, and equal service more efficiently than methods currently available," reads his motion in part.

Meantime at LAX, the airport commission heard from a series of travelers asking for the option of using ride share services for ground transportation after landing.

The city-owned airport has permitted ride shares — formally known as "transportation network companies — to drop off travelers, but not to make pickups, as taxis line up to do.

The commission directed staff to develop plans for a program that would allow ride shares to operate at the airport and promote "a level playing field."

Significantly, the ride shares would have to agree to observe city regulations — and possibly even pay fees — in order to participate.

Though the ride shares have sought to define themselves as different from transportation services subject to regulation, the lucrative airport pickup market may be sufficient inducement to persuade them to relent.

Photo Credit: Valeria Gonzalez]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Reacts to Sony Pulling "The Interview"]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:40:40 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/11p_kovacik_sony_reax_web_1200x675_374923331668.jpg Hollywood actors and musicians react to Sony's decision to cancel the release of "The Interview" in the wake of threats made by anonymous hackers, some worrying how it will affect free speech and creative expression. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[SoCal Cuban Helped Lead Attempt to Overthrow Castro]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:39:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/193*120/12-18-14-socal+cuba+reaction.JPG

Del Aire resident Fernando Marquet looks at the latest happenings between the U.S. government and Cuba in a way very few living people can. He's 72 years old now, but for the last 50 he hasn't stepped foot on his homeland.

"I haven't visited my country, but I feel for it every day," he said. "I feel for my people."

Marquet was 15 years old when Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in January of 1958. By 1961, he was an exile in Miami and signing up to join a fight that was supposed to take back the island.

"We thought that that was the right thing to do," he said. "That it was a cause worth fighting for and a cause worth dying for."

The "cause" became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, an American CIA-backed operation that in the end, gave Castro a victory. 1,400 men had signed up for what became known as Brigade 2506. They trained in the hills of Guatemala for a month and on April 17, 1961, they made landfall on the Caribbean island of Cuba.

But before the fighting even started, Marquet says many of them knew it would be a death sentence for some. U.S. President John F Kennedy had decided to pull his support of the operation. A U.S. naval fleet helped get the Brigade to the island but stopped short of helping in the fight.

"That was tough seeing," Marquet said. "To watch very clearly, the destroyers and the ships and the carriers right there, watching the whole show unfold. And then just turn around."

More than 100 men died, the rest were taken prisoner by the Cuban government. Marquet says he was with a group that tried to survive for three days in the swamps before they were surrounded and forced to surrender.

Marquet served two years in a Cuban prison, a "dungeon" as he puts it.

"It was very, very tough for me to handle," he said.

There were no showers and prisons had to ration food between them. For the first three days, Marquet says he refused the unknown meat prison guards had offered.

"Then an old timer said, 'you have to eat. It takes delicious. If you want to get out of hear you have to eat it," he said. "So I got a taste for that junk."

Marquet says he saw the defeat as betrayal from President Kennedy.

"He handed Castro, on a silver platter, the famous victory of the Cuban Revolution against the Imperialists," he said, adding that President Obama is betraying the Cuban people now with the announcement to restore diplomatic relations with the country.

"I know the Cuban people now feel that this is their chance," he said. "Putting their hopes not on the Cuban government, but on the American government. But I think as long as the Castros are in power, there won't be any change."

Because of the strained US-Cuba relations in the 60s, Marquet says a third party helped negotiate the deal that got him and his comrades released. On Christmas Eve in 1962, they all arrived to Miami, Florida. Marquet, though, says he immediately moved to LA because he says the Beach Boys and beautiful women made it seem like paradise; he's lived here ever since.

For his part in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Marquet says he can never return to Cuba, or he says he could face 30 years in prison for having fought against the government. For now, he says he relies on what happens every evening in his Del Aire home, the moment things slow down for the night and he closes his eyes.

"I go back every night in my dreams," he said. "I dream of my days in Cuba, a very simple life. Flying kites, going to school, riding bikes, the beach, playing baseball. I dream of those days and I miss it dearly."

<![CDATA[Caught on Video: Shirtless Man Brawls With Police]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 23:32:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/209*120/12-18-14-hawthorne+police+fight+video.JPG

A call to police about an aggressive panhandler at a Southern California fried chicken restaurant turned into a parking lot brawl that sent two officers to the hospital and one man to jail.

A bystander in a shopping center near Crenshaw Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue in Hawthorne on Monday reported a man asking people for money and threatening them if they refused.

When police showed up to the Louisiana Fried Chicken, the man was "defiant and uncooperative," Hawthorne police said Thursday.

The man then pushed an officer's hand away when two tried to detain him, and then punched the officer in the face, police said.

The officers used a Taser on the man, but his clothing was too thick for it to bring him to the ground, police said.

Video captured by a witness showed a shirtless man between two officers in a parking lot, the man and officers going back and forth throwing punches.

One officer can be seen kicking the man as the other cop grabs him.

Video showed the officers using a Taser on the now-shirtless man and punching him as he lay down on the ground.

The officers injured in the fight were treated at the hospital and released. The man identified as Thomas Christopher Brown, 29, is facing felony charges including resisting and assaulting a police officer.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[DWP Customers Complain About Slow Rebate Program]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:53:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/12-18-14_DWP-Rebate.JPG

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's solar rebate program is triggering complaints because of ongoing delays in its implementation.

Brian San Marco and Robin Radin had solar panels installed on the roof of their Hollywood Hills home back in July. Five months later, they're still waiting for DWP inspectors to come switch the new system on.

"You have this beautiful jewelry on my roof and it's doing nothing," San Marco told NBC4 I-Team Consumer Investigator Randy Mac. "I didn't save money that I should have saved during the later summer months or the early fall."

Solar City, the company that installed the system, didn't charge the couple for labor or materials, anticipating direct reimbursement by the DWP.

But despite having no out-of-pocket expenses, the couple is missing out on potentially hundreds of dollars in monthly savings on their electrical bill, as they wait for the utility to power up their new system.

"I'm not buying the panels. I'm buying the power generated from the panels," said San Marco.

Mike Webster, the director of the DWP's solar rebate program said agency officials recognize they aren't meeting customer expectations.

He blamed the delays on an unexpected surge in demand.

"Typically we would see somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 50 applications a week," Webster said. "Now we're seeing between 100 and 150 and in some months we've seen 200 to 250 applications."

The uptick in requests is due, in part, to the declining cost of solar panels.

"We realize that solar is no longer a side-business. It's no longer a boutique," Webster said. "It's something we do every day."

Webster said the DWP is working to speed up the process: several months ago, the application process alone took 12 weeks or more.

Now, Webster promised, 12 weeks is the goal to process the application, installation, inspection and activation.

San Marco and Radin finally got satisfaction after the NBC4 I-Team contacted the DWP.

While NBC4 was interviewing the couple for the story, a DWP technician appeared at the front door.

"We are well aware that this is not an exciting coincidence that DWP has decided to show up the day that NBC is here," Radin said.

The I-Team learned the DWP employs 16 technicians to inspect and activate solar panels, a process that can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours.

Webster said the utility will do better.

"Inspections are an issue and we're working to cover that," he said.

<![CDATA[Arson Cause of Downtown LA Fire: Officials]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:54:47 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/downtown-la-structure-fire.jpg

Last week's massive downtown LA fire at an apartment complex that was under construction was an act of arson, authorities said Thursday.

Investigators said they recovered an accelerant, pointing to arson. The fire on Dec. 8 at 900 West Temple Street destroyed a seven-story complex under construction, damaged a nearby high-rise structures and the Harbor (110) Freeway.

Flames billowed into the air, making smoke visible for miles and radiating enough heat to shatter the windows of nearby office towers.

The blaze caused up to $30 million in damage to the DaVinci Apartments. Total damage estimates to nearby businesses and Caltrans property remain undetermined.

Local and federal Investigators sifted through 75,000 square feet of debris, took photographs, recovered potential evidence from the scene for analysis by the ATF's National Laboratory and conducted many interviews throughout the community.

The team finished combing through the debris on Wednesday, and will continue to follow up on the case to identify the culprit or culprits.

"The work at the crime scene is finished, however our investigation is not over," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino. "ATF will continue to work together with our state and local partners to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice."

Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Nelson, who heads the agency's arson/counter-terrorism section, said the department will continue to work with the ATF, the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies to "vigorously pursue this investigation.

"Arson is a serious crime," he said in a news release. "We will use all of our available resources to arrest and prosecute any individuals involved in any arson fire in Los Angeles."

Investigators continue to seek information on two potential witnesses seen in video footage taken the morning of Dec. 8.

They are not considered suspects nor persons of interest. Investigators have identified them as being in the area of the fire, and want to interview them.

<![CDATA[Autism Linked to Pollution Levels, Study Finds]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:43:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/LAgenerics+health+medical+doctor+01.jpg

A groundbreaking new study shows an unborn baby’s risk of autism increases significantly if the child’s mom lives in an area high in air pollution while she is pregnant.

The nationwide study shows why the pollution may increase risk, when during pregnancy it is most dangerous and what type of pollution is worst.

Conducted by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, the study looked at the children of 116,000 female nurses before, during and after pregnancy, beginning in 1989. The authors found pollution impacted the risk of autism in all children, with the risk was even greater for boys.

Dr. Heather Volk of Children's Hospital Los Angeles said the worst part of the pollution may be the tiny particles it contains.

"The particles examined in this study are incredibly small. You don't see them, but they are easy to enter the body. They can be breathed in and ingested in other manners," she said. 

Another significant finding of the study is that the danger is worst in the last trimester, when the unborn baby's brain is developing.

"It might change how cells in the brain grow and develop or transmit signals from cell to cell," Volk said. And that could be key to the risks of autism.

The study also confirmed danger existed even on days when the pollution is not visible.

The findings raise concerns for mothers.

"Definitely we're worried about that as moms and pregnant moms all the time," said Jennifer Duerksen, mother of two healthy children, who lives in the Los Angeles area.

Most families won’t move away from home because of the new study, and medical experts said the pollution is just one factor in whether or not a child could develop autism.

Duerksen said she has always tried to protect her kids.

"I'll just do my best to keep my kids away from smoke and any kind of dangerous chemicals and pollutants," she said.

Dr. Bruce’s advice: Have kids avoid smoke, make sure they get exercise and spend time in well-ventilated areas and stay indoors on days of high pollution.

<![CDATA[Police Arrest Man for Fatal Hit-and-Run]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:53:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/Junior-Lopez.jpg

More than a month after a fatal hit-and-run, police have located and arrested the man they believe responsible, the Anaheim Police Department announced Thursday.

While riding a bicycle the night of November 1, Daniela Palacios, 44, was struck by a pick-up truck near the intersection of La Palma and Magnolia avenues in Anaheim, later dying of her injuries, police said.

Palacios was temporarily homeless, her mother, Julie Lopez, told NBC4, but never forgot about others in need. 

"She would help feed the ones that didn't have," Julie Lopez said.

Buena Park resident Junior Rigoberto Lopez, 30, was arrested Thursday morning in connection with the hit-and-run, police said.

Junior Lopez is believed to be the driver of the vehicle that struck Palacios and is being held on $50,000 bail, police said. His white Ford F-150 was seized as evidence.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Anaheim Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Man Charged in OC Cold Case Murder]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:40:09 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/12-19-14_Douglas-Gregory-Gutridge.jpg

A Central California man has been charged with murdering a transgender Orange County woman in her apartment a quarter-century ago after DNA evidence linked him to the scene of the crime, prosecutors said Thursday.

Carla Salazar, 35, was found stabbed to death in June 1989 inside her Santa Ana apartment.

Douglas Gregory Gutridge, now 63, was questioned at the time of the killing, but investigators did not have enough evidence to charge him in connection with the murder, according to a written statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Gutridge reached out to detectives in the days following the murder, offering his assistance. He was believed to be the last person to see Salazar alive, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said Thursday.

In 2008, cold case detectives submitted evidence found at the scene and DNA was found. Gutridge provided a sample to investigators in 2008.

Earlier this year, a new cold case task force took over the investigation and re-interviewed witnesses and re-examined the physical evidence.

Gutridge was arrested Dec. 9 at his Lodi home.

Those who knew Salazar said they are grateful an arrest has been made.

"She deserved justice. She didn't deserve to die," Christine McFadden, Salazar's sister, said after Gutridge's arres. "She was the total essence of love and compassion and friendship. She didn't have a mean bone in her body."

Salazar's ex-husband echoed her sentiments.

"She was like a mother to everyone," Robert Dougherty said.

Detectives have not commented on a possible motive for the killing.

Gutridge is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.

He scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 2.

Photo Credit: Orange County District Attorney's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Parishioners Mourn Victims in DUI Crash]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:18:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/12-18-2014-Saeko-Matsumura-Mary-Wilson--redondo-2shot.jpg

Grieving parishioners filled St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach with song and prayer at a Mass Thursday, the day after three people were killed leaving its Christmas pageant when a driver plowed through the holiday crowd.

"God called them. That’s all we can say," said church member Dorothy Home. "We all have deep faith and our community will rally around each other and support each other."

Many, including Home, attended the Christmas concert at the parish Wednesday night, where they gathered to listen to students from St. James Catholic School sing carols.

A group, including some of the children, were crossing the street after the concert when a car failed to stop. Mary Wilson, 81,  Saeko Matsumura, 87, and Martha Gaza, 36, all from Torrance, were identified as the deceased victims by the LA County Coroner. One of Gaza's three children, a 5-year-old boy, was hospitalized in critical condition.

"As soon as I got there, it looked like a battlefield," church priest Father Jim Kavanagh said. "They were scattered, eight or nine, all over the street, and nobody moved."

The driver, Margo Bronstein, 56, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Bronstein, who uses a motorized wheelchair because of a disability, was jailed in lieu of $300,000 bail and is expected in court Friday.

"There’s so much sorrow in the world. To have so many kids and their grandparents and the older people get hit, though, (it’s) pretty rough," Home said.

Three women who belong to the church were killed and more than a dozen injured, including five children.

Michael Tovar, a St. James parishioner, said his granddaughter's friend is a young boy critically injured in the collision. He said he will never recover from what he saw.

"I was standing by the front of his car and looked down, me and another gentleman, and there was the little boy underneath his left front tire," he said. "I thought it was a jacket his car was on. It was underneath the left front tire. I could not believe that."

As they move through their grief, though, members of the church community said they will move toward forgiveness, a parish leader said.

"I know nothing about the woman or that situation, but yes. We are called to forgiveness and to understand and compassion and we cannot live our life in anger and vindication," said Monsignor Michael Meyers. "We have to rely on God’s love and stand strong in his presence and our life."

Toni Guinyard contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: California DMV]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood 'Interview' Billboard Taken Down]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:40:29 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/interview+billboard+taken+down+hollywood.JPG

When hackers threatened violence at U.S. screenings of "The Interview," the movie was yanked from theaters. Now evidence of the movie is being stripped from Hollywood itself.

Workers were tearing down a billboard for the Sony Pictures comedy near Sunset Bouelvard and Vine Street, in the heart of Hollywood, Thursday morning. Hackers seemed to object to the film's buffonish portrayal of Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea.

The hackers released Sony executives' e-mails and employees' social security numbers, a security fiasco for the studio.

Sony had backed the creative team behind "Interview," which includes Seth Rogen and James Franco, until it decided to cancel the movie's Christmas release on Wednesday, when many theaters opted out of screening "The Interview" for safety concerns due to threats of violence from the hackers.

Referring to the 9/11 terror attacks, the Guardians of the Peace hackers urged people who lived near theaters screening "The Interview" to leave, suggesting the retaliation for showing the movie would be extremely violent.

Deadline Hollywood reported Thursday that the TV campaign to promote the movie was being scrapped as well.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[OC City Accepting Applications for Legal Pot Shops]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:23:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lafile-medical-marijuana-121814.JPG

Santa Ana on Wednesday became the first city to take applications for medical marijuana dispensaries in Orange County.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Meausre BB in November, legalizing medical marijuana collectives but requiring them to be at least 1,000 feet from a school, park, or home and limits them to setting up shop in one of two industrial areas of Santa Ana.

The business owners would pay an additional five percent sales tax on medical marijuana. Revenue from medical marijuana sales would be used to crack down on illegal dispensaries, officials said.

There were about 80 shops operating in the city as of Wednesday -- NBC4 found one two doors from a children's dentist's office.

Tiffany Bailey, who uses medical marijuana for her arthritis, welcomed the new legislation "so that you know where you're supposed to be going," she said.

It costs about $1,700 application to apply for a license, and it's only the first step in a longer process.

A lottery in February will grant licenses to the applicants, like Kasra Ghobagi, who it's estimated have a 1-in-5 chance to win a license -- between 11 and 15 legal shops are expected to be approved.

"It's a good thing to be able to regulate this instead of having so many of them all over the place, with no regulation," Ghobagi said.

Some business owners in the industrial parks were opposed to the legalization, but prospective owners must pass criminal background checks.

Officials stressed that the law allowed patients to get medical marijuana in a safe, well-monitored way.

"There will be police surveillance there, protection, for everyone," Santa Ana Councilmember Sal Tinajero said. "They can go now in peace and get their medicine."

Photo Credit: Kevin Dahlgren]]>
<![CDATA[Stuffed Santa Clawed by Black Bear in Angeles Forest]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:38:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/179*120/12-18-2014-SantaClawed.JPG

A California photographer captured an unusual animal attack in the Angeles National Forest: a black bear beating up Santa Claus.

Glendora native Robert Martinez has 10 cameras set up to watch wildlife, and put a Father Christmas doll in front of one of them in the hope of attracting the attention of a mountain lion.

And while one did stop to stare at the doll before padding away, it was a carnivore of a different kind that made his efforts worthwhile.

The black bear decided to have some fun with the Santa doll on Monday, knocking it over and smacking it around with it until he got bored.

Amazingly, Martinez said he had not seen a bear in the area for the past 2 months.

<![CDATA[Storms Provide "Foothold for Drought Recovery"]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:07:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/221*120/12-18-2014-drought-monitor-ca.jpg

A string of storms that marched across California this month provided enough rain to boost reservoir levels and slightly improve drought conditions after three consecutive dry years.

The state still likely needs several consecutive wet winters, but the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report offers reason for "cautious" optimism with several months left in California's wet season. This month's storms brought precipitation to most of California, pushing the Sacramento River to its highest level since Dec. 31, 2005.

Consecutive days of rain and snow led to a decrease in the percentage of the state under the Monitor's most severe drought category, called exceptional drought (D4). Last week, 55 percent of California was in the exceptional drought category. The latest report shows 32 percent of state in the D4 category.

Nearly 95 percent of the state remains under severe drought, according to the Monitor.

California's critically low water reservoirs remain well below historical average for mid-December, but Drought Monitor researchers noted "good capacity increases" of 6 to 10 percentage points in northern and central California's major reservoirs.

"It takes years to get into a drought of this severity, and it will likely take many more big storms, and years, to crawl out of it," said Jay Famiglietti, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A study of satellite data released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory earlier this week found that at the peak of the drought earlier this year, water storage in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins was 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels.

"With several more months still left in the wet season, it is possible that additional storms similar to the ones that just occurred will continue to chip away at the long-term hydrological drought, and the addition of lower temperatures would help build the snow pack," according to the report.

Rainfall has been trending above normal in many places so far during the 2014-2015 rain season that began July 1. As of Wednesday, downtown Los Angeles had collected 4.47 inches, more than 1.4 inches more than normal to date. A year earlier, it had collected just 0.86 inch to date. Downtown San Francisco had tallied 13.40 inches, or nearly 6.5 inches more than normal to date.

But drought improvement will depend largely on this season's precipitation in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Springtime runoff from the melting Sierra Nevada mountain range snowpack supplies water for an estimated 25 million Californians. In November, the southern Sierra had received just 47 percent of its normal rain and snow so far, and the northern Sierra 79 percent.

The report noted that temperatures remained above normal, so more rain than snow was reported at higher elevations.

The tropical Pacfic Ocean phenomenon known as El Nino also could have a say in California's drought situation. The chance of El Nino weather conditions, which can potentially usher moisture into California, developing this winter for the Northern Hemisphere increased to 65 percent in December.

That figure represents an increase from last month's estimate of 58 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown in January declared a drought emergency, and asked Californians to cut residential water use by 20 percent -- a mark that has not been met, according to recent estimates. Farmers in the Central Valley have fallowed fields and mandatory water restrictions are in effect as California faces a fourth-consecutive dry year.

Photo Credit: US Drought Monitor
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<![CDATA[Thief Tries to Sell $10M Art for Just $700,000]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:48:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/12-18-2014-ArtTheft.JPG

A man was arrested in a west Los Angeles hotel after allegedly trying to sell $10 million of artwork for just $700,000.

Undercover FBI agents apprehended 45-year old Raul Espinoza, cracking one of the city’s biggest ever art heists. The stolen paintings included works by Hans Hofmann, Chaim Soutine, Arshile Gorky, Emil Nolde, Lyonel Feininger and Kess van Dongen

The paintings were taken during the break in of a wealthy real estate investor's Encino home six years ago. While the FBI recovered 9 pieces of art, the case is not complexly over as three paintings are still missing.

The art collectors were home at the time of the theft, but heard nothing, according to police. The couple's housekeeper arrived at the home to discover the thefts, the Los Angeles Times reported.

An LAPD detective followed a break in the case in September after he was tipped off to a man soliciting buyers for the stolen art, the Times reported. The subject, known as "Darko," indicated that he was "merely a middleman for an unknown person in possession of the art in California," according to a search warrant obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

An undercover operation led to Espinoza's arrest. He pleaded not guilty to one count of receiving stolen property.

<![CDATA[Man Dies After Crashing Into Power Pole in Fullerton]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:25:04 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/191*120/12-18-2014-FullertonFatal.JPG

A driver died after crashing into a power pole in Fullerton early Thursday.

The 28-year-old man also hit a hydrant with his pick-up truck in the incident, which occurred at the 200 block of East Imperial Highway at around 2:40 a.m, according to a statement from the Fullerton Police Department.

Police hadn't identified the driver, the statement said.

Water from the sheared hyrdrant was shooting around 40 feet into the air, causing flooding on the road, while power was cut for businesses on one side of the street, police said.

Officers were on the scene, investigating the crash. A SigAlert was issued for East Imperial Highway until at least around 11 a.m., police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Fullerton Police Department at 714-738-6812.

Photo Credit: OnScene.tv]]>
<![CDATA[Man Arrested After Three Cars Are Set on Fire in DTLA]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 05:08:02 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/204*120/12-18-2014-DTLAArson.JPG

A man has been arrested after three vehicles were torched in downtown Los Angeles early Thursday.

The first call came in at 2:44am, after a black sports car on the 1000 block of South Hill Street was set alight, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Moments later a call came in after a PT Cruiser on the 900 block of South Hill Street was torched at 2:52 a.m. The final call came in at 3:16 a.m. after a minivan was set on fire on the 200 block of East 11th Street.

All three fires were extinguished quickly by Los Angeles City Fire Department firefighters.

Witnesses told investigators a man had been seen in an alley lighting the vehicles, and a trash can, on fire. 

LAPD have detained a suspect in connection with all three fires. He is a transient and may have mental health issues. Los Angeles Fire Department Arson Investigators also attended the scene.

Photo Credit: OnScene.tv]]>