<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:08:15 -0800 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:08:15 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[So-Called "Tip Jar Bandit" Sentenced in Separate Theft Case]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:23:04 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/197*120/2-26-15-jessica+shub+surveillance+image.JPG

A 20-year-old woman thought to be behind a series of Southern California tip jar heists has pleaded no contest to felony grand theft for stealing money from a Jamba Juice cash register, the Los Angeles County District Attorney announced Thursday.

Jessica Mary Shub entered the plea Wednesday. The thefts were over a two-month span last year while Shub worked at the juice store, prosecutors said.

LA County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham on Thursday sentenced Shub to one year in a live-in residential rehabilitation facility, three years of formal probation, and ordered the Beverly Hills resident to pay $1,500 in restitution.

Shub was arrested about two weeks ago after surveillance video showed her stealing tip money from the Brighton Coffee Shop in Beverly Hills, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department. She was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly stealing from tip jars at various Beverly Hills and LA businesses, including a pizzeria and an ice cream parlor.

Because of Shub's no contest plea in the felony case, prosecutors dismissed those misdemeanor charges.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[AA Named in Lawsuit After Passenger Dies]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:38:24 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/aa+suit.jpg

A passenger on an American Airlines flight died after she had trouble breathing and was forced to give up her oxygen, according to a lawsuit.

The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Dallas, by the woman’s husband, Joost Tallieu of British Columbia, Canada.

The airline declined comment.

Sharon Tallieu was on a flight from DFW International Airport to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in March 2013, when she experienced respiratory distress, according to the lawsuit.

She was given oxygen, which helped, but her husband told flight attendants she had a pre-existing lung condition and needed immediate medical care, the suit said.

He asked for an ambulance to be waiting when they landed, but instead she was greeted by workers with a wheelchair, the lawsuit claims.

“While disembarking the aircraft and over Joost Tallieu’s objection, a member of the flight crew demanded that (she) give up the oxygen supplied earlier by the flight crew that had been keeping her alive,” the lawsuit said.

She died about 30 minutes later, according to the suit.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Victim's 911 Call Helped Catch "Vicious Killer"]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:53:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Capture56.JPG

The final phone call of a woman killed after a robbery attempt last year helped investigators piece together what happened on the night she was shot by a man police described as a "vicious killer."

Robert James Spells, 30, is suspected of gunning down Deshawnda Sanchez outside a South Los Angeles residence on Dec. 3. The Inglewood resident was taken into custody at a relative's home in Los Angeles at around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Los Angeles Police Department said. 

Sanchez, a transgender woman, was on the phone with a 911 operator to report the robbery in the 6100 block of South Wilton Place.

"Deshawnda's last words were helpful in tying together what occurred," said LAPD Detective Christ Barling. "She informed the operator that the suspect was returning. As he was returning, she sought shelter by pounding on a residence at 4 a.m."

As Sanchez knocked on the door, the man got out of a vehicle and shot her multiple times before leaving in the car.

"No words were exchanged on the 911 tape," said Barling.

Additional calls came in from neighbors who reported hearing shots fired.  Officers and paramedics responded to the scene and Sanchez was found dead on the porch of a residence.

At a news conference with Los Angeles police Thursday, family members said they feel the arrest provides justice for the woman they call "TaTa."

"Sometimes these cases just get thrown out," said sister Diana Williams. "But they stayed on the case and got justice for us."

Williams turned to a photo of her sister that was displayed at the news conference.

"We did this," she said, addressing her sister. "You were the bug in our ear. You didn't deserve how you got treated. We love you Ta Ta."

Sanchez grew up in Compton, but had lived outside the Los Angeles basin in recent years, in Las Vegas and Victorville.  There was some type of relationship between Spells and the victim, but officers declined to provide details about the relationship or what was taken during the robbery at a Thursday news conference.

"I want him to pay for everything he did to my child," said Diane Williams, Sanchez's mother.

Last year, LAPD detectives declined to call her shooting a hate crime, though the National LGBTQ Task Force linked the shooting to 11 other anti-transgender homicides they've documented in 2014. At Thursday's news conference, Barling said prosecutors will have to determine whether the case meets the federal criteria for hate crime charges. 

"Mr. Spells, at some point, realized Sanchez was a transgender person and that played a factor in the killing," Barling said. "That's my opinion.

"In my opinion, I think hate was used by Mr. Spells. But my opinion does not meet the list of criteria formed by the federal guidelines."

LAPD Capt. Peter Whittingham described Spells as a "vicious killer." He was arrested on a parole warrant, but Whittingham said a murder charge will likely be filed Thursday in the Sanchez case.

The Operation South Bureau Human Trafficking Task Force also identified Spells as the suspect in the human trafficking of an 11-year old girl which occurred on Feb. 8. It was during that investigation that authorities said they linked Spells to the other crime.

It was not immediately clear whether Spells obtained legal counsel.

Photo Credit: Deshawnda Sanchez's Facebook page]]>
<![CDATA[Dogs Poisoned by Purina: Lawsuit]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:38:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/EllaRemo.JPG

It started with a phone call from his wife: We’re out of dog food.

So Frank Lucido of Discovery Bay went to the store and bought a bag of Purina’s Beneful kibble style dog foods around Christmas. His dogs loved it.

But three weeks after eating it, his eight-year-old English bulldog Dozer is dead. And his 11-year-old Labrador named Remo and 4-year-old German Shepherd named Nella are still recovering from kidney failure, lethargy and diarrhea.

“I feel very strongly there’s a definite situation with this dog food,” Lucido said Thursday in an interview. “The doctor said the dog had been poisoned. The dogs are part of the family. It’s been real rough.”

Lucido sued Nestle Purina PetCare Company Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California alleging the dog food contains propylene glycol, which it says is an animal toxin used in automobile antifreeze, and mycotoxins, a group of toxins produced by fungus that occurs in grains. The suit asks for unspecified damages and to make sure Purina's products are "safe for dogs."

Lucido alleges that in the past four years there have been more than 3,000 complaints online about dogs becoming ill or dying after eating Beneful, having shown “consistent symptoms,” including stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures and kidney failure. The complaints about Beneful report symptoms that are consistent with mycotoxin poisoning, according to the suit.

Since he filed the suit, which has gotten national media coverage, one of Lucido’s attorneys, Michael Ram of San Francisco, said at least 1,000 have come forward complaining about similar situations. The suit is seeking class-action status.

"I have never had a flood of calls and emails who said, 'The same thing happened to me.' The phone is literally ringing off the hook," Ram said.

Purina said in a statement regarding Lucido’s suit that “there are no quality issues with Beneful,” and said dog owners could continue feeding it to their dogs without any concern.

“Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation,” the company said in its statement. “On-line postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for our Beneful customers.”

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of propylene glycol as an additive in human food and animal feed, and Purina screens its grain to prevent mycotoxins from getting into its products, spokesman Keith Schopp said.

The FDA has not issued any warnings about Beneful kibble-style dog food. In a statement, the FDA said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Jennifer Dooren, a spokeswoman, declined to comment to the Associated Press on whether the FDA were investigating the food.

The results of toxicology testing on Lucido’s English Bulldog, Dozer, who died, are pending, according to the lawsuit.

The suit asks the court to expand the case to include other dog owners whose dogs were sickened or died. It asks for unspecified damages and restitution, although it says the claims exceed $5 million.

In recent years, Beneful has faced two lawsuits that were dismissed by the courts, according to Purina’s statement.

However, in a lawsuit settled in May, Purina and Waggin’ Train LLC agreed to create a $6.5 million fund to compensate pet owners who claimed their pets were sickened after eating China-made jerky treats.

At the time, FDA officials said the pet treats were linked to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs and more than 4,800 complaints of animal illness. Three humans were sickened after eating the treats.

For now, Lucido just wants to stop this from happening to anyone else.

“I’ve been trusting Purina for a long time,” he said. “ Purina Puppy Chow is what you fed your dog. But this is a situation people should not have to go through.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Frank Lucido
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<![CDATA[Maid Burned, Beaten in Home: NYPD]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:59:01 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/maid+beaten+bayside+queens.jpg

A New York City couple allegedly kidnapped and tortured their housekeeper inside their home when they thought she was stealing from them, then drove to her home and ransacked the place while holding her at knifepoint, police sources say.

Devanand Lachman, 32, and Ambar Lachman, 31, have been arrested on felony assault, felony kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment charges, police said.

Sources said the couple, who live in Bayside, Queens, believed their maid, 54-year-old Daisy Machuea, stole money and jewelry from them. When she went to clean their home the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 13, Devanand Lachman and another man allegedly burned her with a plumber's torch and repeatedly hit her on the body with an object, according to police and the victim. 

Machuea told NBC 4 New York through her friend and housemate, Oscar Ramirez, who translated from Spanish for her, "They kept punching, one guy this side, the other guy the other side." 

Ambar Lachman then came into the house, and the three suspects put Machuea into a car and drove to Machuea's home on Long Island, Machuea said.

Ramirez said he was watching TV when the suspects knocked on the door. He opened it to find the couple and their accomplice holding a knife to Machuea's throat and demanding their valuables, he told NBC 4 New York. 

"The guy told me, 'If you move, the other guy will kill her," said Ramirez. 

Ramirez said they stole their cellphones and ransacked the home. 

The suspects eventually left and that's when the victims called police. Both went to the hospital, and Machuea was treated at a local hospital for burns to her face and legs, in addition to bruising to her body, according to police. 

Attorney information for the Lachmans wasn't immediately available. Devanand Lachman remains behind bars while his pregnant wife has posted bail. 

Police are searching for the accomplice in the kidnapping and assault, described as about 30 to 35 years old, and about six feet tall with a medium build.

Anyone who recognizes the man depicted in the police sketch is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

<![CDATA[C-17 Production to End This Summer in Long Beach]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:01:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/2-26-15-C17.JPG

Boeing workers such as Patrick Gandall, a structural mechanic, knew this day would come. Yet, it is here and his emotions have managed to catch him off guard.

"When it comes down to the end, it's tough," said Gandall, holding back tears. "A lot of us feel it."

Feb. 10, 1986 was the day Gandall started working at Boeing.

Thursday, he and his longtime colleagues worked to put the final sections together of the last C-17 plane — #279 — at the company's C-17 Globemaster III factory in east Long Beach.

"I think a lot of us are debating what we are going to do," he said. "I'm going to do some traveling first, spread my wings a little bit, see what happens."

The factory is set to close this summer after the last C-17 is delivered. Boeing does not yet have a committed buyer for the plane. The closure marks the end of an era for the factory, which opened about 25 years ago.

"Some will retire, some will find other jobs," said another longtime employee, Tony Murray who works as a senior manager of production operations. "(There's) a lot of talent. This factory? You won't see it again."

Murray said he worked on the first C-17 in the 1990s. He's proud of the work he has done here.

The C-17s, which were designed for the U.S. Air Force, have become integral in both military transport and humanitarian missions, according to Boeing.

"This aircraft has the ability to do that and save lives," said Murray. "It's more than just a military piece of hardware, it has a greater purpose. It's a great sense of pride, being here from the beginning to now."

Added Gandall: "I'm going to go out with my head hanging high to know that we did a damn good job."

The Long Beach factory was home to about 2,200 employees when Boeing initially announced the closure in September 2013.

<![CDATA[Armed With Video, Man Wins $70K After Santa Monica Arrest]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:29:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/203*120/02-26-15_Santa-Monica-Lawsuit-Recording.JPG

Sennett Devermont said the moment he saw flashing lights behind him after making an illegal right-on-red turn in Santa Monica, he started recording audio on his cellphone.

"In court, it’s my word against the officer’s and I believe I would lose every time," he said. "So with that audio, I was able to say to the court this is really what I sounded like, this is what I said, this is what he said."

Devermont, the mastermind behind a popular mobile app that lists local DUI checkpoints called "Mr. Checkpoint," posted the confrontation on YouTube and it received more than a million views.

That video also helped him secure a $70,000 judgment with the City of Santa Monica.

In the recording, Devermont is heard telling the officer that he has a right to refuse a field sobriety test.

"Do I have to do this?" he asked the officer.

"Yes, you do," the officer responded.

"By law?" Devermont continued.

"Yes you do," the officer repeated.

"I don’t think I do," Devermont replied.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California says Devermont had a First Amendment right to refuse the field sobriety test, but adds that an officer can still make an arrest if there’s reasonable suspicion of drunken driving.

In this case, though, a judge did not believe the officer had that.

In court documents, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson said it is his belief that the officer was "antagonistic" and that Devermont had "simply and calmly" asserted his right not to perform any field sobriety test.

"Where the hell did you learn that from?" the officer is heard saying in the recording.

Devermont responded "That’s the law, officer."

Devermont said he had studied much about DUI law in the state of California ever since he started his Mr. Checkpoint app nearly five years ago.

"I imagine this is something that happens quite a few times but it’s not actually captured on a recording," said ACLU Staff Attorney Jessica Price.

Upon reading up on the case, Price applauded Devermont for having the foresight to start recording with his phone.

"Here, the officer said the speech was slurred and that the plaintiff was being antagonistic," she said. "But by reviewing the recording, the judge was able to make his own assessment that the plaintiff’s speech was in fact not slurred, and that if anyone was being antagonistic in this encounter, it was the officer."

Devermont spent a night in the Santa Monica jail and a blood test confirmed he had not been drinking. He filed a lawsuit against the city and it took three years before it was settled.

The ACLU said a phone can be a powerful tool. In Devermont’s case, even the judge believed the officer did not have the reasonable suspicion to arrest him and that it was “merely for retaliation” against him.

"Certainly this night the footage was worth $70,000," Devermont said, adding that he believes everyone should take the moment to record their interaction with police for any reason.

Neither the Santa Monica Police Department or anyone from the City of Santa Monica returned NBC4’s request for comment.

<![CDATA[LA Makes New "Dangerous Dog" Directive]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:59:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/2-26-15_Jack_Hinton1.JPG

In the wake of an I-Team report, the city will now immediately impound any dog that seriously injures a person or kills another pet, in an attempt to protect the public from dangerous dogs.

Three weeks ago, the I-Team revealed that LA's Department of Animal Services often failed to impound dogs that mauled, and sometimes those dogs attacked other people or animals again.

"We have three victims from the same dog," said Jon Hinton, whose 8-year-old son was mauled in 2013 by an Akita. The same dog injured a woman nine months earlier, and then mauled the face of a man 11 months after attacking the boy. After each attack, the city did not impound the Akita.

"We clearly could have prevented all these things," Hinton told NBC4.

When questioned last month by the I-Team, the general manager of LA's Department of Animal Services, Brenda Barnette, admitted her department could be doing more to protect the public from potentially dangerous dogs.

So Barnette just issued a directive to all Animal Services employees, ordering them to "impound immediately" any dog that injures a person who ends up requiring medical care, or seriously injures another dog or cat.

"I would err on the side of safety and I would impound more dogs," Barnette told NBC4.

That's welcome news to Stephen Elliott of Studio City. Last year, while walking down Ventura Boulevard with his partner Rusty Fox, a pit bull lunged at their Yorkie, killing the dog and biting off part of Elliott's finger. The attacking dog, named Widow, was not impounded by the city, and Animal Services lost track of Widow's whereabouts.

"This is reform that's much needed," Elliott said about the new impound policy. "It's a significant move in the right direction towards protecting public safety."

The new directive also requires that owners of dogs that attack attend a "Dangerous Animal Hearing." At the hearing, the city could decide to order the attacking dog be removed from the city of LA, or it could be "humanely euthanized," or it could be returned to its owner with conditions, such as the dog must always be kept on a leash outside the house.

If you know of a dog that has attacked a person or pet, immediately report them to LA Department of Animal Services at 888-452-7381, or http://www.laanimalservices.com/

<![CDATA['Yellow Fever' Mosquito Found in Chula Vista]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:26:11 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Yellow+Fever+Mosquito.jpg

Another “yellow fever mosquito” has been found in Chula Vista, near the place where the potentially dangerous mosquitoes were found last October.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito was discovered in an office in Chula Vista, the first such one discovered this year. Four of the mosquitoes were found last fall in offices on Naval Base San Diego and also at a Chula Vista home.

At total of nine mosquitoes and two larvae sources have emerged since last October, according to county environmental officials.

The tropical disease that the mosquito is best known for carrying are rarely seen here: yellow fever, chikungunya and dengue fever. There hasn’t been an outbreak of yellow fever in the United States in more than a century, according to the county.

Still, health officials want to prevent the spread of these potentially dangerous mosquitoes and have been putting up and monitoring traps for them.

Yellow fever mosquitoes are more common on the East Coast but started appearing in California in 2013, officials said. The mosquitoes have recently been found in Commerce and Pico Rivera in Los Angeles County.

Unlike native California mosquitoes, these insects feed during the day. They can breed almost anywhere there’s standing water, including indoors, according to the county.

To help prevent mosquito breeding, the county is urging residents to dump out anything that can hold water – such as plant saucers, buckets or wheelbarrows – and report any standing water or dead birds to Vector Control.

Photo Credit: County News Center]]>
<![CDATA[Cruise Nightmare for Southern California Couple]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:19:13 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/2-26-15-socal+cruise+couple.JPG

What was supposed to be a romantic 34th anniversary cruise for a Tarzana couple has turned into a nightmare of sunken dreams and lost cash.

This spring, Ken and Pam Brazile planned to spend eight days enjoying the Caribbean sunshine and listening to R & B performers on the "Maxwell & the Seven Seas" concert cruise. They’d reserved $16,000 tickets, which would grant them VIP access, letting them hobnob with singer Maxwell, as well as celebrities like Chef Garvin, Boney James and Brian Culberson.

But after paying nearly $12,000 in installments for their tickets, the couple learned the cruise has been canceled, and instead of a refund, they say all they’re getting are excuses.

The couple paid the Phoenix, Arizona-based event promoter and planner, BTW at Sea, for passage aboard the chartered Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas cruise liner, May 3 through May 10. They charged the trip to their American Express card, making payments for several months, until the charges suddenly stopped appearing on their statement.

“That’s when I went to their website and saw their banner of how sorry they were about the cruise,” Pam Brazile said.

That’s because BTW at Sea had called off the trip. The company offered no reason, but provided an online form for passengers to fill out. Despite submitting the form, and making repeated phone calls, the couple has not gotten their money back. Ken Brazile said a company spokesperson told him it would be many weeks, perhaps months, before their money is returned.

The head of BTW, David Payne, sent the following statement to NBC4 on Thursday:

"BTWCruises LLC is committed to doing all that it can to arrange refunds for customers due to the unfortunate cancellation of the Maxwell and the Seven Seas cruise. A number of events lead to the cancellation and we continue to try to work with the parties involved to resolve the situation.

"We will be working with the travel insurance company in an effort to arrange payment for those who purchased insurance. Part of the delay of the refunds relates to the credit card processing company for BTWCruises withholding funds due to BTWCruises. Because there may be litigation involved we are advised by our counsel not to provide further comment at this time."

Responding to I-Team questions about why the cruise was called off, Royal Caribbean issued the following statement:

“Due to BTW’s failure to pay Royal Caribbean for the program, it has been terminated. Your viewers need to contact BTW for a refund since the company never paid Royal Caribbean. “

The Braziles are still waiting for word of a refund. They say without that money, they can’t afford to plan a different anniversary getaway.

Ken Brazile is a retired commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which makes the circumstances especially painful.

“Any law enforcement officer will tell you they hate being victims,” he said. “I hate being a victim. I feel like a victim.”

Consumer advocates say purchasing travel insurance can protect people in situations like this. If a consumer uses a credit card, he or she can contest the charge, but that doesn’t guarantee a refund.

The couple has asked American Express to launch an investigation. The couple is also considering filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Photo Credit: James Wulff]]>
<![CDATA[SeaWorld Attendance and Revenue Continues to Decline]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:41:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP120317138978.jpg

Attendance and revenue at SeaWorld continued to decline in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to an earnings report from SeaWorld Entertainment.

The report shows 22.4 million people visited SeaWorld parks last year, compared with 23.4 million in 2013.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, SeaWorld reported $264.5 million in revenue, compared with $272 the previous year.

The continued decline in business has followed the 2013 release of the documentary “Blackfish,” which was critical of SeaWorld’s handling of killer whales.

In December, more than 300 SeaWorld employees were laid off and the CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment stepped down. The company said it was attempting to cut about $50 million by the end of this year.

Overall in 2014, attendance dropped 4 percent.

SeaWorld has long defended its practices and last year announced the construction of larger environments for animals, namely Orcas, and that it would fund research programs to protect whales in the wild.

The company also said Thursday that it expects to select a new CEO within the next six to nine months, according to published reports.

<![CDATA[4 USC Students Struck by Car: LAPD]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:01:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/206*120/2-26-15-usc+car+crash.JPG

Four University of Southern California students were struck by a car near the college campus on Thursday, leaving one of them in critical condition, Los Angeles police said.

The crash happened near Jefferson Boulevard and McClintock Avenue just after noon, LA City Fire Spokesman Erik Scott said.

An LAPD officer told NBC4 the car struck four pedestrians, all USC students.

Two ambulances arrived to take at least two victims to the hospital, Scott said. The extent of the injuries for the other three students were not immediately clear.

Additional details were not immediately available.

Photo Credit: NewsChopper4]]>
<![CDATA[Tour Van, Car Crash in Beverly Hills]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:33:11 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/02-26-15_Beverly-Tour-Crash.JPG

A tour van was involved in a car crash in Beverly Hills Thursday afternoon, officials said.

The crash involved an open-air tour van and another car near the Beverly Hills Hotel at Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, authorities said around 2:15 p.m.

Paramedics examined passengers for injuries, but no one was taken to a hospital.

Photo Credit: Meghan Reyes]]>
<![CDATA[HS Basketball Coach Accused of Sex With Students]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:16:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/dwayne-jordan-richardson-villa-park.jpg

A 19-year-old girls basketball coach accused of having sex with two minors at Orange County high schools was arrested Wednesday, authorities said.

Dwayne Jordan Richardson, of Fullerton, allegedly has sex with a female students at Villa Park High School and another at Placentia's El Dorado High School, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Both were minors, deputies said.

Richardson was a walk-on coach at the Villa Park girls basketball team, according to investigators, who believe there may have been other victims.

The Orange Unified School District is cooperating with the sheriff's investigation, according to a statement from the district. It called Richardson is an assistant coach with the girls' basketball team for the past year. He did not work at El Dorado High School.

Richardson was booked into Orange County Jail on three sex-related charges, deputies said.

Deputies ask anyone with information or who believes they were a victim to call 714-647-7418.

Photo Credit: Lori Bentley/Suspect photo courtesy OC Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[4 in Forty: Dog's New Prosthetics, Spring Training, More]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:29:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/abudesdog2.PNG Today in LA's morning Thursday newscast featured top stories such as: Abused dog rescued from trash piles gets new legs after amputation, a driver dies after slamming into an Inglewood church, Dodgers and Angels head to Arizona for spring training, and Madonna falls off stage after a cape malfunction. Catch Today in LA every morning with Whit Johnson, Daniella Guzman, Crystal Egger and Holly Hannula 4:30-7 a.m. You wake up, we'll open your eyes. (Aired Feb. 26, 2015.)]]> <![CDATA[Dog Chewed Off Paw to Free Himself: Prosecutors]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:07:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/177*120/11-14-14_Rocky-Amputation.JPG

A flea-ridden, year-old dog was allegedly so neglected in an Orange County backyard that he had to chew off part of one leg to free himself from being entangled, said prosecutors who are accusing the dog's owner of animal abuse.

Samer Samir Ibrahim, 23, was scheduled to appear in court Thursday, accused of ignoring his dog, Rocky, in his Westminster backyard for six days in November, while Rocky's back right foot became entangled, prosecutors said Wednesday.

With blood flow cut off to the dog's leg, the 11-month-old German Shepherd chewed off about five inches of the entangled leg to free himself, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

Animal shelter staff reported Ibrahim to police when he brought the dog in for treatment — Ibrahim allegedly first tried to clean Rocky's leg with antiseptic wipes and covered the wound with a sock, prosecutors said.

"We removed the bandage and it was definitely a hard thing to see — he had essentially just chewed off most of his foot," said Dr. Maria Bromme, of Alicia Pet Care Center in Mission Viejo, where Rocky eventually underwent surgery.

The leg wound isn't the only complaint prosecutors had over how Ibrahim cared for Rocky. They allege that Rocky was kept in the backyard, where he caught fleas and weighed significantly less than other German shepherds.

Ibrahim faces a maximum charge of one year in jail if he's convicted of the misdemeanor counts he's facing of animal abuse and keeping an animal without proper care, according to the DA's office. He is in court Thursday to enter his plea in the case.

Rocky had the rest of his right leg amputated and has been adopted by a new family.

Photo Credit: Sean Browning]]>
<![CDATA[George Harrison Tree: The Grand Re-Planting]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 06:08:42 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ghtreeagp1.jpg The first Griffith Park pine was felled by beetles; fans gathered to welcome tree #2.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Road Rage Karma? Video Convicts Man]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:17:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Road-Rage-conviction-3.jpg

A San Diego man was convicted Wednesday of a violent road rage attack in part because of video he recorded on his own cell phone.

Jurors convicted Thomas Sikes, 56, of assault causing great bodily injury and elder abuse for an April 30 fight in an El Cajon parking lot.

Prosecutors characterized Sikes as a “violent bully who can’t control his anger” and presented the recording Sikes took of his confrontation with 76-year-old Ron Tornocello in a CVS Pharmacy parking lot.

“This is the a—hole that is driving here, came in here and ran through this parking lot,” Sikes says on the video as he's sitting behind the wheel of his own car in the parking lot.

Sikes continues recording as he walks up to Tornocello's car and asks him, "Do you have anything to say about your driving habit?”

A short surveillance clip released by officials shows Sikes walking across the parking lot, approaching the victim’s parked car and opening the driver's side door.

Tornocello was sitting behind the wheel of his car just outside the pharmacy's doors. He can be heard explaining to Sikes how his wife was being moved from a rehab center.

“You're going to be in a rehabilitation center in a minute,” Sikes warned.

That's when things got heated.

On the video shown to jurors in Sikes' trial Wednesday, Tornocello flipped off Sikes.

Then, as a CVS employee providing play-by-play to a 911 dispatcher described, Sikes threw a punch.

Tornocello, an Army veteran, was hospitalized for several days and required two facial reconstructive surgeries including one to repair his left eye.

A defense attorney argued his client had acted in self-defense and that it was Tornocello who first kicked Sikes in the groin.

Jurors rejected that argument and convicted Sikes on all counts. He'll face nine years in prison when he's sentenced. 

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<![CDATA[Family Sues Scope Maker After UCLA "Superbug" Outbreak]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:25:05 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lafile-ronald-reagan-ucla-medical-center.jpg

The family of a woman who believes she died in connection to the UCLA "superbug" outbreak has sued a medical device company for wrongful death.

Antonia Torres Cerda's husband and four children in Kings County, as well as mother in Mexico, filed the suit against Olympus Corporation of the Americas in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old was exposed to a contaminated duodenoscope while undergoing multiple procedures with the device at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in October. Cerda "suffered significant injury and died" according to lawsuit documents.

She died on Nov. 8, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The family's complaint also accused Olympus of products liability, negligence and fraud.

Another patient, Aaron Young, represented by the same lawyer, sued the company Monday. The 18-year-old high school student was still hospitalized at UCLA, the LA Times reported.

UCLA Health System officials said last week that medical equipment tainted with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) may have caused the deaths of two patients and infected dozens of others between October 2014 and January 2015. The patients were being treated for a variety of issues, including gallstones and cancer.

The lawsuits asserted that after redesigning the Q180V Scope, an endoscope that may be reused on different patients, Olympus failed to update sterilizing instructions and exposed patients to "residual body fluids and organic debris."

UCLA officials said in an earlier statement that they "sterilized the scopes according to the standards stipulated by the manufacturer."

The LA Times reported that the school and the University of California Regents may be added as defendants in these case as more information is uncovered.

A UCLA spokesman told NBC4 the school does not comment on litigation. NBC4 reached out to Olympus without an immediate response.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Congresswoman Cracks Down on Liquid Detergent Pods]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:02:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Consumer-Reports-Pods.jpg

Congresswoman Jackie Speier  is set to introduce the tougher laws surrounding the packaging of liquid laundry detergent pods after a child ended up in intensive care after biting into such a colorful, and dangerous, packet.

The Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act would direct the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission to require safer, child-resistant packaging for liquid detergent packets. She's trying to prevent more children from getting sick, and in some cases, from dying.

Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties) was moved to act after hearing the story of Jill Koziol  whose 8-month-old daughter, Cate, spent two days in the pediatric intensive care unit after swallowing a detergent pod her husband was using to do the laundry in September 2014. Koziol had moved from Menlo Park, Calif., to New York City, where her husband was about to do laundry in the apartment building, when the baby crawled into the hamper and took a bite of the packet.

And in one of the most egregious cases, 7-month-old Michael Williams of Florida died in 2013 after swallowing such a liquid laundry packet. His mother said that she was living at a shelter, where someone had placed the pods inside a laundry basket on the bed where her son was asleep. She stepped away only to return and find that her son had eaten two.

The American Cleaning Institute called the legislation "unnecessary" because "there are already comprehensive activities taking place addressing the safety of detergent packets."

Spokesman Brian Sansoni told NBC Bay Area that these products should be kept out of reach of children "no matter what color they are."

“In addition, ACI and its detergent manufacturer members are actively engaged in a process – administered by the standard-setting group ASTM International – to enhance and standardize laundry packet labeling and packaging," the statement read.

According to industry experts and studies, detergent packets are popular, convenient, and dangerous because they deliver powerful chemicals in colorful, bite-sized packages that look like candy.

From 2012 to 2013 the National Poison Data System received 17,230 calls involving children exposed to chemicals by the packets. Of those, 769 required hospitalization for issues including seizures, vomiting blood, fluid in the lungs, dangerously slow heartbeats, respiratory arrest, gastric burn, and comas. One 7-month-old boy has died.

Many household products such as medicine and cleaning agents already require child-resistant packaging. But Speier’s legislation proposes expanding those rules to cover liquid detergent packets. According to her office, the proposal advocates requiring stronger, safer policies that cover the design and color of the packets, so that they aren’t as attractive to children; the composition of the packets, so that the consequences of exposure aren’t so severe; and the adequacy of the warning labels, to properly inform consumers about the risk.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is releasing companion legislation in the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Drug Dealer Pleads Not Guilty to Killing Fox Exec]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:36:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Gavin+Smith+and+John+Creech.jpg

A convicted drug dealer accused of killing a Fox film executive in 2012 pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday, officials said.

Following his plea, John Lenzie Creech, 42, is being held on $1 million bail in connection with Gavin Smith's death, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. The film executive's remains were discovered by hikers in the desert north of Los Angeles in October 2014, following a long search for Smith after he disappeared in May 2012.

Smith's family was in court Thursday, according to a DA spokesman, but asked for privacy as they deal with "the agonizing reality of Gavin's violent death," and said they would "look to God for strength," according to a statement released by the DA's office.

"His death has left a huge void in our lives that will never be filled," the Smith family's statement said. "And have no doubt, the evidence will clearly show this was a cold blooded, premeditated act of murder."

Creech's wife allegedly had a "relationship" with Smith, according to Investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, who haven't provided specifics beyond that it began when the two met in drug rehab. This story initially misidentified who was involved in the relationship.

Smith's vehicle was found in a storage unit connected to Creech in February, 2013, linking Creech to Smith's death. Creech was already in custody on drug-related charges when the district attorney filed murder charges against him last month.

Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: CA DMV/Bill Robles]]>
<![CDATA[Man Sought in Deadly Street Race Crash]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:56:08 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/182*120/2-26-2015-ChatsworthFatal.JPG

Police sought the public's help on Thursday to find a 21-year-old man who authorities say was behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang in a street race that lost control and smashed into a crowd of spectators, killing two and critically injuring another man.

The incident happened Thursday shortly after 2 a.m. on a stretch of road in Chatsworth popular with street racers, police said.

Henry Michael Gevorgyan is believed to have been behind the wheel of a heavily modified Mustang that lost control near the start of the race. The car hopped onto a sidewalk and struck a group of people watching the race, police said.

"He was screaming 'My leg, my back's hurt,'" said a witness who asked not to be named.

Heavy tire marks were clearly visible at the scene, and witnesses told detectives that street racing took place.

"When the Mustang was hitting the power, he lost control and that's why the car went (into) the sidewalk," the witness said.

The driver fled the scene after the crash.

NBC4's Annette Arreola and Asher Klein contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: OnScene.tv]]>
<![CDATA[LA's Speeding Ticket Hotspots]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 23:20:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/211*120/2-25-15-speed+zone+speeding+lapd+tickets.JPG

Some drivers get a break — no ticket, just a warning. But others aren't so lucky.

Mobile App Users: Click Here for Map of Worst Intersections for Speeding Tickets

The cost of a speeding ticket has soared over the past several years. The penalty can start at $250 and climb to $500 or more.

"It got to a point where I was like, enough is enough," driver Robert Khalili said. "I’m getting so many speeding tickets, and it's so unreasonable, going 8 miles over the speed limit, 10 miles over the speed limit."

NBC4 analyzed Los Angeles Police Department speeding ticket data from July 2014 to December 2014 to see where officers write the most tickets.

"I’ve only been here for three years and I had to get used to how people move out here, because they really do move faster than the speed limit," driver Malcolm Smith said after getting a speeding ticket. "It doesn’t matter what time of day."

NBC4 watched as Los Angeles Officer Troy Williams pulled Smith over for speeding.

"This car, right here," he said while watching him pass. "You were going 52 mph on Roscoe, that's too fast," he told Smith.

Williams has heard all the excuses, including what Smith was about to tell him as to why he was going 52 mph in a 35 mph zone.

"I was moving with traffic," Smith responded.

"Yeah, you were moving with traffic, but you were moving a little bit faster," Williams said. "I have you on laser."

Williams decided to give Smith a break. No ticket, only a warning.

"I didn't even know I was going that fast," Smith said.

So where are you most likely to get pulled over?

The number one spot for speeding citations during the time period analyzed by NBC4 is the Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Canton Drive intersection in Studio City, just south of Ventura Boulevard.

Officers handed out 750 tickets at that intersection just in half of last year.

"There is a downhill slope, and most vehicles are traveling faster than the posted speed," traffic attorney Scott Desind said.

"I imagine it’s the vehicles that are accelerating to make that push up the hill are accelerating a little too fast," traffic attorney Michael Klijian said.

Desind and Klijian are traffic lawyers who help Los Angeles-area drivers fight tickets. Combined, they handle about 300 tickets a month, including those given to drivers heading both up and down Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

"Laurel Canyon is a hot spot in the valley," Desind said.

Driver Khalili hasn't been ticketed on Laurel Canyon, but he has picked up three speeding tickets in the San Fernando Valley. That’s where five of the top ticketed intersections are.

"It’s been horrible. I get cited," Khalili said. "They do it for safety but in my case I get tickets for going 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit."

"It got to a point where I couldn’t handle it," Khalili said. "I said, 'I need to get an attorney.'"

Khalili claims he was just staying with traffic. Experts told NBC4 the valley’s long, wide, flat roads make it easy to speed.

At another Laurel Canyon Boulevard intersection at Rinaldi Street, officers wrote 280 tickets, making it the fifth most popular spot to get caught speeding.

"It has nothing to do about revenue," Officer Williams said. "It’s all about complaints, traffic complaints, working a location, trying to slow people down."

"(Speed limits are) based on the conditions," he said. "So the environment determines what is safe."

The top five hotspots for LA speeding tickets are:

1. Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Canton Drive, in Studio City

2. Sunland Way and Johanna Avenue, east of Sun Valley

3. Nordhoff Street and Louise Avenue, in Northridge

4. Sepulveda Boulevard and Weddington Street, in Van Nuys

5. Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Rinaldi Street, in San Fernando

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<![CDATA[Toddler Found on Street at Early Hours Back With Mom]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 07:29:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/2-26-2015-LostToddler.JPG

A toddler found walking the streets near a busy intersection in South Los Angeles early Thursday has been reunited with his mother.

The 2-year-old boy, who is named Caydence, was found at 98th Street and Figueroa Street in Vermont Vista at around 2:30 a.m, Los Angeles Police Department said. He was barefoot and wearing pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.

The child's mother, who cops found wandering the streets in search of her boy, arrived at the police station just before 4:30 a.m. After an interview with officers, the incident was deemed an accident.

Family members said the boy had fallen asleep in the living room, and when he woke up alone had left the home to look for his mother.

"When he woke up he didn't see his mother so he just opened the door. He's learned how to open the barred door and I guess he went looking for her," his grandfather Craig Gregory said. "He ended up down the street a few houses down... He didn't really go far."

Gregory resides across the street from the family and said the boy might have gone looking for him. He says the family will now be looking into installing safety locks at the child's home.

Police interviewed the mother, and determined there was no criminal misconduct.

"We are confident this was more of an accident," said Sgt. Tim Jones, of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Photo Credit: OnScene.tv]]>
<![CDATA[Top News Photos of the Week]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 05:13:48 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/bratton-islamic-state-presser-AP_617894346352.jpg View weekly updates on the very best photos in domestic and foreign news.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Support Staff Overhear a Lot: Study]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 10:55:31 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/janitor_generic_getty.jpg

In the office, knowledge is power.

A new survey suggests that many company employees' jobs could be on the line, all because members of the support staff have overheard some incriminating conversations.

The Chicago-based career services site CareerBuilder conducted a national online survey through Harris Poll and asked 500 support staff employees about the conversations they have overheard. Those in the survey identified themselves as custodians, janitors, mailroom attendants, security guards, receptionists, facilities maintenance workers, housekeepers, administrative assistants and maintenance workers.

The results showed a staggering 11 percent of support staff workers have stumbled upon information that could cause someone to be fired, and 53 percent have overheard confidential conversations at work. The information leakage also comes from pieces of evidence left out in the open or in the trash can.

The people included in the survey also offered anecdotes about the things they have found or overheard. More than half of them -- 62 percent -- have heard other employees complaining about the boss or their co-workers. Others have picked up on conversations with more personal themes, like romantic relationships between co-workers (20 percent) or setting up another co-worker for failure (11 percent).

Among the snippets of personal information and incriminating evidence found in the trash -- or even in full view on a desk -- were a list of employee salaries, a photo of a partially dressed co-worker, an old love letter from one co-worker to another, a predetermination request for a breast augmentation procedure, a pregnancy test, a letter from the boss's mistress and a full set of keys for the entire facility.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Arrested in Hate Crime Misidentified as Suspect, Charges Dropped: NYPD]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:57:24 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/145th+street+station.jpg

A New York City Department of Social Services worker who had been charged with assault as a hate crime after law enforcement sources said she allegedly grabbed a woman by the hair at a Manhattan subway station, threw her into a pole and made racial remarks has been cleared of wrongdoing, and police say her arrest stemmed from a witness misidentifying her at the scene. 

The arrest of the 43-year-old woman in connection with the attack inside the 145th Street A-C-B-D station around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday has been voided, the NYPD said Thursday afternoon.

The reversal came about 12 hours after the NYPD announced her arrest on hate crime charges. 

It's not clear how police realized her arrest was based on misinformation, nor is it known if they have another suspect in the case. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Boyfriend "On the Hook" in Deadly '94 Stabbing: Prosecutors]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 09:48:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/torrez1.JPG

Though fingerprint and DNA evidence doesn't link him to the scene, prosecutors asked a jury to convict Sam Lopez for the murder of his former girlfriend in closing arguments over the 21-year-old alleged killing.

Evidence links his cousin to Cathy Torrez's car, where her body was found after she went missing in 1994. Prosecutors said Lopez didn't help chip in on the huge search for Torrez after she disappeared, and argued, "If you help, you're on the hook" as the case drew to a close on Wednesday.

A co-worker testified that she saw Torrez, a student at Cal State Fullerton, drive to meet Lopez before she went missing. She was found a week later in her trunk, stabbed dozens of times. Prosecutors said she

Lopez and his cousin, Xavier, both 35, were arrested in 2007 and charged with murder. Experts testified they found fingerprints and DNA from Xavier around the car, but prosecutors say Lopez asked his cousin to help kill Torrez.

"The person Cathy Torrez was about to see right before she was butchered is sitting right there," said prosecutor Matt Murphy, pointing at Lopez. Xavier's trial has not been held yet.

Murphy told jurors Sam Lopez's story changed when he was first questioned about the slaying.

But Lopez's attorney questioned whether he was smart enough to outsmart the Placentia Police Department.

"He's such a brain that he figured out how he could get away with this and tell everyone what to say?" said attorney Lew Rosenblum.

Photo Credit: File photo]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors' Curry Talks Hoops, Malaria, Cauliflower]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 09:18:07 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Stephen-meets-Bo-and-Sunny-at-the-White-House.jpg

Hard to say who might have been more thrilled this week, Stephen Curry or the president of the United States, an avid hoops player himself who once called the Golden State Warriors guard the best shooter he had ever seen.

But Curry, who lives in Oakland, did not officially visit the White House on Wednesday to show Barack Obama how to make a three-pointer. He was there to speak about the president’s Malaria Initiative, something he became passionate about after visiting Tanzania in 2013 and seeing how children were affected by the disease.

"That hit home to me as we traveled through the camp to hear stories of how malaria impacted all those families," Curry told the Mercury News. A father himself, Curry said he was moved to act. He and his wife, Ayesha, have two children.

"Let's keep the fight going," he said after the meeting.

Curry for the past three seasons has donated three insecticide-treated mosquito nets for every 3-pointer he makes as part of the United Nations Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign. Since he started in 2012, Curry has donated 1,599 bed nets, according to the organization.

The goal of the group is to find athletes who are willing to find “fun, creative ways” to raise awareness and money to buy a $10 bednet to combat the disease by protecting people from mosquito bites. Since 2006, Nothing But Nets has delivered more than nine million nets to families in 29 countries across Africa. Malaria kills more than 600,000 people worldwide each year.

But Curry’s charitable works don’t end with malaria. On Thursday, he and San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick are pushing the benefits of cauliflower as part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which has been nicknamed “FNV,” a supposedly catchier title for fruits and vegetables.”

NBC Universal's Jennifer Vasquez contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Nothing But Nets
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<![CDATA[Dead Dogs Facebook Photo Probed]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 08:16:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dogs+Killed+022515.jpg

A North Texas volunteer firefighter is under criminal investigation after authorities say he posted a picture of two dead dogs on Facebook along with a message to his neighbors that he had warned them to keep the animals away from his house.

The photo on Hunt County volunteer firefighter Tim Conatser's Facebook account showed the two dogs, apparently shot to death, along with the warning: "Somebody didn't put any truth my warning. Keep your damn dogs on your property."

Conatser could not be reached for comment.

The Union Valley Volunteer Fire Department's chief Edward Ragsdale said he suspended Conatser after he learned of the Facebook post.

"This is an individual that's a volunteer with our department,” Ragsdale said. "We can't be responsible for his actions when he's off duty."

Still, the chief said, the tiny department was getting bombarded on social media with angry messages -- even death threats -- from around the world.

"We've had I don't know how many hits," he said. "We've had (them) from as far away as England, Portugal, Canada, every state in the union."

Hunt County Constable Terry Jones said his office has launched a criminal investigation based on the Facebook post.

He said he did not know who owned the dogs and added that nobody had filed a complaint.

News of the Facebook post spread quickly in Hunt County, where many people were critical.

"I don't think you should have put that on social media, and the way he made it sound is horrible," said Brittany Clark, who works at a Royse City insurance office.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[No Charges "at This Time" in Metrolink Crash]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:00:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/knbc-jose-alejandro-sanchez-ramirez.jpg

The driver whose truck was struck by a commuter train after he left it at a Southern California rail crossing, resulting in a crash that injured nearly 30 people, will not face charges at this time, according to the Ventura County District Attorney's office.

The announcement came Thursday when Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, was scheduled to be arraigned. He was taken into custody after the crash, which critically injured four people, Tuesday before dawn on the Ventura County Line tracks between Camarillo and Oxnard, about 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors released a statement indicating that they are waiting for results of the crash investigation before making a decision.

"The ongoing investigation of this matter is complex and involves numerous local and federal agencies including the District Attorney’s Office, Oxnard Police Department, and the National Traffic Safety Board," the DA's office said in a statement. "The District Attorney must await the completion of this investigation before making a formal filing decision.  While charges will not be filed at this time, the arrest of Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez by the Oxnard Police Department was clearly appropriate and lawful."

Sanchez Ramirez was released from custody Thursday, according to his attorney. He had been in custody since his arrest Tuesday about 45 minutes after the crash on suspicion of hit-and-run after he was found about a mile away from the derailment that left his burned truck mangled and three train cars on their sides.

His attorney said Wednesday that Sanchez Ramirez accidentally drove onto the tracks and made the situation worse by continuing forward in an attempt to gathered enough momentum to get the wide pickup over the rails. He also used his high-beam headlights in an effort to warn the oncoming Metrolink commuter train, which was bound for Los Angeles.

The heavy duty Ford F-450 truck, towing a trailer, straddled the tracks and Sanchez Ramirez could not back up because he was towing a trailer, attorney Ron Bamieh said. When his efforts to move the truck failed, he ran for help, Bamieh said.

But federal investigators who arrived in Oxnard Wednesday said the truck was not stuck on the tracks in the sense that it had bottomed out at the crossing. Investigators have not ruled out that the truck was somehow stranded and will attempt to determine why it traveled 80 feet down the tracks and remained there with its parking brake engaged.

"I don't think anybody would put a car or truck on... railroad tracks and not try to get it off if there's an approaching train," Sumwalt said.

Police claim Sanchez Ramirez did not call 911 and made no immediate effort to call for assistance. Authorities would not discuss drug and alcohol test results, but Bamieh said he was told there was no sign Ramirez was impaired.

"When someone goes through a huge trauma like that and not only thinking they almost died, but they think other people are dead and you don't know what to do and you're confused... what is a normal reaction to such an event?" Bamieh said.

Ramirez had a drunken driving conviction in Arizona in 1998 and a pair of traffic citations. Bamieh said the citations were minor and the DUI was too old to be relevant to the current circumstances.

A commuter train's on-board camera captured the fiery crash and might help investigators with effort to piece together the events that led to the derailment. The video, taken from the outward-facing camera on the front car of the Metrolink train, was sent back to the Washington home of the National Transportation Safety Board for analysis, board member Robert Sumwalt said.

Photo Credit: Oxnard Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Mexico Wants Probe of Texas Slaying]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:50:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Officer+Involved+Shooting+022615.jpg

The Mexican government on Wednesday demanded an investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed undocumented immigrant last week by a Grapevine, Texas, police officer, calling the killing a "disproportionate use of lethal force."

Rubén García Villalpando, a native of Mexico’s Durango state, died early Saturday after Officer Robert Clark shot him twice in the chest.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs deeply condemns the death of 31-year-old Mexican national Rubén García Villalpando," the Mexican government stated in an official letter to the police departments of Grapevine, Euless and the Tarrant County District Attorney's office.

The statement called the shooting a "disproportionate use of lethal force that results in the unnecessary loss of life and erodes the trust that should exist between the authorities and the communities in which they operate."

The shooting happened at about 7 p.m. on Friday night, Feb. 20, immediately following a high-speed chase on Texas State Highway 121 that began in Grapevine, but ended in Euless.

Police said Clark, a member of the Grapevine Police Department since May 2014, responded to an alarm at a building in the 3500 block of William D. Tate Avenue.

After investigating the alarm, and communicating over the police radio that he believed it to be a false alarm, Clark drove through the parking lot and noticed García Villalpando's car stopped in the entrance on the lot's west side, police said.

Clark activated his red and blue emergency lights, according to Grapevine police, but García Villalpando drove out of the parking lot and entered the southbound service road of Highway 121.

Clark then activated his siren and communicated by radio he was in pursuit, police said, as García Villalpando's car entered Highway 121 at a high rate of speed.

Dash camera video shows García Villalpando "weaving through and around the heavy traffic and driving on the shoulder of the highway attempting to evade Officer Clark," according to the official timeline of events released by the Grapevine Police Department.

Once García Villalpando eventually stopped on the shoulder of the Cheek Sparger Road exit, Clark "gives verbal commands to Mr. Villalpando to keep his hands out of his car," police noted.

García Villalpando approached Clark and ignored repeated instructions to stop, according to police. The dash-cam video shows Villalpando raise his hands and put them on his head, while continuing to walk towards the officer, police said. 

Villalpando was shot twice and was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he later died.

Clark has been placed on routine administrative leave. Police are investigating the shooting.

Police has shown the dash camera video to several members of García Villalpando's family and their attorneys.

"Much, much worse than Ferguson," said Attorney Domingo Garcia, referring to the officer-involved shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri last summer. "This is an absolute cold-blooded murder by a man wearing a badge and a uniform."

Both Attorney Garcia, who has viewed the video, along with activist Carlos Quintanilla acknowledged that Garcia Villalpando was wrong to run from the officer, and to approach the officer despite his commands to stop.

"But at the same time, you do not shoot an unarmed man with his hands on his head," Garcia told NBCDFW.

"He didn't lunge at the officer. He wasn't aggressive at the officer, he had no arms toward the officer, he had no weapons and yet the officer shot him twice," Quintanilla said.

Family members have stated they want to know why Clark did not approach Garcia Villalpando and cuff him if he was a suspect in a crime, or why the officer did not use a TASER instead of a pistol.

In a statement to NBC DFW, a Grapevine police spokesperson said that their officers are not issued TASERs.

Garcia Villalpando leaves behind a wife, Martha, and four young children.

"As his wife, I'm suffering," Martha Garcia said, in Spanish, outside of her husband's funeral Wednesday. "But my kids aren't going to have their father. I want justice for my children," Garcia said, wiping away tears.

Wednesday night, Euless police - the department handling the investigation of the shooting - acknowledged receipt of the letter from the Mexican consulate.

"We have received a letter from the consulate. We have a meeting scheduled with them in the morning," Lt. Eric Starnes said. "As for the video, we are still taking statements from witnesses and have more scheduled through this weekend. Release of the video has a strong potential to affect witness testimony and for that reason I do not have an answer as to when it will be released."

The fatal police shooting comes 10 days after police in Pasco, Washington, fatally shot another Mexican immigrant, Antonio Zambrano Montes, sparking street protests.

The following is taken directly from the Grapevine police timeline of the shooting: 

Mr. Villalpando gets out of the car with his hands up and stands outside his car, while Officer Clark commands him to stop. Officer Clark gives him further commands to not move.

Mr. Villalpando, contrary to clear instructions, walks toward Officer Clark while Clark is repeatedly telling him to stop. The video shows Mr. Villalpando raising his hands and/or placing them on his head, while continuing to walk towards Officer Clark. This continues as Mr. Villalpando walks to the front bumper of Officer Clark's patrol vehicle, off camera view.

Officer Clark continues to tell Mr. Villalpando to get to the back of the car. Two shots are then heard. Officer Clark notifies dispatch that "shots were fired" and he requests paramedics.

Garcia Villalpando was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he later died.

<![CDATA[Driver "Did Best He Could" to Free Truck in Train Crash]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 14:47:07 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/knbc-jose-alejandro-sanchez-ramirez.jpg

The lawyer for the truck driver arrested in the Southern California commuter train crash said his client "did the best he could" to free his truck from the tracks and run for help in the moments before the train barreled into it and derailed injuring 28 people.

Attorney Ron Bamieh said his client, Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, made a wrong turn onto railroad tracks in farmland in Ventura County and got stuck.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Sanchez misperceived the railroad tracks to be the road," Bamieh said during a Wednesday news conference. "The (truck) became entangled on those tracks. He tried his best to get it off the tracks. Unfortunately, he was unable to do that."

Sanchez-Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, is in jail on charges of felony hit-and-run in connection with the pre-dawn collision Tuesday in Oxnard, about 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Oxnard Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites said Tuesday that Sanchez-Ramirez abandoned the commercial truck and was found about 1 1/2 miles away in apparent distress.

Ventura County prosecutors were reviewing the case to determine whether to file charges.

Bamieh said it was an unfortunate accident, that the intersection in question has been long known as a problem and that city officials had been raising money to build a bridge to prevent crashes there.

He said his client, whose Ford F-450 pickup with trailer carrying mechanical equipment for harvest machinery, was driving Tuesday morning to familiarize himself with his work route, a day before he was set to do a job in Oxnard.

He had driven from Yuma on Monday and arrived in Southern California that night, the lawyer said.

As he was stuck on the tracks, he hit his high beams to warn the oncoming train. He tried to push his two-ton truck off the tracks but couldn't. He ran away to save his own life, his attorney said.

"His first reaction was to find help on foot," Bamieh said. "He did the best he could and that's all he could do."

Photo Credit: Oxnard Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Teen, Dad Arrested on Sex Assault, Child Porn Charges]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 06:16:53 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/dad+son+arrest+child+porn.jpg

A New Jersey father was arrested on child porn charges after police executed a search warrant at his home in a sexual assault investigation involving his teenage son, prosecutors say. 

Richard Stoldt, 58, and James Stoldt, 19, were arrested after the search at their Midland Park home in Bergen County Tuesday.

Prosecutors had been investigating James Stoldt for an alleged sexual assault of a now 14-year-old girl. According to the Bergen County prosecutor's office, James Stoldt assaulted the girl when she was 13, but she only recently disclosed to a friend what happened. 

The friend contacted police, who in turn interviewed the girl and then went to arrest James Stoldt, prosecutors said.

When authorities executed a search warrant at his home, they seized computers that allegedly revealed that both James Stoldt and his father Richard were each accessing child pornography independently. 

James Stoldt was arrested on sex assault and child endangerment charges, while Richard Stoldt, a software engineer, was arrested on a charge of child endangerment. 

The teen was remanded to Bergen County Jail on $125,000 bail and Richard Stoldt was released on his own recognizance. 

Attorney information wasn’t available. A person who picked up the phone at the number listed for the residence hung up when asked for a comment.

<![CDATA[Carjack Suspect's Relatives Arrested Over Guns, Drugs]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 03:44:04 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/2-26-2015-CarjackingGuns.JPG

A father and son have been arrested after a college carjacking investigation led detectives to a stash of guns and drugs.

Ceasar DeLaLuz and 20-year-old Francisco DeLaLuz were taken into custody following the probe into two separate incidents committed by the former's other son in San Bernardino Tuesday.

Julio DeLaLuz had already been arrested after allegedly carjacking a Cal State San Bernardino parking lot and then an off-duty nurse at gunpoint.

After his arrest they found a phone that lead them to a cell phone store at the  3200 block of E Street in San Bernardino, which they learned was owned by his 40-year-old father Caesar.

A total of 17 guns were found, including evolvers, machine pistols shotguns and rifles. In addition seven pounds of meth were also uncovered.

Cesar and Francisco DeLaLuz were arrested and booked for possession of methamphetamine for sale, unlawful possession of assualt weapons and for being ex-felons in possession of firearms.

"(Investigators) did a great job of following up on this case and following all the leads to the end, " Lt. Rich Lawhead of San Bernardino Police Department said.