Southern California -- this just in

Category: November 2009

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Deputies in gun battle with suspects in South L.A.

Authorities are searching for at least two suspects tonight after a routine stop in South Los Angeles turned into a gun battle between deputies and two men who had been pulled over.

The suspects opened fire on two Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies about 8:45 p.m. near 105th Street and Normandie Avenue, authorities said.

The deputies returned fire, and the suspects fled the scene on foot, said Sgt. Michael Maher of the Sheriff's Department's Lennox station.

"The guys came out shooting," Maher said of the suspects.

He said deputies have cordoned off a large area that they are searching with dogs and a helicopter.

No additional details were available.

-- Robert J. Lopez

L.A. City Council candidates Essel and Krekorian reflect on mayor at debate

The days may be dwindling in the runoff race for the vacant seat of former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, but one thing is clear -- neither candidate is looking for a last-minute campaign boost from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

During a debate Monday night at Valley College, Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Los Angeles) and his rival, Christine Essel, a former Paramount Pictures Corp. executive, both dodged a question about whether they would vote for Villaraigosa if he were running for another office.

And Essel hastened to dispel rumors that Villaraigosa is planning to endorse her before the Dec. 8 runoff for a seat representing residents of the San Fernando Valley, where the mayor had a weak showing in his March re-election campaign. “I don’t know exactly who is creating [the rumors], but it isn’t anybody in my camp,” Essel told an audience of more than 100. “The mayor is not endorsing anybody in this race and he is not helping me with my race.”

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U.S. Forest Service to review ban on flying firefighting helicopters at night

The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing its practice of not flying firefighting helicopters at night, in an apparent response to criticism of how the agency handled the early hours of the huge Station fire.

At the urging of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Board of Supervisors last week called on the federal government to authorize deployment of water-dropping choppers after dark to battle fires in the Angeles National Forest, where the Station blaze began to spread on its first night. The Forest Service has long considered night flying too risky for pilots.

Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Director Tom Harbour told the Associated Press on Monday that, “We are in the process ... of one more time taking a look at night-flying operations. But we will have to make sure that those operations, before we change our policy, are worth the benefits.”

The review is “welcome news,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who has blasted the Forest Service for not mounting a more aggressive air assault on the Station fire.

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Alleged Van Nuys robbers lead officers on car chase with two children in back seat

A Van Nuys couple who allegedly robbed a restaurant this morning led officers on a high-speed chase as their two children rode in the back seat of the getaway car, police said.

The chase began about 3 a.m. when two California Highway Patrol officers arrived at an International House of Pancakes restaurant at 15635 Ventura Blvd. in Encino. An employee alerted the officers that a suspect with a ski mask was inside and had pointed a handgun at co-workers, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.Chase began here.

The suspect left the restaurant, saw the officers and got into a black Nissan Maxima, which had a female driver. The car sped away with the officers in pursuit, the LAPD said.

The officers used a "pursuit intervention technique" to stop the car and arrested the couple. At that point, officers realized that two children, ages 4 and 6, were in the back seat, according to the LAPD.

Police identified the couple as William Farag and Nadia Redoble, both 28.

An investigation linked the pair to other robberies that had been committed minutes before the pancake house robbery -- one at a Rite Aid in Sherman Oaks, the other at an CVS in Encino, the LAPD said.

Farag and Redoble were booked on suspicion of robbery. Investigators will also ask that the couple be charged with child endangerment, police said. The children were placed in protective custody.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Santa Monica launches program to turn cooking grease into biofuel

Santa Monica, known for its eco-friendly initiatives, is launching a new effort to collect cooking grease and turn the waste into biofuel.

The program is primarily aimed at restaurants in the downtown area. Restaurants will be able to dump their excess grease, fat and oil in special containers at public parking structures 2 through 6, which border the Third Street Promenade.

Restaurants outside the downtown area can request containers from city officials by calling (310) 458-8546.

Residents can also participate by leaving their grease at the city's hazardous waste facility, at 2500 Michigan Ave, officials said.

City officials said the program will help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and clogged sewer lines.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tours Mexico

While traveling in Mexico today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took a swipe at efforts to build a massive fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying U.S. politicians should spend their time building bridges instead of walls, the Associated Press reported.

“We should focus on what we have in common instead of focusing on our differences,” Villaraigosa said after a meeting with Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

On Sunday, Villaraigosa met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón at the National Palace. Before the mayor was given a tour, the two discussed immigration and public safety issues, according to a representative of the mayor’s office.

Villaraigosa’s trip to Mexico started Thursday, when he led a delegation of authors, artists, filmmakers and musicians to the 2009 Guadalajara International Book Fair, where Los Angeles had been declared the guest of honor.
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Schwarzenegger’s business manager blames tax lien on communication, mail glitches

The tax lien the Internal Revenue Service lodged against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in May resulted from a glitch involving payroll forms for his household employees and a series of certified letters that were returned to sender, according to his business manager.

The manager, Paul Wachter, said today that the confusion that led to the nearly $80,000 lien stemmed from a disparity between the reference number on Schwarzenegger's federal tax returns and the one on payroll tax forms for his workers that were filed with the Social Security Administration.

Schwarzenegger's tax returns used his Social Security Number. The payroll forms used an employer identification number. For some reason, in 2004 and 2005 only, the two federal agencies that received those documents were unable to recognize that the forms were filed by the same taxpayer.

"There seems to be this computer glitch that somehow the IRS and the Social Security Administration don't realize that it's the same person filing the different forms," Wachter said. "The IRS says, or apparently thought, that we hadn't filed the W-2s. So they send us a notification that we haven't filed them."

The amounts the IRS said Schwarzenegger owed were penalties for his supposed failure to file those forms.

In another odd twist, Wachter said, IRS warning notices were sent to the governor's home instead of to his business office or to his accountants, where his mail normally goes. But the post office is under instructions not to deliver mail to the governor's home. So the notices went back to the IRS.

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'Pulp Fiction' screenwriter back behind bars, no longer tweeting

Oscar-winning 'Pulp Fiction' screenwriter Roger Avary may have been placed in a higher security prison because of his Tweets.

“Pulp Fiction” screenwriter Roger Avary won’t be tweeting again any time soon, a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department official said Monday.

Avary likely will serve out the remainder of his year-long sentence for a fatal drunken driving accident in the county jail instead of a lower-security work furlough program, said Sheriff’s spokesman Ross Bonfiglio. He’s scheduled to be released in July 2010, Bonfiglio said.

Until last week, Avary had been permitted to leave the furlough program daily to work at a production office, where he sent out Twitter messages about strip searches, lock-downs and talks with gang bangers, officials said.

On Thursday, after The Times published reports about the short messages, Avary was transferred to county jail. The tweets played a role in the decision, Bonfiglio said, but probation officials also had “security issues.”

“He really messed up," Bonfiglio said. “He could have done nine months out of a year sentence, and not even in lock up for killing someone. Now he is going to do the remainder of that time in county jail.”

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Covina man allegedly kills relative in a wheelchair during fist fight

A Covina man was booked on suspicion of murder after allegedly punching his wheelchair-bound brother-in-law in the head, police said today.

Martin Louis Silva, 52, allegedly struck Richard Basulto several times in the face Sunday evening after the two men began arguing about money, according to police. Basulto, 55, was taken to a hospital, where he died of complications from his injuries.

Basulto, whose right leg had been amputated due to diabetes, was in a wheelchair at the time of the fight, according to Covina police. The dispute occurred in the 200 block of West Bygrove Street in Covina.

Silva was being held in county jail.

-- Robert J. Lopez

'Ginger attacks' at Calabasas school linked to cyber-bullying

What began as an effort by the animated TV show "South Park" to lampoon prejudice found a life of its own at a Calabasas middle school after a Facebook page inspired some students to attack redheaded 7th- and 8th-graders, officials said today.

Three boys have been booked for various crimes connected with the "ginger bashing" carried out Nov. 20 at A.E. Wright Middle School.  The Facebook page had dubbed it "National Kick a Ginger Day."

Four girls and three boys were the victims of physical or verbal abuse because of their red hair, freckles and pale complexions. Detectives are still trying to determine how long each attack lasted, but one may have been up to a half-hour, officials said.

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