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Category: March 2010

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Man shot dead in South L.A.-area neighborhood

Click map to see other homicides in Westmont since January 2007. Detectives were responding to a slaying Wednesday night that left a man dead in the Westmont neighborhood bordering South Los Angeles.

The man was shot in the unincorporated county neighborhood shortly after 6 p.m. near West 90th Street and Vermont Avenue, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. His name was not released.

Westmont has recorded 55 homicides since January 2007, according to a database by The Times' Homicide Report.

No additional information was available in Wednesday's slaying.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Map shows homicides in the Westmont area near South Los Angeles. Credit: Homicide Report.

DWP board ignores L.A. City Council, approves higher rate hike [Updated]

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointees at the Department of Water and Power on Wednesday evening rejected the City Council’s proposal for a 4.5% electric rate hike, opting for a larger increase that was more in line with the amount Villaraigosa had sought for his renewable energy proposal.

Watercityweb  After taking a 45-minute break, the DWP board voted unanimously for an increase of 0.7 cents per kilowatt hour, which would translate into a 5.7% rate hike for residents and businesses, according to a high-level utility executive.

The City Council was planning its own 8:45 p.m. meeting to respond to the DWP’s decision.

Councilwoman Jan Perry warned the DWP board that she was willing to reject a larger increase. She accused Raman Raj, the DWP's acting general manager, of setting in motion “an Armageddon scenario’’ by threatening to withhold $73 million from the city’s struggling budget.

“I’d be more than comfortable voting no on the entire package," Perry said. “My environmental credentials are fine, so I’m not worried about it.”

[Updated, 9:25 p.m.:On a 13-0 vote Wednesday night, the City Council voted to veto the DWP board’s latest rate hike proposal, sending it back to the utility for more work.

The vote came less than an hour after the board approved a larger increase.]

-- David Zahniser at DWP headquarters

Photo: Councilman Paul Krekorian called the DWP board's actions "outrageous." Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.

Man shot to death at L.A.'s Leimert Park

Homicides near Leimert Park in Los Angeles Los Angeles police were searching for two young assailants Wednesday after a man was shot and killed in Leimert Park in what authorities say was an apparent gang-related attack.

The man was killed about 10 a.m. in the 4100 block of Garthwaite Avenue, the Los Angeles Police Department said. His name was not released.

The victim was hit several times and died at the scene, the LAPD said.

Since January 2007, more than 80 homicides have been reported within two miles of the scene, according to a database by The Times' Homicide Report.

The two assailants, believed to be teenagers, in Wednesday's shooting were seen leaving the area in a blue Honda.

No additional details were available.

Map shows homicides reported near the shooting scene since January 2007. Credit: Times Homicide Report.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Police investigate Jesse James over paparazzo incident in Long Beach


It hasn't been a good day for Jesse James.

James has been dogged by reports that he cheated on wife Sandra Bullock. Today, US magazine posted a photo from before he married the Oscar winner showing James appearing to pose as Adolf Hitler. And now, KTLA News reports that a paparazzo said he was attacked by James outside his West Coast Choppers shop in Long Beach.

Celebrity photographer Ulises Rios said the confrontation happened March 25 when he was in his vehicle on Anaheim Boulevard near West Coast Choppers. The Long Beach Police Department is investigating the incident but declined to comment. James could not be reached for comment.

More on the James-Bullock story at the Times' celebrity website.

DWP's acting chief urges board to go against City Council and approve full rate hike

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's acting general manager Wednesday urged the utility's board to reject the City Council's proposed rate hike, saying it would not protect the agency's finances.

Raman Raj, who is running the DWP while General Manager S. David Freeman is on vacation, said the board should also refuse to send $73 million to the city's struggling general fund.

Raj said the DWP needed the increase to last longer than three months, which is the current plan backed by the council.

If the board agrees with Raj in a vote expected Wednesday evening, it would set up a protracted fight over rates in the middle of a budget crisis -- one where 4,000 city jobs are already at risk.

Chief Deputy Mayor Jay Carson, who sat in the audience as Raj spoke, would not say whether Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa agreed with the recommendation.

Raj made his remarks after several business leaders said they would need to lay off workers or move out of the city if the mayor's planned increases go into effect.

-- David Zahniser at DWP headquarters

Garfield High auditorium to be named for Escalante

The auditorium at the high school where famed math teacher Jaime Escalante taught for 15 years will be named in his honor, Los Angeles school district officials announced late Wednesday.

The auditorium at Garfield High School, which was badly damaged by a fire in 2007, is under construction and is scheduled to be completed in 2012. A 17-year-old Garfield student was convicted of setting the blaze, sentenced to juvenile camp and ordered to pay restitution. The fire caused an estimated $30-million in damage.

Escalante began working at the East Los Angeles campus in 1974 and gained fame for his success in  teaching math to scores of inner city, largely minority students and helping them pass Advanced Placement calculus classes. He was portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver" and was widely called the best teacher in America.

Escalante left Garfield in 1991 and taught in Sacramento and then his native Bolivia. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer and died Tuesday.

-- Jason Song

Slaying suspect wanted in New York arrested at San Diego border crossing

A slaying suspect was arrested by federal officers in San Diego County after he tried to cross the U.S.-Mexican border by using a falsified passport, authorities said Wednesday.

Rene Aguilar-Orzuna, 28, a Mexican citizen, is wanted by the New York City Police Department in connection with a June 2003 murder, the Department of Homeland Security said.

Aguilar-Orzuna was arrested Friday as he walked through Port of Entry in Tecate, east of San Diego. He allegedly used a passport that had its original photo replaced with one of Orzuna, according to the department.

During the 2010 fiscal year, 81% of the fraudulent document arrests made by customs officers nationwide have been in the San Diego area, the Homeland Security Department said.  Officers have made 7,961 arrests in the area this fiscal year, a 6% increase over the same period last year.

Aguilar-Orzuna was being held at the San Diego County Jail.

--Robert J. Lopez

Mother of unarmed man killed by LAPD officers files claim for damages

The mother of an unarmed man who was shot and killed in Koreatown earlier this month by Los Angeles police filed a claim for damages Wednesday, alleging that the slaying was unjustified.

Steven Eugene Washington, 27, was shot for no legitimate reason about midnight March 20 near the 800 block of South Vermont Avenue by two Los Angeles Police Department officers, according to the claim against the city and LAPD.

Eugene Washington's family ater his killing in Koreatown

The claim, filed on behalf of Kathleen Washington, seeks financial damages in excess of $10,000 for emotional distress from the loss of her son and for civil rights violations by the two officers. The claim is the first step in a process that could lead to a lawsuit.

The family said Steven Washington was autistic, had learning disabilities and was generally afraid of strangers.

"The man they killed is a man who had led a peaceful, law-abiding existence," said attorney Brian T. Dunn, who represents the mother. 

Police said Washington reached for his waistband for what officers thought was a gun. The officers shot Washington because they feared for their lives, according to the LAPD.

No weapon was found at the scene.

Dunn said Washington had no criminal history or previous contact with police. "He always had the highest respect for law enforcement," Dunn said in an interview.

Since January 2007, more than 100 people have died in officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles County, according to a database by The Times' Homicide Report.

-- Robert J. Lopez


Photo: Members of Washington family. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

2 historic Westwood movie theaters are saved from possible closure



Don’t pull that curtain down just yet. Two landmark theaters in Westwood that had been facing closure will remain in operation after a theater chain agreed to take them over earlier this week.

Beginning Thursday, Calabasas-based Regency Theatres will run the historic Village and Bruin theaters, said Lyndon Golin, the company’s chief executive.

The fate of the theaters had been in jeopardy since last year, when the previous operator, Mann Theatres, announced that it would let the leases on each property expire in March 2010. Westwood residents and architectural preservationists had rallied against that possibility.

“This was a big, big, big worry,” said Marc Wanamaker, a historian who is writing a book about Westwood. “We expected the two theaters to close, period. So this is really good news.” 

Continue reading »

Metrolink train crews threaten boycott over personality test requirement [Updated]

Engineers and conductors on Southern California’s commuter rail service are threatening a boycott of new personality profiling tests required as a result of the 2008 Chatsworth disaster.

The dispute sets up a potentially major labor-management clash just as the five-county Metrolink system is shifting to a new contractor to provide crews for trains that have nearly 1 million boardings a month.

[Updated at 8:01 p.m. An earlier version of this post said there were nearly 1 million boardings a year.]

The screening tests, frequently used by corporate managers to gauge the suitability of job applicants, are already required by Amtrak, the incoming operating contractor, when it hires engineers and conductors.

But two powerful railroad unions are strongly objecting to a Metrolink-Amtrak agreement finalized last week. It requires experienced crew members on the regional rail service to take and pass the tests to continue working on the system. Some have worked on Metrolink trains for years.

“We are not going to be taking these tests,” said Tim Smith, California legislative chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. “That’s it. We’ll see where it ends.”

“We’re all going to stand together,” said Ray Garcia of the United Transportation Union, which represents the conductors.

Union leaders say that, unless the dispute is resolved, Amtrak may not be able to field qualified train crews when it takes over operations this summer. Amtrak is set to assume operation of the 500-mile Metrolink system July 1. Connex Railroad, the current operator, opted not to pursue a contract extension when it’s relationship with Metrolink soured after the Chatsworth crash, which killed 25 and injured 135.

Metrolink board members say safety must come first, but they are likely to revisit the testing issue to ensure it is fair to the approximately 130 engineers and conductors now working on their trains.

Continue reading »

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