Confessions of a gun owner

Bell Gardens Police Lt. Jeff Travis is telling a story today that he says makes the department's guns-for-money program worth every penny.

By the end of the event today at St. Gertrude Catholic Church, Bell Gardens police had collected 19 guns and in exchange gave the owners $75 for each firearm.

Travis said that last Sunday pastors at several churches told congregants about the program. The next day, a distraught man took his gun to his pastor.

The man said he bought the gun after discovering that his wife was leaving him for another man. He planned to shoot his wife and her boyfriend, and then turn the gun on himself, Travis said. The man then asked his pastor to turn the gun over to police for him, Travis said.

The man has since received counseling and is "working through this," Travis said, adding that their work today might have saved lives.

Today's program was the first gun buyback program in Bell Gardens. Travis said he suggested the idea to the police chief after an increase in gang-related crime about two months ago in this city of about 45,000 people, about 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The funds for the program were donated by the Bicycle Casino.

"Hopefully, we got enough guns to make the streets a little safer," Travis said. Thirteen handguns and six rifles were turned in today.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies plan to hold their own gun surrender program at 10 a.m. Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 6-7 at the parking lot of the Ralphs supermarket at 280 E. Compton Blvd. For each gun turned in, sheriff's deputies will give a $100 gift card from Best Buy, Target, Home Depot or Ralphs. Owners of assault weapons will be given gift cards worth $200.

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-- Rong-Gong Lin II

FBI looking for "Grandma Bandit"

FBI agents are requesting the public’s help in finding an elderly woman they call the “Grandma Bandit.” They say she twice robbed a Bank of America branch in Chino.

The FBI said the woman, about 60 years old, robbed the bank branch at 12747 Central Ave. on Jan. 14 and on Friday. During the January robbery, the woman lifted her shirt, showing a metal object with wires attached, and presented a note that read: “Please help this lady, she is strapped.”

Then she proceeded to rob the bank, walk out and get into the driver’s side of a white SUV, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. In the most recent robbery, the woman again presented a note. Witnesses said the woman wore a blond wig and told the teller she was under “some sort of duress,” Eimiller said. “In the first robbery and in the last robbery, she appeared to be some kind of a victim,” she said. “There was a legitimate concern that she was possibly acting at the behest of others. Now, in the most recent robbery, that theory is a little less credible. It’s been 11 months, we haven’t heard any reports of kidnapping. ... She may be using this victim tactic as a ruse to avoid law enforcement.”

The woman, who some theorize is a Chino resident, was not believed to be armed during the robberies, Eimiller said. The FBI would not release the amount of money the woman got away with. “We don’t disclose the amounts. All I can say is she successfully robbed a bank twice,” Eimiller said.

The Grandma Bandit is described by witnesses as possibly of Middle Eastern descent, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, with a thin build and eyeglasses. Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI in Los Angeles at (310) 477-6565 or (888) CANT-HIDE.

--Tami Abdollah /

Beverly Hills fashion designer found guilty of rape

Anand Jon

A Beverly Hills fashion designer was found guilty today of sexually assaulting seven girls and young women, capping a two-month trial that offered a sordid portrait of the fashion world.

During the trial, prosecutors accused Jon -- whose real name is Anand Jon Alexander -- of using the promise of modeling jobs to lure young women and girls as young as 14 to a squalid-looking apartment in Beverly Hills, where he acted out sadistic fantasies.

He faced 23 felony and misdemeanor charges that included rape, sexual assault and other counts and could face life imprisonment. In addition to the victims in California, prosecutors called seven women to testify about alleged assaults in New York and Texas, where he also has been indicted.

Read the rest of the story here.

-- Jack Leonard

Photo: Associated Press

Justice for Carthay Circle statue thief


Remember the theft of the landmark gold miner sculpture in Carthay Circle? Well, the guy who took the statue was sentenced today to more than a year in jail. Here's everything you ever wanted to know about the statue from our friends at the Daily Mirror blog. City News Service has the story on today's court action:

A man was sentenced today to 16 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $31,700 for stealing outdoor sculptures, including a 7-foot bronze statue of a gold miner taken from its longtime home in the Carthay Circle community of Los Angeles.

Sebastian Solis Espana, 22, of Los Angeles was one of two men who pleaded no contest June 12 to grand-theft charges stemming from the string of thefts in the Wilshire and Beverly Hills areas. His codefendant, Jessie Guzman Hernandez, 24, also of Los Angeles, was previously sentenced to 16 months in state prison, and today was also ordered to pay restitution of $31,700.

The two were arrested Feb. 14 by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department's Commercial Crimes Division after the life-size, 512-pound bronze statue of a miner panning for gold, valued at $125,000, was recovered in two pieces from a local scrap yard, which had paid them about $900, authorities said.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: Los Angeles Police Department

Few clues in Long Beach homeless deaths

The bizarre killing of five homeless people off a Long Beach freeway interchange is still very much a mystery. The Times' Harriet Ryan and Ari B. Bloomekatz report on the strange circumstances:

An anonymous caller tipped authorities Sunday morning about a slaying in an area near the 1500 block of West Wardlow Road. When Long Beach police arrived, they found two women and three men dead, some with multiple gunshot wounds, authorities said.

"We don't know who did this, not yet at least," said Long Beach Deputy Police Chief Robert Luna.

The victims, who were pronounced dead at the scene, have not been identified. Luna said he did not know whether any of them were homeless or only visiting the encampment. "They were residents of Long Beach, at least last night," he said.

Residents in a nearby apartment complex on West Wardlow Road said they heard several gunshots and shouting early Sunday morning.

"It was so many, it sounded like fireworks," said Leticia Walker, who said she was in her apartment about 12:15 a.m. when she heard the noise.

Another resident, Tippi Briggs, said that about the same time, she heard a woman scream and then a man shout "Get in the car! Get in the car! Let's go!"

The Press Telegram says police have not ruled out a drug deal gone bad, but detectives have little evidence:

According to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, the victims, three males and two females -- all adults -- had all been shot.

"We're still investigating the identity," said Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles Coroner's Office. "There were multiple gunshot wounds on some of the deceased."

-- Shelby Grad

Dumb criminal story of the day

Two men were quickly arrested after a Beverly Hills armed robbery Monday, spotted from a police helicopter as they drove away from the crime scene, officials said.

About 1:30 Monday afternoon, a man was robbed in an underground parking garage in the 300 block of North Swall Drive, Beverly Hills Police Department spokesman Tony Lee said. A man approached the victim, pulled a knife and took his wallet, then got into a car with an accomplice, Lee said.

Beverly Hills police officers arrived within 72 seconds, Lee said. But the men were already gone.

An LAPD helicopter found the car “almost immediately” near 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue, he said. Shannon Hausey, 35, of Perris and Raymond Preston, 22, of Los Angeles were arrested. A knife and the victim’s wallet were in the car, Lee said.

The moral of the story: If you’re trying to blend into traffic, you might not want to drive a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

--Lauren Raab

Thieves target farms in their search for metal


Having done their damage in the cities throughout the state, metal thieves are now turning their avaricious ways to the rural areas, targeting farmers and ranchers who rely on miles of pipes and heavy valves to irrigate their land. AP has details:

Metal thieves are preying on farms and ranches along the Central Coast, hauling away irrigation valves and pipes for sale to recycling centers.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputy John McCarthy says four suspected metal thieves were arrested last month. The Rural Crime Unit deputy says most crooks are stealing metal for drug money.

Chip Gee of DB Specialty Farms in Santa Maria says brass valves are popular with thieves because they fetch good money at the recycling centers.

Early this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that targets metal theft.

Recent thefts have included the bust of surfer George Freeth from the Redondo Beach pier, a 300-pound bronze statue of a boy carrying the American flag, and plaques honoring war dead from Santa Ana High School.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

Lawrence Phillips says sorry, gets 10 years

PhillipsTroubled former pro football player Lawrence Phillips, who has had more than his share of run-ins with the law, was sentenced today to 10 years in prison. The sentence for Phillips, who grew up in Los Angeles and went to Baldwin Park High School, was handed down after he made a public apology. Details from City News Service:

Former professional football player Lawrence Phillips has been sentenced to 10 years in state prison for driving a car at a group of boys and young men after a pickup football game near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, hitting three of them. Phillips -- who was convicted in October 2006 of seven felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon -- apologized to one of the victims, who was in court, and said he takes “full responsibility” for what he did.

According to AP: "Phillips was once one of the nation’s top college football players. The St. Louis Rams released him for insubordination in 1997 and he went on to play for a number of teams."

--Shelby Grad

Photo: Associated Press

Another subprime mortgage victim?

James Ramsdell is a youth sports coach who was arrested this week for allegedly robbing banks. But what makes the case really interesting is the backstory, provided at the end of this OC Register report:

Ramsdell coaches youth baseball and soccer in the Cypress area. Recently, he has managed the Cypress Shock, an age-9-and-younger baseball club; the Cypress Yankees, an 8-and-younger boys baseball team; and the Blue Xtreme, a 10-and-younger girls soccer team. Ramsdell was known in the local sports community for his extravagance, taking his team out and paying for all his players' uniforms. Ramsdell had worked as a subprime mortgage broker.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

A new twist in killing of gay student in Oxnard

Makeshift memorial

The killing of a gay middle school student in Oxnard is generating national attention, and today there are reports of another tabloid twist: That the teen gunman may have been linked to skinheads. Here's a report from the Associated Press:

Investigators found white supremacist literature and hand-drawn swastikas among the possessions of a 14-year-old boy charged with murder in the fatal shooting of his gay classmate, court records showed. Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox wrote in the court filing that the items found in Brandon McInerney’s room constituted a “trove of white supremacy-related” items that “depict racist skinhead philosophy.” McInerney, who is being tried as an adult, is also charged with committing a hate crime in the Feb. 12 shooting of 15-year-old Larry King at their junior high school in Oxnard.

Meanwhile, the Ventura County Star is reporting that the local school district has rejected a claim of damages filed by the family of victim Larry King.

--Shelby Grad

Photo: Phil McCarten / Associated Press

Cold-case murder still frustrates Beverly Hills

Cold_case Who killed Jon A. Simmons? The Chicago gay-rights activist was found dead in a Beverly Hills alley 14 years ago -- by a West Hollywood councilman. But despite various leads and twists and turns, detectives have not been able to solve this case and it remains open, which is rare in Beverly Hills. City News Service has an update:

“New leads were pursued over the past year. However, no significant new evidence was developed, and the case remains open,” Beverly Hills police Lt. Tony Lee told City News Service. Koretz said a woman walker told him she thought she saw a body in the alley, about a block south of Sunset Boulevard. He walked closer and found the victim naked and lying face down. A burned-out car rented by Simmons was found more than 20 miles away in El Monte later on Oct. 2, 1994, according to Beverly Hills police. Simmons was vacationing in Southern California. Family members said he had been at the Abbey Cafe in West Hollywood the night before his body was found and may have visited other bars nearby, police said.

Back in 2005, detectives thought they had a big break in the case with some new DNA evidence.

-- Shelby Grad

Caught red-handed? OC school trustee Steve Rocco is charged in ketchup theft

Who_is_steve_rocco There's nothing ordinary about Steve Rocco's tenure as a trustee on the Orange Unified School District board. Elusive and reclusive, Rocco won his seat against a heavily-favored candidate in 2004 without ever making a single speech.

He dresses in black, always wears shades, and never willingly allows himself to be photographed. And though Rocco's made plenty of news with his various forays into politics, now he's in the headlines for allegedly stealing a bottle of ketchup. Here's the update from his hometown paper, the O.C. Register:

Orange Unified School District trustee Steve Rocco was detained and cited, charged with stealing a bottle of Heinz ketchup from Chapman University's cafeteria.

Sgt. Dan Adams of the Orange Police Department said today that Rocco was detained Saturday by campus public safety officers who said he stole the ketchup at 10:30 a.m.

"One of the security guards saw him take a 14-ounce bottle of ketchup off of one of the tables," Adams said. "He concealed it and started to ride away on a bike."

Rocco, who police called "cooperative," was cited for petty theft and released. He faces a possible $250 fine. He's already on the hook for his share of $37,000 in legal fees racked up when his 2006 lawsuit against the school district was dismissed. (Rocco belittled a school principal during a board meeting, was censured by his fellow board members for doing so, and then sued the board members who censured him.)

Add in his run for Santa Ana City Council, where his platform includes taking on "the Mexican Mafia, their Caucasian Puppetmasters and Judicial Miscreants," and the question of whether or not he's behind the website about the late comedian, Andy Kaufman, and you've got a real American original.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Billionaire sues bank, Democrats question voter registrations, and u can txt yr crime tip -- it's last links!

I_c_u The newest crime-fighting tool -- anonymous txt msgs. LAT

Democrats in San Bernardino County want an investigation into the sudden surge of Republican voter registrations. The Sun

Newport Beach billionaire sues Swiss bank for $500 million, claiming it tricked him into violating U.S. tax laws. OC Register

Have you seen this man? Riverside cops search for a man who may be connected to a double homicide. Press-Enterprise

A family in Whitter is homeless after a tow truck crashes into their house. Whittier Daily News

Interim city manager appointed in Covina. SGV Tribune

Ojai con man pleads guilty to 28 felonies. The Star

Mexican artifacts found by border agents to be returned. Daily Bulletin

Nice pix of lightning strikes in the Daily News.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Black Crowes cancel concerts, downtown LA to replace parking meters, and reporters sue Sam Zell -- it's last links!

Looking_for_answers Investigators reenact Metrolink collision. LAT

Black Crowes cancel California concerts because of to illness. LAist

The eternal question -- buy or rent? -- answered (sort of ) in the NYT.

A busy day in Daily Breeze territory, with cops arresting an accused burglar who leaped through a double-paned window, hunting for car thieves and checking out the hand grenade found in a newly purchased home, which prompted an evacuation.

Santa Monica High choir -- greater than the sum of its parts. The Homeroom

Speculation that Metrolink lawsuits could lead to millions -- and possibly billions -- in claims. LADN

Check out pix of the pro surf championship last weekend at Trestles. LAT

Park-and-pay kiosks coming to downtown. Angelenic

A man accused of waving a fake gun at a hooker and demanding sex rather than paying her has been arrested. OC Register

Retired Pasadena police officer accused of being La Habra's "Polite Bandit" pleads not guilty. SGV Tribune

Joe Torre chooses Beverly Hills P.O. for his new digs. Curbed LA

Some current and former LAT staffers, including Dan Neil, are are suing Sam Zell. LAO

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Now, now, Irvine -- no bragging about those crime stats

Irvine is one of those cities that seem to always rise to top of all those "best city" rankings. With great schools, low crime, neatly planned communities and lots of jobs -- why not? The latest crime numbers by the FBI again rank it as the safest city of its size in America (Irvine's been there before, vying with towns like Mission Viejo and Simi Valley). Should we brag? According to the OC Register:

And although an FBI disclaimer released along with the yearly numbers discourages ranking of any sort, stating that doing so leads to simplistic and incomplete analyses of the numbers, that didn't stop the city of Irvine from pointing out where it stood in the numbers. "Safest Big City in America Four Years in a Row," read a statement from the Irvine Police Department released the same day.

The Times' Joel Rubin reports that L.A. is recording low crime numbers not seen since 1967.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: Robert Gauthier / LAT

Good morning -- here's what's happening 9.16.08

Green_and_greener Exile on Wall Street -- stocks are tumbling, companies are teetering and laid-off employees are boxing up their coffee mugs and Dilbert calendars. Experts say more bad news is on the way.

The Governator makes threats but legislators pass the state budget anyway.

Some of the commuters in Friday's deadly Metrolink crash were survivors of the crash in Glendale in 2005. Richard Myles survived both crashes. Gregory Lintner walked away from the first but died this week in the second.

A fatal crash on the eastbound 210 Freeway has all but one of the lanes closed in Arcadia.

Another day, another few hundred tomatoes in Bill Anderson's Winnetka garden.

Cab drivers in Burbank love their hybrid rides. (pictured at right.)

An agriculture instructor in Tulare was gored to death by a bull.

Monday was Day One of the O.J. Simpson trial, where he's facing more than a dozen charges, including kidnapping.

Today's "Politics of Culture" on KCRW looks at the life and work of David Foster Wallace, who took his own life Friday. Our book editor, David Ulin, has an appreciation of Wallace. Another lovely article about Wallace, from Laura Miller, in Salon.

How do the UCLA Bruins feel after losing 59-0 (ouch) to BYU on Saturday? About how you would imagine.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Nancy Pastor / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening

Flowers_and_sorrow_and_grief An apocalyptic morning as the stock market takes a nose dive, we get more images from Hurricane Ike, and more details about Friday's terrible Metrolink crash.

Let's start with the crash:  Metrolink officials initially blamed the engineer, who died in the crash, and then backed off that claim. But the feds  are looking into whether a red light signal, which would have warned of the oncoming freight train, was broken.

If you're a rail commuter, how do you get to work today? Info here.

And for IDs on those who died in the crash, check here.

Meanwhile, commuters are boarding Metrolink trains again this morning, and Antonio Villaraigosa is among them.

Ready for some good news? We (almost) have a state budget! No new taxes in the new spending plan, which goes to a vote today.

Another O.J. Simpson trial, another debate about race, as prosecutors are accused of trying to exclude blacks from the jury.

An appreciation of the late (I still can't quite believe it) David Foster Wallace.

Let's end with some good -- and surprising -- news: Ike's damage to oil and gas platforms in the Gulf was relatively minor and oil falls to $97 per barrel.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 9.12.08

Kelly_slater_rips_em A woman who witnesses say was sitting in a lane of the 101 Freeway near the Cahuenga Pass was struck and killed.

Health Net, one of the state's biggest insurers, reinstated 926 people whose health insurance policies it had canceled after they got sick, and will pay some hefty fines. One thing the Woodland Hills company refuses to do: admit it was wrong.

Kelly Slater shreds the competition at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.

Oops -- never mind. The MTA alters a message urging support of Measure R, a sales tax hike, on its website because it turns out that's, well, illegal.

Barely 24 hours later and it's old news: Kanye West scuffled with photographers at LAX and wound up under arrest, another chapter in the paparazzi wars.

The numbers for retail sales in August are in and they don't look good.

Though half of high school dropouts who go back and get their diplomas, most don't  go on to finish college.

Six Nobel laureates are headed to Loyola Marymount University for PeaceJam.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 9.11.08

Seven_years_ago_today A somber day around the nation as people commemorate the 7th anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers in NYC and the Pentagon in D.C. Check out some event listings in our travel blog, and Johanna Neuman's story from today's front page. Also, some photos, and our original story about that awful day.

On a lighter note, if you've been reading this blog this week, you've had a peek into the madcap mind of our own Shelby Grad, who energized this space with posts about everything from taco trucks (a perennial L.A. Now fave) to Barack Obama. Shelby's a natural when it comes to blogging so let's hope he keeps finding time to spice things up.

And now onward to today's news:

At last -- something good to say about the credit crunch. If you can qualify for a mortgage (and that can be a big if) you'll find that rates are sharply down.

A cabbie was killed when a car ran a red light.

Now here's a concept -- when developers are finished with the redo of the Santa Monica Place mall, there's actually going to be an ocean view. Oh -- and Bloomingdales will replace Macy's as the anchor.

And here's something verging on a minor miracle -- for the first time in 40 years, Watts is close to having a movie theater of its own. Barbara Stanton (she's heads the Wattstar Cinema and Education Center) says she's got about $10 million of the $20 million the project will take to build.

Another indoor pot farm busted, this time in an Azusa warehouse.

California's top Episcopal bishops stand up to their denomination's ban on gay marriage and publicly oppose Prop 8.

Angels_clinch_the_title The fight for an Air Force tanker contract, no less bitter than the "lipstick on a pig" controversy now hijacking the presidential campaign, has been canceled by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, on grounds that things got out of hand.

Angles clinch the AL West title, get drenched in cheap (let's hope) Champagne.

Whatever happened to Meg Ryan? Some answers in an interview here.

An 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, each walking to school in downtown Long Beach, managed to escape a kidnap attempt.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: 9/11 memorial. Credit: Getty Images; Angels celebration. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

Nic Cage owes the IRS, a school board member owes an apology, and fried-food heaven at the fair -- it's last links!

Just_shoot_me_now Our fried-food guide to the L.A. County Fair. LAT

An Ontario-Montclair school board member shouts insults and makes one of his colleagues cry. Daily Bulletin

Pasadena's John Muir High School meets testing goals after four years of federal monitoring. Star-News

Nic Cage agrees to pay the IRS $660k. Mark Lacter

Ten people were injured when a man walked into a Mira Loma bar with a shotgun and started firing. Press-Enterprise

Parking meter rates in San Pedro to go up $1 per hour. Daily Breeze

Santa Monica spent $3,000 to keep an eye (they would use a stronger term) on Critical Mass cyclists. LAist

Cash-strapped Long Beach is now proposing cuts to the police department. Press-Telegram

Four hospitals in the OC rank worst in California for helping new moms learn to breast feed. OC Register

A fire burned three acres in Ojai. The Star

Think you may be drunk? Try the coin-operated breathalyzer. OC Register

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Rob Takata

Good morning -- here's what's happening 9.05.08

Big_brother_comes_to_the_cafeteria An early-morning brush fire in the hills of Sherman Oaks near Benedict Canyon Lane burned just two acres before firefighters knocked it down. Residents were praised for their brush-clearing efforts, which made the job easier.

Four days later, the seven Inglewood police officers involved in shooting to death an unarmed homeless man have been put on leave. Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks says of the shooting, in which 47 rounds were fired, "We could have done a better job tactically." You think?

Steve Lopez has a few thoughts about Inglewood, and they're not all that flattering.

The LAUSD has shelled out $9.9 million for MealpayPlus, an online program for parents to track how school kids spend their lunch money.

Authorities are mighty vague about the "security adjustments" they're making at LAX after discovering that an elevator mechanic may have been helping illegal immigrants slip past security checks and enter the U.S.

Vietnamese immigrants who came to the U.S. as political refugees have a higher rate of mental illness when they reach their mid-50s and beyond.

Next_up_best_dressed_list Unemployment has hit a five-year high in the U.S.

And as long as we're talking about record-breaking stats, the foreclosure rate is at its fastest in almost 30 years.

Former Lakers coach Pat Riley is headed for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hollywood Republicans ♥ Sarah Palin.

Wish you got more exercise? Follow in the footsteps of Sol Shankman, who has logged 42,000 miles, mostly in Griffith Park. Oh -- and he's 93.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Top -- Rick Loomis  Los Angeles Times; Bottom -- Fernando Medina  U.S. Presswire

Getty hours are shrinking, Dash service is growing, and a Superfund site is in the works -- it's last links!

Just_cattin_around Bobcats move into a foreclosed home in Lake Elsinore. LAT

A 160-acre parcel in Rialto that was used to store bombs, missiles and other munitions during World War II, and then was used by defense contractors and a fireworks company, is being proposed by the EPA as a Superfund site. Daily Bulletin

Parking costs grow, hours shrink at the Getty. LA Metblogs

West Nile virus strikes a Long Beach woman, the city's first since 2005. Press-Telegram

New Dash service coming to east side of downtown L.A. Blog Downtown

Carson tightens housing restrictions for registered sex offenders. Daily Breeze

An excellent question about what recourse we have about light pollution at Curbed L.A.

An American Youth Soccer Organization coach from Lake Forest faces federal child-porn charges. OC Register

What's the deal with "For Better or For Worse" in the LAT's comics pages? Franklin Avenue

Great pix from last week's Long Beach Blues fest on LAist.

Foreclosures are still a drag on the Inland Empire's economy. The Sun

Ex-Pasadena cop accused of two bank robberies in La Habra is denied bail. Star-News

Good morning -- here's what's happening 9.03.08

Just_part_of_the_family So that's why you're not supposed to feed them -- hungry bears are breaking into people's homes in Kern County in search of easy pickings. Talk about a home invasion robbery.

Think stern warnings to L.A. city workers about wasting water have had an effect? Think again.

Eight men digging a tunnel from Mexico into the U.S., complete with ventilation and a trolley system, have been arrested.

Antonio Villaraigosa promises the moon to double the rate of academic achievement in the 10 "Partnership for Los Angeles Schools" he oversees.

Speaking of which, lots of back-to-school news and details in our education blog, The Homeroom.

Jerry Brown, the state's attorney general, sides with O.C. sheriff's deputies in a fight about their pension plan.

A man has been found shot to death on an isolated canyon road in Malibu.

A man in Irvine, who police say aimed a gun at a SWAT team during a standoff, has been shot and wounded.

USC is No. 1 in the AP football poll.

As soon as I finish this post, I'm downloading Google's new browser, Chrome, which gets a (mostly) good review from our own David Colker and Michelle Maltais. I'll let you know how it goes.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: April Wilburn

A magic mushroom arrest, "not guilty" Playboy plea, and billboard with a message -- it's last links!

Safe_and_sound That American Airlines 737 with a blown tire landed safely at LAX. LAT

The Ventura County man accused of slamming his car into the front gates of the Playboy Mansion pleads "not guilty." Daily News

Grand opening of a new LAPD Rampart station station this Thursday. Angelenic

"Stop the Killing" -- that's the message of a billboard in Carson, created by the families of slain children. Daily Breeze

A trade agreement with China that allows tour groups to get travel visas will bring millions of tourists to Los Angeles. SGV Tribune

A woman in Garden Grove has been arrested on suspicion of growing psychedelic mushrooms. OC Register

Ontario is jazzed about its helicopter crime patrol. Daily Bulletin

Tonight in rock. LAist

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

A Metrolink price break, another chance at Radiohead and a family goes to jail -- it's last links!

Jury_says_not_guilty_3 Ex-Marine (pictured) acquitted in deaths of Iraqi soldiers. LAT

A triathlete who broke her neck in a Santa Barbara race dies after telling her family she wanted to be removed from life support. LAT

Two men on a raft made of 15,000 plastic bottles left Long Beach in June and arrived in Hawaii three months later. Press-Telegram

Latino public school students, by the numbers. The Homeroom

Another take on exhibiting sea creatures for fun and profit. Spouting Off

LAist has some ideas on where to watch Barack Obama's speech tonight.

The mine entrance in the Cleveland National Forest where two people died is being sealed by the U.S. Forest Service. OC Register

Why Caroline on Crack hates some Radiohead fans.

Metrolink to the beach -- 25% off on weekends. Daily Travel and Deal

Whole family goes to jail when parents help their son resist arrest in Highland. Daily Bulletin

The Arroyo Seco project is finished. Star-News

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Economy down, shoplifting up on Third Street Promenade

Third Tami Abdollah reported in The Times this week about concerns regarding crime on the Westside, even though most types of crime are down. But in Santa Monica, officials are dealing with a big uptick in shoplifting -- particularly along the Third Street Promenade. According to the Lookout News:

Still, reports of shoplifting are on pace to double this year, with 112 reported incidents in the first half of 2008, compared to 143 in all of last year. The spike was in large part due to a dramatic increase in shoplifting on the Third Street Promenade –- with the 78 incidents reported in the first half of 2008 exceeding the 73 that took place on the bustling strip in all of last year.

It's the economy, according to Police Chief Tim Jackson, with shoplifting and theft from parked cars up 19% this year.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 8.27.08

Its_always_fire_season_in_la A bill working its way through the state Legislature targets snooping into hospital medical files by unauthorized docs, nurses and healthcare workers. Also in the hopper -- a bill to assure medical care for people with pre-existing conditions.

Another deadline looms for state lawmakers -- they must say yes to a plan on the shared use of carpool lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways, or $210 million the feds are offering will vanish.

That fire in Calabasas yesterday burned 75 acres and is being called suspicious.

Meanwhile, a car with a body in the trunk was found at the site of a small brush fire yesterday on PCH at Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

Fasten your seat belts -- the FDIC warns of more bank failures on the way.

Dr. Dre's 20-year-old son, Andre R. Young Jr., was found dead in his Woodland Hills home.

Vons joins Ralphs in limiting its double-coupon policy.

Ready for some good news? Poverty in L.A. is down. (Bad news -- it's rising in the rest of the U.S.)

And whether this next item is good or bad news depends on how much of a purist you are (litmus test -- interleague play is A: A brilliant idea, or B: The devil's handiwork.) -- MLB umpires will be allowed to use video replays starting Thursday.

More debate about the push to lower the drinking age in the U.S. to 18.

Couples are getting creative in cutting wedding costs.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Bratz get spanked, politician's car gets torched and Heidi is (still) ready for her close-up — it's last links!

that's what you get for being such Bratz A jury awards Mattel $100 million in Bratz lawsuit. LAT

LAX is unaffected by computer glitch. Bottleneck Blog

A Lake Elsinore politician's car is set ablaze, the second such incident in two months. Press-Enterprise

A man is found dead in a car filled with chemicals in Pasadena. Star-News

"Top Chef" contestant (and last year's runner-up) is charged with DUI in Laguna Beach. Orange County Register

Are you following the Heidi Chronicles, in which a big, beautiful girl knocks at the doors of Hollywood, seeking fame? It's all in LA Unleashed.

A coyote causes a crash in Morongo Basin. The Sun

Rapper Snoop Dogg meets with a city councilman from Long Beach to learn how he can help his hometown. Press-Telegram

—Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 8.26.08

Where_do_they_go_now There's a flash flood warning for mountain areas of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the Coachella Valley and the San Diego County backcountry.

The first Californian to die from West Nile virus is a 72-year-old woman from the Buena Park in the O.C.

Low-income renters forced from their homes when landlords are defaulted on home loans are feeling the results of the mortgage meltdown.

Jerry Brown releases 11-pages of guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries in an effort to separate the legit operations from criminal ones.

A 31-year-old robbery suspect has apparently hanged himself in his Hollywood jail cell.

The SEIU spending scandal has reached Michigan.

Santa Barbara County supes, citing improved methods, are expected to vote yes today on new offshore drilling.

Gas prices fall below $4 in (parts of) California.

Researchers plan to use radar that reveals what lies beneath the ground in the continuing search for a missing San Marino couple.

Thanks to scheduling decisions made when it looked like SAG members could strike, studio production in the city has declined.

Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl -- how was it?

Dodgers try to lure season ticket holders to renew by promising to freeze prices.

Dave Freeman, the ad exec who wrote "100 things to do before you die" has died at age 47 after a fall in his home in Venice. (And yes, he did most of the 100 things in his book.)

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Ruth Cordoba, center, and her family are living in a hotel after they were evicted from a rental that had fallen into foreclosure. Credit: Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 8.25.08

Painting_for_gold Good luck if you're now on or near the 105 Freeway hoping to get anywhere on time. A body (no ID, no reason for death given) found on the eastbound lanes near Watts prompted authorities to shut down the freeway while they figured out what happened. Lanes reopen at 9 a.m., or so we're told.

Some rail buffs aren't faring much better --  an Amtrak train headed to San Diego from L.A. ran out of fuel and had to be pushed to its destination.

A man in East L.A. has been arrested in connection with a drug-related massacre on a ranch near Ensenada, in which 19 people, including two toddlers, were shot to death.

UCLA football -- hoping for the best but not expecting much.

An L.A. woman discovers her uncle's 1932 Olympic gold medal -- for watercolor painting.

ThinkFilm and its chairman, David Bergstein, are being sued by associates who claim they're owed money.

The trailers are gone and a ($12 million!) campground is going in on the 35 acres where El Morro Village once sat in the O.C.

An inmate escaped from a San Diego state prison on Sunday.

John McCain's going to appear on "The Tonight Show" as part of his SoCal campaign swing.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo credit: Jakub Mosur / For The Times

Stolen fire hydrants in Long Beach, a new area code in the OC, and good (and bad) news for Ed McMahon — it's last links!

Edgy_melrose_even_edgier Another robbery — the eighth in two weeks — on Melrose Avenue. This one took place in broad daylight. The Times

Good news for Ed McMahon — a real buyer (not Donald Trump) has purchased McMahon's home. LA Land

Bad news for Ed McMahon — Lawyers for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center say McMahon's lawsuit doesn't hold water. Daily News

California will ditch lead wheel weights by 2009. Greenspace

Seven fire hydrants have been stolen in the last month in Long Beach. Press-Telegram

A Hawthorne man is accused of torturing his wife. Daily Breeze

Orange County area codes will change Saturday. Orange County Register

A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy is picked up for DUI outside Laughlin, Nevada. The Sun

A murder suspect in Fontana flees to Mexico. Daily Bulletin

BlogDowntown says goodbye to Ed Fuentes. BlogDowntown

Slash at the Guitar Center. LA Metblogs

—Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

A 10-year-old pilot, no election in Chino, and LAX workers vote to strike -- it's last links!

Because_flyings_not_hard_enough LAX service workers say yes to a strike. LAT

The brother of a Santa Ana councilwoman is among those snagged by a three-day gang sweep. LAT

A Middle East peace plan announced ... 50 years ago. Daily Mirror

An exotic species of fruit fly considered to be one of the world's most destructive pests has been found in the San Gabriel Valley. SGV Tribune

No city council elections this year in Chino or Chino Hills as no one is challenging the incumbents. Daily Bulletin

A six-foot layer of industrial glass, metal fragments and trash from Santa Susana Field Lab has been found on a nearby firing range. Daily News

A 10-year-old from Van Nuys is one of the youngest pilots in the nation. Daily News.

Reality series filmed in downtown L.A. premieres tonight on VH1. Angelenic

Two Long Beach women who live on fixed incomes celebrate serving 5,000 meals to the needy in the last five years. Press-Telegram

Dance the night away tonight on the Santa Monica Pier. LA Metblogs

The rules of the road for dogs in Dominguez Park in Redondo Beach. Daily Breeze

A Catholic priest who took a 17-year-old boy to a motel gets 180 days in jail. OC Register

Conditions in the city of San Bernardino's animal shelter are grim. The Sun

Crime on the Ballona Creek bike path has the L.A. City Council talking about closing an access gate. LAist

Good morning -- here's what's happening 8.21.08

Tyrone_freeman_denies_doing_anyth_2 What's going on at Aurora Las Encinas hospital in Pasadena? A teen was raped and three adults unexpectedly died in the facility, which is known for its ties to celeb doc Drew Pinsky.

Tyrone Freeman, prez of L.A.'s chapter of the SEIU, steps down after stories by The Times reveal the union and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to companies owned by Freeman's wife and her mother. (That's Freeman in the photo at right.)

Our state legislators are on the verge of doing something right, George Skelton says. (Hint: a growth bill.)

Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger is tilting at windmills pushing a budget that includes a three-year tax hike.

Not so fast -- even if state leaders do manage to balance the budget (fingers crossed), state voters will screw it all up on Nov. 4 when all those pricey ballot initiatives are up for grabs. That's one opinion, anyway.

See_a_movie_spend_some_cash You pull back, those upscale malls reach out, which means more marketing, aggressive sales and even free outdoor concerts and movies.

Robert Lloyd likes "The Cho Show."

Angles win, Dodgers lose, and Manny Ramirez doesn't seem to be living up to his (bad boy) rep.

Police launch a gang crackdown in Santa Ana.

The NYT uses Candy Spelling's recent mondo condo purchase to explore real estate trends in L.A. (A bit more on that later today.)

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

A land transfer in O.C., a fire meeting in Griffith Park, and is this the lowest speed limit in L.A.? It's last links!

Mom_and_dad_will_pay_for_this_2 Kids tag, parents pay. LAT

Commuting patterns in L.A. County. Bottleneck Blog

Long Beach buys land on PCH for City College campus. Long Beach Press-Telegram

The newest plans for the new Nikkei Center. Angelenic

Managing director of Pasadena Playhouse to resign after 11 years. Pasadena Star-News

Tom LaBonge holds a meeting tonight about the Griffith Park fires. Donna Barstow

Schools get 100 cameras for mini-docs about voting. L.A. Daily News

The lowest posted speed limit in L.A. Los Anjealous

O.C. supes get ready to transfer control of wild lands to a nature reserve. O.C. Register

A naturalization ceremony for 22 Marines and two sailors. The Sun

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 8.19.08 *

Whos_torching_griffith_park*(Updated at 11:07 a.m.)

Those seven fires in Griffith Park? Definitely arson, investigators are saying. At least two were set by the same person. All seven started near roadways, a "crime of opportunity."

It's been 27 years since wholesale prices have risen as fast as they're rising right now.

But wait -- a spot of good news. Gas prices are at their lowest since May.

An Internet kiddie porn sweep in SoCal results in several arrests and charges filed against 50 men, the Department of Justice announced. We'll have a story later in the day.

Eighteen hospitals -- most here in SoCal -- get hit with fines for violations that put patients in serious jeopardy.

Greg Maddux is coming back to the Dodgers.

A man who barricaded himself in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall stabbed a police  officer with a pair of scissors and was shot by another officer.

"Faulty recollections" by an LAPD detective lead to dismissal of a 2005 gang murder case and, after three years, the man falsely accused is released from prison.

The FBI has begun a criminal probe of our city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. (UPDATE: Given what we’ve reported about Delgadillo’s use of city funds to repair a wrecked car and city staff to watch his kids, it’s not surprising that the feds might be looking into his actions. They have a legal obligation to chase leads. But it’s also worth noting that lots of investigations end up determining nothing illegal happened.)

The ancient Terra Cotta warriors of imperial China are drawing some of the biggest crowds yet for the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

Forget the fake grass, Patt Morrison says. Just let your unnatural lawn die a natural death.

--Veronique de Turenne


Good morning -- here's what's happening 8.18.08

Will_it_be_jeans_instead_of_greens California remains without a budget as statehouse Republicans freeze out the Democrats' plan to close the $15.2-billion gap by taxing corporations and the wealthy.

Get ready for a fight as the developer who owns the 14-acre property formerly known as the South Central Farm tries to build a warehouse for Forever 21.

Arson is suspected in this weekend's Griffith Park fire.

Should school boards weigh in on the gay marriage battle?

Speaking of which, there's a bit of a controversy about whether that "What if you couldn't marry the person you love?" TV commercial is breaking the law.

Cutbacks by foreign airlines flying into LAX could cost the region $9 billion per year in local economic activity.

The father of Olympic boxer Shawn Estrada has died.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had knee surgery.

Is the basketball winning streak at Villa Park High School the result of rule-breaking recruiting practices? Some coaches think so, but school officials deny it.

New York-based SAG members are not happy with how SoCal members are handling the contract talks.

The election of an L.A. union leader has caught the eye of the U.S. Labor Department.

What the heck is going on with Tom Cruise? (And does anyone even care?)

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Benjamin Reed / Los Angeles Times

Embellished resumes, cockroaches are off the menu and an 89-year-old foils a pursesnatcher -- it's last links!

Shooting_blanks Mediterranean fruit flies have been wiped out in Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Solano counties, thanks to the use of sterile males. The Times

An 89-year-old woman fought off a purse snatcher in Stanton. The Times

Too bad she wasn't around when a truckload of electronics was hijacked in Long Beach. The Times

Does your resume contain a few fibs? Are you a county worker in the O.C.? Then no worries! Orange County Register

Protest in Downey against "Tropic Thunder." Press-Telegram

Was the buyout of Lancaster's city manager legal? Daily News

A proposal for a winter season ice rink in Redondo Beach gets a preliminary OK from the City Council. Daily Breeze

A water price hike could be coming to Pasadena. Star-News

Six trash bags filled with pot were found near a Baldwin Park business. San Gabriel Valley Tribune

San Bernardino preps for the state's biggest earthquake drill. San Bernardino Sun

Magic Mountain won't serve cockroaches on Halloween. Daily Bulletin

The FBI is on the hunt for a bank robber in Whittier. Whittier Daily News

— Veronique de Turenne

Charity? That's a hoot -- and a trip to Hooters

Charitys_a_real_hoot Ever donate a few bucks to the American Deputy Sheriffs Assn.? Turns out it's more likely you paid for a round of drinks at Hooters for the telemarketers than for a new bulletproof vest for the deputies, the OC Register reports.

The group, formally known by its initials, ADSA, paid insiders at least $400,000 in four years. That's far more than it spent on death benefits and bulletproof vests for members, according to a report filed in an Ohio court last week. Among the insider perks: dinners at Hooters, golf tournaments and a chartered river cruise.

Donors unwittingly paid for it all. They also paid for the court-appointed receiver and forensic accountant who spent two years scouring the group's books.

Now ADSA's long run is ending. The receiver, Columbus, Ohio, attorney Jeffrey Lewis, halted fundraising earlier this year and is preparing to give away its remaining cash.

Created by OC telemarketing king Mitch Gold, who went on to serve six years in federal prison for mail fraud, the ADSA was one of the biggest 'badge scams' in the U.S., the Register reports. That and more details in the full story here.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Flickr / Creative Commons

Wanted fugitive nabbed in Long Beach via his -- wait for it -- video blog

Boy_about_town_goes_to_jial Note to self -- a publicity-seeking video blog is not the way to stay hidden after skipping out on probation after a prison sentence. Case in point, Patric Ian Henn, a 33-year-old gay man who pleaded guilty to bilking charity organizations out of $68,000 when he lied about losing a partner in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Henn, who also failed to perform 600 hours of community service and didn't pay back $29,000 to the Red Cross and other charities, was discovered in Long Beach, where had set up an identity as
"Boy About Town." He used the blog to post pictures and videos of himself with minor celebs, as well as details of his party hopping. It wasn't until he told someone his real name that Henn's newest scam began to unravel, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reports:

Henn made his way to Long Beach late last year, trying to leave his past and create a new identity with his "Boy About Town" blog,

He never told anyone his full name, introducing himself only as "Boy About Town" or Patric, according to sources he interviewed for his blog and local businesses he sought for advertising.

One day, Henn revealed his real name to an acquaintance, who searched the Internet and found Henn's checkered past. Word spread about Henn's real identity and eventually, the Long Beach Police Department got an anonymous tip.

The full story from the Press-Telegram is here. Also in NY Post, Gawker and TowleRoad.

Long Beach police arrested Henn earlier this month, and he now sits in the men's central jail in Los Angeles until his hearing, now postponed until Aug. 8. No bail has been set. And, apparently he has not a clue, judging from the most recent post on his website:

In light of what has happened to me recently, I want to assure you all that Who I was is not who I am today.

Welcome to Cudahy -- unless you're running for office

Not_running_scared Wan to run for City Council in Cudahy? Then get ready to run for your life. Scare tactics against two men who declared their candidacy in this small but densely-packed suburb in southeast L.A. County included telephoned death threats and Molotov cocktails. Sam Quinones has the details:

When Luis Garcia first ran for Cudahy City Council in 2007, vandals spray painted his white Dodge Dakota. His friend and fellow candidate Tony Mendoza later dropped out of the race after receiving death threats on his answering machine.

Garcia and another novice candidate, Daniel Cota, continued, campaigning to combat gangs and lure more businesses to the tiny Latino suburb southeast of Los Angeles. They lost by a few dozen votes.

Earlier this month, Cota and Garcia launched a website announcing their intention to run for City Council again next year.

On Thursday night, while Garcia was watching TV in his living room, he heard breaking glass, looked outside and saw his Dodge Dakota engulfed in flames; someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail at it.

The incident marked the sixth time since the 2007 election that he had been the target of vandalism, Garcia said. His truck has been hit with paint four times in the last 20 months, according to police reports. Two weeks ago, someone threw a brick through his living room window.

Garcia (in the photo, seated next to his torched truck) is certain the attacks stem from his plan to run for office. A 2007 story in the L.A. Weekly does little to dispel the theory. The rest of Sam's story about the Cudahy candidates is here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Court injunction targets Harbor Gateway gangs

Harbor_gateway_a_battleground They've terrorized residents of the Harbor Gateway area for years, and now two gangs are getting a taste of their own medicine, though without the shooting and stealing and killing, the Daily Breeze reports.

A permanent injunction handed down by a Superior Court judge prevents members of two violent Harbor Gateway gangs from meeting in public, trespassing on private property, having spray paint or any other tools of the graffiti trade, and they've got to stay off the streets from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. From the story:

The injunction approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern makes permanent a temporary injunction granted by Judge David Yaffe in March, the same day gang members shot a 6-year-old boy traveling through Harbor Gateway with his family.

Police, the City Attorney's Office and harbor-district City Councilwoman Janice Hahn had sought the injunction since Dec. 15, 2006, when 204th Street gang members allegedly shot 14-year-old Cheryl Green because she was black.    

The shooting enraged residents, who urged public officials to take strong action. The injunction took months to complete and had to be approved by a judge and served on gang members.

The injunction also prevents the gang members from possessing drugs and weapons, and creates a "safety zone" of close to two square miles. Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who sought the court ruling, now wants more money for job training in the area. The full story is here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Soccer players score in airplane emergency

Some pro soccer players bound for Los Angeles are being hailed as heroes. The FBI says members of a Major League Soccer team, the New England Revolution, helped subdue an out-of-control American Airlines passenger who stripped, put his clothes back on and then tried to open an emergency exit door. According to the Associated Press, the plane landed safely at LAX, and the team had some interesting stories to tell:

Craig Tornberg, the soccer team’s general manager, said he confronted the man as soon as he saw him emerge naked from one of the plane’s restrooms. "I said he should get back into the bathroom and put on his clothes," Tornberg said after the plane landed in Los Angeles. "He said something strange to me. He said, 'I don’t hear you. I don’t see you.'" Still, the man complied and got dressed, Tornberg said, before he "made a beeline for the emergency door." Tornberg said he, assistant coach Gwynne Williams and Michael Burns, the team’s vice president for player personnel, grabbed the man and forced him into a seat as a flight attendant ran to get restraints.

--Shelby Grad

Justice for Valor the police dog

Justice, finally, for a Redondo Beach police dog wounded in the line of duty. Jimmie Divo Lunceford, who stabbed the dog -- and made criminal threats against two ex-girlfriends -- was sentenced today to five years and eight months in prison. According to City News Service, the case involved a German shepherd named Valor:

The dog -- which was brought into court by its handler during the trial and referred to as Court Exhibit 7 -- was stabbed twice in the side of its neck last July 30 and had to undergo an hourlong surgery. Officers initially went to look for Lunceford a day earlier after getting reports about the threats, but police were not able to find him. Police were called to the home in Redondo Beach again about 5 a.m. July 30. Lunceford yelled at responding officers, telling them he had a knife and wanted them to shoot him, police said. The police dog was injured after being sent to try to subdue Lunceford, and the canine’s handler, Officer Ken Greenleaf, called the animal. Lunceford then dropped the knife and was arrested without incident, according to police. He has remained jailed since then.

--Shelby Grad

* Update: Amanda Covarrubias has the full story in The Times.

To live and die in L.A. - Jill Leovy writes the book on inner-city murder

Murder_inc Just learned that Jill Leovy, founder of the Homicide Report, the ground-breaking LAT blog that tries to chronicle every single murder in Los Angeles, is writing a book. No title yet.

Though inspired by the blog, Leovy's book won't be a recap. Instead, she'll  use the knowledge gleaned from her work to look at race and murder rates, and to formulate a theory of her own about of the causes of inner-city warfare. Our lit-blogger, Carolyn Kellogg, gets some details:

Jacket Copy: Does your book chronicle all 845 murders in Los Angeles last year?

Jill Leovy: No. The book is not related to the Homicide Report blog, nor to my efforts to cover all homicides in Los Angeles County last year. (In reality, there were more then 900.) The book will be about the syndrome of high homicide rates among blacks in America, their causes and consequences.

Jacket Copy: Will you focus on a specific area or region?

JL: The book will be mostly reported out of Los Angeles, but it seeks to explain a national phenomenon. High homicide rates among blacks are everywhere ...

The full Q&A, in Jacket Copy, is here. And check out the Homicide Report, now in the capable hands of  Ruben Vives.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Childbirth is no escape from restraint at L.A. County jails

Getprev_2 A new report on the medical treatment of female inmates at Los Angeles County jails said deputies say shackles are generally not used to restrain pregnant prisoners during childbirth. But as The Times' Richard Winton reports:

A county hospital delivery nurse said "leg chains, which are heavy but long enough to allow the inmate to get to the bathroom, are often present during childbirth," the report stated.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

A love note from an O.C. teen to her mother's alleged killer

A few hours after Rachael Mullenix of Huntington Beach said she saw her boyfriend fatally stab her mother to death, she sent him this text message:

“I love you. Am I going to see you soon? Are you in trouble? Can I call you?”

Mullenix and her boyfriend are on trial for the September 2006 slaying of her mother. Trial coverage in the Huntington Beach Independent and the OC Register.

-- Jesus Sanchez

What do you do when a cop plants evidence on you?

EvidenceWell, if you are LAPD's Deputy Chief Charles Beck, you turn around and arrest the law-breaking cop. That's what Beck did earlier in his career when he was working undercover for the LAPD and ran into officers who were not following the law, he told Celeste Fremon at Witness LA:

"I actually have a tape too — where [his former partner] and I were working undercover in narcotics and we got evidence planted on us. That was a long time ago. But there’s a message here. It does happen occasionally. But when it happens, we take it very seriously. People lose their jobs and they get prosecuted. And we make an example of them."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Murder stats in L.A. climb, but other crime rates dip

The latest LAPD crime stats for first six months of 2008 are in. Although homicides are up, rape, robbery and assault rates have dropped compared to the same period last year. Property crimes dropped too.  Times reporter Phil Willon passes along this info:


Violent crime:

Homicide up 4.3%
Rape down 11.3%
Robbery down 8.6%
Aggravated assault down 5.7%

Total violent crime down 7.2%

Property crime:

Burglary down 5%Wanted_by_lapd_4
Grand theft auto down 8.2%
Burglary/theft from vehicle down 6.9%
Personal/other theft down 6.1%
Total property crime down 6.6%

Total "gang-related crime" down 15.3%

Meanwhile, Jose Luis Saenz is the latest addition to the LAPD's Top Ten gang list. Police say Saenz killed two gang members, then murdered his girlfriend to silence her about the murders.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: LAPD

Saving Carona from his own words

CaronaThe attorneys representing former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona in his upcoming corruption trial have apparently decided that the less the jurors hear from the ex-lawman the better. On Monday, the lawyers took their latest stab at limiting what federal jurors will hear from about 10 hours of secretly taped conversations between Carona and friend Donald Haidl, who was cooperating with prosecutors. Jurors would no longer hear Carona making numerous sexist and racist comments if the lawyers get their way, says the OC Register and LAT.

Attorneys say the remarks have nothing to do with the legal issues at hand and fear they will generate anger an "unfair prejudice" among jurors to their client. The judge rejected a previous request by Carona's attorneys to exclude the recordings. In some of the transcripts released by prosecutors, Carona defends his record while bragging about his sex life:

"I've met millionaires, billionaires, I've traveled on personal airplanes, and I never shook anybody down .... Not that I haven't, you know, drank some great wine and had great booze and ... got some, you know, phenomenal (sex) along the way."

The trial is scheduled to begin in late August.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Rampart scandal victim arrested after police chase

Hummer1 Javier Francisco Ovando, the former gang member who was awarded a $15 million settlement as a victim of the Rampart police scandal, was arrested Sunday night after an hour-long, high-speed chase that began in Glendale. What was Ovando driving?  A 2001 "canon" colored Hummer, police said.

The Times' Richard Winton has more details on the arrest.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: AP

Palm Springs rolls out the welcome mat for bikers

BikeThe prospect of two rival biker gangs -- the Mongols and the Vagos -- riding into town would normally generate visions of deadly violence and mayhem. In Palm Springs, however, the bikers' arrival means sold-out hotels and jam packed bars and restaurants.

That may explain why some of this resort town's business and civic leaders have for several years now put aside concerns about possible violence to welcome the Mongols, Vagos and many other bikers for October's American Heat Palm Springs Motorcycle Weekend.

For this year's event, the City Council voted to move the event to its main drag, Palm Canyon Drive, chip in $35,000 for public safety and clean up and even suspended its noise ordinance for American Heat, reports the Desert Sun. Police and some council members warned about possible violence, especially with the presence of two of California's most notorious biker clubs:

The Mongols and Vagos Motorcycle Clubs are identified as outlaw motorcycle gangs in the Organized Crime in California Annual Report to the California Legislature 2005 document prepared by the California Department of Justice.

"When you get this event, you have Vagos, Hells Angels, the Green Machine, and when they all come together, they are bitter enemies," Palm Springs Police Chief David Dominguez said. "That's when we have the potential for violence."

Mayor Steve Pougnet conceded that there is a potential for violence but noted that police have done a good job of keeping the peace in earlier American Heat events.

If there are problems in October, however, Pougnet will most likely not be around. As he has in previous years, the mayor usually leaves town during American Heat because he said he "can't stand the noise."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times

Police are happy, but gang sweep scares the heck out of residents

Good_morning_glassell_park Scores of residents in Glassell Park were rousted from their beds at 4 a.m. as hundreds of law enforcement officers raided the neighborhood in search of the Avenue's gang Drew Street clique. More than 70 people were named in a federal indictment, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Andrew Blankstein report.

The hope is the action will help break the gang's hold over the area. That's police talking to residents in the photo, who, truth be told, look more than a wee bit skeptical. They complained to officers about being terrified as they were wakened during the raid.

Details of the arrests and indictment are in the full story here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Making crime pay while paying for a crime?

OK, so I'm kind of scared to write this post. (Is it totally chicken to say Garrett Therolf is the one working on the story?) Among the bank accounts maintained by the L.A. County Jail so inmates can buy snacks, phone cards and other extras, the ones belonging to a Mafia hit man and two bank robbers are among those that grew by $5,000 or more during incarceration. Garrett reports:

Some inmates are engaging in large transactions, and it's possible that the in-house bank may be helping to facilitate further crime, the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury reported Monday. No effort was made to determine whether the deposits came from legitimate sources.

Here's the key section of the report:

"Although we appreciate that those inmates who have large quantities of money in their accounts, in some cases hundreds or thousands of dollars, represent a very small percentage of the jail population, we also recognize that those at the top of the inmate pecking order, the most powerful and dangerously well-connected, are likewise a very small percentage of the jail population.

The thought of these “shot-callers” having large sums of money at their disposal is disturbing. Certain possibilities come to mind, including bribery, money-laundering, and violence for hire."

Garrett's full story is here.

--Veronique de Turenne

A different portrait of Jamiel Shaw II

ShawHe had friends in the Rollin' 20s, part of the deadly Bloods gang, and was known by the nickname Deuces Wild.  When he was shot and killed, he was wearing a red belt  with black skulls and the number 20 associated with the gang. Could this be the very same Jamiel Shaw II,  the innocent high school athlete who was killed by an undocumented immigrant and alleged gang member in what many believe was a racially motivated shooting?

The troubling details of the Inglewood teenager's possible connections to gang life were revealed Thursday during a preliminary hearing. It's not the first time that someone has pointed out that Shaw's shooting might have to do more with gang rivalry than racial hatred. Earlier this month, an article in LA Weekly noted that online tributes and albums created by Shaw's friends includes photos of them flashing gang signs next to images of candles burning in the 17-year-old's honor.

Of course, many youths who live in gang territory often have friends and neighbors who are in gangs and may adopt their manner of dress and symbolism. That does not necessarily make them a gang member. Shaw's parents maintain that their son was not involved in gang life, and police said they never found Shaw, who has no arrest record, hanging out with known gang members. But police claim that Shaw's alleged killer, undocumented immigrant Pedro Espinoza, 19, has ties to the 18th Street gang, a rival of the Bloods.

Since Shaw's shooting March 2, his parents and others have used his death to put pressure on the Los Angeles Police Department to scrap a controversial rule that limits police inquiries into a suspect's immigration status. But the former football all-star's alleged gang ties could make him a less than ideal poster boy for the cause.

Growing questions about his gang connections and their possible role in his shooting also have undermined arguments that Shaw's death was largely the result of racial tensions between blacks and Latinos. After Thursday's hearing, Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, said:

"We still support the family and want to make sure that justice is done, but we can no longer support the belief that Shaw was targeted because of his race."

—Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

More sex abuse claims, an ultralight plane crash, and an Eagle Scout gone wrong -- it's trouble in paradise

Trouble_in_paradise2 An Irvine Eagle Scout who had just graduated from high school is arrested on burglary charges after he allegedly entered 30 vehicles ... Three more San Fernando Valley students allege they were sexually assaulted by a basketball coach ... An Orange County man flying an ultralight plane dies after the aircraft crash-lands at an Antelope Valley airport ... Sections of the 710 Freeway will be closed for road repairs ... A deaf hiker was found after getting lost in Anza Borrego State Park as temperatures reached 112 degrees ... A woman dies in a house fire in Bellflower ... A gunman wounds three in Pomona ... A woman is injured in L.A. when a police officer crashes into her car ... A teen in Harbor City shoots his cousin in the head during an argument ... For the second day in a row, the lights inexplicably go out in Duarte.

-- Jesus Sanchez and Veronique de Turenne

Cop Shop: Lee Baca's answer to a 'man-made' disaster

Baca Sheriff Lee Baca is making some waves for his tough talk on what he considers the serious problem of race-motivated gang violence. Baca thinks he has one answer: An emergency operations center to deal with street gangs.

For the last six months, a dozen full-time analysts have been sifting through crime data in the basement of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department's Monterey Park headquarters with one goal: breaking the region’s entrenched gang culture.

But the Southern California Gang Emergency Operations Center, the brainchild of Sheriff Lee Baca, is not just staffed by cops poring over statistics.

It draws on the expertise of numerous professionals -- including educators, social workers and mental health and healthcare workers -- in developing strategies to fight gangs.

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the clearinghouse is modeled on the county’s emergency operations center, which is activated after a natural disaster or any other emergency requiring a response from multiple agencies.

Whitmore said that, to Baca, street gangs are “on par with a disaster, albeit man-made."

-- Andrew Blankstein

Good morning -- here's what's happening 6.13.08

Nuff_said If you can stand to read about how the Lakers blew the biggest first-quarter lead in NBA Finals history, then wrote their names in the record books with the biggest breakdown in the NBA Finals in the last 37 years, and how Kobe Bryant walked off the court with time on the clock, then by all means, read our coverage. Bill Plaschke's righteous rage will actually make you feel better. T.J. Simers blames Phil Jackson. The game story pulls no punches. The photos, well, they'll just break your heart. Thank God it's Friday.

And now onto the real world:

L.A.'s top cops have a turf war of their own going. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca says race plays a big role in gang violence, while LAPD Chief Bill Bratton says it's actually about drugs and money.

Manson acolyte Susan Atkins may be released from prison because she has brain cancer.

Judge Alex Kozinski wants you to look at some porn -- his own. Specifically, he's called for an investigation into the fact that he kept hard-core images on his website to determine whether he's considered fit to judge obscenity cases.

The Japanese gangster who wanted a liver transplant at UCLA tried to pay $1 million for a U.S. visa.

Got a Q about same-sex marriage in California? Chances are, we've got the A.

Meanwhile, the Kern County clerk says she's hurt by the criticism at her decision to halt all civil marriage ceremonies.

Feeling a particularly vicious pinch in your wallet? You're not dreaming: May's jump in inflation was the biggest in six months.

Check out our coverage of the "Georgia O'Keeffe and the Women of the Stieglitz Circle" exhibit now in the San Diego Museum of Art. What's Hillary Clinton got to do with it? Ironic, in light of today's piece in the NYT.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

A sex scandal arrest, a grass fire in Ojai and a Marine gets arrested twice — it's trouble in paradise

Investigate There's a second arrest in the Foshay Learning Center sex scandal.... A man is found shot to death in his Hacienda Heights home.... Divers in Long Beach call off the search for a possible drowning victim.... A Cypress man believed to be selling steroids is arrested.... Three 14-year-old boys have been charged as adults in a suspected gang killing.... Two men are arrested in a bank robbery in Covina.... A suspect in a theft investigation is detained at the home of the mayor of Pico Rivera.... A Marine charged with murder in Santa Ana makes bail, then gets arrested again on an unrelated charge.... The FBI is looking for a group of armed bank robbers known as the "Boricuas Bandits" in a series of holdups in Upland, Rialto and Walnut... About 50 firefighters put out a 2-acre grass fire in Ojai....

—Veronique de Turenne

LAPD blogs the 14-homicide weekend

We at the LAT counted 14 homicides in L.A. County last weekend; the LAPD, held to different boundaries (city rather than county) came up with with 10. They also came up with this bland thicket of language posted on the LAPD Blog to explain just what is going on here:

" trends migrate and evolve throughout the City, we have an obligation to move resources to address crime ... we should not panic..."


"There have been no connections or trends developing that can be inferred as a result of this spike in the number of homicides."

Feel better now?

--Veronique de Turenne

Orange County names new sheriff

Hutchens_2 The Board of Supervisors selected  Sandra Hutchens, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department division chief, to lead the law enforcement agency still reeling from the resignation of Sheriff Michael S. Carona after he was charged with corruption. The board picked Hutchens over Santa Ana Police Chief  Paul Walters.

Three supervisors voted for Hutchens, while two voted for Walters.

Times staff is gathering more details on the decision. 

-- Jesus Sanchez

Make that 12 ... nope, now it's 14 homicides this weekend

The number of people killed in L.A. County this weekend is up to 14, with at least 10 of those in LAPD jurisdiction. Ruben Vives has details in our fine -- and heartbreaking -- blog, The Homicide Report. Not a record, but way more than the two or three per day we've come to think of as the average for sunny SoCal.

--Veronique de Turenne

Stunning admission by D.A.'s office

Betty Thomas, right, is comforted by relatives at funeral services for her daughter Monica Thomas-Harris, who was shot and killed by her ex-husband.

The slaying in January of a West Covina woman generated national headlines because her assailant was her estranged husband, who just weeks before had been convicted of kidnapping her. Today, prosecutors made a stunning admission: that errors by the D.A.'s office contributed to her death. Andrew Blankstein has details:

Los Angeles County prosecutors acknowledged today that miscommunications, errors in judgment and office policy violations contributed to the slaying of a West Covina woman killed by her estranged husband two weeks after he was sentenced to jail for threatening her with a stun gun.

More from Andrew's story here.

Photo: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

Betty Thomas, right, is comforted by relatives at funeral services for her daughter Monica Thomas-Harris, who was shot and killed by her ex-husband.

A hit-and-run, a secret videotape, more dead condors, and 'inappropriate contact'-- it's trouble in paradise


A video camera captures a fatal hit-and-run in East LA.... A pit bull attacks an infant in Pacoima.... A father and son from Redlands are in custody on suspicion of child molestation.... County supes want a broader investigation into the  Universal Studios fire.... The L.A. County Sheriff is investigating four cases of “inappropriate contact” involving staff and students in Santa Clarita.... A woman driving the wrong way on Interstate  40  near Ludlow was killed after running into two trucks.... Authorities have charged a Santa Ana mother with murdering her four-year-old son.... A 3.1 earthquake rattled Idyllwild.... A Metro bus hits a pedestrian in downtown LA.... It's jail time for a Gardena man who secretly videotaped a co-worker while she used the bathroom.... L.A. sheriffs raid 108 homes, find drugs and guns, make 14 arrests.... Suspected copper thieves arrested in Lake Forest.... And five endangered condors are sick from lead poisoning just weeks before a statewide ban on lead in bullets kicks in.

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Put the Hoover down and your hands up

Police arrested a man Sunday night at a Fontana car wash. His crime? Allegedly sucking up coins with a vacuum cleaner. Details in the Daily Bulletin.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Good morning - here's what's happening 6.02.08

Towering_inferno Though no one's nailed down the cause of that catastrophic fire at Universal Studios, the reason it got out of hand is pretty clear: Water pressure at the site was so low, firefighters reported water streams of just 10 feet, laughably inadequate against the towering flames. Add in a failed sprinkler system and two city blocks of sets built from what amounts to kindling and you're looking at the disaster that was yesterday's blaze.

We've got lots of info: main story here (including the news the studio's re-opening to the public toay)... what, exactly, burned ... the yes-no-yes-no saga as studio heads couldn't decide whether or not to open the park ... some video, of course ... and news that despite the damage, cameras will still roll.

Meanwhile, there's actually other news out there:

Four of the weekend's five homicides are blamed on gangs.

Iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent has died.

They_do With some prime tourist attractions now in cinders, maybe Universal should look into the gay marriage business. Ever since the state Supremes gave same-sex marriage the nod, all corners of the wedding industry have seen an uptick in business.

I'm sorry to report that the Dodgers lost to the Mets.

And if the long wait for the Lakers-Celtics match-up is getting to you, Kareem Abdul-Jabar's got lots to say about the 1985 Boston-L.A. series.

As long as we're having a fire, why not a couple of earthquakes as well? Two small ones rattled through last night, one in the Salton Sea, the other in San Bernardino County.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: AP;

Building a trap for unlicensed contractors

The $10 billion that Californians spend annually on home remodeling and construction is a major boost for the economy that supports countless businesses and workers. It's also a major attraction for  unlicensed contractors. That's why state regulators have organized sting operations to try and catch them. Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez witnessed a sting operation last March in Van Nuys and videotaped it. His full story about one woman's ordeal with an unlicensed contractor will appear in Sunday's Real Estate section.

"It's safe to say that there are thousands of people out there breaking the law by contracting without a license," said Pamela Mares, a spokeswoman for the Contractors State License Board. "There's a lot of money out there, and they know it."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Video: Robert J. Lopez / Los Angeles Times

A police chase arrest, a Mercedes vs. train and a killer Seal -- it's trouble in paradise

Trouble_in_paradise2 An alleged drunk driver who led police on a pursuit in Pacoima last night is arrested.... An LAPD officer accidentally fires his gun during a sting operation.... A Northern California doctor is held in sexual assaults on a man.... The estate of singer Billie Holliday's husband sues a record company for unpaid royalties.... An LAPD officer pleads not guilty in an alleged drunken brawl while off-duty in Redondo Beach.... A Navy SEAL trainee admits he killed a woman.... Feds arrest a former Bell police officer on suspicion of forcing a woman to have sex with him during a traffic stop.... Killers still at large in the slaying of a Monrovia teen.... A man was in good condition after an Amtrak train demolished his Mercedes-Benz at a San Juan Capistrano railroad crossing.... Two teens were arrested in Mentone after allegedly setting a high school security guard’s truck on fire.... A Corona mother whose son leaped from the back seat of her car was arrested on child endangerment charges for failing to stop and return to pick up her child.... A Lancaster woman who opposed display of the words "In God We Trust" at City Hall wakes up to find her home’s windows covered with the phrase "In God We Trust or ?"

-- Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Irvine teen dies after football practice, fire hits a Wilmington church, judge blocks bikini bar -- it's trouble in paradise

BodyoutlineAn Irvine high school student dies after collapsing at football practice(OC Register, LAT).... Investigators are looking into the second fire to hit a Wilmington church.... A Mexican national was arrested near Temecula after police found $344,863 in cash in his pickup truck.... An 84-year-old Santa Monica woman dies after being hit by a car backing out of a driveway.... One man may have robbed two San Bernardino  banks on the same block in one week.... A man working on a Whittier motel sign dies after falling 40 feet.... The conversion of a San Bernardino family restaurant into an adult bikini bar has been halted by a judge.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.29.08

Green_and_clean L.A. is the second-greenest big city in the U.S.? Depends on whether you believe the Brookings Institution, which delivers this startling bit of news, or the naysayers who scoff at fuzzy data. Margot Roosevelt tries to clear things up.

Does L.A. lead in school sex scandals, too? Another teacher suspected of having sex with a student is arrested. Andrew Blankstein has the story.

Ever since the new owner took over Centinela Hospital Medical Center in South L.A., services have been shrinking. Most private insurance contracts have been canceled and 13% of the staff laid off. Is this the way to serve a community?  Daniel Costello looks for answers.

A first in the O.C. -- all the candidates running for office in the 1st District are Vietnamese. My-Thuan Tran reports on the new political landscape.

Too many hands-off caches of cash are a big reason for California's current money crisis. Plain speaking from George Skelton.

Neither_fisher_nor_foul_2 It wouldn't be a playoff series without a brouhaha, and ours is here. The NBA says the Lakers' Derek Fisher fouled the Spurs' Brent Barry in the last seconds of the game, and the Spurs should have gotten two free throws. (Hey, didn't NBA honchos read Plaschke's great two-fouls means no-fouls column yesterday?) Yeah, the Lakers won Game 4 by 2 points. Commiserate with Steve Springer.

The B of A/Countrywide deal is still on, but the players are changing. E. Scott Reckard and Kathy M. Kristof  explain.

Mary McNamara takes her kids to the Hollywood Bowl to see the Police. Shares her music, learns some lessons, makes you laugh.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News; cgee / Your Scene

Alleged armed robbers shot, two rapists sought, an indoor pot farm found -- it's trouble in paradise

Trouble_in_paradise2 An armed robbery suspect is shot in a gun battle with police in Long Beach ... four men are injured in a racially motived brawl in a corrections camp in Malibu ... an attic fire reveals a marijuana farm in a San Jose house ... a patron of a Cypress bar is arrested after the man he allegedly beat with a pool cue dies ... the family of a San Clemente insurance man who died following outpatient knee surgery sues ... CSI actor Gary Dourdan will be arraigned today in Indio on felony drug charges ... two people are taken to a hospital after an attempted skateboard theft in Santee ... Ventura County farmers are hit by fuel theft ... Tijuana sewage forces San Diego beach closures ... the Maverick Steakhouse in Norco improves security after two shootings and other incidents ... police seek two men who sexually assaulted a woman at El Camino College.

--Jesus Sanchez & Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

CityWalk wants to avoid this part of urban life

WalkWrapped in miles of neon, Universal Studios CityWalk re-creates the flash and fun of Los Angeles in a sanitized and profitable setting. But there's one element of L.A. life that the outdoor mall and tourist attraction wants to avoid duplicating: gang violence. That's why California Highway Patrol officers will be brought in to help the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department raise the profile of law enforcement and lower the chance of any potential gang trouble, reports the Daily News.

"Universal CityWalk and that area up there has got a gang presence but not a gang problem," said sheriff's Lt. Blaine Talmo, who oversees detectives at the West Hollywood station. "Everybody, including dummies, goes up there to see movies and things like that.... So we make it a point to ramp up our enforcement to set the tone and the tenor for the summertime."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Associated Press


Maybe posting a YouTube video of yourself commiting a crime isn't the best idea

A guy scrambles across an overpass and tags it in broad daylight. The cops use the YouTube video to help bust him. Andrew Blankstein has the story about how one of L.A.'s most prolific taggers wound up under arrest.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Big-rig crashes, immigrants arrested, mummified mystery-- it's trouble in paradise

Trouble_in_paradise2 Big rig crash closes two lanes of the Pomona Freeway ... more than 300 immigrants arrested in L.A. as part of a nationwide sweep ... the pilot of that helicopter crash on Catalina Island this weekend has been identified ... four people have been arrested in connection with shots fired at a sheriff's helicopter last week ... a wrong-way driver was killed in a crash on the 605 Freeway ... a man armed with a knife robs a Northridge mall ... a convicted sex offender in Pomona gets a life sentence for possessing child porn and not registering as a sex offender ... a registered sex offender is arrested for attacking a 5-year-old in a bookstore in Arcadia ... detectives still can't figure out who killed a Lancaster woman whose mummified body was found seven months ago....

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photo credit: Los Angeles TImes

Border agents - playing both sides?

Which_side_of_the_fence_are_they_on That's what the N.Y. Times says in a front-page story this morning. Tougher enforcement is driving smugglers to recruit Border Patrol agents and customs officials to not just turn a blind eye to the smuggling of illegal immigrants, but to helping them cross the border as well.

The pattern has become familiar: Customs officers wave in vehicles filled with illegal immigrants, drugs or other contraband. A Border Patrol agent acts as a scout for smugglers. Trusted officers fall prey to temptation and begin taking bribes.

Increased corruption is linked, in part, to tougher enforcement, driving smugglers to recruit federal employees as accomplices. It has grown so worrisome that job applicants will soon be subject to lie detector tests to ensure that they are not already working for smuggling organizations.


Altogether, there are about 200 open cases pending against law enforcement employees who work the border. In the latest arrests, four employees in Arizona, Texas and California were charged this month with helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country.

The agents-gone-bad are just a fraction of the workforce, officials say, but the numbers -- and temptations -- are growing and the feds are getting worried. The NYT's full story is here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Murdered Marines, a mountain lion capture, and a rabid bat -- it's trouble in paradise

Bodyoutline Five Marines stationed in Southern California have died in recent days as a result of homicide, traffic accidents and alleged foreclosure scam gets busted.... gunfire errupts on the Ventura Freeway...more than 60 people are arrested in Long Beach and other areas following a months-long probe into gangs and guns.... A Santa Ana man was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting and photographing his girlfriend's 13-year-old daughter over several years. Nude photos of a second girl were also found.... Sierra Madre is asking for voluntary evacuations of residents threatened by mudslides.... Los Angeles County reports this year's first signs of West Nile virus, and a mountain lion is captured in a Sonoma County backyard.

A bad week in San Bernardino: Three teenage males face murder and street terrorism charges over the fatal stabbing of one of their classmates outside Arroyo Valley High School.... Deputies are searching for a man who tried to run over his pregnant girlfriend.... Residents are being warned after a bat tested positive for rabies.

-- Jesus Sanchez & Veronique de Turenne

The miracle that is Google maps

Crime in a city near you.

You can sort by date, time and type of crime.


Snow in the mountains, mayhem in the Valley, and a school board member gets Tasered -- it's more news!

Jaime_le_fromage_2 Oh no -- California's losing the cheese race to Wisconsin. (Whose license plates do say America's Dairyland.) AP via LAT

The soldiers of San Pedro-based Company C (a.k.a. Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry of the California National Guard) came home today after a 12-month tour in Iraq, amid laughing and hugging and kissing and more than a few tears. Story and lovely photos in the Daily Breeze.

The bloody night in the Valley that left two dead and eight wounded in shootings has residents wondering, what's this summer going to be like? LADN

Someone's been aiming lasers at airplanes taking off from John Wayne Airport. OC Reg

Colleagues of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District director who lied about winning the Medal of Honor want him to quit. SGV TribOuch_2

Police used a Taser on a Baldwin Park school board member early this morning after he allegedly broke windows in a house and then drove drunk with his headlights off. Star-News (That'll be some reelection campaign.)

Sex education classes aren't offered at five school districts in San Bernardino County. SB Sun

Snow! At Big Bear! Daily Bulletin

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times; AP

Now a school janitor's accused of sexual misconduct

Turns out a janitor at Oaks Christian School has been accused of videotaping girls as they changed their clothes in the locker room. Officials said a school employee found a camera with "inappropriate images" and the guy's been arrested and booked on charges of possession and control of child porn. Andrew Blankstein has the details.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.22.08

Shooters_2 A Los Angeles County sheriff's helicopter speeding to a robbery had to make an emergency landing after someone on the ground hit it with gunfire. Bullets slammed into the belly and tail areas, but no one was hurt and the helicopter can still fly. Then SWAT teams surrounded a home. AP via LAT.

Is Renée Zito, the California drug and alcohol treatment czar with personal ties to the Schwarzenegger administration, any good at her job? A new report raises the question and pretty much concludes she's not. Jordan Rau has the story.

Thirteen SoCal hospitals are hit with fines for bad patient care. Rong-Gong Lin II explains.

Oil hits $135 a barrel. Does anyone doubt it's headed even higher? AP via LAT.David_wins_david_cook_that_is_3

David wins "American Idol"! OK, you already knew that. Rocker David Cook beats teen sensation David Archuleta, which our "Idol" watchers call an upset. Richard Rushfield has the details.

Meanwhile, across the street at Staples, the Lakers win! Mike Bresnahan has the game story. Bill Plaschke's so happy, he speaks in one-liners.

George Skelton says that if they ask very, very nicely, California politicians can get us to accept a tax increase. Do we believe they'll spend the money wisely? Ummm, no. Find out why here.

They came, they dug, they didn't find any bodies. That's that for the excavation at the Manson ranch, Louis Sahagan says.

The Salvation Army shows a bunch of middle-class kids and adults what it's really like to be poor. Eyes are opened. Maybe some pocketbooks too. Martha Groves was there.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Big payout in farmers market disaster, big taste in frozen desserts, and a prettier L.A.? -- it's last links!

Farmers_market_disaster Payouts in Santa Monica Farmers' Market crash reach $21 million. LAT

A mountain lion is spotted in Woodland Hills. LADN

At least 10% of Pasadena is covered by historical designation. Star-News

An ex-cop is accused of on-duty rape. LAT

A U.S. Marine is shot in Baja at a highway checkpoint. Union Tribune

Boeing will lay off 750 workers. Daily BreezeOk_hungry_now

Summer desserts from our Food section.

Pretty planning: new design guidelines for Venice & Westchester.  Curbed LA

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: LA Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.21.08

Charles_manson_lived_here Day One with a bullet. Well, a shell casing, anyway. That's what's been found so far in the excavation of the Barker Ranch, where Charles Manson and his murderous band of followers once lived. Louis Sahagun is following the story.

An L.A. Unified police officer who reported sex abuse at South East High School says he was punished with "freeway therapy" and transferred to another campus for embarrassing school administrators. Richard Winton has the details.

That prison plan to shift low-risk offenders to community-level care? Great idea, says Michael Rothfeld.

West Nile virus has been found in 13 birds in the O.C. so far this month, David Reyes reports.

You're excused! San Diego city workers who don't want to officiate at gay weddings can just say no. AP via LAT.

Profits at Home Depot drop 66% as the housing slump continues.

Steve Lopez waxes nostalgic for the soon-to-be termed-out Arnold Schwarzenegger.Magnum_votes_for_mccain

Who gave what to whom? L.A.'s richest residents (Geffen, Spielberg, Redstone, Selleck) spread their wealth all around the political spectrum, Tina Daunt reports.

Are you missing baseball's super-slugger Barry Bonds? Yeah, neither is the city of San Francisco, where he's quickly vanishing from the collective consciousness. John M. Glionna reports on Bonds' post-Giants slump.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times; Associated Press

Meth's legacy lingers in the Inland Empire

MethWhen the Inland Empire ranked as one of the nation's largest producers of meth during the 1990s, police officers like Jim Foreman were kept busy raiding and investigating countless makeshift labs where the drug was produced. During one incident, Foreman actually passed out from the chemicals.  Today, Foreman, who took a medical retirement last year, says his lungs operate at only 60% of capacity. He suffers from a series of other ailments he blames on his exposure to the meth lab toxins.

Foreman's health problems are part of the dark legacy that continues to haunt the Inland Empire, according to a wide-ranging report in the Riverside Press Enterprise.

Police officers who raided the homes are not the only ones who worry about their exposure to toxic chemicals and lingering contamination.  It's also a troubling issue for the children who grew up with meth-addicted parents and even the current occupants of homes used to cook the chemicals, which can leave a residue on walls, carpets and other surfaces that can last for years.

"Some days are better than others," said Foreman, surveying the living room in his Hemet home, which is decorated with photos of him in uniform -- both police and military. "Then there are days when I don't even want to get out of bed."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.20.08

The_hilton_exploded_3 Fourteen people were injured, five of them critically, after a massive gas explosion at a waterfront San Diego hotel that is under construction. Richard Marosi and Tony Perry explain what happened.

Rehab services and community jails for low-risk offenders -- that's the gist of a proposal to settle the federal lawsuit brought against California's overcrowded prisons. It took six months of talks to get here, and still needs the OK of lots of different groups and agencies before it's a done deal. The upside -- no early release. But where's the money going to come from? Michael Rothfeld has the details.

Snooping into celeb medical files is a decades-old cottage industry, says Andrew Blankstein.

Ex-LAPD officer gets a 102-year sentence for his role in a robbery ring. Scott Glover was there.

Police and witnesses continue to argue over the events leading up to the shooting of an unarmed man in Long Beach on Sunday. The latest news -- the city's mental health team wasn't called to the scene. Deborah Schoch has the story.

Turns out even luxury home prices are heading south -- one Newport Beach enclave sees a drop of 34%. Peter Y. Hong runs the numbers.

It'll be the San Antonio Spurs against the Lakers tomorrow night in Game One of the Western Conference finals. AP via LAT.

Where_the_girls_arent_2 Film directing -- still a man's world, says Patrick Goldstein. (And a white man's world, at that.)

Now that the state Supreme Court has ruled to make same-sex marriage legal in California, religious congregations are wrestling with the issue.

James Frey, "the most notorious writer in America", talks to Scott Timberg.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Associated Press

A ficus tree protest, the heat wave continues, and the Marines vs. scavengers -- it's last links!

Hot_cool_splash_ahhhh_2 Anyone unclear that the heat wave continued today? Yeah, didn't think so. (That's 9-year-old Brenda Duron cooling off in the photo.)

A $10k reward for murder info. LAPD blog

Tree-savers plan ficus tree protest at Santa Monica City Hall. LAist

Gas prices be damned -- close to 3 million drivers are hitting the road this weekend. LADN

Where are the kids causing trouble in Long Beach? Check out the map in the Press-Telegram.

Redondo Beach man found dead a few hours after graduating from UC Berkeley. Daily Breeze

It's the Marines vs. the scavengers. Desert News

Goodyear looks at slimming down the cost of running the blimp. Daily Breeze

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Who's torching the flags in Mission Viejo?

Pictures_0101 It started Monday when 80-year-old Harry Johnson found the American flag that flies outside his Mission Viejo home partially burned. Today, a second flag went up in flames, the OC Reg reports.

Evan Fewsmith said he was sleeping when firefighters were called to his home at 5:30 a.m. on the 26900 block of Marbella.

Fewsmith, 46, says his newspaper carrier notified the Orange County Fire Authority and slowed down the fire by using a hose before firefighters arrived.

As firefighters fought the fire, a eucalyptus tree near the flag caught the flames.

Firefighters doused the fire in about five minutes, and sheriff's deputies are investigating the event as arson. The two flag burnings happened just two blocks apart.

-- Veronique de Turenne

LA Port says adios to indie truckers, a kid gives thumbs-down to the Narnia movie, and Ventura County wants that drug money - it's more news!

Wrong_way_driver_kills_self_and_two Traffic is still recovering from that wrong-way crash that left three dead on the I-5 today. LAT

Port of LA says OK to ban on indie truckers by 2013. Daily Breeze

Ventura County goes to court to try to confiscate $385,000 in drug profits.

Jury selection starts on Monday for the last three civil cases stemming from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market disaster in 2003, when  an 86-year-old man killed 10 people as his car careened through the crowded outdoor venue. LADN

A Pasadena mother, her son and his wife all graduate from nursing school. Star-News

Why the new Narnia movie is really better as a book. Jacket Copy

Whittier schools hope the revised state budget will save the jobs of some of the 140 teachers and 30 administrators who got pink slips. Whittier Daily News

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times 

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.16.08

California's highest court gave the green light to more than same-sex marriage Thursday. It fired up opponents, who already had a ballot proposition in the works, and forced the divisive issue back into the presidential race. Phil Willon and Patrick McGreevy take a look at the political fallout.

Was_she_bullied_to_death_2 The Missouri mom, who pretended to be a 16-year-old boy on MySpace and bullied a girl who later killed herself, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. Scott Glover and P.J. Huffstutter have the details.

And in case you missed it, Anthony Pellicano -- guilty.

Three people are dead and the morning commute is snarled after a wrong-way driver on I-5 downtown causes a catastrophic crash. AP via LAT

How did three girls wind up unconscious in a Chatsworth park? Howard Blume says police have a both a theory and a suspect.Whittier_boulevard_welcome_back_2

Whittier Boulevard in East L.A. gets a face-lift. Scott Gold looks at its history and future.

Can it be? Good housing news: April starts are the best since January '06. Reuters via LAT.

(Fake) diamonds fit for a (real) diva: the jewelry that Maria Callas wore when she debuted in "Tosca" at the Met in New York City in 1956 will shine on stage in the L.A. Opera's production. David Ng has details about the $85K worth of Swarovski crystals.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

Cold cases, grains of sand, a new UC chancellor, and a Supreme decision tomrrow -- it's last links

Supreme_decision The California Supreme Court will rule on gay marriage tomorrow. LAT

A greyhound adoption diary is on Unleashed.

Check out the lovely redesign at California Authors.

L.A.'s coldest crime cases of the century. Mean Streets

Reaction to fabulist James Frey's shot at redemption. Jacket Copy

LOVE the jacaranda photo from Just Above Sunset. (It's the bottom photo on the page. And thanks to LAO for the link.)

San Bernardino County supes say no to letting sex offenders drive ice cream trucks. LAT

Fox TV report on L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn and gangs is flawed, says the Daily BreezeLike_sands_through_the_hour_glas_2.

A developer proposes a huge housing project on the site of a former munitions plant. Daily News  The Signal

Are they grains of sand or works of art? Both -- and we found them thanks to Funny Pages 2.0.

A new chancellor is to be named at UC Riverside. Press Enterprise

A stable place: Norco named as the No. 1 hometown for horses. Daily Bulletin

-- Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Illustration: Tribune Media Services

Murder, molestation, two fires and a dog bite -- it's trouble in paradise


Inglewood police will hold a press conference today to give out info about Sunday's killing of an unarmed man.... Police in Orange arrest an L.A. County sheriff's deputy on suspicion of molesting a 15-year-old girl he's related to.... A Palmdale math teacher at Knight High School is being held on suspicion of having sex with a former student.... Two separate shootings leave two men dead in Pacoima.... Did a woman really sic her dog on a postal worker? (who, btw, happens to be a former Olympian).... Police search for three men who used guns in a carjacking in Pasadena.... A high-speed chase ends in gunfire in Covina.... Two men suspected of robbing a credit union in Buena Park are arrested.... A 10-day manhunt ended when a 16-year-old suspected of killing a parolee in San Bernardino surrendered to police.... The killing of an Oxnard man is thought to be gang-related.... A brush fire in Ventura burned just a quarter-acre before firefighters put it out.

--Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.14.08

Like_printing_money Talk about printing money. Five guys who used an ink-jet printer to make millions of dollars of fake money were nabbed yesterday, one of the biggest SoCal counterfeiting operations ever, authorities say. Seized at the homes -- more than $7 million in $20s, paper, printers, and Aqua Net. That's right -- when you coat money with hairspray, those counterfeit-detecting pens don't work. Scott Glover has the real details on the counterfeit money story.

The Getty Trust cuts 114 jobs to pump up the budget of the core arts program by 25 percent. Anne-Marie O'Connor explains how the museum might change.

Want to make $100k a year? Consider a job in law enforcement in the OC where, thanks to overtime,  two-thirds of sworn deputies in the Sheriff's Department made six figures last year. Stuart Pfeifer and Christine Hanley have the details.

No more training new recruits at L.A. Sheriff's Department, where one instructor was giving his students tests and the answers to the questions. Yeah, state investigators caught that, and some other no-nos, so Sheriff Lee Baca has put an end to new recruit training for now. Details from Richard Winton.Ian_fleming

Malibu becomes the latest city to ban plastic bags, Tami Abdollah reports.

We're a bunch of pessimists -- 81% of Americans think the economy is in the toilet for the long haul. Tom Petruno runs the numbers.

Leonardo DiCaprio as James Bond creator Ian Fleming? Jay A. Fernandez says it could be in the works.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

Fatal shootings raise tension between tribe and Riverside County sheriff

SobobaThe website for the Soboba Casino in eastern Riverside County features smiling winners holding wads of cash or giving thumbs-up in front of slot machines at the tribal casino.  But today those fun-loving images are at odds with the recent violence that has struck near the Soboba Indian Reservation, where two people were shot and killed Monday after a gun battle with Riverside County sheriff's deputies.

It was the second fatal shooting affecting tribal members in less than a week.  The Riverside Press Enterprise said there has been a total of six shootings on or near the reservation in recent months involving law enforcement, increasing friction between tribal members and authorities.

Tribal Chairman Robert Salgado told The Times' David Kelly  that the hostility between the tribe and the Riverside County sheriff now resembles a near state of war. The Sheriff's Department, for its part, has denied allegations by the tribe that they were not briefed about the operations last night. A meeting has been scheduled for Friday to try and improve the situation.

Much tension remains. When Salgado, accompanied by Kelly, tried to drive to the crime scene earlier today, he was blocked by deputies armed with assault rifles:

"You see that, if I was the mayor of L.A. and I was visiting a crime scene they would have been polite and said, 'Yes sir' and 'no sir' but that's not how they treat us," he said. "They treat us all like we are threats."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Fire on Mt. Baldy, officers kill two in L.A. County, SUV drives into pool in the OC, and don't mess with Drew Barrymore -- it's trouble in paradise

Oops A wind-whipped fire on Mt. Baldy has burned at least 30 acres so far.... Two officer-involved shootings in L.A. County today -- two people are dead.... Drew Barrymore, who was the victim of a hit-and-run yesterday, managed to get the license number of the car that rear-ended her.... The driver of a car that slammed into the back of a big rig parked on the 134 Freeway in Burbank has died.... A woman in Gardena has been shot and killed.... Police in Pomona search for a man they think stabbed his wife to death.... At least 100 people in San Pedro found their tires slashed this morning.... Burglars in Camarillo are arrested.... Police nab three men in Oxnard on suspicion of illegally towing vehicles.... Jewelry thieves have stolen more than $2.5 million in gold from JC Penney stores in Orange County and the rest of the state over several months.... A San Bernardino city employee was sentenced to four months in jail for embezzling $30,000 worth of amusement park tickets.... Palm Desert police install "rat" lights to catch red-light runners.... And, in the photo above, someone in smashed through a cinder block wall and landed in a swimming pool in Huntington Beach.

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.13.08

Those two LAUSD honchos who did nothing when a student reported she was sexually abused by a substitute teacher are back on the job. That's right: They've been criminally charged, yet they're back at the school. Richard Winton and Howard Blume explain what on Earth is going on.

Why_did_the_cops_shoot Why did Inglewood police shoot and kill an unarmed man on Sunday? The cops involved say they heard gunshots, but neither weapons nor bullets were found. Police search for reasons but the community demands answers. Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Hector Becerra have the story.

Game 5 of the series is tomorrow and Kobe says he'll be ready. To do what? Mike Bresnahan visits with the Lakers' injured MVP.

The UCLA snooping scandal -- still growing. Sixty-eight current and former workers, including four doctors, pried into medical records that were none of their business. Lawanda J. Jackson, the  employee indicted by a grand jury last month, looked at 61 separate files, including those of celebs and her fellow employees. More details from Charles Ornstein.

LAX to Florida for $18? Great travel deals are out there, if you know where to look, says Peter Pae.

Visions of the Virgin Mary in the Mojave Desert, where the faithful have headed for 20 years for Our Lady of the Rock gatherings. The Catholic Church isn't thrilled, but attendees say they find solace. Paloma Esquivel  makes a visit. (And a photo gallery -- Virgin Mary in a sandwich, anyone? -- here.)

Jimmy Fallon's going to take over for Conan when the time comes. Oh -- and a new "90210" series, a "Boston Legal" pickup, and a "Family Guy" spin-off. Matea Gold and Maria Elena Fernandez have details of NBC's fall lineup.

Fabulist James Frey ("A Million Little Pieces") writes a crummy novel. David Ulin has the review.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

Never call Inglewood's top cop on a Sunday

Crime never stops. But apparently Inglewood's chief of police keeps a Monday through Friday schedule. When contacted at home on Sunday about the fatal shooting involving one of her department's officers, Jacqueline Seabrooks declined to discuss the incident with a Times reporter:

"This is not the time to call," she said, adding that it was not a business day.

Cops kill a man in Inglewood, 4 shot at Mother's Day party, no luck robbing a McDonald's and a Chihuahua attack in Lancaster -- it's trouble in paradise

Murder_and_mayhem Police officers who thought they were under fire shot to death the passenger of a car and wounded the driver in Inglewood, but no guns were found; a robbery at a McDonald's in North Hollywood is foiled; an inmate out on a work-release program is stabbed in Norwalk; four men who were shot while sitting at the dining room table during a Mother's Day celebration in El Monte are in the hospital; a quarter-acre brush fire in West Covina is out; a man is dead after a 2 a.m. robbery in Azusa; a 6-year-old boy was killed in Coachella after he was struck by a car driven by a woman, who police say was driving with a suspended license while under the influence; two men in their 20s are in critical condition after their cars crashed into telephone poles during an illegal street race in San Bernardino; a carload of Latino men stopped at a railroad crossing in Oceanside were beaten with a baseball bat by a group of African American men in what police are investigating as a hate crime; the owner a Chihuahua and a pit bull turned in the animals after they allegedly attacked a horse in Lancaster.

-- Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Ruling on Miura double jeopardy expected this afternoon *UPDATE

Miura_and_his_murdered_wife_on_thei* Update 4:25 p.m.

The decision by the judge has been delayed.

Prosecutors want to try Japanese businessman Kazuyoshi Miura with the fatal shooting of his wife on a downtown street in 1981. (That's Miura and his late wife, Kazumi, on their wedding day.)Trouble is, Miura was already tried and convicted in Japan. The verdict was later overturned.

Though a state law passed in 2004 allows such prosecutions, Miura’s attorney, Mark Geragos, says both the crime and the Japanese trial predate it, so the law shouldn't apply.

Will a new trial for Miura equal double jeopardy? A judge is scheduled to make the call this afternoon.

--Veronique de Turenne

File photo: Los Angeles Times

Scores of car windows blown out in Azusa shooting spree


Someone with a pellet gun took target practice in Azusa early this morning, shooting out the windows of at least 50 cars. Francisco Vara-Orta has the details:

Shortly before 2 a.m., police received calls of a car window being shot out along North San Gabriel Avenue, according to Cpl. John Madaloni of the Azusa Police Department. Police responded to the call and found multiple car windows shot out along 11 blocks straight, stretching from the 300 to 1300 blocks of San Gabriel, Madaloni said.

Do you know who did it? If so, car owners like Juana Arias, above, wish you'd call the Azusa Police Department at (626) 812-3200 or the Glendora Police at (626) 914-8297.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.09.08

Peregrine_falcons_now_filled_with_f Peregrine falcons in California cities have more flame retardants in their bodies than any living organism anywhere on the planet. The chemicals come from the pigeons the falcons eat, more proof of how these chemicals, which damage developing nervous systems, are working their way up the food chain. Marla Cone explains.

The city's struggling to balance the budget and one plan on the table is to give -- yes, that means free -- a three-acre site in North Hollywood worth almost $15 million to a developer. David Zahniser and Steve Hymon follow the trail of red ink that led to the proposal.

Five more claims of sexual abuse by Santa Monica teacher Thomas Arthur Beltran have surfaced. One goes back to 2004, and others could reach back to 1998. And how do school officials explain all the years that Beltran remained in the classroom? Communication breakdown. Tami Abdollah has more details on the growing scandal.

Neighbors listened to 70-year-old Katan Khaimov beg for help for an hour after he was stabbed in his West Hollywood neighborhood, and no one called the police. He died in the street. Scott Gold visits Poinsettia Park and looks for answers.

At last -- some good mortgage news. The House passed a rescue bill to make $300 billion in new loans available, enough to keep about half a million homeowners out of foreclosure. (The only California Republican to vote for the bill? Rep. Gary G. Miller of Diamond Bar.) The details -- and the bill's chance of becoming law -- from Maura Reynolds.

A look at all the Kobe Bryant worship out there from Bill Dwyre.

Forget Riverdance. L.A. native Victor Quijada comes home from Canada with his ballet-based, hip-hopWhose_flag_is_it_anywayjpg_2 infused fusion troupe, Rubberdance. Victoria Looseleaf is betting you'll like it.

You're a very vocal bunch of readers, not always polite, but invariably impassioned. A sampling of the reaction to the Montrose flag controversy here. And if you're new to it, here's the story and the video.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

Salvage fashions, subversive penguins, a win for nature, and will Ryan replace Larry? It's last links

Will_ryan_seacrest_inherit_larrys_s Another win for nature lovers as the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council buys the 192 acres that complete the  Palos Verdes Nature Preserve. Daily Breeze

Ryan Seacrest in talks to replace Larry King? Fishbowl LA says yes. No word yet on who gets custody of all those suspenders.

Campaign signs for a candidate for Superior Court judge are breaking city laws, says Will Campbell at LA Metblogs.

Former Pasadena City College prez (and current state senator) Jack Scott has been named chancellor of states community colleges. CoCoTimes

A book about a penguin family with two dads tops the American Library Assn.'s most challengedSome_people_see_penguins_others_see book list. Again. Details from Nick Owchar in our fab litblog, Jacket Copy

The head of Mexico's federal police, who had taken on the war against the nation's drug cartels, was gunned down today. Mean Streets

The Salvage Fashion show - getting creative with recyclables. LA Taco

You don't want to mess with moms who are this mad about the state's education budget. The Homeroom

Retreat to a simpler time with lawn bowling in Redlands. SB Sun

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: AP, LA Times

Attempted kidnapping, alleged sex with a minor, copper thieves caught, and jail time for gangsters -- it's trouble in paradise


A man trying to kidnap a 15-year-old girl in Canyon Country is arrested, firefighters who entered a blazing home in Altadena discovered the body of an elderly woman, a SigAlert did a number on the 57 Freeway near Covina Boulevard as police investigated an accident, inspectors found $520,000 worth of fake Nikes (listed as "drainage pipe fittings" on the manifest) at the Port of Long Beach, police in Irvine think they've nabbed some copper thieves, a Moorpark bus driver is being held on suspicion of having sex with a 14-year-old autistic boy, police in Riverside find video of a clerk selling alcohol to a man who later died in a wrong-way freeway crash, a pair of brothers are sentenced to 90 years for the gang slaying of a 15-year-old Downey boy, and did you feel that? A small earthquake near the Ortega Highway at 11 a.m.

--Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.08.08

That school sex scandal just keeps getting worse. Now LAPD detectives are investigating a dean who they think may have hidden photos, a scrapbook and notes about an affair between a girl at the Foshay Learning Center and accused molester Stephen Thomas Rooney, an administrator there at the time. Richard WintonHow_lucky_can_you_get_2 digs deeper into the story.

A spate of attacks by coyotes in the Inland Empire has parents worried and officials warning to steer clear of the bold and wily animals. David Kelly explains.

What are the odds? Back-to-back fouls caught by two guys sitting side-by-side. Yes, it's Bob Pool with the story.

It's a $500-million payday for "Grand Theft Auto IV" in its first week on the market, says Alex Pham.

Ummm -- never mind. Don Perata, the Democratic leader of the state Senate, says he'll stop his campaign to recall Jeff Denham, a GOP senator from Atwater, who ticked off Perata when he refused to vote for a state budget proposal. Details of the spat from Patrick McGreevy.

Blondes_have_more_fun_2 An animal control officer in Lakewood was on a routine call when a pit bull attacked him, leaving him with wounds and bites on his arms and hands, and a broken knuckle. Rong-Gong Lin II has the full story.

Contract talks failed, so janitors say they're going to strike. Andrea Chang talks to the union.

Blonds do have more fun, when they're Cameron Diaz and Mae West, says Susan King.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

School sex scandals, silly signs, the Downtown Art Walk, and more on the taco trucks - it's last links!

The Santa Monica middle school teacher accused of having sex with students was the focus of an investigation in 2006. LAT


A San Pedro juice bar generously offers to squeeze your salary. (As if gas prices aren't doing a good enough job.) San Pedro News

Photogs who posted pics of UC Irvine students on gay porn sites won't be prosecuted. OC Reg

People don't seem to understand the whole taco truck issue, says Eating LA.

Super sales make it a super time to buy in downtown L.A. Curbed LA

Speaking of which, LAist lays out the reasons to hit the Downtown Art Walk.

Mildred Loving, the woman whose court case made interracial marriage legal, has died. LAT

More sex in the schools - a Woodland Hills principal says he didn't know an assistant swim coach was having sex with a sophomore girl in 2004. LADN

This flatulence billboard makes him sick. Here in Van Nuys

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Suspect stabs cops with syringe, man kisses boy and gets prison term, doc arrested for overdose, kid's explosion brings bomb squad - it's trouble in paradise

Handcuffs A man jabs arresting LAPD officers with a syringe in Venice,  the death of a homeless man who was punched in the face at a Reseda bus stop is ruled a homicide, an emerging portrait of a gifted con man in Glendale, a Riverside county doc arrested in fatal overdose, an industrial fire in Northridge, man gets a prison term for kissing a 10-year-old boy, Torrance man arrested in assault, a pursuit in Pomona ends in arrest,  and a 12-year-old's explosive prank brings a bomb squad to a San Diego middle school.

--Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.07.08

Two honchos in the LAUSD who first failed to look into allegations that an assistant principal had sex with students, and then cleared him to work at the Watts middle school where he was accused of molesting more students, have been removed from their jobs. Howard Blume has the details.

Meanwhile, a Santa Monica middle school teacher was charged with multiple counts of molesting five girls at Lincoln Middle School, where he had worked for 20 years. Tami Abdollah has more on that one.

All of which leads Steve Lopez to weigh in and ask about the LAUSD -- is anybody home? More of Steve'sYep_kobe_bryants_the_mvp_2 take on the molestation scandal here.

Now for some good news: It's official -- Kobe's the MVP.  Mike Bresnahan has the play-by-play, and our hard-working photog, Lori Shepler, has pix.

SAG talks end without a contract. Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller tell what's next.

Bill Gates says it's over -- Microsoft won't pursue Yahoo any more. AP via LAT.

Turns out that while LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey was in charge of Seattle's airport, an audit turned up nearly $100 million in taxpayer funds that were wasted, a slew of state law violations, and some questionable contract awards. Dan Weikel checks the similarities between the past and the present.

Robert Blake goes to court to challenge  a $15-million damage award to the kids of his slain wife, Bonnie Lee Bakely. AP via LAT.

Everybody's talking about it -- Hillary and Obama. Has he nailed it? Should she quit? And did John McCain vote against George Bush?

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Good morning - here's what's happening 5.06.08

Westwood_ready_for_another_closeup With movies, eateries and great indie shopping (OK, some chains too) Westwood Village is ready to make a comeback, says Martha Groves.

Enjoy that $3.90 gas while you can -- prices at the pump will continue to climb. Ronald D. White explains.

On another painful topic -- how low will real estate go? Sit down before you click.

Turns out officials knew about sex abuse allegations against Steve Rooney, months before they transferred the assistant principal to a middle school in Watts. Richard Winton and Howard Blume have the details.

The takeover fight between Yahoo and Microsoft is over -- who won? Google. Our staffers explain the outcome.

Another bookstore -- Libraria Martinez in Santa Ana -- is in trouble. Tony Barboza visits and finds the place could have just six months to live.Its_kobe_in_1996_2

Mark Heisler has two words for you today: Kobe Bryant. And after that, a great story  and lots of pix, and then even more pix.

Gemperle Enterprises, a Turlock, Calif., farming outfit, faces charges of cruelty and abuse after animal rights activists release troubling videos. Full story from Eric Bailey.

There's a worldwide epidemic of manhole cover theft and Long Beach, with 50 of the giant metal lids stolen in the last eight months, is the latest target. Yes, dear readers, it's a Bob Pool story.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

A pot farm, a drowning, a stabbing, and 300 dead cats - it's trouble in paradise

Trouble_in_paradise An honors student from Bellflower is stabbed to death at UC Berkelely, a driver whose passenger died after he crashed into a big rig in Huntington Beach last night is in jail, an indoor pot farm in Fontana gets busted, a man drowns in his North Hills pool, an accident on the Harbor Freeway leads to a brawl and then a shooting, a man fleeing police is found hiding in the rafters of an aquaintance's  garage, police arrest a man in Sacramento when they find 300 dead cats in his house,  Hollywood home of MySpace founder is burglarized, and a surfer is found dead in Santa Cruz, but this time it wasn't a shark.

--Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.05.08

The city wants lots more cops on the streets but can't quite say how it'll come up with the cash. David Zahniser does an economic reality check.

Lax_chief_faces_the_hot_seat_on_wed Gina Marie Lindsay, director of LAX, has managed to get a lot of improvement projects going during her 12 months as head of one of the world's busiest airports. Though plenty of city and airline officials say she's doing a great job, the airport commission's not so sure. Dan Weikel and Jennifer Oldham explain what's up with the meeting she has to attend at City Hall on Wednesday.

Lakers take Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. Mike Bresnahan describes the game, and Bill Plaschke ♥ Kobe.

Another teacher -- this one from a Santa Monica middle school -- held on suspicion of molesting students. details from Ari B. Bloomekatz and Ted Rohrlich.

Look who's buying American...companies. The Chinese, as firms go bargain hunting in the U.S.A. Don Lee explains.The_107yearold_lightbulb_3

This light bulb in Livermore has been burning for 107 years. John Glionna makes a (fire)house call.

Someone bombed the courthouse in San Diego. No injuries, and so far, not many clues. AP via LAT.

Did you love "Iron Man"? Jon Favreau is one of the big reasons why, says Geoff Boucher, who speaks with the director.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

L.A. grows, a spokesman curses, a police chase winds up in the water, and adios to Rose Bowl freebies -- it's more news!

Aren't you new here? L.A.'s population tops 4 million. Daily News

Yes, you can: surf, ski & hike in L.A. in one day. Tami Abdollah shows how it's done.  LAT

Cougars_are_vital_to_the_ecosystem_ Young, gifted and in business - African Americans lead the nation in start-up ventures. Our Weekly

Humans appeared, cougars vanished, and Yosemite hasn’t been the same since. SF Gate

Inmate found dead in Ventura County Jail. Ventura County Star

A man being chased by police in San Pedro drives his van right off the road and into the harbor. Daily Breeze

What the...! San Diego mayoral spokesman caught cussing in e-mail. Union Tribune

Not SoCal but so sad -- after 13 years, South Africa says it's OK to kill elephants again. L.A. Unleashed No_freebies_for_you_3

Funny business at Herbalife? Mark Lacter thinks so. LA Biz Observed

Freebie Rose Bowl tickets could soon be a thing of the past. SGV Trib

Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Friday morning mayhem from across Southern California

PoliceThe sister of a 52-year-old man found his body in an underground septic tank behind her Riverside home. The man had been doing yard work, and the family had grown worried when they  had not heard from him for several hours. (Press Enterprise & LAT).....Police said a teenage driver who fled from an accident that killed a 4-year-old boy near a Baldwin Hills playground turned himself in Thursday night. The 17-year-old driver, who did not stop and fled from the scene, was charged with vehicular manslaughter.....A fatal crash on the 101 freeway in the Cahuenga Pass left a Fire_4 32-year-old woman dead and backed up traffic for several hours during the evening commute.....The Sierra Madre fire has been full contained after consuming nearly 600 acres, CNS reports.....The number of renters who were apparently the victims of real estate fraud in Covina has grown to 50.  They all put down $2,400 in a deposit and first-month rent for the same home. Some are now homeless themselves after moving out of their previous residences. Police are searching for the landlord.....Two mountain lions were Kreme_4 spotted wandering around a Newhall neighborhood. Small bones apparently from a small domestic  animal were found nearby.....Can I get a dozen doughnuts, fast? A stolen SUV being chased by police crashed into a Krispy Kreme in Orange. Three people were injured and the drive-thru will be out of commission for a month.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photos: Los Angeles Times and Associated Press

A City Hall spat, charter schools in trouble, Pico Rivera parents talk recall, and Jose Canseco loses his house. It's last links!

Rocky_vs_antonio_at_city_hall Quite the "Did so!" "Did not!" "Did so!" spat developing between Rocky Delgadillo, L.A.'s city attorney, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Details from Robert Greene in Opinion LA.

A fight over charter schools in the L.A. Unified School District. LADN

Is this the worst dog park on earth? LAist

Altadena woman sentenced to 25 years to life in murder of her newborn baby. Star-News

A cool photo of a snake skeleton at The Contaminated.Jese_canseco_loses_his_home

Parents threaten recall over Pico Rivera school closures. Wave Newspapers

Missed the May Day demonstrations? Then join the marijuana march. Desert Sun

Compton College years away from accreditation. Wave Newspapers

Former major league baseball player Jose Canseco's home foreclosed. LAT

-- Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photos: Los Angeles Times

L.A. educator accused of molestation to stand trial

Steve_rooney_will_stand_trial_2 Steve Rooney, the assistant principal transferred to a Watts middle school despite accusations of sexual misconduct with students at his previous school, will go before a jury, Richard Winton reports:

Rooney was ordered Thursday to stand trial for allegedly have a sexual relationship with a student from the Foshay Learning Center, as well as two girls at Markham Middle School, where Rooney was moved after Foshay.

The LAUSD has come under intense criticism for the transfer, which occurred after the Los Angeles Police Department began investigating Rooney for alleged having sex with the Foshay student. All three alleged victims testified at a preliminary hearing this week.

The Foshay student testified Thursday that she essentially lived at Rooney’s downtown Los Angeles loft for portions of 2005-2007, and that he took her to public events, including a military ball and trips to San Diego and New York. She said she had become pregnant and suffered a miscarriage.

Richard's full story here.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times

Dennis Rodman's in trouble, the desert's shaking, and there's a manhunt in L.A. - more news!

Dennis_rodmans_out_on_bail Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is out on $50,000 bail after being booked in Van Nuys jail this morning on suspicion of domestic battery. LAT

L.A. Unified tries to keep students from skipping school to attend marches. Press- Telegram

Earthquake rocks Borrego Springs. Union-Tribune

Police hunt for a man who tried to sexually assault two preteen girls near MacArthur Park. LAT

Strike by EMTs in Antelope, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita Valleys is over. LADN

Escondido cops train on the Virtual Hallucination machine. North County Times

16-year-old boy shot while allegedly ramming Ventura police car.  Ventura County StarTapping_the_source_2

Bottled water, please. High levels of arsenic found in Rosamond school wells. Antelope Valley Press

-- Jesus Sanchez & Veronique de Turenne

Photo: AP

Good morning -- here's what's happening 5.01.08

This_kids_13_years_old The mayor's "zone" approach to dealing with gangs is off to a somewhat slow start. The policing portion of the plan is up and running in eight areas, but prevention and intervention programs, long a mess, have yet to debut. How will it work, what will it cost, and when will we know if this new plan is working? Joe Mozingo has the story.

L.A. falls to No. 2 in the Top 10 list of U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution. (We take our victories where we can.) Tami Abdollah examines the numbers.

It's May Day: check out the traffic plans and other info.

Some interesting stuff in the new poll about how Californians feel about education and taxes. African Americans are the most worried about the quality of our schools, while Latinos are the most willing to tax themselves to make things better. More details in Mitchell Landsberg's full story.

How odd were Anthony Pellicano's closing arguments? As odd as the trial itself. Carla Hall was there.

A 4.4 earthquake hit early this morning near Bakersfield. AP via LAT.

But that's nothing compared to Reno --  they've had 1,000 quakes in the last two  months. Ashley Powers and Thomas H. Maugh II investigate.

Were those two major contracts at LAX kosher? Laura Chick and Janice Hahn seem to think not, and have Der_meisterdude_aka_gustavo_dudamelasked for investigations. Dan Weikel has the details.

Casual Fridays come to the L.A. Phil, a perfect match for casual L.A. Donna Perlmutter tells all.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

A Covina rental deal that proved to good to be true

Rent A three-bedroom house in Covina for $1,200 a month? That's a deal. And apparently a scam. At least 12 families found out too late before each handed over $2,400 in rent and a deposit on the same house that was advertised on Craigslist, reports the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.  The ad can no longer be found but investigators  said that it  looks like another and all too common example of housing fraud.

Many of the renters had expected to move into the house at 5441 N. Calera Avenue this week, including Stevan Ortiz and his girlfriend, who had given notice on their apartment.

"We made so many plans," said Ortiz, who tried contacting the owner over the weekend. "I had this in the back of my mind when I couldn't get ahold of him."

In preparing for the move, Ortiz had purchased appliances and had also arranged to get a dog to romp around in their new home.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Bloomberg News

Hot dogs, dock workers, LAPD's review process, and Oprah -- a liar? It's more news!

Dock workers opposed to Iraq war plan to walk off the job Thursday. Daily Breeze

L.A.'s top cop says he'll take a hard look at the LAPD's review practices, after none of the 320 complaints of racial profiling by officers were found to be credible. LADN

Did Oprah lie? Fabulist James Frey says yes. Vanity Fair via Huffington Post.

Hot_dog_we_love_la With Pink's, Cupid's, Jody Maroni's, Johnnie's Pastrami, the Stand, Carney's and Oki Dog, Dodger Dogs and more and even more, L.A.'s a hot town for hot dogs. LAT

Starbucks to test smoothies in SoCal stores. Fast Food Maven

DWP tells L.A. it's using too much energy. LAist

A big-rig crash shuts down the Pomona Freeway east of Crossroads Boulevard. Pasadena Star-News

RV maker Fleetwood says its staying put in Riverside. Press Enterprise

Stuck in traffic with L.A. pedestrian expert. StreetsBlog LA

OC elementary schoolteacher who had a gun in her classroom pleads "not guilty." OC Reg

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Wednesday morning mayhem across Southern California

Tape A 10-year-old Riverside area boy playing in a sand pile dies after being buried.... Fire hits the intersection of Hollywood & Vine....Police allege that a Santa Ana man who drove his SUV off a cliff was trying to kill himself and the two boys he was carrying after a dispute with the boys' mother (LAT and OC Register)....Gang members wielding a skateboard beat up and robbed a Marine while walking on Redondo Beach's Esplanade.... After spending more than 30 years as a fugitive, a San Diego mother who walked away from a Detroit prison in the 1970s has finally been caught.... The owner of L'Opera and other Long Beach restaurants was tied up and robbed at his Rancho Palos Verdes home.... Avocado thieves arrested in Camarillo.... Truckers and motorists driving on the 10 Freeway in Riverside County should prepare for high winds.

--Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.30.08

Of the 320 complaints of racial profiling filed against LAPD officers last year, not one was found to be credible? That's the sixth year in a row that all claims have been dismissed, and more than a few people are, well, skeptical. Joel Rubin has the details.

Home_equity_4 Home prices fell almost 20% in L.A. and the O.C. Peter Y. Hong delivers the bad news.

While we're at it, we'll let the other shoe drop: The economy grew just 0.6% in the first quarter. Maura Reynolds reports.

That sound you hear? It's wallets slamming shut across the nation as consumers get really, really worried. Peter G. Gosselin has the story.

The Sierra Madre wildfire is 81% contained. Wire service via Long Beach P-T.

When wildfires burn California's thick and sheltering cover of brush, secrets are revealed. What lies beneath, from Janet Wilson.

Thirty-three years after the Vietnam war ended, the people of Little Saigon remember. My-Thuan Tran spends time with the expats on this emotional and, for some, difficult anniversary. Her story here.

The Swiss chemist who invented LSD has died. Thomas H. Maugh II writes about his life.

Marcus_hill A 5.2 earthquake rocked northern California last night. AP via LAT.

Marcus Hill stutters. And he wins speech competitions. Mind over matter, and grace under pressure. Story from (who else?) Bob Pool.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Chart: Los Angeles TImes

Student arrested for violent threats on Wikipedia

Wiki_threats_at_high_school Wiki - short for "what I know is". What they know at Wilson High is the school's page in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, open to virtual editing by virtually anyone, was used for more than a year to hurl insults and make violent threats, mostly against Asian students. Molly Hennessy-Fiske has the story:

The writer, who said he was a student, hid behind an ... e-mail address to threaten by name Asian students at the San Gabriel Valley school, hurl racial slurs at the school's primarily Asian badminton team and allude to possible attacks.

"I would love to see her shot right between the eyes with blood gushing out from her mouth begging for mercy as she clings onto a single shred of life," read a message about an Asian student posted May 28, 2007. "Haha now there's a great fantasy."

Wiki staffers warned the school and two weeks ago, school officials and sheriff's detectives started investigating. What came next was more threats, a cat-and-mouse game and, finally, an arrest. Read Molly's full story here.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Genaro Molino / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.29.08

South_la_fire Wooden pallets acted like kindling as a fire raged in a South L.A. industrial complex. Francisco Vara-Orta has all the details. Meanwhile, the Sierra Madre fire still burns.

Lakers sweep. Bill Plaschke recaps.

A four-year delay faces the grand Grand Avenue development project slated for downtown. The double whammy of the credit crunch and the soft (that's putting it politely) real estate market have pushed the projected finish date to 2012. The first phase was supposed to be finished next year. So what'll happen now? Cara Mia DiMassa has the full story.

Another milestone pegged to 2012: a third of the state's voters will be immigrants. Teresa Watanabe runs the numbers.

Autopsy confirms the San Diego swimmer was killed by a great white shark. AP via LAT.

Two more molestation charges against that assistant principal who was transfered to Markham Middle School, despite accusations of sexual misconduct at his previous assignment.  Richard Winton and Molly Hennessy-Fiske have the update.

He_says_it_was_suicide_4 The trial for the man who caused the worst crash in Metrolink history opened with statements he was faking a suicide to win back his wife's love. He's fine, but 11 people died. Ann M. Simmons tells what happened in court.

You mean things aren't tough enough for bookstores? Scammers posing as authors are trying (and sometimes managing) to squeeze some cash from the businesses. Scott Timberg has details.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

O.C. runs out of room, L.A. waits for Wi-Fi, did the DEA raid the pot machines? It's more news!

Medical_marijuana_2 Remember those medical marijuana vending machines? They've been removed by the DEA, according to Hollywood Riot.

Orange County: Running out of room to grow. O.C. Register

The long wait ahead for the wired bus. Daily News

May 1 is Taco Truck Day, says LA Taco.

Copper_wire_hot_commodity_2 Rose Parade float builders left in the dark by copper wire thieves. Wave Newspapers

Hundreds honor the memory of Inland Empire public works builder Martin Matich. Press-Enterprise

Americana at Brand is having a grand-opening party, and guess what? You're not invited! Frankin Avenue

-- Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photos: Los Angeles Times

Murder and mayhem - SoCal crime on Monday

Murder_and_mayhem Two dead, three wounded in a South L.A. driveby. LAT

A man was found shot to death in the 7800 block of South Figueroa Street early Sunday. Turns out residents heard gunshots, but no one called the police, according to the LAPD.

A stabbing, a shooting, a pot bust and a bomb scare - a busy weekend in El Monte. SGV Trib

A 91-year-old grandmother killed in a hit-and-run in West Covina. Star-News

Tagging crew causes havoc in Baldwin Park. SGV Trib

Three Moorpark residents killed in a weekend car crash are identified. Ventura County Star

Four injured this morning when a van carrying O.C. jail inmates crashes in Irvine. LAT

A Rancho Cucamonga woman was arrested on suspicion of dumping her newborn baby in a dumpster. The baby, discovered by a homeless man, survived. San Bernardino Sun

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Illustration: Anthony Russo / For The Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.28.08

The latest on the Sierra Madre wildfire -- pix, video and story.

Villaraigosa Here comes another controversial money-saving scheme as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tries to balance the budget. Except this one, critics say, is an accounting gimmick that will wind up costing the city -- which is, of course, the taxpayers -- more money. It's a little complicated, but David Zahniser breaks it down.

Bank of America -- they're buying Countrywide Financial Corp. -- promised mortgage aid as part of the package. E. Scott Reckard has the details.

How hot was it? Record-breaking at LAX and in Camarillo, triple digits in Woodland Hills and so hot downtown that some of the 150,000 people at the Fiesta Broadway celebration got heatstroke. LADN; Daily Breeze

San Diego beaches, after that fatal shark attack, will reopen today. AP via LAT.

A day after a gangland-style shootout left dozens dead and injured in the streets of Tijuana, nobody's talking, says Hector Tobar.

Buttonwillow_farmers Remember those farmers from South L.A. -- the ones who fought like mad and even had Daryl Hannah climbing a tree to keep them from getting evicted? They've moved to Buttonwillow (yes, you've seen that exit sign every time you've driven I-5), and so far things are coming up roses French spinach. Steve Chawkins has the details.

U.S. 395 near Mammoth Mountain is getting widened to two lanes, and our traffic guru, Steve Hymon, is happy.

How do you get Vin Scully and John Wooden to agree to appear together onstage in a Father's Day chat-fest to benefit kids with cancer? Just ask, says T.J. Simers. More about the event and the people who are going to make it happen in T.J.'s column.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Illustration: John Ritter

A billionaire's a snob, Laker tattoos, and Wesley Snipes is convicted. It's last links!

Wesley_snipes_gets_3_years Wesley Snipes gets three years for tax evasion. AP via LAT

Billionaire plans to launch mag named "Snob." Media Bistro

Is the port of LA secure? Daily Breeze

The end of rent control under consideration. LADN

Tattoos make personal statements for Laker players. OC Register

State will investigate grizzly attack in Big Bear. Press Enterprise

Beck headlines the Bowl. LAist

Au pairs hit the beach. Santa Monica Mirror

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photo: AP

Police chase ends in fatal shooting in San Bernardino


A pursuit that began in San Bernardino ended in Upland when the suspect rammed a sheriff's deputy's patrol car and was shot to death, said Cindy Beavers, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. The shooting took place about 4:45 a.m. on Mountain Avenue near an offramp from the 210 Freeway. Full story here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.24.08

Dodger_stadium_or_mall_of_america Big, big, BIG plans from Frank McCourt to renovate Dodger Stadium (for a guesstimated $500 million) by adding restaurants and shops, club offices and parking, and even a Dodger museum. The upgrades could "give the stadium a chance to remain viable and perhaps see its 100th birthday," a letter to season ticket holders read. Anyone else get a bad feeling from that word, "even"? Bill Shaikin and David Zahniser have all the details.

A sensational killing, a single fingerprint and two Gypsy families at war -- it's a story of murder, traditions and revenge. Hector Becerra and Richard Winton have the story.

Anthony Pellicano says he won't rat out his clients. Trial coverage from Carla Hall.

Pay to ride in the carpool lane? The Feds are dangling $213 million in front of L.A. officials to get them to say yes.  Steve Hymon explains.

Cops in Laguna Beach try something new -- making friends with the homeless to get them off the streets, Susannah Rosenblatt reports.

Will_they_kill_the_grizzly_2 Don't kill the grizzly! That's the word from friends and colleagues of the animal trainer killed by the bear in what they call a freak accident. Details from David Kelly.

It's all about Kobe as the Lakers take a 2-0 lead over the Nuggets. And the Times' Mike Bresnahan? Still happy.

More record-breaking news from that singer who dethroned Elvis from Randy Lewis.

More music: a hilarious review of Ashlee Simpson's latest, from Richard Cromelin.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photos: Los Angeles Times

Who drugged Pasha? Police have a 'person of interest'

Pasha_grishuk_dosed_with_date_rape_ There's a "person of interest" in the drugging of Oksana "Pasha" Grishuk, an Olympic ice dancer who was dosed with a date-rape drug while eating dinner at a snazzy Orange County hotel earlier this month. No name yet, and the man is not under arrest. The Times' Susannah Rosenblatt has more:

Grishuk discovered a pill in the bottom of her glass of red wine during a dinner meeting April 12, which tested positive for the date-rape drug GHB.

Sheriff’s officials have interviewed the man, whom Grishuk has known for about two years, but he is not under arrest, said Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino. Authorities declined to release the man’s name. The two were at dinner alone.

The 60-something man in question joined Grishuk for dinner and drinks at the luxurious St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Amormino said. They met to discuss plans for Grishuk, a two-time gold-medal winner for Russia, to start a vitamin and clothing business. Grishuk, 36, finished part of a drink in the hotel lounge; halfway through dinner she began to feel "pretty strange and nauseous, her lips were numb," Amormino said. The Aliso Viejo resident then discovered the pill. Authorities were called and she was briefly hospitalized.

Grishuk did not leave her drinks unattended, but remembered looking away for a moment during dinner, Amormino said.

No one else, including St. Regis employees, is under scrutiny. Results of blood tests, which should be available in about 10 days, will go to the OC's district attorney.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Eric Draper / Associated Press

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.23.08

Don't look for the California housing market to recover any time soon -- foreclosures quadrupled in the last three months -- as home values keep falling and all those dicey mortgages take their toll. Peter Y. Hong runs the alarming numbers.

Is this smart? A contaminated field in East Hollywood gets the nod for a new elementary school. Evelyn Larrubia explains how and why and how much it will cost.

Taco_truck_endangered_species_3 In defense of the taco truck -- an impassioned essay in our fab Food section.

A stealthy end for the still top-secret F-117A Night Hawk fighter jets as they made their final flight in the skies above Palmdale before heading to retirement in the Nevada desert. Peter Pae joined a few hundred fans to watch the historic event.

A "green" building law gets the green light from the L.A. City Council. (Hint: plant drought-tolerant landscaping; use recycled materials.) Details from Margot Roosevelt.

LAPD's top brass say they want civilians to take over clerical jobs but some, like running the front desk at local police stations, are really no different than riding in a police car. Jill Leovy explains why.

Literary fiction works blue. Kinky details from Swati Pandey.

L.A. may not have an NFL team, but that doesn't stop Sam Farmer from running a mock NFL draft.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Bandini / LA Taco

Does your laptop have anything to declare?

Now_your_laptop_is_fair_game Now the files and photos on your laptop are fair game to customs agents at LAX and no, unlike the police, they don't need probable cause to search them. That's the latest ruling, handed down yesterday by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The search-and-seizure case got started when a U.S. Customs inspector found child porn on a laptop belonging to O.C. resident Michael Arnold when he passed through LAX in 2005 after a trip to the Phillipines.

Marilyn Bednarski, Arnold's lawyer, says she'll ask for a new hearing, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

A search of a personal computer is more intrusive than an inspection of someone's car or luggage, she said, because people use computers as "an extension of ourselves. It really is like looking into someone's mind, rather than looking into a box or a folder or a purse."

The ruling would authorize airport searches of other electronic devices such as cellphones without evidence of wrongdoing, Bednarski said.

Arnold had been randomly chosen by customs agents for the search. They powered up his laptop, searched the desktop and folders and found the pornography. He now faces charges of possessing and transporting child porn. If convicted, he faces 30 years in federal prison.

More at, Reuters, Daily Breeze and the WSJ's Law Blog.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Tribune Media Services

A skunk cam, a floral funk and yes, again with the Ferris wheel - more news!

More jail problems for the O.C.: A brawl in the Men's Central Jail leads to a lockdown. LAT

Church in Panorama City damaged by Molotov cocktail. LADN

Santa Monica Ferris Wheel: one bid ($50K) and two retractions. Four days left. EBay

The blog of unnecessary quotation marks. Because it's funny and "quirky" and there's "something for Import_flowers_shoulder_caligrown_a everyone." And that's enough unnecessary quotation marks for "one post." (OK, now I'm done.)

State flower growers wilt under competitive pressure from imports. Ventura County Star

Smile. The Skunk Cam is watching.  [ sic ]

Remember the request line on KGIL 1260. VanNuys Boomers 

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.21.08

A few headlines to get you started on a chilly (41 degrees in Malibu) Monday morning:

Do those anti-gang programs the city's always fighting about actually work? It'll be two more years until you can find out. David Zahniser explains why.

Big increase in suspicious house fires as foreclosures spike, says Ken Bensinger.

Lakers polish off the Nuggets in the playoff opener. Mike Bresnahan sounds mighty happy.

An_1830_trombone_with_a_dragon_head An incredibly cool collection of 1,200 unusual instruments (a Tibetan temple bell that's 9 feet long, a trombone with a dragon's head, a Moroccan fiddle made from a turtle shell) is being sold by the Claremont Colleges to a museum in Phoenix. Fans of the seldom seen (no funds) collection are aghast. Larry Gordon has the full story.

It's a tough job but somebody's got to walk along SoCal's beautiful coastline, checking for code violations. Tony Barboza has the details.

Fancy schmancy (used) baby gear for sale for pennies on the dollar at an upscale swap meet. Jennifer Oldham hangs with the parents and tells all. (There's a video too.)

State Republicans are trying for an image rehab and George Skelton thinks it's high time they tried to seem less scary.

Is "American Idol" losing steam? Scott Collins looks at Season 7 and sees trouble ahead.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

She did the time, but not the crime

Cynthia_sommer_is_free After close to 2 1/2 years in jail in connection with an alleged murder for profit that her accusers now say never happened, Cynthia Sommer wants some coffee, a nice shrimp dinner, and maybe a lawsuit. Our own Tony Perry has the details:

On Thursday, [San Diego County] Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis moved to dismiss murder charges against Sommer, telling reporters at a hastily called news conference that overlooked evidence and new scientific scrutiny had poked holes in the prosecution's assertion that she used arsenic to kill her husband, [Marine] Sgt. Todd Sommer. 

Within hours of Dumanis' startling announcement, Sommer was free and surrounded by friends and family.

It's a tale of arsenic poisoning, bungled lab tests, breast implants and parties in Tijuana. The full scoop on Sommer (pictured here with her lawyer, Allen Bloom) in Tony's full story.

—Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Associated Press

Police union vs. Bratton over Special Order 40

JamielA proposal to change the LAPD's controversial policy dealing with undocumented immigrants picked up a powerful ally today, the Los Angeles Police Protective League. The union, which represents more than 9,000 LAPD officers, said it is backing a motion introduced last week by Los Angeles Councilman Dennis Zine that would require officers to check on the immigration status of gang members suspected of being undocumented immigrants -- even if they are not under arrest.

That motion would change LAPD's Special Order 40, which restricts officers' ability to inquire about a person's immigration status. Zine introduced the motion after the parents of slain high school football star Jamiel Shaw Jr., who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant, made an emotional plea before the council to amend Special Order 40. In a statement, league President Tim Sands said:

“Councilman Zine’s motion offers a common-sense approach that will give our officers a needed tool to remove dangerous gang members from the communities they are threatening. This motion will improve and enhance our officers’ ability to provide security in the neighborhoods where hard-working men and women, immigrants or native born, are trying to protect themselves and their families from gang violence.”

This is probably the first time the police union has taken a position on Special Order 40, officials tell The Times' Richard Winton.  Today's announcement pits the union against LAPD Chief William Bratton. The chief has come out strongly against the motion, saying it amounts to "racial profiling." Instead, he proposes providing officers with more info on Special Order 40, which he said is widely misunderstood.

There are plenty of other opinions on this touchy issue. On Sunday, the Times California section will have an entire page devoted to Special Order 40

-- Jesus Sanchez

A few last links to round out the day

Now that's a close-up: LA and NYC airports start using revealing body scanners. AP via LAT

A reward for info about the slaying last month of a 16-year-old in Monrovia's "No Man's Land." Star-news

Panic room or wine cellar -- buyer's choice. Curbed LA

Neon_cruise_on_saturday It's the Poet's Beat Neon Cruise this Saturday, leaving from the (newly relocated) Museum of Neon Art.

Mommy's tummy tuck -- explaining plastic surgery to your toddler. (Can't make stuff like this up.) Jacket Copy

Still just one bid for the Santa Monica Ferris wheel. But now you can get six months with no payments. EBay

U.S. warns travelers about Mexican border violence. OC Register

Hacienda Heights high school will be closed a second day amid student threats. SGV Tribune

Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Here, there and everywhere - more news!

Manhattan Beach ponies up a cool half-million to help its financially squeezed school district. Daily Breeze

Another arrest -- of a 17-year-old -- in the drive-by killing of Ronald "Drifter" Burgess in Tujunga. LADN

Supes say yes to more cameras in the O.C. jail. KPCC

Bea_arthur_now_in_tv_academys_hall_ It's the Television Academy's Hall of Fame for Bea Arthur, says Out in Hollywood.

At last! A sex- and profanity-free Ask a Mexican column we can link to.

Prepare yourself for fire season. Daily News

Thousand Oaks on the patrol for illegal Open House signs. Ventura County Star

Culver City approves 12-story tower over opposition from L.A. neighbors. Daily Breeze

Orange County, a national leader in greenhouse gases. Science Dude

A high school pusher confesses. The Home Room

-- Jesus Sanchez & Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

This just in: Judge in Black Widow trial announces some verdicts

Trial_3 Helen Golay, 77, has been found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy in a chilling, slow-motion plot to kill homeless men for $2.8  million in life insurance, the trial judge said this afternoon.

A Los Angeles jury convicted co-defendant Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, of conspiracy, and continues to deliberate murder charges against her. Times Staff reporters are in the courtroom working the story.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Los Angeles Times

South Bay left out of Villaraigosa's anti-gang plan

Harbor_gateway_area_gets_snubbed_in While Antonio Villaraigosa was busy reinventing the city's anti-gang programs with 12 "gang reduction zones," he somehow forgot to include some areas in the South Bay with pernicious and persistent problems, the Daily Breeze reports.

None of the 12 zones, including four new ones announced on Tuesday, is in the Harbor Area. Howard Uller, former president of the Toberman Settlement House in San Pedro, argued that the plan should have provided more funding to areas outside the gang reduction zones.

"You're dismantling a safety net, and you don't have anything to replace it with," he said. "We'll eventually get gang reduction zones here in the Harbor, but we're not getting them now because we've been so successful. We're being punished for success."

Despite a spate of high-profile shootings in the Harbor Gateway area, none of the new money or resources seem to be headed that way, the article states. More about robbing Peter to pay Paul in the Breeze's full story.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Here, there and everywhere - more news!

Feds shift the pain of being bumped from a flight from you to the airlines, who will have to pony up $800. LAT

LAPD releases crime stats for 2007. Rape, robbery and assault, all down. Murder -- up almost 10%. LAPD blog

Is an NFL stadium in the works in Irwindale? Haven't we heard this before?  SGV Tribune

Barbra Streisand gives Cedars-Sinai Medical Center $5 million for an education and research program specializing in cardiac care for women. NYT

Who invited him? O.C. firefighter arrested after he tried to attend a slumber party by sneaking through a doggie door. O.C. Register

Opponents try to reverse new L.A. public library fee. Franklin Avenue

Suspect arrested in the beating death of a homeless amputee in San Diego. Union Tribune

The Delta-Northwest merger won't have much effect on LAX -- for now.  LA Biz Observed

Why caused that small-plane crash last night in San Dimas? SGV Trib

Renters' revenge: Rental increases in L.A., O.C. and the I.E. were the smallest in eight years.  O.C. Register

A 27-year-old Sherman Oaks man committed suicide by jumping into traffic from a bridge over the 210 Freeway in Fontana. LADN

The Long Beach Grand Prix is this weekend, and boy, are they ever ready. Press-Telegram

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

An old LAPD leader plays the part in Street Kings

GatesThe new Keanu Reeves movie "Street Kings" certainly presents a dark portrait of law enforcement, with outlaw and racist cops roughing up citizens in an out-of-control city that looks strikingly similar to Los Angeles. So it's surprising that in the midst of this movie mayhem appears an LAPD icon: former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, playing the chief of police.

“The film doesn’t put the LAPD in the best light, but there is a strong message of redemption, and I responded to that,”  Gates tells Internet film reviewer Emanuel Levy. “That meant something to me because in my eyes the LAPD is extraordinarily special.”

While "Street Kings" has met with mixed reviews, Gates' brief appearance as a department chief during a cop funeral is  "supreme stunt casting" said one online review.  Reeves said that Gates, who attended the movie's premiere, was "awesome”  and that he was "very cool" to everyone.

Many of the current occupants of Parker Center, however, have been left speechless by Gates' film role, says the Times' Andrew Blankstein. The film, as originally written by James Elroy, was set in the wake of the police beating of Rodney King and the riots that followed. Not exactly a golden era for the LAPD or Gates, who left in 1992 amid intense criticism.

Not only are LAPD officials shaking their heads at seeing Gates in the film, but the movie's producer was equally taken a back when he accepted the part.

“When we called him he asked if the film was pro-police, and we told him that it was for certain types of police," said producer Lucas Foster. "We sent him the script, and he thought it was excellent. We were so shocked and are so grateful that he was willing to do it.”

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: AP

Riverside neighborhood doesn't want to lose its resident cop

CrimeResidents along Antioch Avenue have felt much safer since Riverside Police Officer Marcus Smail moved into a city-owned house on their street. The police sergeant wasted no time helping neighbors fight crime and blight. But while crime has fallen since Smail's arrival, so have property values. That has complicated efforts to sell the city-owned house to Smail and keep him in the neighborhood, reports Amanda Strindberg of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The city of Riverside slashed its price for the one-story home to about $250,000 -- a steep discount from the $375,000 it paid more than two years ago.  Despite being far less than what the city paid, the asking price remains at the high end of recent neighborhood sales and about $50,000 above Smail's last offer.

With negotiations over price and other issues having broken down, Smail is now house hunting in other places. His neighbors, meanwhile, worry that his departure will mean that crime will move back to Antioch Avenue.

"You know people won't mess with you if there's a cop in the neighborhood," said Walter Herrera.

But if the recent plunge in home sales and prices continue, it looks like the city will be coming back to the negotiating table.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.16.08

There's toxic cement dust -- lots of it -- in the air in the Riverside area, and the neighbors? Not happy. Janet Wilson has the details.

There's a chemical in plastic that a federal health agency says could be hurting kids and babies. The plastic industry, meanwhile (surprise!) disagrees. Marla Cone tells both sides of the story.

An obsolete Reseda movie theater gets a new lease on life -- and a Spanish accent, writes Amanda Covarrubias.

Fabian Nuñez, the termed-out speaker in the state Assembly, pushes three new bills in a bid to burnish his legacy. Nancy Vogel has the story.

Magic Johnson has the Midas touch, Roger Vincent learns.

Jessica Ortega, believed to be a gang member, is charged in the slaying of a woman on a freeway offramp in South Los Angeles, Andrew Blankstein reports.

Was that cat in the O.C. jail killed by a stun gun? A new investigation is launched in the sorry scandal.

The Lakers clinch the West. Mike Bresnahan describes the long -- and surprising -- road to victory.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" breaks the full-frontal taboo. For men. Chris Lee has the story.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Because you can't make this stuff up

Lots of details in those 7,000 pages of grand jury testimony in the Theo Lacy jail beating, where deputies watched TV, played video games and took naps while on duty. This exchange on TV viewing habits comes from the Aug. 30 testimony of Deputy Jason Chapluk, who was on duty the night inmate John Derek Chamberlain was beaten to death.











Turns out deputies lied to the grand jury. Think they were actually watching these cops instead?

-- Veronique de Turenne

A lot of weird bad news from all over SoCal

Extraction_of_the_plane_that_crashe Several accidents on L.A. freeways and roads today left two men dead, a disabled man in San Diego was beaten to death with his own crutch, a bicyclist was shot to death near Mar Vista, a man who was cleaning his swimming pool in Vista was killed by the big rig that crashed into his yard, a kid riding a bike and hitting people with a plastic baseball bat was arrested in Canoga Park, a construction worker in Chino was hurt when he fell through the roof, a man in Lakewood was so peeved it was too late to buy beer, he drove his truck through the front of the store, police responding to a domestic dispute in Long Beach wound up shooting at the family dog, and officials of the Sheriff's Department in the O.C. are looking into whether Theo Lacy jail personnel Tasered a cat to death.

And now for an antidote: the Good News Network.

-- Veronique de Turenne

This photo of workers removing the wreckage of the small plane that crashed into a house in Compton was shot by Rick Loomis of the L.A. Times photo staff.

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.15.08

It's April 15 and the tax man cometh. Unless you file for an extension.  Need a post office that stays open late tonight?  The answer at (800) ASK-USPS. More tips and resources for procrastinators last-minute tax filers right here.

Speaking of money, that's exactly what Antonio Villaraigosa wants, lots of it, to put 1,000 more police officers on L.A.'s streets. How, exactly? With a 38% trash rate hike, for starters. And maybe a sales tax increase. And that's on top of the DWP hike already on the table. Just how deep into your pockets does the city want to reach? Our man in City Hall, David Zahniser, has the details.

There's a cancer-causing chemical in the air in Riverside, and the South Coast AQMD thinks it's coming from giant piles of clinker dust from a nearby cement plant. More from Janet Wilson.

More mayhem leaves two men dead in East L.A., Francisco Vara-Orta reports.

Listing prices down $130K from their peak. LA Land

A famous freedom fighter joins the cause in Little Saigon and protests a newspaper accused of communist leanings. My-Thuan Tran explains.

Northwest and Delta plan to merge, a move that won't affect us here in SoCal, at least not directly since the two carriers only account for a combined 11% of the market at LAX. But you might see some long-term effects on the airline industry, and we're not talking cheaper flights or better service. Peter Pae has the details.

Her daughter did it! That's the last-minute shift in the defense of one of the two 70-something women charged with taking out big insurance policies on homeless men, then killing them. Victoria Kim is following the trial.

Another high-profile court drama is coming to town -- the tax evasion trial of Joe Francis, of "Girls Gone Wild"  infamy fame.  Associated Press via L.A. Times.

-- Veronique de Turenne

A few last links to round out the day

Homeless 17-year-old in NorCal gets perfect SAT scores. KCRA

Union City, Calif., among six cities natiowide caught shortening the time of a yellow traffic light to make it easier for you to get caught running the red -- and owe the city money.

Reporter from KKTV sues LAPD for treatment during last year's May Day protests. Daily Breeze

Feds say lawyers working for Michael Corona, the scandal-plagued ex-O.C. sheriff, are abusing the subpoena process by asking for files that could include nearly 30,000 pages, says the O.C. Reg blog, The Crime Scene

First case of childhood measles reported in L.A. County since 2006. LA County

Fewer students might mean fewer schools in Pico Rivera. Wave Newspapers

USC buys University and Norris Cancer hospitals from Tenet. LABJ

Why reporters get less sleep than ever. Daily Breeze

Big Boy rescues Johnie's Broiler. Wave Newspapers

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

State of the City: gangs on the agenda

It's curtains for one of the city’s most established antigang programs, with money shifting instead to 12 “Gang Reduction Zones,” our own David Zahniser has learned. The zone approach will focus on parts of the city where youths are most likely to get involved in gang life.

The existing programs -- L.A. Bridges I, which works to keep youths from joining gangs, and L.A. Bridges II, which tries to get youths out of gangs -- will be phased out by Dec. 31, said Deputy Mayor Jeff Carr. The mayor’s strategy will be mapped in detail later this afternoon, when the mayor gives his third State of the City address, conveniently timed for the evening news.

And if you just can’t wait for the 6 o’clock news, watch a live webcast (starting at 5 p.m.) here.

Full story to come.

-- Veronique de Turenne

A few last links to round out the day

How crazy did things get during the U.S. leg of the anti-China protests Olympic torch relay in San Francisco today? Crazy enough that at about a zillion police were at the scene, CNN covered it like a sporting event and, at one point, the runner disappeared. Full story here. And pix, of course.

Man dies in a wood-chipper accident in Inglewood. LAT

Two landscapers in Cerritos found $140,000 in cash last month. You're reading about it, so yes, they turned it in. And got a $2,000 reward from the bank whose ATM machines the money was meant for. Daily Breeze

Think the Pellicano trial is dull? Try Nikki Finke's Technicolor take on things. Deadline Hollywood

Voters in more than a dozen cities from Long Beach to Lancaster cast ballots on everything from phone utility taxes to mayor. Robert Greene has a rundown and results. Opinion LA-LAT

Sad about the Dodgers at Dodger Blues.

Two men sentenced for Claremont hate crime. SGV Tribune

LAPD's highest-ranking Asian American officer promoted to deputy chief. LAPD blog

Meet me under the strawberry arches: Garden Grove approves new landmarks.  OC Register

Off-trail hikers trampling pristine sections of Griffith Park.  Daily News

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Desert town mourns death of mascot

Pioneertown The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is offering a $7,000 reward for information related to a shooting death in the Morongo Basin. The victim: a black Labrador named Brody. Brody was widely regarded as the unofficial mascot of Pioneertown, where residents are still outraged over the "execution style" shooting of the dog in February, says the Riverside Press Enterprise.

   "The dog was known as a community dog. He was someone who helped bring the community together," said supervisor Dennis Hanberger at Tuesday's board meeting.

Those with information are encouraged to call the San Bernardino Sheriff at (760) 366-4175.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

OC cops try -- and fail -- to keep a lid on jail conditions

Inmate_beaten_to_death_in_orange_co No wonder the Sheriff's Department in the OC tried so hard to keep you from seeing the findings of a special criminal grand jury -- it's not pretty:

...deputies watching television, playing video games and taking naps while inmates were allowed to use brutality and intimidation to keep order in the cellblocks.

The transcript was released only after The Times and the OC Register went to court to have the transcripts made public. Included are details about a jail house death:

The grand jury found that while one of the ranking guards at the jail in Orange exchanged personal cellphone text messages and watched the television show "Cops," a 41-year-old computer technician was stomped and beaten to death not far from the glass-walled guard station.

Though the pummeling lasted up to 50 minutes, guards said they were unaware of it until it was over. While jail logs from that day said guards checked the cellblock where the beating occurred every 30 minutes, the grand jury concluded that the area had not been checked for five hours.

Former Sheriff Michael S. Carona left his post amid a corruption scandal and since then, the OC Jail has remained in the news. Just last week, an inmate who had been in a coma after being Tasered at the jail died as a result of his catastrophic injuries.

For the full text of today's story about the grand jury testimony, click here. For a sampling of the grand jury file, the PDF doc is here.

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

An emotional appeal touching on crime, immigration *

Shaw The father of slain high school football star Jamiel Shaw Jr. is expected to ask the Los Angeles City Council today to deport gang members who are undocumented immigrants. The man charged with shooting Shaw was found to have been living illegally in this country for more than a decade. Jamiel Shaw Sr. has said his son's death could have been prevented if the alleged killer, who had been released from jail a day before the shooting, had been removed from the country.

It's a request that would require the city to change the LAPD's controversial Special Order 40, which prevents officers from checking on the immigration status of suspects in most cases. Shaw's appearance today is being supported by Los Angeles mayoral candidate Walter Moore, whose platform includes revocation of the order. Times staff will be covering Shaw's appearance and council reaction.

-- Jesus Sanchez

UPDATE: Sandy Banks covers Shaw's council comments.

Photo: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

A morning of crashes & shootings

It's shaping up to be a bloody morning in Los Angeles. First off, two women who allegedly attacked a taxi driver with a box cutter were killed when the driver lost control of the vehicle, which crashed into a concrete barrier in City Terrace. The driver was in stable condition, reports Molly Hennessy-Fiske.

In South Los Angeles, one man was killed and another injured when they were shot at a burger stand on Florence Avenue. The suspected shooters were last seen headed north on Vermont Avenue. Police are asking for help gathering details about the incident.

Meanwhile, in the Valley, police were investigating the crash of an LAPD patrol car Monday that left one officer with severe head injuries after he was thrown from the vehicle on California 118. More details.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Good morning - here's what's happening 4.08.08

A dubious distinction for California: Gas prices jumped 7.7 cents, the biggest hike leading to the highest average price in the nation. Budget-busting details from Ronald D. White.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says to add his name to the list of patients who got spied on at the UCLA Medical Center. Full story from Evan Halper.

O.J. Simpson owes $1.5 million in state taxes, putting him at No. 15 on the list of people who owe California money. AP via the LAT.

Too many riders and too few cabs at LAX. So what does the commission do? Unanimously vote to study things a bit more. Francisco Vara-Orta explains why.

Remember Jamiel Shaw Jr., the 18-year-old football star whose murder near his home made worldwide headlines last month? The funeral is over and the media have moved on. Sandy Banks visits his father and finds a man crushed by grief. Her column is here.

The inmate escaped his Pennsylvania prison in a trash can. He was captured in a Bakersfield park, bragging he'd been featured on Fox's "America's Most Wanted." Yeah, a genius. AP via the LAT.

Charlton Heston, who died Saturday, loved newspapers and wrote dozens of letters to the editor during his 40 years as an L.A. Times reader.  Some excerpts (Elia Kazan's Oscar, Clinton is no Lincoln) collected by John Horn.

--Veronique de Turenne

Fatal shooting not so fatal after all

It seemed like one of the more unusual crime stories:  A man was fatally shot while driving a go-kart in Florence on Wednesday night, sheriff's officials said. But today, authorities are telling a different story. The man is not dead after all. Molly Hennessy-Fiske has the details.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Today in Pellicano: Here comes Chris Rock *updated

Wiretapping_trial_of_anthony_pellic Another funny man is set to solemnly swear to tell the whole truth in the Anthony Pellicano trial today, but you better look fast. There's a plot afoot to keep him out of sight, Carla Hall reports:

Chris Rock is scheduled to testify today in the Anthony Pellicano trial and, arguably, will be the biggest and funniest (sorry, Garry Shandling) celeb so far to grace the sleek marble courtroom where the private detective and four codefendants face various federal counts related to wiretapping or racketeering.

Rock will be the first witness up, and U.S. attorneys plan to spirit him in and out of the courtroom quickly. Not even billionaire Alec Gores, who allegedly wiretapped his cheating wife, got that treatment. He was forced to cool his heels in the hallway outside the courtroom Thursday as he waited his turn to testify. But the government ran out of time, and Gores is expected back today.

The media have been eagerly awaiting Rock's appearance. And maybe the comedian will spice up -- and speed up -- proceedings that Judge Dale Fischer saucily declared had "bored" her. (She made her remarks after the jury had been dismissed for the day on Thursday.)

Fischer, who misses little in the back and forth of the questioning, presides over quite a crew -- two U.S. attorneys, four defense lawyers and Pellicano representing himself. She admonished all the attorneys to get to their points faster and not all ask the same questions.

Some of the trial drama trickled down to the press box yesterday as Allison Hope Weiner, who's been blogging the trial for the Huffington Post, got served with a temporary restraining order (over audio files she posted) as she left the courtroom, Daily Variety reports.

As for wiretapping, Will Vaus says his gangster dad, "Big Jim" Vaus,  was the original wiretapper back in the 1940s.


Rock testified for about 15 minutes about hiring Pellicano when a woman claimed she was pregnant with his child, Carla Hall reports.

"In late 1998 did you meet a woman named Monika Zsibrita?"

"Yes," Rock answered.

"And she is a model?"

"Yes," Rock answered.

"In 1999, did she make a claim she was pregnant with your child?"

"Yes," said Rock.

See Carla Hall's full story here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Illustration: Bill Robles / Associated Press

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.04.08

It's the 40-year anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. A group of Angelenos who heard him speak at Holman United Methodist Church just weeks before he was killed recall a great and complicated man, John Mitchell reports.

California schools stay near the bottom of national rankings of student writing ability, a result of the high number of immigrants for whom English is a second language. Mitchell Landsberg has the story.

Ventura County task force's two years of work lead to the bust of a meth and heroin ring, and one of the state's largest heroin seizures. Catherine Saillant has the details.

More about that dead body found packed in dry ice in an O.C. hotel room, from David Reyes.

The Galaxy win, David Beckham scores, and Kobe watches from the stands -- a trifecta in the Home Depot Center from Grahame Jones., which matches housemates by standards such as gender and sexual orientation, can be sued for violating federal fair housing laws, says Maura Dolan.

Lawrence Paul Rael, committed to Atascadero State Hospital against his will 10 years ago, was murdered there this week. His parents want to know what on earth happened. Full story from Lee Romney.

What, exactly, is the U.S. Navy doing to marine animals? The answers are in a report as fat as an L.A. phone book. Kenneth Weiss deciphers the details.

Kirk Douglas ventures into MySpace. Tina Daunt follows, finds a heck of a tale.

-- Veronique de Turenne

A few last links to round out the day

Santa Ana third-graders find a gun in their classroom -- their teacher's gun. (Yeah, she was arrested.) LAT

Canadian heiress to her former nanny: Hush! It's the latest twist in the Pellicano trial. Fishbowl LA. (More Pellicano musings at Defamer.)

Former LAT reporter (now at NYT) arrested while covering the election in Zimbabwe. Romenesko

It's National Poetry Month! Jacket Copy

Two bank employees wind up in the hospital after touching a 100-dollar bill. Drug residue, the hazmat team speculates. LAist

LAPD ready for May Day protests. Merc-News

Reporter has a story to tell after covering Wilmington shooting. Daily Breeze

29-year-old Riverside man dies from skateboard accident injuries.  Press Enterprise

Coffee, tea or jail time? Police might have captured the South Bay coffee house burglar. Easy Reader

Forget the Dodger Dogs and beer. The Padres are serving up Tequila lime shooters and saffron potato tacos. Union Tribune

Would you like some feng shui with your fast food? Fast Food Maven 

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Praying for peace

Curtis Richardson, a 13-year-old boy, was standing on this street corner last week when he was shot to death. Today,  activist Eddie Jones, center, led a group in prayer at the same spot. The group also walked through the neighborhood and handed out leaflets urging people to take part in a 40-hour moratorium on violence in honor of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The 40-year anniversary of King's assassination is tomorrow.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Baseball games called on account of theft

High_copper_prices_spur_on_theft__2 Forget about stealing bases, thieves are ripping copper wiring from the lights at a park in Corona and leaving hundreds of Little League baseball players in the dark, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.

Lori Mendoza, president of the Corona American Little League, said city officials called her Tuesday afternoon to warn her that the lights at some of the fields at the park on 3100 S. Main St. had been vandalized.

Corona police Lt. Michael Tripet confirmed that copper wiring had been stolen from some of the lights at the park.

The city fixed the lights at one field, but couldn't fix the lights at two other fields where teams were scheduled to play all week, Mendoza said.      

As many as 100 children a night may not be able to play, and she fears the lights won't be fixed until this weekend.

Thanks to soaring prices, copper's a hot commodity, with literally tons of it vulnerable to theft in city infrastructures everywhere. Most thieves never get caught. Some, like the hapless guy (whose last name is "Billions") who bungled a burglary at NASA, do hard time.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

This just in: O.C. deputy found dead was a suicide risk

Gerald Stenger, the Orange County sheriff's deputy who was found dead yesterday in an unmarked patrol car with a gunshot wound to the head, had been charged earlier with molesting a 12-year-old boy he had met through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. He would have faced a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison if convicted. Full story from My-Thuan Tran.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.03.08

The battle over home schooling credentials has made unlikely allies of religious and secular families. Seema Mehta explains.

California's water wars still raging, George Skelton says.

A week after being stunned with a Taser, an inmate in the O.C. jail dies. The DA is investigating. Stuart Pfeifer and Christine Hanley have the story.

Two more shootings in L.A. leave a Westside man dead and a transient wounded, Andrew Blankstein and Ruben Vives report.

Now it's the actors' turn -- Screen Actors Guild gears up for April 15 start of negotiations. Details from Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller.

Double-header for Antonio Villaraigosa on a trip to Sacramento -- lobbying the legislature and stirring up rumors he's running for governor in 2010. Both sides now from Patrick McGreevy.

Elvis bumped to third place by Mariah Carey, who's now second only to the Beatles as the musical act  with the most No. 1 singles in the modern pop era, Todd Martens reports.

-- Veronique de Turenne

A few last links to round out the day

Graffiti causes an anthrax scare at the Port of Long Beach. AP via LAT

Jeannie Buss and Phil Jackson on the Dog Whisperer. Lakers Blog

LAPD to get in-car police cameras in South L.A., LATMean Streets

Charter schools — coming to a campus near you? The Homeroom

Margaret B. Jones Peggy Seltzer's former life as an eco-terrorist. Willamette Week via Fishbowl LA

If this is Wednesday (it is, right?) then it's time for TV Junkie. LAist

L.A. County district attorney releases updated report on gang violence and behavior. Daily Breeze

Make room on the dial for Radio Temecula. KPCC

Still waiting for rain. LAT

—Veronique de Turenne and Jesus Sanchez

Hey, Gloria -- it's a jungle out there

Gloria_molina_press_conference_and_ A purse snatching, a press conference and Moe the Chimp? That's right -- another Gloria Allred press conference, and Andrew Blankstein tells the tale.

There are scores of purse snatchings in Los Angeles County each week and they never make the news. Add in Gloria Allred and Moe the Chimp, though, and you've a made-for-TV event. Allred has called a press conference at her Wilshire Boulevard law office for 3 p.m. to ask for help finding whoever snatched LaDonna Davis' purse at a West Covina Target, a crime that was captured on the store's surveillance video.

LaDonna and St. James Davis, you may recall, are the couple who raised Moe the Chimp, the simian who went on to maul a police officer's hand and chomp off the tip of a visitor's finger. In 2005, St. James Davis was critically injured by two rogue chimpanzees when he and his wife tried to deliver a cake to Moe on his 39th birthday at a Bakersfield animal sanctuary.

Just last week, Allred (who has been hired by Paul McCartney's ex-wife to help burnish her image) held a press conference for a woman who was forced to remove her nipple rings before boarding an airplane. Talk about monkey business.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

Here, there and everywhere - more news!

Political enemies in Hawthorne duke it out in court. Daily Breeze

A man shot by Glendale police had killed his friend just hours earlier. LADN

Rare crested capuchin monkey born to its parents, Romeo and Juliet (sorry) at the Santa Ana Zoo. OC Reg

The State Theatre Building could soon be home to 155 live-work condos. blogdowntown

Speaking of which, check out blogdowntown's nice new redesign.

Nine third-graders in Georgia who planned to attack their teachers packed a broken knife, handcuffs and ski mask. AP via LAT.

Adelanto mayor charged with embezzling Little League funds resigns. Press Enterprise

I-5 carpool lanes will open Friday in north Los Angeles County. LAist

Behold the Dodger Stadium bike rack. Militant Angeleno

A wake-up call for Starbucks? McDonald's rolls out iced coffee in SoCal.  OC Register

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.02.08

Police seek help in finding the killers of the two car salesmen -- they were both grandfathers -- shot execution-style at an East L.A. car lot. Details from Hector Becerra.

The NFL in L.A.? Hold your breath and you'll turn a very pretty shade of blue. The bad news from Sam Farmer.

Students in L.A.'s metropolitan schools are much less likely to graduate than kids in the suburbs, according to a new report. A look at the numbers from Ben DuBose.

What happens when an illegal immigrant dies in the United States and the families can't follow the body home for burial? Anna Gorman explains the isolation and suffering of those left behind. And yeah, we got a bit of hate mail last time I quoted Spanish in this blog, but guess what? You can read this story en español as well.

You know the Hollywood spec script market is back when an insurance agent -- from Philadelphia, yet -- gets a cool $650K with his first sale. Jay A. Fernandez gets your hopes up.

Want to get a teenage girl hooked on your beauty products? Then hand them out for free at a cheerleading competition. The ins and outs of the adolescent swag trail from Alana Semuels.

-- Veronique de Turenne

This just in: Shooting shuts down eastbound 105 *

A shooting this morning has forced the closure of the eastbound lanes of the freeway near Crenshaw Boulevard. The California Highway Patrol website says traffic is being diverted off the freeway at Crenshaw. Motorists are able to get back on the eastbound freeway at Hoover Street. It might be two or three hours before the freeway is reopened, CHP officer Francisco Villalobos said.

"We received a call from the Sheriff’s Department, and they requested they close the freeway down due to an investigation related to an incident in the city of Hawthorne," Villalobos said. Times staff writer Francisco Vara-Orta is gathering more details.

* UPDATE: The shooting involved an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, who shot and wounded an individual. Officials did not say what prompted the shooting. Full story.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Violent day ends in more violence

Shootings_in_la March went out like a lion yesterday as, after a day of violence throughout L.A. County, police in Glendale shot and killed a man who fired a weapon at them during a foot chase, authorities said. A Glendale police officer, protected by a bullet-proof vest, was shot and survived his injuries. Details from Larry Gordon.

Earlier in the day, two shootings less than a mile apart left four men dead in East L.A. Police say the incidents, which happened just 20 minutes apart, aren't related but area residents are  skeptical. Times staffers have the full story here.

The day also included someone shooting a pellet gun at cars on the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park, the decomposed body of an infant found in Santa Ana, the report of a 22-year-old groom in Pico Rivera found dead of a gunshot wound just hours after his wedding, a man found fatally wounded by a gunshot after a car crash on the Ventura Freeway in Sherman Oaks, and a 2-year-old boy from Palmdale clinging to life in a hospital after being allegedly beaten by his father.

How I wish I could say "April Fool" to any of this sorry news.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Karen Tapia-Andersen

Good morning -- here's what's happening 4.01.08

Glendale gears up for the opening of "Americana at Brand," a huge retail development that some fear will swamp the city in traffic and siphon business from downtown, Cara Mia DiMassa reports.

Are you willing to pay more at the pump to fight global warming? Details from Patrick McGreevy.

Students in Lawndale go green by planting an orchard at their school, Mitchell Landsberg reports in the excellent LAT education blog, The Homeroom.

The parents of a 23-year-old man found dead in Huntington Beach can't rest until they learn how their son died. Dana Parsons talks to the family.

A woman who broke a restraining order and showed up outside John Cusack's Malibu home has been arrested on suspicion of stalking, Andrew Blankstein reports.

Dodgers win season opener! Game story from Dylan Hernandez.

Battle of the bands at Disney Hall? Yep, and Mark Swed has the details.

-- Veronique de Turenne

A few last links to round out the day

Huge expansion planned at Torrance Memorial Hospital. Daily Breeze

Carolyn Kellog waxes lyrical about L.A.'s Shakespeare Bridge. Jacket Copy

Details on the freeway shooting from the LAPD blog.

Alaska's last elephant flown home to California. Lala Times

Creepy fun with Google maps, from Here in Van Nuys.

Jazz singer Nancy Wilson hospitalized. Desert Sun

Chino parents ask why $40 million school is still not ready. Daily Bulletin

Sheep herding is for the dogs. Daily News

Skullphone speaks. Curbed LA

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Good morning -- here's what's happening 3.31.08

Yes, there's news, but let's start with the arts: Gustavo Dudamel rocks the house at Disney Hall, Mark Swed says. (Though a wee bit more conservatively.)

Target and Best Buy move into Compton, great news that nudges the city back toward its suburban roots. Full story from Paloma Esquivel.

It's a threepeat for David Zahniser as his '89 Toyota Camry gets stolen for the third time.

Doing hard time among the milk sheds and cow pies of California farmland helps addicts back to health. John Glionna explains.

Teachers must reapply for their jobs at John Muir High in Pasadena, part of a radical plan to salvage the sinking school, says Seema Mehta.

Need a refresher on the Pellicano trial? Rachel Abramowitz obliges.

There's a land rush at LAX by foreign airlines. Full story from Peter Pae.

They're going topless in meetings in the Silicon Valley, Jessica Guynn says. (It's not what you think.)

-- Veronique de Turenne

A few last links to round out the day

Weekend fun from Defamer.

Two world views: LA Mag's 64 things vs. 64 things  from Metblogs.

East vs. West sides from The Militant Angeleno.

Whale watching with fingers crossed. LAT

Paintball in Huntington Beach. OC Reg

The West Coast's biggest hotel is proposed for San Diego. Union Tribune

Chamber of woes in Gardena and Lynwood.  Wave Newspapers & Daily Breeze

Jesus Sanchez & Veronique de Turenne

This just in: Body found at the bottom of San Pedro cliffs

The age and gender of the person found this morning at the base of a seaside cliff at Point Fermin have not been determined, officials said.

"We don't know if the person jumped, washed ashore or was pushed," said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey. The Los Angeles Police Department is on the scene investigating.  Francisco Vara-Orta is working on the story.

Meanwhile, in the Exposition Park area, police are searching for suspects in the shooting deaths of two men about 2 a.m., reports Molly Hennessy-Fiske.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Good morning -- here's what's happening 3.28.08

State board slashes the number of nonpolluting vehicles that big car companies must put on the road by 70%, Ken Bensinger reports.

Gangs and guns and graffiti rule the South L.A. neighborhoods where a rich and varied black culture once held sway. Scott Gold talks to the people who live there, in fear and, too often, without hope.

It's official -- Mark G. Yudof, head of the University of Texas system, is coming west to become the UC system's new president. Details from Larry Gordon.

A man whose catamaran flipped over off the Santa Barbara coast Wednesday evening is still missing, Francisco Vara-Orta reports.

Unions move to organize carwash workers -- and name the places to avoid. Sonia Nazario has the details. (And we've got a check-your-carwash database.)

Charles Frazier (he wrote "Cold Mountain") remembers the late filmmaker Anthony Minghella, who brought the bestseller to the screen. Full story here.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar interviews ... Donald Trump? It's Kareem's blog.

-- Veronique de Turenne

L.A. leaders concede that race might be an issue in recent shootings

ShootingL.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief William Bratton have strongly challenged the notion that racial hatred might have played a role in some of the recent shootings involving Latinos and African Americans. In one recent press conference, Bratton abruptly cut off one reporter asking questions on the subject and cited crime statistics to back up his beliefs.  However, based on recent statements, both men seem to be hedging their earlier comments.

"Do I personally suspect that race might have been a factor underlying the gang issues? I do. Can I prove it? I cannot," said Bratton, according to a City News Service story that appeared in the Daily Breeze.

Added Villaraigosa: "In a city as diverse as this one, is there conflict among races? Of course. Is it increasing? It may be. But I can tell you this, it's nowhere near what we've heard, frankly, from some of the media sources when these incidents occur."

Several African American leaders have been upset that concerns about racial animosity were dismissed so quickly. Today, Wave Newspaper columnist Betty Pleasant repeated previous complaints about the issue after she had a face-to-face encounter with Bratton.

"He talked of his need for and the difficulty of obtaining proof of racially motivated gang activity before he could admit to such a thing. I told him that the department’s own statistics on gang-related murders presented to the Police Commission just the day before showed that 37 percent of the blacks murdered by gangs so far were killed by Latinos. 'What further proof of a problem do you need, 100 percent?' I asked."

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Here, there and everywhere - more news!

Judge refuses acting OC Sheriff's request for secrecy and orders release of the grand jury transcript of a death in the county's jail. OC Reg

Thousands protest budget cuts at CalState Long Beach. Long Beach P-T

Traffic making you crazy? The Bottleneck Blog feels your pain.

Home schoolers unite and high schoolers wait for college news in The Home Room.

Yep, running gets you high. NYT

ESPN's awards show, the ESPYs, to be hosted in LA by Justin Timberlake. Boston Herald

Should a school's low test scores help decide if should be closed?  Press-Enterprise

The California ad man behind Bartles & Jaymes ads and Reagan's "It's Morning in America" commercial dies. USA Today

Eagle Scout wants to give Redlands mausoleum a makeover. Press-Enterprise

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Good morning -- here's what's happening 3.27.08

More details on the explosion yesterday that killed one L.A. firefighter and injured another, from the L.A. Fire Department's blog. (Also a comments area, and a link to the Firefighters Fund.)

Did you feel that? Small (3.1) earthquake near Newport Beach last night, says David Pierson.

Food industry pressures the USDA to keep secret the names of stores and vendors that sell tainted meat. AP via LAT.

John McCain takes a giant step away from George Bush in foreign policy as he continues his SoCal campaign swing. Full story from Maeve Reston and Paul Richter.

We're registered voters and, boy, are we ever cranky, George Skelton says. (In the nicest way possible.)

United by tea and sympathy disco in Iraq. A different kind of war story from Tony Perry.

SoCal Edison goes solar with two big projects on the books. Andrea Chang has details.

She fled her arrest in a hospital nightgown but OC police got her back. Update from H.G. Reza.

-- Veronique de Turenne

A few last links to round out the day

Honeybee woes sour California's almond industry. LAT

National "Make Up Your Own Holiday" month from LAist.

Sorry. WKRP's Loni Anderson is not running for a council seat in Culver City.  Franklin Avenue

Negotiations continue on reopening MLK-Harbor hospital. Press-Telegram

Claremont bans beauty parlors in Village storefronts.  Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

A field of wildflowers blooms downtown. Downtown News

Ray Richmond cracks us up. Again. Past Deadline

--Veronique de Turenne & Jesus Sanchez

Were the Tupac documents faked?

That's the question that Times Editor Russ Stanton has ordered the newspaper to answer after The Smoking Gun said the paper was duped by "an imprisoned con man and accomplished document forger, an audacious swindler who has created a fantasy world." From

Stanton ordered the review after the editor of the celebrity-centric website, The Smoking Gun, told the newspaper that he had reason to doubt The Times' account and in particular the FBI records that were supposed to buttress the story.

The website this morning posted a story saying the records -- purportedly statements by an unnamed informant to an FBI agent, which the newspaper posted on its website -- appeared to be forgeries. The Smoking Gun ( said the documents seemed suspicious for multiple reasons, including the fact that they appeared to be written on a typewriter, rather than a computer, and included blacked-out sections not typically found in such documents.

Full story about the internal investigation from James Rainey.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Good morning -- here's what's happening 3.26.08

John McCain came to town and felt our mortgage-crisis pain. Details from the Republican campaign trail from Maeve Reston.

Fortress L.A.: The growing trend toward defensive architectural design in crime-ridden parts of the city.  Ari B. Bloomekatz has the story.

Art Aragon, boxing's mid-century "Golden Boy" with the sharp left hook, has died. Lance Pugmire has Aragon's kill-or-be-killed life story.

More L.A. police commit suicide than are killed in the line of duty, a study finds.

Can Zuma Jay beat Malibu City Hall? He wants to, which is why he's running for office. A great profile of a local character from Joe Mozingo.

It's the death penalty for Ralph "Swifty" Flores, an Azusa gang member convicted of killing four young people in a crime wave that rocked the San Gabriel Valley. Full story from Sam Quinones.

Rave reviews for David Hallberg, American Ballet Theatre's principal dancer, performing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion this weekend. Lynne Heffley reports.

A librarian in Lindsay calls the police when she sees a computer user allegedly viewing child porn.  The guy's arrested and  two days later, the librarian's fired. Steve Chawkins looks into whether the two incidents are, indeed, connected.

A woman in police custody gives them the slip and escapes from an O.C. hospital. Wearing her hospital gown. Details from H.G. Reza.

-- Veronique de Turenne