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Category: San Fernando Valley

Authorities search for suspect in fatal Panorama City shooting

Map shows location of a fatal shooting in Panorama City. Source: Google Maps
Authorities on Sunday were searching for a suspect involved in the fatal shooting of a 35-year-old male pedestrian in the San Fernando Valley.

Officers responded to reports of gunfire Saturday about 10:30 p.m. near the intersection of Parthenia Street and Cedros Avenue in the Panorama City neighborhood, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Robert Gasior said.

The victim sustained one gunshot wound and was transported to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills where he was pronounced dead, Gasior said. He was believed to have been standing on the sidewalk before he was approached. It was not known if the suspect had been on foot or in a vehicle.

The shooting was not believed to be gang-related. No other information was given.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call detectives with the Mission Community Police Station at (818) 838-9810.

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Equestrian area in Aliso Canyon Park opens Saturday

L.A. police shoot, critically wound robbery suspect in Pico-Union area  

-- Corina Knoll

Map shows location of a fatal shooting in Panorama City. Source: Google Maps

Equestrian area in Aliso Canyon Park opens Saturday

Aliso Canyon Park
The first public equestrian area in the northwest San Fernando Valley opens Saturday morning at Aliso Canyon Park in Porter Ranch.

The park's 69 acres of open space were acquired by the city of Los Angeles in 2005. In 2010, the city obtained grant money to make improvements, including restrooms, picnic tables, lighting and landscaping.

Equestrian amenities include trailer parking, a staging area, cross ties and an automated horse waterer. For pedestrians, there are walking paths with trail markers. The environment remains mostly natural, including a creek and meadows with California native plant species.

An opening ceremony was scheduled for 10 a.m. and includes remarks from Councilman Mitchell Englander and other city officials as well as a dressage demonstration by Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship.

The park is north of the 118 Freeway, off Rinaldi Street east of Reseda Boulevard.

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Woman leaves grenade wrapped in sock at Costa Mesa fire station, police say

-- Cindy Chang

Photo credit: City of Los Angeles

New park with horse arena opening in the San Fernando Valley

A new park is scheduled to open in the northwest San Fernando Valley Saturday featuring the area’s first equestrian arena.

According to a statement from Los Angeles Councilman Mitch Englander, Aliso Canyon Park includes trailer parking, a staging area, cross ties and an automatic horse waterer. Walking paths, picnic tables and a pedestrian bridge over a small creek designed to protect the area sensitive habitat are also features of the park.  Other highlights include security solar lighting and landscaping with California native plant species.

The park was upgraded in 2010 using grant funding and the goal is to “preserve it as open space and save it from development,” according to the statement from Englander.

The grand opening is scheduled for 10am Saturday at 18041 Rinaldi Street in Granada Hills.

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-- Ann M . Simmons in Santa Clarita

Victims of La Canada Sport Chalet blast are making slow recovery

Emergency crews outside Sport Chalet in La Cañada on March 1. Credit: Tim Berger/Times Community News

Two weeks after a gas explosion rocked the La Cañada Flintridge Sport Chalet store, two employees who sustained severe burns in the incident are making a slow recovery.

Lauren Polzin, a 27-year-old worker injured in the blast, can't move her hands or talk, said her husband, Neil Polzin. She sustained second and third-degree burns over a large portion of her body, he said.

“I can't imagine what she's going through, stuck in a bed, in pain,” he said. “We're hoping for the best.”

On March 1, Polzin and store supervisor Victor Gonzalez, 25, were injured after they were asked to shut off a gas valve when someone reporting smelling gas, according to fire officials. The incident occurred about 10 a.m. in a utility closet near the store's pool.

Both employees were taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital immediately after the incident, but Polzin has since been transferred to another hospital. Family members declined to say which one.

Gonzalez is in stable condition at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center after suffering third-degree burns to 61% of his body, said his wife, Elsie Martinez.

“He hasn't had any complications,” Martinez said. “We're just taking it one day at a time.”

Martinez said her husband has already talked about going back to work, but doctors do not have a timeline for his recovery.

“We're not sure how long it will take,” she said. “I know he wants to go back. He loves his job.”

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Gavin Smith had relationship with drug dealer's wife, police say

Missing Fox movie executive Gavin Smith had a relationship with the wife of a convicted drug dealer who is now a person of interest in Smith’s disappearance, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials say.

Smith, 57, has been missing since May 2012. At a press conference Thursday, Lt. Dave Dolson said Smith had a relationship with Chandrika Creech, the wife of John Creech, who is serving eight years in Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail.

Smith and Chandrika Creech apparently met in rehab. Sheriff’s officials would not comment on the nature of their relationship and said only that Creech’s husband is a person of interest in Smith’s disappearance. John Creech has not spoken with detectives.

Authorities now believe Smith was murdered. Investigators found Smith’s Mercedes-Benz last month in a Simi Valley storage facility. Officials said evidence found inside the car, along with witness statements, lead them to believe Smith is dead.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, a department official said Friday.

Chandrika Creech has spoken to investigations on many occasions, Dolson said. He declined to say what information she provided.

In the months after Smith was last seen, officials insisted the case remained a missing-person investigation, even as Creech’s home and vehicle were searched.

Smith, a former UCLA basketball player who worked in Fox's movie distribution department, left a friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood the night of May 1. Wearing purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons, Smith drove away in his Mercedes, leaving behind his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.

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Winter heat wave continues to set record high temperatures

A late-winter heat wave continued Thursday, producing summer-like conditions and breaking additional temperature records across the region.

A record high of 93 degrees was recorded at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, breaking the old record of 89 set in 1994, according to the National Weather Service. Twenty miles east in Woodland Hills, temperatures reached 94 degrees, surpassing the old record of 83  that was also set in 1994.

Other heat records were set in the Los Angeles County foothill community of Sandberg, where temperatures rose to 82 degrees, replacing the old record of 75  set in 1994. In Lancaster, it was 88, versus the old record of 85 in 2007.

Bonnie Bartling, weather specialist at the NWS, said the high-pressure system that's been producing the warm conditions is expected to break down over the next few days, making way for cooler weather. She also said a cold-weather system is approaching the state and will produce showers and colder temperatures -- but perhaps not here.

"Brrr," she said. "But it could be one of those systems that doesn't make it all the way into Los Angeles."

The next system, she added, is likely to affect the northern parts of the state and produce rain, while Los Angeles could see temperatures drop 20 degrees or more to the low to mid-60s.

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-- Ruben Vives

Twitter.com: LATvives

Las Vegas Strip shooting suspect refuses to waive extradition

Ammar HarrisA 26-year-old man arrested in Studio City and held on suspicion of murder in a car-to-car shooting on the Las Vegas Strip refused to waive extradition Thursday and asked Nevada authorities to produce a governor’s warrant.

Ammar Harris is accused of a Feb. 21 shooting that led to the deaths of three people, including Kenneth Cherry Jr., a rap artist known as Kenny Clutch. Las Vegas police allege that Harris -– described by law enforcement officials as having an “extensive and violent criminal history” -- opened fire from his Range Rover on Cherry’s Maserati on Las Vegas Boulevard after an altercation at a valet stand at the Aria hotel resort.

The Maserati then sped into the intersection at Flamingo Road, where it rammed a cab, which erupted in flames. The taxi driver and passenger inside were killed. Four other vehicles were involved and three other people were injured.

PHOTOS: Shots fired on the Las Vegas strip

Two days later, Harris’ vehicle was found at a Las Vegas apartment complex. He was charged with murder, even though he could not be located.

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Glendale candidate refuses to deny link to 'racist' comments

Zareh Sinanyan. Credit: Glendale News Press

Under pointed questioning before the City Council he is campaigning to join, city commissioner Zareh Sinanyan this week refused to deny he was the author behind threatening and racist comments posted online under his name, saying only that they do not reflect who he is.

“The words attributed to me are not me. They do not represent who I am as a person,” he said. “They do not reflect my values, my ideals.”

Sinanyan, a Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee member who is considered a front-runner in the City Council race, called a proposal to strip him of his commission seat an orchestrated smear campaign because of the comments.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman, Councilman Ara Najarian and Mayor Frank Quintero asked for the discussion to be brought before the council last week. Friedman and Najarian are both seeking to keep their seats in the April 2 election.

When asked whether he wrote the comments — which on YouTube referred mostly to Armenia's geopolitical enemies as “lazy,” “degenerate thieves,” “dirty” and more vulgar terms — he refused to say, adding he had not seen the comments council members were referring to.

“Saying that they don't represent you is very different than saying that you didn't write them,” said Friedman.

Sinanyan went on to say: “I'm investigating this issue and trying to understand.”

Since the online comments became public, Sinanyan has lost several high-profile endorsements, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, and both Los Angeles mayoral run-off candidates, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel.

While the council discussion was focused on Sinanyan's commission seat, Sinanyan's supporters quickly turned the public comment period into an attack on Friedman, who first introduced the motion. The crowd of about 90 heckled her several times during the proceeding.

“I'm disappointed that I would be attacked for bringing up hate speech, very serious, very disturbing hate speech,” Friedman said.

At one point, in response to her claim that she was not responsible for the reaction to the alleged comments, Sinanyan got out of his seat and whispered to his supporters: “She's lying.”

In the end, the council unanimously decided to take no action, and tabled stripping Sinanyan of his commission seat.

“The election will decide everything,” Councilman Dave Weaver said.

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Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Photo: Zareh Sinanyan. Credit: Glendale News Press

Shark dies in Kmart commercial shoot in Van Nuys backyard pool

 A white-tipped shark died after a Kmart commercial shoot in Van Nuys last week. Credit: Handout

An investigation is ongoing into the death of a shark that was shipped from New York to L.A. and placed in an above-ground pool in a Van Nuys backyard for a Kmart commercial shoot.

The 5-foot-long white-tipped shark died March 6, according to a letter sent to the American Humane Assn., the nonprofit group responsible for the "No Animals Were Harmed" certification listed in movies.

The shark was injected with adrenaline and received oxygen from a trainer after it showed signs of stress, and later removed from the pool and taken to a specialist in Long Beach. The shark died that afternoon, the complaint said.

As The Times' Richard Verrier reports in Company Town, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has criticized AHA for the incident.

"Sharks are sensitive animals who, in captivity, require a highly specialized and controlled environment,'' Julia Gallucci, an animal behavior specialist for PETA, wrote in a Tuesday letter to an association official. "Given the delicate nature of this species, why would the AHA approve the transport and use of the animal?"

Citing a "whistle-blower" who worked on the commercial, Gallucci said in her letter that the production company, Boxer Films of Los Angeles, had recommended against using a live shark. When the animal died, Kmart asked that a second shark be brought on set, but the production company refused and replaced the animal with an animatronic hippopotamus, Gallucci alleged in her letter.

Jody Frisch, spokeswoman for the AHA, said the group had asked a third party to investigate the circumstances of the shark's death. Although AHA reviews scripts and make recommendations on how animals are used in productions, she added, it doesn't make "decisions about what animals are used, nor do we have jurisdiction over their transportation."

A spokesperson for Kmart parent Sears Holdings said it too was investigating the shark's death.

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Earthquake early-warning system's future still in doubt

Argentine community sees Pope Francis as 'point of pride'

Richard Verrier

Photo: A white-tipped shark died after a Kmart commercial shoot in Van Nuys last week. Credit: Handout

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Argentine community sees Pope Francis as 'point of pride'

The Argentine community in the Glendale area is celebrating Pope Francis, the first Roman Catholic pope from their home county.

Pope Francis was selected Wednesday to head the church, something that wasn’t lost on the local immigrant community, even those who aren’t part of the church.

Father Dennis Marrell of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Pasadena said Wednesday that about half of the roughly 4,000 families who attend his church are Latino, including more than 500 people who attend a weekly Spanish-language Mass.

FULL COVERAGE: The papal conclave

“Several of them have already expressed their delight to me that someone who shares their background and has shown such concern for the poor has been chosen. All Catholics feel a special affinity with the pope, but this makes him feel much closer,” Marrell said.

Speaking in Spanish, Rene Vildoza -- owner of the Argentine restaurant El Morfi Grill in downtown Glendale -- said that while he is not a Catholic, it’s “a point of pride for the people to have a South American, especially a Latino, in this position.”

Referring to his family back in Argentina: “They are happy with it. I am happy for the people too."

PHOTOS: A new pope is chosen

The significance was not lost on Marcelo Sala, owner of 1810 Argentinean Restaurant in Pasadena. Originally from Buenos Aires, Sala, 50, said he wasn’t a devout Catholic, so to him, “personally, it’s not a big deal.”
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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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