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Category: San Gabriel Valley

L.A. Now Live: Monday's earthquake tested early warning system

Monday's earthquake in Riverside County offered scientists one of their first opportunities to match data from an earthquake early warning pilot program to what they could actually feel.

According to Caltech and U.S. Geological Survey seismologists, the test was a success. The Monday morning 4.7-magnitude temblor gave Caltech scientists a 30-second warning ahead of the shaking.

Though the quake didn't cause any damage, researchers say even a few seconds of notice can prove vital for shutting down utilities, slowing trains and giving people time to prepare.

Reporter Joseph Serna will join us at 9 a.m. to discuss how the pilot program works and how far away it is from being introduced to the public.

Pi Day: Caltech students celebrate with late-night pie party

Students dig into what little pie remains at Pi day at Caltech; Credit: Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times

For most people, March 14 is just another day.

But for math fans and self-proclaimed nerds out there, the day -– or more specifically, the fact it is 3/14 -– is a day to celebrate one of the most important numbers in all of mathematics: Pi.

So what better way for Pi fans to celebrate Pi Day than with … pie?

A minute before 2 a.m. on Thursday, students at Caltech in Pasadena dug into 130 pies laid out for them outside student housing. There were 26 each of five different pies. Follow that? So on 3/14 at 1:59 a.m. there were 26 each of five kinds of pie. None is by chance. The first digits of Pi are 3.14159265.

“It’s a celebration of nerdiness,” said Christopher Perez, president of Caltech’s math club. “Pi literally shows up everywhere -- in science, in math and nature. A circle is such a fundamental concept.”

You remember Pi, right? It’s that Greek symbol that roughly looks like a lowercase “n” that math teachers told you to just punch into the calculator as 3.14. Actually, the numbers carry on much farther than that. Pi, which is used to calculate the circumference of a circle, has no end to its decimal places.

But supercomputers have so far calculated the number out to 10 trillion. That’s 10,000,000,000,000.

“This was perfect because Caltech students never sleep,” said Jeffrey Sherman, who is studying electrical engineering. Sherman’s hair was still soggy from having a cherry pie mashed in his face when the free-for-all began.

A school official estimated 500 of the university’s 800 undergrads participated in the early morning Pi party. The celebration lined up with the end of classes for Caltech students, who now prepare for finals next week.

The other pie flavors were chocolate cream, cookies and cream, blueberry and apple.

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-- Joseph Serna in Pasadena

Photo: Students dig into what little pie remains at Pi day at Caltech; Credit: Joseph Serna / Los Angeles Times

4 deadly shootings have Pomona on edge

Four deadly shootings in Pomona within the last week were probably gang-related and have the community on edge.

The shootings that began March 7 have claimed the lives of four men ages 18 to 24 and forced Pomona police to step up patrols across the city until arrests are made, police said.

Capt. Michael Olivieri said none of the shootings were directly connected, but detectives do not believe the attacks were random and were probably tied to gangs. Olivieri said the department believes each of the victims was the intended target of their assailants.

The killings began March 7, when Kelly Buruan, 24, of Los Angeles was shot in a drive-by shooting on West 9th Street about 2:20 p.m.

Then Sunday evening, Joseph Cook was gunned down outside a home in the 2200 block of Carlton Avenue.

On Monday evening, officers responded to a call of shots fired in the 700 block of North Gordon Street and came across a wounded man, Christopher Continola, 20 of Pomona. He had been shot in the body about 9:30 p.m. and died in the hospital, according to police.

The next day about 8:15 p.m., Michael Castillo, 18, was found with a fatal gunshot wound at an apartment complex, police said.

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--Richard Winton

Four arrested after motorcycle marriage proposal on 10 Freeway

Four men were arrested last week in connection with a January stunt in which a group of motorcycle riders shut down the 10 Freeway in West Covina while a man proposed to his girlfriend.

Hector Martinez, 24, of Covina; Mike John David Gutierrez, 38, of Lynwood; Giovanni Mendez, 19, of La Puente; and Rudy Cadena, 24; were arrested Thursday on suspicion of misdemeanor public nuisance and unlawful assembly, the California Highway Patrol reported. Martinez, the man who proposed, was also booked on suspicion of exhibition of speed.

In an arrest report, the CHP said Martinez and 200 to 250 bikers blocked eastbound traffic near Barranca Street, at which point Martinez "performed a burn out for several seconds." Video images show a plume of pink smoke coming out of the bike.

"Mr. Martinez then proposed to his passenger," the report said. "Several of the motorcyclists on scene applauded, videotaped and photographed the incident, which was posted on YouTube."

After Martinez popped the question, the group went to a "motorcycle event" at a nearby Hooters restaurant, the CHP said.

Video of the proposal went viral, and Martinez and his fiancee were interviewed -- and identified -- by several media outlets.

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High-profile cases converge on L.A. courthouse's 9th floor

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter

The 9th floor of Los Angeles’ downtown criminal courthouse always sees a lot of activity, but right now four high-profile cases are going on there at the same time, which is almost unprecedented.

Jurors in Judge Kathleen Kennedy’s Department 109 courtroom began their 12th day of deliberations Monday in the corruption trial of six Bell council members accused of illegally boosting their salaries to more than $100,000 a year.

In nearby Department 105, prosecutors and defense lawyers are just beginning to pick a jury for two accused gang members charged with fatally shooting 5-year-old Aaron Shannon Jr. in South Los Angeles, where he was playing in a backyard dressed in his Spider-Man costume on Halloween.

Leonard Hall Jr. and Marcus Denson, accused members of the Kitchen Crips gang, each face a murder charge and two counts of willful attempted murder of the boy's uncle and grandfather. More than 100 jurors are expected to be vetted in the coming week.

But that is not the most high-profile murder case that began Monday.

In Department 107, prosecutors are hoping the jurors selected will bring closure to a three-decade-old murder mystery they say is the work of a man born in a German village who took on many names before becoming the self-proclaimed Boston socialite "Clark Rockefeller."

Jury selection got underway Monday in the case of Christian Gerthartsreiter for the 1985 slaying of John Sohus. The attorneys Monday began reviewing potential jurors for the four- to five-week trial but did not expect to begin actual selection until Friday.

Sohus went missing in 1985 along with his wife, Linda. At the time of the disappearance, a man authorities say is Gerhartsreiter lived in the San Marino guest house owned by Sohus' mother under the alias Christopher Chichester.

Chichester claimed to be a British aristocrat with a love of film, worked on a local cable TV show and hung out at USC's film school. He disappeared shortly after Sohus and his wife vanished in 1985, and Sohus' mother would tell friends they had gone a secret mission. Postcards arrived from Paris supposedly from Linda Sohus.

But nine years later, as a new owner of the Sohus property on Lorain Road dug a swimming pool dug in the backyard, a bag of bones was uncovered. San Marino police and coroner's identified them as those of John Sohus. Gerhartsreiter, 52, remains a suspect in Linda Sohus' disappearance but has never been charged with the crime.

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Jury selection begins in 'Clark Rockefeller' murder trial

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter

Like the Wizard of Oz, a man born in a German village was a master of illusion, taking on many names before becoming the self-proclaimed Boston socialite Clark Rockefeller with a lifestyle to match.

But Christian Gerhartsreiter's illusions came at a deadly price, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian said. With jury selection starting Monday in the three-decade-old slaying of John Sohus, the man of many names will mostly be referred to as "the defendant."

Sohus went missing in 1985 along with his wife, Linda. At the time of the disappearance, a man authorities say is Gerhartsreiter lived in the San Marino guest house owned by Sohus' mother under the alias Christopher Chichester.

Chichester claimed to be British aristocrat with a love of film, worked on a local cable-TV show and hung out at USC's film school. He disappeared shortly after Sohus and his wife vanished in 1985, and Sohus' mother would tell friends they had gone a secret mission. Postcards would also arrive from Paris, supposedly from Linda Sohus.

But nine years later, as a new owner of the Sohus property on Lorain Road had a swimming pool dug in the backyard, a bag of bones was uncovered. San Marino police and coroner's officials identified them as John Sohus' remains. Gerhartsreiter, 52, remains a suspect in Linda Sohus' disappearance but has not been charged with a crime related to it.

His lawyers have insisted that he has no connection to John Sohus' death and that the case against him is nothing but circumstantial, built mostly on tabloid tales of his identities.

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Authorities search for bank robber dubbed the 'Luger Bandit'

The FBI and local authorities in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties are searching for a man dubbed “the Luger Bandit” who is believed to have robbed two banks earlier this year and attempted to rob a third Friday while brandishing a pistol that resembles a German-made Luger.

The first robbery took place Jan. 3 at a Wells Fargo branch in the Granada Hills neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley, according to a statement forwarded by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. The same man is believed to have robbed a Wells Fargo in Fontana on Feb. 18 and attempted to rob a Wells Fargo in San Dimas on March 8.

During each robbery, the suspect ordered employees and customers to the ground, pulled out a silver pistol and demanded cash in various denominations. Bank surveillance photos show him wearing a sweat shirt with a hood, jeans, a facemask, sunglasses and black gloves. He has also carried a black bag with a strap. Authorities said he appears to be 30 to 40 years old.

In addition to the FBI and L.A. Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles and Fontana police departments also are investigating.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to contact the FBI at (888) CANT-HIDE. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call (800) 222-TIPS or go to lacrimestoppers.org.

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-- Corina Knoll

Man convicted of selling $200,000 in fake Disney pins

Larry Allred booking photoA Southern California man was convicted Wednesday of illegally importing thousands of counterfeit Disney collectibles and selling them online, Orange County prosecutors said.

Larry James Allred, 58, pleaded guilty to a court offer of one felony count of trademark infringement, with an expected sentence of eight years in state prison and $201,000 in restitution, according to a statement from the Orange Country district attorney's office.

He faces sentencing enhancements because the property loss was more than $200,000 and because of previous convictions for rape in 1975 and for kidnapping and rape in 1978, prosecutors said. He will be sentenced in July.

Prosecutors said Allred, a Walnut resident, concocted a scheme with Robert Edward Smyrak from January 2010 to April 2011, in which they would send legitimate collectible Disney pins to a manufacturer in China to be replicated and shipped back to them.

The pair would then sell the counterfeit pins online, passing them off as legitimate.

Prosecutors said the men sold nearly 1 million counterfeit items on online auction sites in bulk quantities averaging less than $1 per pin. A legitimate pin would typically range from $6.95 to $14.95.

The operation was discovered in February 2011, when customs agents intercepted a parcel at Los Angeles International Airport addressed to Smyrak that had more than 150 pounds of the fake pins, prosecutors said.

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Good Samaritans detain man suspected in Whittier kidnapping attempt

A group of good Samaritans chased down a registered sex offender accused of grabbing an 18-year-old woman in an attempted kidnapping and detained him until Whittier police arrived.

David Polanco, 41, was booked on suspicion of kidnapping and held in Los Angeles County jail on $100,050 bail, Whittier police said.

Authorities said the 18-year-old woman "willingly spent a number of hours" walking with Polanco around Whittier after meeting him Wednesday. At some point, Polanco allegedly "grabbed her around the waist from behind and attempted to pull her away while walking in an alley," police said.

Witnesses saw the two struggling and called 911, police said, prompting Polanco to flee.

A group of men sitting at a nearby cafe told KTLA they took off after the man.

"I yelled to him, 'Stop!' and I figured he'd stop if he was innocent," Terry Kuwahara told the television station. "But he didn't. He took off."

"So I went after him," Kuwahara continued. "I just grabbed him by the back of his shirt and jerked him down."

Two other men helped Kuwahara.

"We followed him around the corner and Terry had him down," an unidentified man told KTLA. "We ... held him down and waited for police."

Police said it was too soon to tell whether Polanco was involved in a series of recent kidnapping attempts in Whittier, but asked anyone who might have had "suspicious contact" with him to contact police.

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Mexican Mafia boss in La Puente gets life in federal prison

A Mexican Mafia prison gang member and longtime leader of the Puente Trece gang was sentenced Wednesday to life in federal prison after his conviction for racketeering that includes murder plots and a brutal stabbing of an inmate designed to deter victims from cooperating with police.

Rafael “Cisco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 42, of La Puente controlled Puente-13 before he became a member of the Mexican Mafia and operated a large portion of the drug market in the east San Gabriel Valley, federal prosecutors say.

U.S. District Court Judge Howard Matz sentenced him to life in prison a day after sentencing his brother, Mexican Mafia member Cesar “Blanco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 38, of Rowland Heights to the same life term. Neither will be eligible for parole in the federal prison system.

A federal jury convicted the pair in December of violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, as well as committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, illegally possessing firearms and other offenses.

Prosecutors during a trial showed that Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez ordered an attack on a witness who was cooperating with federal investigators in the case. The man was attacked at the federal jail in downtown Los Angeles, where he was stabbed 22 times and beaten, suffering a punctured lung and fractured skull.

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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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