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L.A. Democratic party rebukes Sheriff Alex Villanueva

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been rebuked by the Los Angeles Democratic party, which had endorsed him during his campaign to be L.A County’s top cop.

The rare rebuke Villanueva has received nine months into his term reflects concerns about his reinstatement of fired deputies, testimony by a former Sheriff*s Department official that Villanueva’s former chief of staff pressured her to alter records of misconduct, and his policy allowing inmates to be handed over to federal immigration agents through intermediaries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party passed a resolution Tuesday calling on Villanueva to restore trust in his department, according to The Times. It asks him to adhere to recommendations on hiring practices by the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, to end inmate transfers to federal immigration agents and their contractors, and to reverse all decisions by a panel that reinstated a deputy fired for violating department policies regarding domestic abuse and lying. The resolution also expressed concern that Villanueva’s son was admitted into the Sheriff’s Department academy despite a history of driving under the influence.

Party leaders said it was highly unusual, if not unprecedented in recent memory, for the organization to publicly express sharp disapproval of an official so soon after endorsing him.

“We felt really misled, almost conned, by the difference between Villanueva’s rhetoric and the things he has done since he was elected,” said Damian Carroll, member-at-large of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley, who authored the resolution, The Times reported. Carroll said he had been a big believer in Villanueva and his progressive ideas during the campaign.

Carroll said the resolution stems from a feeling of “buyer’s remorse” by the wider membership and serves as a warning to Villanueva that he will not be endorsed again if he doesn’t make swift changes.

County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez cautioned that the resolution is not an outright condemnation of the sheriff but rather a call to action and an opportunity for Villanueva to institute reforms, The Times reported.

The resolution says Villanueva “ran on a platform of reforming and restoring trust in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; but, since his election, trust has only been further eroded by numerous complaints of abuse of his office. We are now making a public appeal to the sheriff asking him to make significant changes to restore the public’s trust in Sheriff’s Department.”

The resolution was approved by a simple majority of members, with 177 of them in attendance, Gonzalez said, according to The Times.

Suspects sought in West Covina home invasion robbery

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WEST COVINA (CNS) – Four masked men used a sledgehammer to shatter a sliding glass door and burst into a West Covina home today, bound the female resident, then ransacked the home and fled, police said.

The four are being sought by the West Covina Police Department.

The crime occurred about 1:30 a.m. in the 3400 block of South Flemington Drive, police said, adding there were no injuries. No details were released on what they stole, if anything.

Anyone with information on the crime was urged to call police at 626-939-8500.

Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach operating next-gen electric trucks

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The next generation of electric trucks have hit the docks at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where Golden State Express has begun hauling goods with zero-emissions trucks from Chinese automaker BYD.

The trucks will be primarily used for short-distance hauls.

Second generation vehicles are more powerful, possess higher torque, increased range, and improved comfort for drivers than their predecessors. Operator feedback was also instrumental in the development of the 8Y tractor earlier this year. First generation 8Y yard tractors have been in use at railyards near the port since early 2018, and 14 second generation 8Y tractors were delivered in April.

“We applaud the Harbor Trucking Association for supporting the transition to zero-emission truck technology,” BYD Director of Business Development John Gerra said, referring to the trade group representing Golden State Express, which facilitated the acquisition of the trucks.

First generation BYD 8TT Class 8 trucks have participated in heavy-duty port operations with GSC Logistics in the Port of Oakland for the past 18 months. The second generation of those trucks operating in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long beach were designed by BYD with feedback from Oakland operators.

“Their use of battery electric trucks will move the industry forward,” Gerra said.

This article has been updated. 

Kidnapping suspect in custody following nearly seven-hour standoff

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BELLFLOWER (CNS) – A kidnapping suspect who barricaded himself inside an apartment in Bellflower with his 80-year-old mother who authorities said was taken from a care facility in Nevada with the help of a former county sheriff in Nevada was taken into custody this morning.

Sheriff’s SWAT team members took the 52-year-old Roger Hillygus into custody about 2 a.m., after he fell asleep, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez.

The suspect’s mother, Susan Hillygus, was not hurt, Navarro-Suarez said.

Deputies responded about 7:10 p.m. Thursday to a call for service in the 15300 block of Bellflower Boulevard, according to Sheriff’s Information Bureau. A SWAT team was also summoned to the location.

Roger Hillygus was suspected of kidnapping his mother from a care facility in Reno Aug. 8 with the help of a former sheriff of Mineral County, Nevada, according to the Reno Police Department. Mineral County is located about 150 miles southeast of Reno in a rural part of the state.

The former sheriff, identified as Stewart Handte, 59, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of kidnapping a victim over 60 years old and conspiracy to commit kidnapping, Reno police said.

Handte told police he had met Hillygus a few months ago and recently learned that Hillygus had lost a court battle with his sister over guardianship of his mother, KOLO-TV in Reno reported.

Authorities believe Hillygus and Handte went to the facility, provided false information to the staff and left with Susan Hillygus, who suffers from dementia and is in need of 24-hour professional health care and medication.

Handte also served as police chief for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony for seven months, a tenure that ended in July, the colony said in a statement.

Officials warn of fake FBI phone calls demanding money

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Angelenos could soon see phone calls from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on their caller identification, but the agency warned Thursday that things aren’t always what they appear.

Fraudsters have discovered a new way of impersonating the FBI’s real telephone number (310-477-6565) in calls, officials at the Bureau’s Los Angeles office announced Thursday. The scammer impersonates an agent and threatens to arrest the victim unless money is sent, ostensibly owed the agency.

Scammers have so far spoofed phone numbers of FBI offices in California, Montana, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

According to the FBI, unsuspecting victims may also be told the following:

  • That their social security number has been compromised and linked to money laundering.
  • That their social security number has been used to open bank accounts and that the government would seize those accounts.
  • To protect their money, funds should be transferred to accounts specifically set up by the government which would be protected until the situation is resolved, at which point the money would then be returned.
  • Failure to transfer money could lead to loss of funds and possible arrest.
  • To meet with a Social Security Administration agent to verify identity; once complete, a new SSN would be issued so that a new bank account could be opened.

If you or anyone you know has received such a call, the agency encourages the filing of complaints with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center online.

Property management org proposed by Los Angeles Controller

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A vacant lot in Koreatown.

With more than 7,500 properties owned by the city of Los Angeles within its borders alone, it’s no secret managing L.A.’s massive real estate portfolio is a big job. That’s why L.A. Controller Ron Galperin has proposed the creation of a nonprofit organization to oversee city-owned real estate.

The Los Angeles Municipal Development Corporation would be in charge of managing how city properties are used and determining whether they could better serve L.A. neighborhoods. Currently, there is no organization responsible for this.

“The city of Los Angeles does many things well, but we do not have a central agency with the industry expertise to get the most out of the thousands of properties we own,” Galperin said. “If we are more strategic about our real estate holdings, we will be able to do more for our communities.”

Galperin also said that while many city-owned properties are parks, recreation centers, parking lots or administrative buildings, some are vacant or underutilized, presenting economic development opportunities. Better management of these properties could also identify potential locations for new housing, Galperin said.

Los Angeles wouldn’t be the first city in the United States to form such an organization. New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, which manages its city-owned properties, has used its data and oversight to bring in $536 million from 46 land transactions over the course of its existence.

Abnormally high heat persists in Southland

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The abnormally high heat stemming from the Southland’s fourth heat wave of 2019 will last at least one more day today, forecasters said.

They restated their warning that the weather is particularly threatening to the homeless, infants, the elderly and people who work outdoors.

A heat advisory, denoting an expectation of hot temperatures, will remain in effect in the San Gabriel Mountains until 9 p.m.

“Afternoon temperatures across the lower elevation areas will be in the upper 90s to 104 degrees Thursday. In addition, overnight low temperatures below 5,000 feet will only cool into the 70s and lower 80s,” warned an NWS statement on the advisory. “Heat illnesses are possible. Temperatures inside vehicles, even if the windows are partially open, can quickly rise to life-threatening levels. … Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors.”

The weather service also reminded area residents to provide shade and water to pets and livestock.

The NWS forecast a combination of sunny and partly cloudy skies in L.A. County today and highs of 74 degrees at LAX; 76 in Avalon; 86 on Mount Wilson, in Long Beach and in Downtown L.A.; 91 in San Gabriel; 93 in Burbank; 95 in Pasadena; 102 in Woodland Hills; 103 in Saugus; and 105 in Palmdale and Lancaster. Temperatures in the hottest areas of L.A. County will drop between 2 and 6 degrees Friday and by up to another 6 degrees on Saturday.

The NWS forecast sunny skies in Orange County today and highs of 74 in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and San Clemente; 83 on Santiago Peak; 89 in Irvine and on Ortega Canyon at 2,600 feet; 90 in Fullerton; 92 in Anaheim and Mission Viejo; 93 in Fremont Canyon and Yorba Linda; and 94 in Trabuco Canyon. Temperatures will fall by uo to 6 degrees Freiday and up to another 4 degrees on Saturday.

Two dead, one wounded in drive-by shooting near South L.A.

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Two men were killed and another was wounded in a drive-by shooting near the border of South Los Angeles and the unincorporated Florence area, and authorities sought two suspects who remained at-large today.

Deputies responded to the 1100 block of East 68th Street, near Central Avenue, about 7:05 p.m. Wednesday and located one man dead at the scene and two others who had suffered gunshot wounds and were taken to a hospital, where the second victim died, according to Deputy Erin Liu of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The third victim was treated at a hospital and released, Liu said.

Family members identified the fatally wounded men to reporters at the scene as Jose Flores and Alfredo Carrera, both in their 20s.

Flores and Carrera had grown up together six houses apart on the street where they were shot, and the shooting occurred in Carrera’s driveway after they had parked an SUV, according to news reports from the scene.

Flores was a physics doctoral student at UC Irvine and had his sights set on a job at NASA, and Carrera was about to become a first-time father with his girlfriend, KTLA5 reported.

According to the preliminary investigation, the men were standing near the parked vehicle when the suspect vehicle drove up and a passenger opened fire, striking two of the victims. The suspect shot the third man a short distance away as the car, described only as a dark sedan, sped away westbound on East 68th Street, Liu said.

A description of the shooter or driver was not immediately available. The motive for the shooting was not disclosed.

Anyone with information on the crime was urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

Lee apparent winner in City Council special election

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Longtime council aide John Lee appeared to be the winner today in the special election to fill the northwestern San Fernando Valley’s 12th District seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

With all 57 precincts reporting, Lee held a 1,329-vote lead over Loraine Lundquist, an astrophysicist and longtime “social justice” activist, according to figures released by Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

Lee has 16,724 votes to 15,395 for Lundquist, a lead of 52.07%-47.93%. Election officials are expected to announce Wednesday the number of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots that remain to be counted.

“I feel great,” Lee told supporters Tuesday night at his Porter Ranch headquarters, the Daily News reported. “We’re celebrating tonight and tomorrow we’re going to work. We’ll start talking about how to bring this community together. We’re realizing that we have the same goals and we need to start working towards those goals.”

Lundquist congratulated Lee for running “a really good race,” but said she would “wait until all the ballots are counted” before conceding, according to the Daily News.

“We have a lot of provisional ballots, absentee ballots that do need to be counted,” Lundquist said.

Lee was seeking to become the second aide in the 12th Council District to ascend to council member. He was the chief of staff for then-City Councilman Mitch Englander, who was previously the chief of staff for then-Councilman Greig Smith.

Englander resigned last year to take a job in the private sector, and Smith has been filling the council seat on a temporary basis pending the special election.

Both candidates put forth ideas for addressing homelessness and pointed to their past work on the issue.

Lundquist has been the co-chair of the homelessness committee of Northridge East Neighborhood Council and a founding member of the West Valley Neighborhood Alliance on Homelessness. She said she backs creating more permanent supportive housing to help reduce the number of people on the streets.

According to his website, Lee has volunteered for a variety of charities in his district. One of his goals is to not just get the homeless population off the streets but to help them find employment. He also wants to establish more neighborhood security teams and create a “more effective” intervention system to help families on the brink of losing their home.

As of Monday, Lee’s campaign had out-spent Lundquist by about $196,000.

Although the race is nonpartisan, District 12 — which includes Chatsworth, Northridge, Porter Ranch, Granada Hills and West Hills — has traditionally leaned Republican. Lee is a Republican. Lundquist is a Democrat.

More high heat forecast in Southland

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Another day of high heat is in store for Southern California today, prompting forecasters to warn of a risk of heat-related illnesses, particularly threatening the homeless, infants, the elderly and people who work outdoors.

A heat advisory, denoting an expectation of hot temperatures, will go into effect at 10 a.m. in the San  Gabriel Mountains and expire at 9 p.m. Thursday. The weather service also said gusty onshore winds would blow through mountain passes in the afternoon and evening today and Thursday.

Humidity levels, meanwhile, will range from single digits to the mid teens inland, which, along with hot temperatures and very dry vegetation, creates an elevated fire danger, forecasters said.

A meteorologist at the Oxnard office of the National Weather Service said earlier this week that the current period of high heat would not last long enough to be described as a heat wave, but other meteorologists had a different take, writing on the NWS website today about the “heat wave peaking Wednesday into Thursday.”

The NWS advised area residents to drink plenty of water, stay out of the midday sun, check on friends and neighbors, particularly the elderly, provide shade and water to livestock and pets, never leave people or pets in cars parked in the heat. and guard against sparking fires. Avoid using weed whackers near dry brush, don’t drive through tall grass, make sure trailers are not dragging chains, and never toss cigarette butts out of vehicles.

The NWS forecast a mixture of sunny and partly cloudy skies in L.A. County today, along with highs of 76 degrees at LAX; 79 in Avalon; 87 on Mount Wilson; 88 in Downtown L.A.; 89 in Long Beach; 95 in San Gabriel; 97 in Burbank; 98 in Pasadena; 101 in Saugus; 103 in Woodland Hills; and 105 in Palmdale and Lancaster.

Sunny skies were forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 74 in San Clemente; 75 in Newport Beach; 76 in Laguna Beach; 83 on Santiago Peak; 90 in Irvine and on Ortega Highway at 2,600 feet; 91 in Fullerton; 93 in Anaheim Yorba Linda and Mission Viejo; and 94 in Fremont Canyon and Trabuco Canyon.
Temperatures will decline minimally Thursday in both counties and slightly more robustly on Friday.