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Los Angeles Homeless Count takes snapshot of homelessness

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The three-day 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count begins tonight with thousands of volunteers set to scan the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys in an effort to get an accurate picture of the homeless situation.

For the last 12 years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has utilized volunteers over 18 years of age who spend between three and four hours recording the number of homeless individuals to help determine the amount of federal and county funds needed for homeless programs.

About 7,500 volunteers participated in last year’s count, which found that homelessness in Los Angeles County increased 23 percent to 57,794.

Two members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be among the volunteers Tuesday — Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“Our homeless population has a face and a name,” said Barger, who will be participating in the count in the San Gabriel Valley. “In addition to public safety and mental health, there is no greater emergency or mission than to protect those who are most vulnerable and in need.”

Ridley-Thomas will participate in the count in the San Fernando Valley “because every night thousands of men, women, and families, with nowhere else to go, are sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles County,” Ridley-Thomas said. “I count because each of us has a moral responsibility to help those in need.”

Counting will be conducted Wednesday in the South Bay and eastern and western portions of the county and Thursday in the Antelope Valley, metropolitan Los Angeles and southern Los Angeles County.

Arts and music festival revives historic downtown L.A

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Night on Broadway 2017. Photo courtesy of Bringing Back Broadway.

Night on Broadway, a free arts and music festival on Saturday is expected to draw over 75,000 attendees. Catch headliners like the B-52s, War, La Santa Cecilia, Los Blenders, Quitapenas along with local musicians and DJs. Bands will perform at the Million Dollar Theatre, Los Angeles Theatre, Palace Theatre, Globe Theatre and Orpheum Theatre. 

Ten city blocks will close to accommodate hundreds of performers, vendors and guests. This all-day event features tours of six historic theaters, music, dance performances, art and food from local vendors.

There will also be four outdoor stages hosting dance, acrobatic and music performances all afternoon. The LA rollerblading group, The Derby Dolls, will perform on their skates and William Close and The Earth Harp Collective will create an interactive concert experience.

Enjoy site-specific art installations, pop-up art shows and murals by local and international artists. Ride the ferris wheel on Sixth Street and Broadway for the best view of the night.

Night on Broadway is part of the Bringing Back Broadway economic development initiative, founded by Councilmember José Huizar’s in 2008. The initiative encouraged economic development along Broadway between Hill and Temple Street in downtown L.A. The initiative included the Facade Lighting Grant Program which helped restore the theater district’s historic signs and preserve the theater’s architectural features.

Night on Broadway takes place on Saturday, Jan. 27 from 3 p.m. to midnight on Broadway between First Street and Olympic Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.

Visit www.nightonbroadway.la for a complete schedule and more information.

Minors getting high on your watch could cost you, says County

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors could soon step in to clarify California’s confusing cannabis regulations, by making it illegal to allow minors to use marijuana.

Furnishing pot for minors is already punishable by up to seven years in prison, but that hasn’t stopped the Supervisors from floating an ordinance amending existing laws fining anyone responsible for a party where marijuana is served. According to Board documents, the fine could be up to $1,000 dollars, the same amount as fines for hosting parties where minors consume alcohol. The Board will vote on Tuesday morning.

If the law passes, it’ll only be a test run, according to Board documents. The proposed ordinance is meant to sunset after one year, and will be piloted during that time in the County’s unincorporated areas of Academy Hill, Westfield and the Estates.

But “social host” laws like these are a matter of public health, wrote County Counsel Mary C. Wickham.

“Underage drinking is a public health concern for youth in the County because the effect of alcohol on an adolescent’s brain can result in severe impairment of biological, psychological, and social functioning,” the proposed ordinance reads. “The County recognizes that the possession or ingestion of marijuana by underage persons, as well as the provision of the drug to those youth, is of equal concern.”

Whittier Bank heist sparks search for suspect

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A bank robbery in Whittier has police searching for a suspect, authorities said Monday. The robbery, which occurred at the Banc of California on Whittier Boulevard, resulted in no injuries, but an unknown amount of money was taken by the suspect.

Whittier Police Officer John Scoggins said that police couldn’t yet comment on a suspect description, despite early reports on social media describing the robber as an Asian male.

Scoggins also said that a red dye explosion may have resulted in the money being tossed somewhere nearby, but officers were still searching the area for evidence.

“It’s still early in the investigation,” Scoggins said, adding that even the amount of cash taken is still up in the air.

Monterey Park man gets five months for cobra smuggling

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Monterey Park man was sentenced today to five months in federal prison and two years of supervised release for smuggling three highly venomous king cobras that were coiled inside potato chip canisters and mailed from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.

In a plea agreement, Rodrigo Franco, 34, admitted smuggling another 20 cobras into Los Angeles, but he said they all died. He also admitted trying to mail protected turtles from the United States to Hong Kong, but that package was intercepted by federal agents.

Prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence of no more than 18 months in exchange for the plea. Franco’s defense attorney asked that he be given only five years probation.

Franco was also ordered to pay a $4,500 fine.

“Reptiles are my passion,” Franco, an ex-auto mechanic, wrote to Judge George H. Wu, who sentenced Franco in Los Angeles federal court.

In early March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspected a package sent from Hong Kong and discovered three live black-and-yellow king cobra snakes — protected and highly poisonous reptiles — each 2 feet long.

Prosecutors said a king cobra can kill an adult within 30 minutes if anti-venom is not available. At the time of the offense, “there was no known king cobra anti-venom in Los Angeles,” and a customs officer’s hand came within inches of one of the snakes — described as “passive” and perhaps ailing — when she opened one of the canisters, according to court papers.

In addition to the three snakes, the parcel being sent through the mail contained three albino Chinese soft-shelled turtles.

On the same date, Franco also mailed six protected turtles — desert box turtles, three-toed box turtles and ornate box turtles — from the United States to Hong Kong, but that shipment also was intercepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Because of the danger associated with the cobras, the snakes were seized from the package that had come from Hong Kong. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service made a controlled delivery of the soft-shelled turtles to Franco’s home. Immediately after the package — with turtles removed — was delivered, federal agents executed a search warrant at the residence.

While searching the home, agents found the package that originated in Hong Kong in a children’s bedroom, in which they also discovered a tank containing a live baby crocodile and tanks containing alligator snapping turtles, a common snapping turtle, and five diamond back terrapins — all of which are protected species, according to investigators.

During a subsequent interview with authorities, Franco admitted that he had previously received 20 king cobras in two prior shipments — but he said all of those snakes had died in transit, federal prosecutors said.

During the ensuing investigation, authorities obtained evidence from Franco’s phone, which contained messages in which he and someone in Asia allegedly discussed shipping turtles and snakes between the United States and Asia. The messages indicate that Franco had previously received live cobras from his contact in Asia and was going to give five of the snakes to a relative of his contact, according to prosecutors.

Cobras and other reptiles are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement designed to save threatened species from endangerment and illegal trade. King cobras sell for about $2,000 each on the black market, officials said.

Closures continue on Norwalk stretch of 5 Freeway

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NORWALK (CNS) – More overnight freeway closures will greet late night and early morning drivers on the Santa Ana (5) Freeway in Norwalk, Caltrans officials said today.

The state has scheduled overnight full freeway closures of the southbound 5 Freeway from the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway to Norwalk Boulevard, starting last night and continuing through Thursday night.

Starting at 9 p.m. each night, ramps from either direction of the 605 Freeway to the 5 south will be closed.

Then at 11 p.m., all lanes of the 5 south will be closed. All ramps and lanes are scheduled to be reopened by 5 a.m.

Northbound traffic will not face detours.

Although detour signs will be up in the area, the best detour will be on the south 605 and to the east 91 freeways, officials said.

This week’s closures are to allow for digging and shoring for footings for the new Florence Avenue overpass. Caltrans and Metro are investing $1.9 billion in completely rebuilding and widening the 65-year-old freeway.

South El Monte man goes missing Sunday morning

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SOUTH EL MONTE (CNS) – A search was underway today for an 86-year-old insulin-dependent man who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and went missing in South El Monte.

Jose Guadalupe Dehorta Cruz was last seen about 10:30 a.m. Sunday in the 2500 block of Chico Avenue, said sheriff’s Deputy Kimberly Alexander.

Dehorta Cruz is 5 feet 8, about 160 pounds, with white-gray hair and brown eyes, Alexander said. He was last seen wearing glasses, blue jeans, a plaid shirt, beige jacket, black dress shoes and a blue hat.

Anyone with information on Dehorta Cruz’s whereabouts was asked to call the sheriff’s missing persons unit at (323) 890-5500.

Man wounded in shootout with Long Beach police

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LONG BEACH (CNS) – A man was shot and wounded by police in Long Beach, following an alleged fight with officers trying to arrest him, police said today.

The officer-involved shooting took place about 6 p.m. Saturday, in the 2400 block of Baltic Avenue, Long Beach police Sgt. Brad Johnson said.

“Officers saw a suspicious person on a bicycle,” Johnson said. “They attempted to contact that person, however he subsequently fled from them on foot.”

An officer chased the suspect, later identified as 25-year-old Luis Perez of Long Beach, to the alley between Adriatic and Baltic avenues.

“Once our officer caught up to the suspect in the alley during the foot pursuit, the suspect was non-compliant with our officers commands and fought the officer.” Johnson said. “The suspect punched our officer in the face and tried to disarm him which led to the officer involved shooting.”

Perez was wounded in the leg, Johnson said. “The suspect (Perez) was then handcuffed and taken into custody.”

The suspect was taken to a hospital with stable vital signs and the wound was not considered life threatening, he said.

Perez was on active felony probation for burglary, according to police.

No officers were injured, Johnson said.

The OIS was being investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division shooting team.

Man killed in Whittier and found in Santa Fe Springs identified

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WHITTIER (CNS) – Coroner’s officials today released the name of the 40-year-old man who was found shot dead in an attack that also left another man seriously wounded.

The fatal shooting victim was identified as Javier Espinoza of San Bernardino, said Dave Smith of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

Officers responded about 4:30 p.m. Thursday to the 9600 block of John Street in Santa Fe Springs to investigate a report of a shooting that had just occurred, according to Officer John Scoggins of the Whittier Police Department.

“It was determined two male Hispanic adults had been shot,” Scoggins said. “One was pronounced deceased at the scene and the other was transported to a local area hospital in serious condition.”

No suspect description or possible motive for the shooting was immediately available, Scoggins said.

The victims were found in a Bentley convertible, he said.

According to a broadcast report, the victims were shot near a market in the 8800 block of Norwalk Boulevard in West Whittier, left the scene in the Bentley and were ultimately found by firefighters on John Street.

Whittier police asked anyone with information regarding the shooting to call them at (562) 567-9200.

Thousands gather for the 2nd Women’s March

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Thousands gathered in downtown L.A and at sister marches across the nation for the second Women’s March since Donald Trump was elected.

The march from Pershing Square to City Hall marks the one-year anniversary of Trump’s presidency and focused on women’s rights. Organizer Dove Rose explained that the purpose of the march is to unite people.

“What I witnessed last year is that people stopped waiting for permission. They stopped waiting to be invited to the table, they made their own movements and groups,” Rose said.

Rose described herself as a “humanist” rather than a “feminist,” explaining that some feel the word “feminist” is a divisive term that pits women against men.

“I would say feminism is empowerment regardless of gender…it’s a movement based on equality,” Rose said. “It’s love, equality and respect for all living and breathing things.”

This encompassing definition of feminism helps make the march an inviting place for all people to express themselves, Rose explained. Many self-identified feminists marched alongside people with signs saying, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

“I’m marching for feminist issues – we fought over all this nonsense in the 70s and I’m here to fight for all of these issues again so my granddaughter doesn’t have to,” said Joyce Hanson, 66, who arrived at the march with Cheryl Riggs, 68. Riggs said she was marching for the environment, Medicare, health care for all and against Trump.

Emma Hargett, 8, summed up a common sentiment saying, “I just don’t like how we are being treated.”

People of all ages participated in the march with signs supporting women’s rights as well as politically-motivated signs advocating for environmental issues, healthcare and immigrant rights. Other signs simply derided the president and current administration.

“We want the world to know that we are not down with orange hole-o,” said Durga McBroom, 55. She attended with Candace Chatman, 58, who added, “It’s about resistance, hate, injustice and changing the decisiveness if this country.”

Many marchers wore shirts from last year’s Women’s March and wore the iconic pink “pussyhats” made popular by The Pussyhat Project last year. Both men and women donned the hats which came as a response to lewd comments by President Trump in 2005.

“I’ve been waiting 45 years for women to unite,” said Jill Ammerman, 61, who traveled from Boston to attend the march. Ammerman added that she is marching to help younger women continue to fight for equality and justice. She was there with Jen Chow, 35, who said she is marching for women everywhere and the justice they deserve.

Although there are no official plans for a 2019 march, Rose feels the march may become a tradition.

“I have a feeling this isn’t going anywhere,” Rose said.

  • Troy Shepard, 26, and Dominic Le Fort, 25, march in solidarity with women.
  • Women holds sign denouncing the president on Hill Street.
  • "Sin muejeres, no hay revolucion."
  • Jane Melville, 63, and Jennifer Brown, 57
  • "Fuck Donald Trump."
  • "Black Lives Matter" and "The Revolution is Intersectional."
  • "Stronger Together."
  • "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people" and "Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers."
  • Marchers hold artful signs as they make their way towards City Hall.
  • "Merry Resistance and a Happy Blue Year."
  • Political sings encourage voter participation.
  • Women wearing "pussyhats" listen to speakers at the Pershing Square event stage.
  • Men and women with politically charged signs line the streets.
  • Sofia Cota, 7, dressed as Wonder Woman attends the march with Elias Cota, 22.
  • "Literally anybody else 2020."
  • Candace Chatman, 58, and Durga McBroom, 55, pose with their sign which read, "Resist the shithole. Vote. Power to the polls."
  • Emma Hargett, 8, attended the march with her mother.
  • Jill Ammerman, 61, came from Boston for the march, poses with Jen Chow, 35.
  • Signs addressed women's rights, political issues, environmental issues and many other topics.
  • Marchers flood the escalators at Pershing Square Station.
  • The iconic "pussyhat" was a popular choice for marchers.
  • Cheryl Riggs, 68, and Joyce Hanson, 66, travel to the Women's March from Union Station.