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Police Files

Graffiti on the rise in Laguna? LBPD says no, but it happens, and if you see it, report it

Walls, trees, you name it, are susceptible to graffiti. Even plants, sometimes. We’ve all seen writing on some of the succulents in Heisler Park.

According to LBPD’s Sgt Jim Cota, these markings are not on the rise in Laguna Beach, despite recent reports, for example of the graffiti at Victoria Beach. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Aurora Clabaugh

Recent graffiti at Victoria Beach

However, they want to be sure, as we all do, to keep our town as free of graffiti as possible.

The LBPD suggests that anyone who happens to observe someone in the act of applying graffiti should call the police immediately, but not make any sort of contact with the suspects.

If suspects are caught, they face a misdemeanor vandalism charge (if the damage is under $400). 

If graffiti is seen after the fact, police will ask the reporting party to explain as much information as they can about the case.

Either way, the community is urged to be vigilant to prevent our beautiful beaches and buildings from being vandalized.

Officer-involved shooting rattles community: Woman had gun in hand upon emerging from vehicle

At 2:41 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 11, the Laguna Beach Police Department received a call about an apparently distressed woman in a blue gray Lexus SUV driving erratically.

“More than one call came in. At least one (or more) caller(s) indicated that this person appeared to have a handgun visible in her possession,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota.

While officers were responding, another caller reported speaking to a woman who had a gun in the area of St. Ann’s and Gaviota. The woman with the firearm had asked the bystander to call the police because she wanted to take her own life.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Police gather at the crime scene

Officers arrived in the 100 block of St. Ann’s and made contact with the distressed woman, later found to be a 36-year-old Huntington Beach resident. She was parked at the far end of the cul de sac on Saint Ann’s facing the beach, alone in her car.

“She was initially uncooperative with the officers,” said Sgt Cota. “One officer approached her on foot. The other officer pulled up behind her vehicle and exited on foot. Then the woman emerged from the car with a gun in her hand. The officer on foot discharged his weapon. The woman was struck in the upper torso.”

Officers immediately rendered aid and called paramedics, who also worked on her. She was transported to Mission Hospital – Mission Viejo, where she underwent surgery.

As of last night, she remained in critical condition. 

No officers were injured during the incident. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Kim Pearson

A bullet penetrated a window at the Laguna Riviera: The room was unoccupied

It appears that at least one bullet went through the window of an unoccupied room at the Laguna Riviera hotel during the incident, as seen in this photo provided by hotel owner Kim Pearson. LBPD is not commenting on the number of bullets fired.

Sgt Cota tells us that the Laguna Beach Police Department will conduct an investigation and review of this incident through a multi-step process that evaluates the legal, policy, and tactical considerations surrounding the event. 

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office responded as standard protocol and will conduct a parallel and independent investigation.

--Lynette Brasfield

Police Files

Man urinates on street, refuses to cooperate with police: Forgets he has a large firecracker in his pants

On Saturday, Feb 10 at 12:52 p.m., on the 1100 block of S Coast Hwy, Randy R Sison, 41, of Mission Viejo, was cited for urinating in public – normally a relatively minor infraction – but he refused to sign the necessary citation. 

“If you don’t sign a citation, you automatically get arrested and go to jail,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota told Stu News.

That’s when things got interesting.

After Sison was taken into custody and prior to entering the jail, officers asked him if he had any contraband on him, otherwise he would be charged with an additional crime.

“Upon booking him, officers found a large firecracker in his possession,” Sgt Cota said.

The firecracker was an M-250, with a fuse three inches long, measuring three quarters of an inch in diameter – that is to say, a large firecracker.

And the large firecracker was in his right front pant pocket.

“I forgot I had it on me,” Sison said, according to LBPD.

Sison was charged with “possession of a dangerous [and illegal] firework or explosive,” in jail with him.

He was transported to Orange County Jail and faces a felony charge.

Police Files

Update on officer-involved shooting: audio and video recorded the interchange between cops and distressed woman

The 36-year-old Huntington Beach woman who was shot by police on Sunday after emerging from her vehicle with a gun in her hand, has been medically upgraded from critical to stable condition, said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota on Wednesday. 

“LBPD will seek charges against the female suspect,” said Sgt Cota.

An investigation is currently underway by both LBPD and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the incident. Video and audio recordings from patrol vehicles and residences are being reviewed, which will shed light on the interchange between cops and the distressed woman, who is reported to have threatened to take her own life, as well as the number of bullets fired.

 “Officers verbally attempted several times to let them help her with her ongoing issues,” said Sgt Cota. “(They) were very patient and attempted to help her.”

Stu News will continue to follow and report on this story in the coming weeks.


Three suspects arrested and charged in connection with assault at The Saloon

On August 11, 2017, at 1:30 a.m., Laguna Beach Police Officers responded to a fight in progress in the 400 block of South Coast Highway. Officers contacted two separate victims of an assault and began an investigation into who committed these acts of violence. 

At the conclusion of the initial investigation, it was determined that three male subjects assaulted two male Laguna Beach bar patrons and a Good Samaritan female who tried to intervene. Both male victim sustained injuries, including broken bones and lacerations. The female victim sustained minor injuries.

Laguna Beach Police Detectives began a lengthy investigation in the search for the individuals responsible for the assault. Over a dozen interviews were conducted during the investigation and hours of video reviewed. At the conclusion of the investigation, three male suspects were ultimately arrested for Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Battery with Serious Bodily Injury.

The three males were identified as City of Ontario resident Jeremy Bishop (pictured here), Daniel Little (not pictured), and Joshua Little (not pictured). Both Daniel and Joshua Little reside in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

“This lengthy and time-consuming investigation serves as a reminder that our police department will pursue any individual(s) who commit acts of violence in Laguna Beach. Our Investigations team did an outstanding job identifying, locating, and arresting these three suspects,” said LBPD Captain Jeff Calvert.

--From a press release


Laguna Beach enjoys an overall reduction in crime for 2017, although burglary is up 10 percent

The Laguna Beach Police Department is happy to report a reduction in crime for 2017. The Police Department tracks crime and a number of other statistics on a yearly basis in an overall effort to evaluate their effectiveness as well as identify areas of community outreach and enforcement.

While larcenies have dropped significantly, there has been an increase in residential burglaries. These burglaries are attributed to unlocked doors and open garage doors. “This is a reminder that we can prevent a majority of property crime by taking the time to properly secure our homes,” said Chief Farinella. The decrease in larcenies are directly related to the increased staffing of Beach Patrol Officers which were funded through Measure LL and the Strategic Plan. These once part-time positions are now full-time, providing a much-needed added layer of presence on the beach, which is where we saw the decrease in the crimes.

Other highlights:

No fatal traffic collisions: Second year in a row

Traffic collisions are down 12%

Total calls for service are up 4%, equaling 1,919 additional calls

Citations are up almost 100%, which is attributed to the additional Beach Patrol Officers enforcing local municipal codes such as no alcohol and glass on the beach.

CERT is now over 300 members strong, CERT Academy graduated Class #9

Citizen Academy participates are now over 400 strong with the graduation of Class#24

The below are Laguna Beach statistics for 2017 Part I Violent Crimes, as compared to previous years. 

Tables courtesy of LBPD

The below are Laguna Beach statistics for 2017 Part I Property Crimes, as compared to previous years. 

Every police department is mandated to report Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on a yearly basis, so that increases and decreases in crime can be tracked and evaluated on a national level. The reporting of crime is separated into two classifications, Part I and Part II. Comparing these statistics year-to-year can tell a story both locally and nationally, and help police agencies strategically focus their resources. Part I crimes are the only crimes that are mandated to report. Reporting of Part II crimes is not mandated, and include crimes such as forgery, vandalism, and drug abuse violations. The Laguna Beach Police Department does track these crimes in an effort to identify trends.

--From a press release

Police Files

Local homeless man is arrested more than 30 times in three years

At 6:43 p.m. on Saturday, Feb 24, officers responded to 2442 S Coast Highway following a report of a possible burglary in progress. 

“The property manager reported that a man was seen on the surveillance system entering a vacant but furnished apartment building...which is set to rent for $5,000 per month,” said LBPD Spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota.

“Officers arrived and established a perimeter around the property. After speaking with the property manager, officers checked the building and found an unlocked door to apartment #2. LBPD K-9 Ranger led the search, which resulted in the discovery of a subject hiding in a bathroom.”

The suspect, Reese Westenberger, 53, a local homeless man who has been arrested “in excess of 30 times since 2015” according to LBPD, had broken into the furnished rental home and admitted to the police that he had been living there for one week. 

According to LBPD, there were no drugs or alcohol found on the scene.

Westenberger was taken into custody and later transported to OCJ. His bail was set at $50,000.


Scammer pretends to be a high-level City employee with thousands in grant money to give to businesses

Last week, Ruben Flores, owner of Laguna Nursery, was thrilled to hear that he might be eligible for thousands of dollars in grant money from the City. But only for a moment. 

“On one hand, as a small business, you’re like ‘thank goodness, we need this. And then as a rational person you say, this doesn’t sound right,’” Flores says.

Flores’s instincts were spot on. He explains what happened. 

“Through Facebook messenger, [the scam artists] messaged me from a high-level City employee’s Facebook page, representing to be that person. They said they could help get me a federal grant.”

“They kept texting back and texting back, and they were fairly persistent in telling me how we could get up to $200,000 and that we needed to fill out this form with different personal information.”

Sgt Cota says, “This is a one-hundred-percent scam. The scammers ask for money upfront, in this case $1,000, in order to get the transaction to move forward for payment.”

Ruben told Stu News that the scammer, using the City employee’s Facebook account, told him to message a person by the name of Russell Miller to get the details about the supposed grant.

“Then he said, if you give me $1,000 within the next 30 minutes, I can get you $40,000. That’s when I knew for sure it was sketchy.”

Flores reported the incident to the LBPD, who are now investigating. The “Russell Miller” Facebook page has since been taken down.


Heroin bust on Canyon Road after early-morning search of Mercedes – and then an unexpected find 

Sunday morning at 12:41 a.m., officers at the intersection of El Toro Road and the southbound off-ramp of the SR-73 observed a grey Mercedes stopped beyond the limit line (approximately three feet), a violation of California Vehicle Code 21453(a). 

Officers pulled behind the vehicle and noticed the car’s registration tabs were also expired.

Inside the vehicle, officers found twelve individually packaged baggies of heroin. 

“The driver of the Mercedes, Matthew Erik Logan, 45, and passenger Gloria Renee Reid, 49, both of Fountain Valley, were charged with three drug related charges and possession of counterfeit money,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Cota.

Logan had $1,300 in his possession, $1,100 in counterfeit bills. 

A search by a woman jailer revealed four unused hypodermic needles and a Skittles bag of heroin in and around Gloria Renee Reid’s genital area.

Police Files

“Well-dressed bandits” are now wearing stripes: LBPD detectives arrest second suspect in last summer’s five-business burglary

Laguna Beach detectives have connected the final piece of the puzzle in last summer’s jewelry heist at The Shops at The Cliffs, which resulted in the loss of over $200,000 in merchandise for five Laguna Beach businesses. 

On Wednesday, LBPD Detectives traveled to Oceanside and arrested 26-year-old Alexander Kenneth Joe Aguirre, after arresting 30-year-old Edward Torrison, also in Oceanside, in September 2017. Detectives from LBPD believed early on that the burglaries were related to a series of thefts that occurred in South Orange County. 

Submitted photo

Thanks to LBPD detectives’ thorough and awesome efforts, these “well-dressed bandits” have both been arrested: on the left, Alexander Kenneth Joe Aguirre; on the right, Edward Torrison

Early on in the investigation, detectives identified one of the suspects, Edward Torrison, 30, a resident of Oceanside. On September 26, 2017, detectives from LBPD went to Oceanside and after a short foot pursuit (which also resulted in the suspect severely injuring a gecko), Torrison was placed under arrest. Torrison was subsequently convicted and sentenced. He is currently in prison, serving a 32-month sentence.

Detectives continued the investigation in search for the second suspect, later identified as 26-year-old Alexander Kenneth Joe Aguirre.

On February 28, LBPD detectives arrested Aguirre in the city of Oceanside on two counts of burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit burglary.

Detectives located stolen jewelry hidden inside of a bedroom belonging to Aguirre. All of the found jewelry was confiscated and held for evidence. Aguirre was booked and later transported to Orange County Jail.

“Laguna Beach Police detectives had an unwavering determination to apprehend both offenders and their hard work resulted in another arrest of someone who tried to victimize our business community,” said Captain Jeff Calvert, LBPD.


Have Coffee with a Cop…and lifeguards…and firefighters…and emergency personnel…on March 10

The community is invited to join neighbors, officers and emergency personnel for coffee and donuts on Sat, March 10 from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. at Mission Hospital Laguna Beach (31872 Coast Hwy). 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Firefighters, police and emergency personnel want to talk to YOU

Personnel from Mission Hospital, Laguna Beach Police Department, Laguna Beach Fire Department, Laguna Beach Lifeguards, OC Parks, OC Lifeguards and Doctors Ambulance will be present. There will be a vehicle display and photo opportunities. 

The purpose of this event is to open lines of communication and build relationships with citizens. There are no agendas or speeches, just a chance for citizens to ask questions, voice concerns, and get to know the emergency personnel in their community. 

The police officers, lifeguards, firefighters and paramedics hope for a great turnout so that they can meet plenty of members of the community.

Police Files

UPS store gets unexpected delivery – and it could have been tragic

On Saturday morning at approximately 8:30 a.m. a Porsche crashed through the UPS Store on Coast Highway. Early reports suggest that the driver was cut off, resulting in this accident.

While LBPD has yet to release details, it is clear that if this had happened just a few hours later, someone – or several people – could have been killed or severely injured at this popular location.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lorraine Hornby

Porsche crashes into UPS store

Terri Meisberger, who owns the UPS Store with her husband Mark, told Stu News:

“We’re just so grateful that the store was closed [at the time of the accident] and that nobody was injured. That’s all we could really ask for. It could have been so much worse. It’s a little inconvenience, but everyone is ok. We’re ok.”

“The copier that’s in the front went flying into the back mail boxes and is demolished. We had to get [the site] boarded up that day, right away, because it was completely open. It’s temporary. We’re hoping to get a banner made that says we’re still open.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Marshall Aren

This car was also involved in the accident

“We can rebuild, the store can be repaired. We appreciate everyone’s understanding during our “remodel.”

Stu News is following up with LBPD and will provide more details about the accident as they become available. 


Food delivery man caught on video stealing resident's Nikes

On Friday, March 2, a Laguna Beach resident living on Cliff Drive had his Nike sneakers stolen – he had left them outside his front porch, most likely to dry out because of the rain, and because that’s what you do when you live in a small town like ours.

But sadly, even if you live in a small town, you’re not immune from thieves. 

Someone took his Nikes…

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Now you see them, now you don’t

Fortunately for the resident, he had a doorbell camera set up, and caught the thief red-handed on video stealing his shoes.

The sneaky suspected sneaker thief, as seen here, was delivering take-out food to the victim’s next-door neighbor when he brazenly snatched the victim’s shoes on his way out.

“I can confirm that this happened and that detectives will follow up and see where it leads us,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota.

Police Files

Laguna Beach Police Officer Rock Wagner is exonerated of any wrongdoing

On November 28, 2017 Laguna Beach Police Officer Rock Wagner was arrested by the Fullerton Police Department in connection with an elder abuse and fraud investigation. Since that time, Officer Wagner was placed on paid administrative leave while both the criminal and internal investigations took place.

Both of these investigations have concluded and after thorough review of the evidence produced, it has been determined that allegations of misconduct could not be supported. It has also been determined by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office that evidence of a crime did not exist.

“I am happy to report that Officer Rock Wagner will return to full duty and is a valued member of the Laguna Beach Police Department,” stated LBPD Chief Laura Farinella.

--From a press release 


Door to door solicitor who tried to get money from residents arrested on metal knuckles warrant

On Friday afternoon, March 9, a Laguna Beach resident called LBPD to report a group of men that were going door to door soliciting people in the Skyline/Mystic Hills area. According to the resident, the men were riding in an “older white panel van with no windows” with a female driver, when one of them – described as “well dressed with a gold chain” – got out and came to his door to ask him for money on behalf of what the man said was a non-profit called Excellent Sales. 

LBPD approached and stopped the man in question on Pitcairn Place. According to LBPD Spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota, he possessed a notebook with “customer names”, including multiple Laguna Beach residents with their addresses identified.

The man, identified from his Missouri identification card as Jearl Perry, 34, was stopped as a result of the city’s municipal code section on door to door solicitation, which makes such behavior illegal. 

“It is against the law to solicit door to door in Laguna Beach,” said Sgt Cota.

Perry had an outstanding Orange County warrant (possession of brass knuckles) out for his arrest and was taken into custody.

Police Files

Not so fast, reckless driving leads to drugs and stolen gun charges

On Monday, March 12, an LBPD officer saw a group of about 10 vehicles driving recklessly on South Coast Highway at Legion Street at 12:47 a.m. An Aston Martin Vantage left the pack, as it turned west onto the 100 Block of Cleo Street. After noticing the vehicle didn’t have front or rear license plates, a traffic stop was initiated.

Aaron Joseph Vasquez, 29, Irvine, was identified as the driver. Vasquez consented to be searched. A small amount of cocaine and approximately $650 cash was found in his pants pocket. Vasquez was placed under arrest for cocaine possession.

The officer then saw a backpack in plain view on the passenger floorboard. Vasquez initially admitted the backpack belonged to him. The arrest search found a scale, approximately $1,600 in cash, a stolen .25 caliber handgun, and a large amount of cocaine in the backpack. Vasquez then denied ownership of the backpack after the illegal items were discovered.

The passenger was identified as Alex J Klein, 29, of Anaheim. Klein, who refused to cooperate with the investigation, had about $2,600 in cash on him.

Because the backpack was near both Vasquez and Klein, they were both taken into custody for possession of cocaine for sales, possession of a controlled substance while armed, and carrying a loaded stolen firearm.

An on-duty Newport Beach Police department canine unit responded and conducted a sniff of the vehicle. The canine alerted to the trunk area, where three large bags of marijuana were found (approximately two pounds) and cash. As a result, Vasquez and Klein both received an added possession of marijuana for sales charge. Additional charges are pending.

Vasquez, who stated he is unemployed, and Klein, who stated he is self-employed doing eBay sales, were both taken into custody and transported to Orange County Jail. Bail amounts have not been listed yet.  

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBPD

Cocaine, cash, a stolen gun and marijuana were found by LBPD during a traffic stop early Monday


LBPD is calling for vandals who damaged red telephone booth

On Monday, March 12 at 4:50 p.m., the red telephone public art piece on Forest Avenue was reported to be vandalized.

The piece, Nine Billion,” created by artist Douglas Turner, was found with broken windows, including the door.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dianne Russell

Vandals will be calling from the other side when they say hello to jail time

According to LBPD Spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota, “The phone booth door was slightly ajar, and a small piece of the phone booth window was cut out. The phone booth door is normally nailed shut, as it is not normally meant to be opened.”

A nearby store had video surveillance but their system was inoperable, said Sgt Cota. “The extent of the damages is unknown to LBPD.”


LBPD extends a big welcome back to officer Rock Wagner

On Thursday, Laguna Beach Police Officer Rock Wagner received a warm welcome back by the police department. Officer Wagner is back on the job, after he was exonerated of any wrongdoing inconnection to an investigation by the Fullerton Police Department.

He was placed on paid administrative leave while both the criminal and internal investigations took place.

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy LBPD Facebook

Officer Rock Wagner is welcomed back to the LBPD after being on paid administrative leave since November

On the department’s Facebook page, kind sentiments were posted: “Welcome back dayshift briefing for Ofc. Wagner. We are proud to have you back.”

Police Files

Road-rager assaults local woman, grabs her by the hair and slams her to the ground

On Saturday, March 17, at 5:21 p.m., a Laguna Beach resident reported that a man got out of his vehicle and assaulted her at Glenneyre Street and Laguna Avenue, near the Laguna Beach Library.

The woman and her friend said that the man first yelled derogatory comments and hate slurs at them while they were crossing Glenneyre Street in a marked crosswalk. The suspect then got out of his vehicle, grabbed the woman by her hair and pushed her, causing her to fall to the ground.

According to the report, the woman was trying to de-escalate the situation when she was slammed to the ground. 

The suspect is described as a heavy-set Hispanic man in his forties, approximately 5’ 5” tall. At the time of the incident, he was wearing a white t-shirt, black shorts, baseball cap, and sunglasses. 

LBPD detectives are currently working on the case. Anyone who has any additional information or who may have seen the incident is encouraged to call the police department at (949) 497-0701. 


Suspected drug dealer leaves car running for hours on Anita St, is no longer running his business

Also on Saturday, in the 400 block of Anita Street, at 12:52 p.m., it was reported that a gray 2010 Nissan Altima had been parked with the car running for three hours and 32 minutes, since 8:20 a.m. that morning.

According to a witness, the vehicle had very dark windows, so it wasn’t possible to see in. The concern was that someone might be inside and need help but caution was obviously necessary.

LBPD responded to the report and Jared Shouna, 23, of Laguna Niguel, was arrested for possession of drugs for sale, transportation of a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance.

Drugs found in the car included baggies of heroin that weighed 2.8 gross grams and 2.9 gross grams, a baggie of methamphetamine, weighing 1.6 gross grams, marijuana in a tin, weighing 5.5 gross grams, and marijuana from a red canister, weighing 4.5 net grams. 

“Per the suspect’s comment [at the time of his arrest], the cost of heroin is $70 per gram,” said LBPD Spokesperson Jordan Villwock.

Shouna was taken into custody with bail set at $30,000.

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