Police Files

Capo Beach man arrested for robbery, 3 other felonies at Montage 

Montage Laguna Beach security saw two men attempting to break into vehicles in the valet lot at 6:19 Monday night. 

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said security was able to detain one man, Capistrano Beach resident Michael Velazquez, 21, on the resort property while the second suspect was last seen running across Coast Hwy toward Gelson’s Market. 

Velazquez struggled with the security officers in an unsuccessful attempt to get out of their custody as police responded. 

According to the police log, Montage security set up surveillance to watch store exits and entrances but the second suspect was never located.

Velazquez was detained and placed under arrest for a $2500 warrant out of Harbor Court for resisting arrest.

Police and Montage security reviewed surveillance tape of the two suspects breaking into vehicles and taking items and also saw that Velazquez attempted to steal at least one of the cars.

The result of those tapes led police to hold Velazquez on a charge of robbery with bail of $100,000 as well as attempted vehicle theft, burglary and felony threats to do harm to a potential witness.

Police Files

City Council gadfly and son arrested in alleged plot after the son threatened councilmembers and city manager

Police said that on Wednesday, Jan 4, city hall employees led department detectives to a Craigslist posting titled, “Going to Laguna Beach city council with My Gillie suit.”

Robert Mason Ross, 75, and Michael James Ross, 33, were arrested that night. The elder Ross is a recognizable city council gadfly who has made veiled and open threats against the city over the past several years. He threw his hat into the political ring in 2012 as a candidate for the council and received over 750 votes. 

A press release from LBPD this week added, “The posting contained five different photos of a man with an automatic rifle hiding in the brush while wearing a Ghillie suit (camouflage clothing). The posting by the author stated, ‘I am warning the city council that I am going to show up with my gillie [sic] suit, to remove these tyrants from office, in 2017.’ The post also stated, ‘Call the police and the city, council and tell them I am coming to end this corruption, from the Laguna Beach City Council, once and for all. Hahahahahaha, you are going down now.’”

A search warrant was secured and served on their Treetop Lane residence that night.

LBPD joined the OC Sheriff’s SWAT team and made their first knock at about midnight without the door opening. The SWAT team used “flash bang grenades” according to the police log and there were lights on inside the house at 12:17 a.m. for about six minutes. Police continued to announce their presence to no avail before making a final call out to the occupants and entered at 1:17 detaining both men.

The press release continued: “Inside the home, investigators located six rifles, a semi-automatic handgun, and over 100 boxes of ammunition.

“At the conclusion of the search warrant, investigators arrested Michael James Ross for Criminal Threats and Threats to Public Officials. His father, Robert Mason Ross was arrested for being a Convicted Felon in Possession of Firearms. 

Bail was set on Jan 6 at $250,000. Michael Ross posted bail and was released earlier this week. The elder Ross was still in county jail as of Tuesday night.

Woman injured in traffic crash had a surprise bindle in her bra  

A woman was slightly injured in a rollover traffic crash on S. Coast Hwy Tuesday afternoon. Paramedics transported her to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach for medical observation.

Two dogs inside the vehicle were also transported for observation by animal services officers.

At hospital, San Clemente resident Dellia Ledwidge, 53, was found to have a bindle of methamphetamine in her bra – and that led to her being charged with felony possession of a controlled substance for sales and felony transportation for sales.

Her bail was set at $25,000.

Reminder: DUI enforcement operations planned this weekend

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team will be deploying this weekend to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. 

DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy on Saturday, Jan 14, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests.

In California, this deadly crime led to 1,155 deaths and nearly 24,000 injuries in 2014 because someone failed to designate a sober driver. Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes.

Police Files

Sounds as if this burglary may been an “inside job”

When we think of burglaries, we rarely consider them to be an inside job, i.e., someone who had or has knowledge of where the money is and the best time to go for the taking.

There’s no evidence from the LBPD that we are correct in our deduction, but we want you to see what “fake news” can be.

A woman left her Laguna Beach from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. When she got home, she saw that an outside door to her laundry was open and upon looking around, she saw that an office desk drawer was open.

$15,000 in cash was missing.

Laguna Beach PD detectives are on the case. 

Tree outside Urth Caffe is benched by the storm

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dianne Russell

No, this is not the controversial tree in North Laguna

Police Files

18-year-old caught in a stolen car with two juveniles on board

At 5:33 a.m. on Friday, April 14, officers were notified that a Honda Odyssey that had been stolen in Costa Mesa a week earlier had entered Laguna Beach.

Officers stopped the vehicle near Anita Street and Coast Highway and detained its three occupants. 

The driver, Spencer Hastings Jr., 18, Costa Mesa, was arrested for felony vehicle theft with $20,000 bail.

The two female juveniles were transported to the police station.

Police Files

Laguna police pay attention to everyone who needs it 

Last Thursday evening at 20 minutes before six, a female caller from the alternative sleeping location on Laguna Canyon Road requested the assistance of officers. She said that she had been sexually assaulted.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said, “Due to her intoxication level, the officer was unable to obtain a statement from her. The female caller was subsequently detained for public intoxication and was taken to the hospital by paramedics.”

Sgt. Kleiser told us that after she had been cleared at the hospital, the officer went there and spoke with the woman, who was not jailed.

“She told him she had been on an OCTD bus on Coast Hwy when a male had inappropriately touched her under her shirt.” 

The officer took the report and LBPD detectives will be investigating.

The homeless woman, age 20, has a history of alcohol abuse here.


Arrested man goes off at ER and tries to kick a cop

Derek Sean Acevedo, 46, no fixed address, was arrested for being drunk in public early last Thursday morning after he had walked into a downtown bar at last call, grabbed a half filled glass on the bar and downed it. He left in a hurry as the bartender called police and provided a description.

He was arrested a few minutes later on S. Coast Highway.

The city jailer took Acevedo to the emergency room at Mission Hospital. Once there, police said, Acevedo began a heated debate with hospital staff and urinated on the floor in his hospital room.

The jailer called for backup and once more officers had arrived, they approached Acevedo who began spitting on them and hospital staff. As officers attempted to restrain him, Acevedo kicked repeatedly at one of the officers and nearly connected with his face in the process.

Acevedo was charged with being drunk in public and misdemeanor assault on a police officer.

Police Files

Woman robbed walking home on Brooks Street Tuesday night 

A woman called police Wednesday morning to report that she had been strong-armed by an assailant who then robbed her taking her purse and cell phone.

 LBPD Sergeant Tim Kleiser told us, “She told officers that while she was walking home from a downtown bar at around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on Brooks Street, someone had pushed her from behind, causing her to fall to the ground. The victim said her purse and cell phone were taken.” 

Sgt. Kleiser said she neither saw nor heard the assailant.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call LBPD at 497-0701.

Sunday morning rollover on Coast Highway

Click on photo for a larger image


Dennis Rooney

Dennis Rooney took this photo before police arrived on scene Sunday at 6:05 a.m. The Honda Pilot heading southbound in the 400 block of N. Coast Highway struck a parked car and rolled over. Police said the single occupant was uninjured and that no charges were pending. The cause is still being investigated, police said.

Police Files

Department of stupid criminals – don’t hold pot out of car window – especially when you have $35,000 worth in containers inside and there’s a cop car beside you

Two patrol officers were on S. Coast Hwy near Cress Street at four o’clock New Year’s Eve afternoon when they saw something very unusual. The passenger of a car next to them was leaning out of the window holding two bottles full of marijuana – one in each hand. The officers stopped them when they turned onto Agate Street.

LBPD booking photos

Brandon Herrera, 18 of Dana Point, the driver, and Austin Vernon, 18, Dublin, Ohio, were both immediately detained and the vehicle was searched.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, that in addition to the two jars Vernon was holding out of the window, other bottles were located with a total weight of nearly 43 ounces.

A bag containing another 44 ounces was also located – 2,436 grams with a street value of $35,000…not exactly personal use.

Both were arrested for felony transportation of marijuana for sales.

Herrera was also charged with felony possession of concentrated cannabis and driving without a license, a misdemeanor.

For good measure, Herrera was held for a felony warrant out of Harbor Court with charges of – are you ready – possession of marijuana and transportation of marijuana for sales. He was held for a total bail of $50,000.

Man suffers major cut from New Year’s sucker punch

Police received two distressed emergency 9-1-1 calls at 2 a.m. New Year’s morning from a female caller who managed to get the point across that someone had been hurt when assaulted at S. Coast Hwy and St. Ann’s Drive.

Police and medics were dispatched.

On scene, it was learned that a man who was walking his female friend home had inadvertently bumped into someone while checking his cell phone.

He didn’t see it coming when he was struck on the side of his face causing a major cut over his left eye. Medics stabilized the man who then was transported to Mission Trauma Center in Mission Viejo in critical, but not life threatening, condition.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said detectives are investigating the case.

Apparent vandalism at LBHS created a brief stir for authorities

Emergency dispatch received a call from an alarm company at 11:56 p.m. New Year’s Eve for the activation of both a fire and burglar alarm.

The alarm company said that an associated camera activation in the classroom involved – a chemistry lab – showed a white powder substance strewn about.

After several minutes of investigating, it was determined that someone had sprayed a fire extinguisher around an area of the lab.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said, “Officers noticed that someone had gained access to the room through a window. No items have been reported missing from the classroom at this time.”

Later in the day, it was also learned that several lockers in the boy’s locker room had been opened and their contents were strewn across the floor area. There is no direct evidence that the two incidents are related.

Police Files

Two arrested after fighting cop downtown early Saturday morning

A man and woman were arrested after police responded to a reported melee at S. Coast Hwy and Forest Ave at 1:46 Saturday morning.

By the time the first patrol unit arrived on scene, the fight involved just two men. That officer managed to halt the fighters but when he attempted to detain one man, that one slugged the officer in the face and broke free.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said Monday, “The man ran from the officer, but the officer was able to catch him and after another struggle a nearby Good Samaritan assisted the officer with handcuffing the suspect.”

Dennis Mondragon, 23 of Lake Forest, was arrested for misdemeanor assault on a police officer and felony resisting arrest.

LBPD booking photos

After other officers arrived, they learned that a female with Mondragon had fought with two bouncers at the White House a few minutes earlier. Courtney Ellis, 20, of Rancho Santa Margarita, was arrested for misdemeanor battery.

The officer who fought with Mondragon sustained cuts to his face and legs.

Police Files

Woman confronted a man getting into her car as she stood nearby – when she did, he swung a knife at her 

A woman called 9-1-1 from a driveway on Camel Point Drive at 3:53 Tuesday afternoon reporting that a man she didn’t know had swung a knife at her.

The caller said she had pulled into a friend’s driveway and had left her doors unlocked and the engine running while she talked with a friend about 25 feet away.

The woman told police that she had seen the man, later identified as Michael Cowan, 45, no fixed address, open a car door and begin to get inside.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Thursday, “The victim confronted the man and asked why he was going into the car. The man became upset and pulled out a folding knife from his waistband and swung it toward the victim. He had told the victim that he was a former Marine and military.”

The knife did not strike the woman. 

Officers did an area search located Cowan within five minutes at the Aliso Beach parking lot where he was arrested for felony assault with a deadly weapon. 

Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operation on Tuesday 

The Laguna Beach Police Department will step up Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operations on Dec 6, with focused enforcement on collision causing factors involving motorists and pedestrians. 

The department will be focusing on locations, since January 2012, where pedestrian involved accidents have occurred along with the violations that led to those crashes. Officers will be conducting directed enforcement at those locations looking for traffic offenses made by drivers and pedestrians alike that can lead to life-changing injuries. Special attention will be given to drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks or any other dangerous violation. 

Additionally, enforcement action will be taken against pedestrians committing violations such as crossing the street illegally or failing to yield to drivers who have the right of way. Pedestrians should cross the street only at marked crosswalks or at corners.

In 2013, California witnessed 701 pedestrian deaths accounting for over 23 percent of all roadway fatalities, much higher than the national average of 15 percent. A national study reveals that pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently, and many often use cell phones, text and listen to music while walking or driving. Only 60 percent of pedestrians said they expected drivers to stop when they were in crosswalks, even though they have the right-of way. 

The Laguna Beach Police Department would like to remind both drivers and pedestrians to be alert and share the roadway. Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Police Files

Drone drives resident to distraction – and worse

Drones are a contentious topic, and on Friday, one resident in the 1300 block of Skyline Drive decided to take matters into his own hands – literally.

“After a thorough investigation, officers found a resident had taken a drone that belonged to a professional videographer, who was filming for real estate purposes,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt. James Cota. “The citizen refused to give it back to the owner.”

According to the police log, the man also punched the videographer, who declined medical attention. 

Eventually, officers were able to get the man to come out of the house with the now-damaged drone.

Joshua Radwan, 36, Laguna Beach, was arrested for robbery and transported to Orange County Jail.

Cliff Drive burglary foiled

On Saturday evening, a neighbor reported a woman sitting on a doorstep and pounding on the door of a residence in the 1000 block of Cliff Drive. 

Officers arrived at the scene and detained the woman and her companion.

According to Sgt. James Cota of the LBPD, “They were in the process of stealing items from the residence.”

Marcela Encarnacion, 45, Long Beach, and Arnoldo Chavez, 49, Norwalk, were both arrested for residential burglary. Additionally, Chavez was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Merced County for vandalism, resisting, and battery.

Man spits at officers during arrest

Officers responded on Friday night to Main Beach following a report of assault. After making contact with the two men involved, it was determined that Daniel Del Rosario, 24, no fixed address, was the aggressor.

“While officers attempted to arrest Del Rosario, he spat at an officer but missed,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “Aside from being charged with assault, additional charges were added for assault on a police officer.”

Del Rosario was taken to Orange County Jail and held with $20,000 bail.

Police Files

A strong-arm robbery was reported Friday – suspect was detained but no victim ever came forward

At 6:30 Friday night, a 9-1-1 caller reported that a man in tan pants and a gray hoodie had grabbed a boy – hit him – then forcefully took money from his hand then pushed him down.

The suspect took off running and police located him at Beach St and Ocean Ave a few minutes later. When they attempted to detain him, he punched an officer with a closed fist causing the officer’s eye to swell.

The original caller was located and he identified the man police had detained, Michael Garcia, 35, no fixed address, as the suspect.

Police were unable to locate the victim and no one came forward claiming to have been robbed by the suspect.

Garcia was arrested for battery on a police officer.

It took 10 minutes – but a cop eventually made tackle

A bouncer at Hennessey’s downtown flagged down a patrol car on Ocean Avenue at 10:48 p.m. Saturday and told the officer that a man who had been in a fight inside had just taken off on foot.

As officers patrolled the area, they had a couple of sightings of the suspect who managed to elude them until about 10 minutes later.

An officer was able to chase Patrick Francis Alsamarraie, 28 of Orangevale, to the 200 block of S. Coast Hwy where he tackled the suspect.

Alsamarraie was arrested for resisting/obstructing/delaying an officer and being drunk in public.

Police Files

Terry Thornsley, artist and sculptor, passes at 56

Prolific sculptor and artist Terry Thornsley was found dead in his studio/home on Laguna Canyon Road Tuesday morning according to Laguna Beach police.

Click on photo for a larger image

City of Laguna Beach photo


Public Art by Terry Thornsley

Thornsley is best known for his many public art installations including “Grace”, which is at the new Laguna Beach Lifeguard Headquarters at Main Beach.

He also installed the famous “Water Puppy” – a baby seal on the Festival of Arts grounds that is a favorite of children who visit the Festival and at Treasure Island Park where he did the “Trees with Birds” that many know. He did public art installations at Crescent Bay Park.


Terry Thornsley painting

Thornsley was an exhibitor at the Festival of Arts for nearly 30 years.

A concerned neighbor called police Tuesday morning after he had not seen the 56-year-old artist for several days.

The cause of death is unknown but police, who entered the studio/residence via a second floor window with a fire department ladder, said he had passed away a few days before Tuesday.

The OC Coroner has not released the results of an autopsy.

Police Files

Teenage girls rob woman on Anita St at knifepoint in broad daylight

Police said a woman walking alone in the 500 block of Anita Street Wednesday afternoon was robbed at knifepoint by teenage girls. 

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said police were not sure if two or three blonde haired teenage girls had approached the woman.

He said the victim called 9-1-1 within minutes of the robbery. “They drove past her on Anita Street as she walked toward the beach and stopped in front of her. The suspects approached her and demanded her purse and cell phone. She gave them $5 and they fled…”

Sgt. Kleiser said they were in a dark grey or black sedan or small SUV and were last seen westbound on Anita Street. The vehicle may have had out of state plates according to police who added that the driver appeared to be a male.

LBPD detectives are investigating the case.

Woman arrested after driving stolen car from the IE to visit the beach 

Police patrol units learned that a stolen white Saturn reported from Riverside had driven into Laguna Beach at the north City limits at 3:03 a.m. Tuesday morning. They searched for the car and located it parked in the 1000 block of Cliff Drive.

As officers watched the Saturn, other officers began an area search nearby, Sgt. Tim Kleiser indicated. They encountered a woman at Shaw’s Cove beach who denied knowledge of the car.

At 5 a.m., they saw her nearby the parked Saturn and questioned her once more. Her answers led them to a search and the keys to the stolen vehicle were discovered.

Tamra Trueblood, 43, from Murrieta in Riverside County, was arrested at 5:15 a.m. and charged with felony vehicle theft.

Police Files

Man arrested inside women’s room taking pictures

Jonathan Celis-Sorrosa, 25, of Santa Ana, was arrested for invasion of privacy with a camera and resisting arrest early Sunday morning at the White House.

Police were called after a woman told a security guard that a man had taken photos of her while she was inside a stall of the women’s restroom.

Police responded at 1:51 a.m. and found Celis-Sorrosa still in the restroom and escorted him outside.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “He attempted to pull away several times from the officers and after a brief struggle, was placed in handcuffs.”

No further details were available.   

Two stolen cars led to numerous charges and three in custody

LBPD patrol officers successfully stopped two stolen cars on Laguna streets on Thursday and Sunday resulting in three suspects being arrested on felony charges.

Early Sunday morning, a 2016 Nissan Sentra that had been reported stolen in Anaheim on Friday was stopped at S. Coast Hwy and Legion Street.

After clearing the car at gunpoint at 4:49 a.m., officers found burglary tools on board and arrested the two men who had been in the car.

Michael Moran, 27, Santa Ana, was charged with felony vehicle theft, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools. Nestor Garcia, 28, also from Santa Ana, was arrested for the same charges plus false ID to a police officer and driving on a suspended/revoked license.

On Thursday at 1:14 a.m., police stopped a red Honda CRV in the 600 block of Laguna Canyon Road. It had been stolen in Bishop on Wednesday.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, “During a search of the vehicle, officers located a methamphetamine pipe and methamphetamine.”

Seattle, WA resident Anthony Wendell Evans, 37, was arrested on charges of felony vehicle theft and possession of a controlled substance.

Laguna resident defrauded by IRS phone scammers

The FBI made a national announcement last Thursday about a phone scam that was being reported all over the country.

That same afternoon, LBPD learned from a North Laguna resident that scammers claiming to be IRS agents had instructed that two Apple gift cards be purchased in the total amount of $800 to satisfy a tax debt.

The victim complied and gave the caller the card numbers and lost $800.

One sure thing, cops will be out in droves on Cinco de Mayo

Fiesta time or jail time?

If you are planning to party this Cinco de Mayo, keep this number in mind: 343 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes over the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend in 2014. Of those 343 people who lost their lives, 34 percent (116) died in drunk-driving crashes. And the drivers in those crashes weren’t just a little drunk. Sadly, almost one out of five (17 percent) of all the drivers in fatal crashes that weekend had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .15 percent or higher – almost twice the legal limit in every state.

Everyone should be mindful also that if you’re taking medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the level of impairment.

LBPD will have additional patrol units all over town looking for impaired drivers this Thursday evening with the goal of lowering the number of deaths and injuries.

Police Files

Laguna man, 26, arrested for felon with a gun while he was arrested for stealing a car on Laguna Canyon Rd

A Laguna Beach man, 26, was arrested last Wednesday afternoon for felony vehicle theft and felon in possession of a gun after he was detained about a block away from where a 2006 Mazda SUV had been reported stolen about three hours earlier in the 21000 block of Laguna Canyon Road.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Michael Matekel was observed in the area of the stolen Mazda after a patrol officer had found it in the 20400 block of Sun Valley. 

“The officer watched it from a distance. While the officer was there, a man approached the patrol car from the rear. The officer exited the patrol car and saw a wooden handle of a pistol sticking out of one of his pockets.”

Matekel also had the keys to the stolen Mazda in his possession along with the .22 caliber pistol.

Detectives nab two Inland Empire women trying for a $20K fraud

A plastic surgery center reported earlier in the month that a woman had paid for over $4,500 in surgery after submitting a fraudulent credit application.

LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser explained that a detective followed up on the report and while investigating the original fraud, discovered that two other women had pulled off the same type of fraud.

“Those two were approved for their surgery costs after filing the fraudulent application and had charged a total of $20,400 in deposits with the financing firm,” Sgt. Kleiser said.

The two women, both from Moreno Valley, had set appointments for their initial surgical consultation for this coming week, which they cancelled.

Both women, Donicka Baker, 39 and Makeida Blackman, 27, drove to the surgery center last week and attempted to have their deposit amounts returned and credited to their actual credit cards.

They were detained by detectives and arrested on felony charges of grand theft, ID theft, impersonating another person to obtain credit, and obtaining money under false pretenses.

Police Files

Five 40-yr-old eucalyptus trees cut at base of trunks in front of Montage Resort – arborist not sure if they will survive  

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Two of five 40-year-old eucalyptus trees cut in front of Montage Laguna Beach

Police said that Montage Laguna Beach staff estimates the value of replacing five tall eucalyptus trees cut at the base of their trunks overnight Sunday to be between $400,000 and $500,000.

The cuts were discovered and reported to the LBPD Monday morning. 

Sgt. Tim Kleiser told us, “An arborist advised it would take approximately four to six weeks to determine if the trees would recover from the damage and estimated the trees were 40-45 years old. The case has been assigned to detectives.”

Police Files

Two men, woman, arrested for strong-armed robbery

Officers were called to the parking lot at Mission Hospital just after 6 o’clock last Tuesday night for a report of a robbery.

Sgt. Tim Heisler of the LBPD said the victim called 9-1-1 and told officers when they arrived on scene that he “…was walking in the parking lot and two males exited a Ford Mustang and called him a narc and snitch. The two males then struck the RP several times and took his wallet and fled in the Ford. The victim sustained swelling to his left eye and complained of pain to his head. He was taken to the hospital for his injuries.”

LBPD stopped the Mustang heading northbound on Coast Hwy near Wesley Drive. There were two male passengers and a female driver, police said.

Sgt. Kleiser said the four people knew each other and there had been contact between them a few days before the incident.

 Derek Schmalle, 21, and Timothy Solomon, 28, both from San Clemente, and Shanoa Mitchell, 27 of Capistrano Beach, were all arrested for felony robbery and felony conspiracy and held on $100,000 bail each.

Man with two dogs struck on S. Coast Hwy – one dog was killed

A man walking across S. Coast Hwy at Brooks Street with two dogs in a crosswalk was struck by a vehicle heading northbound. Police said the Laguna Beach man, 45, was crossing Coast Hwy toward the inland side when the collision occurred.

He was hospitalized with a broken leg, police said. One of the dogs died at the scene as a result of the collision and the other was injured.

Police said it did not appear that ether alcohol or drugs were a factor and the driver was not arrested on scene. 

The investigation has not been completed. 

Another eucalyptus cut – across from Montage Laguna Beach

Another eucalyptus tree was cut at the base apparently overnight Friday. It was in the parking lot almost directly across Coast Hwy from where the trees with the same cuts were discovered on Montage Laguna Beach property.

Montage told police that an arborist was uncertain about the ability of their trees to survive the cutting. An arborist will look at the tree in the parking lot in the 30800 block this week.

No further details were available.

LBPD advises that imposters are out with the SCE scam again

Southern California Edison (SCE) is advising customers to be aware of a new telephone scam that is demanding immediate payment for allegedly past due electricity bills. Imposters have been calling SCE customers stating they must make immediate payment on past due bills or their electric service will be disconnected. The callers are also demanding payment be made through a prepaid cash card, such as a PayPal or Green Dot card.

“We ask our customers to be alert to these calls that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,” said Henry Martinez, SCE vice president of Safety, Security & Compliance. “Customers suspecting a fraudulent call should ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses to provide this information, customers should terminate the call and report the incident immediately to local police at 497-0701 or SCE at 800-655-4555.”

SCE also reminds customers to ask for identification when a stranger comes to the door or calls claiming to be a utility worker. SCE utility workers will provide verification, including their department and phone number, when asked. In most cases, home visits by SCE are scheduled by the customer and SCE will confirm the appointment in writing. If there are any concerns, SCE and law enforcement officials suggest having the utility worker wait outside until their identity can be verified.

SCE customers should also note that an SCE employee will never ask for money in person;never reveal your credit card, ATM or calling card numbers (or PIN numbers) to anyone.

If someone calls and requests you leave your residence at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police. This could be a burglary set up by the caller. Be suspicious of anyone who arrives at your house without an appointment asking to check an appliance, wiring, or suggesting that there may be some other electrical problem inside your residence.

For more ways customers can stay safe, please see www.sce.com/safety and read the safety tips section.

Police Files

Police arrest driver in Friday felony hit & run Saturday morning

Photo by Mark Nelson

This Chevrolet SUV was hit head on in a hit and run crash Friday afternoon

Police and fire responded to a head on traffic crash an N. Coast Hwy and Beverly Street at 3:32 Friday afternoon. A 17-year-old girl from Rancho Santa Margarita sustained minor injuries and was taken to hospital according to LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser.

On scene, it was learned that a Jeep SUV had left the scene. That vehicle was found parked on Hillcrest Drive shortly after the crash.

Photo by Christopher Kling

The suspect vehicle on Hillcrest Friday

Suzanna Olson, 54, of Laguna Beach, the registered owner of the suspect vehicle, was arrested at her home on Cliff Drive ay 9:48 Saturday morning. She was charged with felony hit and run with bail set at $50,000.

Police Files

Suspect fled police – careened off 11 cars on Coast Hwy

On Saturday, Laguna police investigated a report of credit card fraud reported by an out of state cardholder who told them about $1,000 had been charged at a North Laguna hotel. The victim said he had spoken with the front desk and was told that the person who had charged the room was there now.

Officers spoke with the front desk and knocked on the door at about 12:45. Four people inside ran out of the room onto the second floor balcony when the saw the cops. Two were detained and two others, a man and a woman, jumped to the ground, Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday. They managed to get away as the officers dealt with the two who had been detained on the balcony.

He added, “A male and female were detained in the room and the female, Lauren Rivero, 20, from Anaheim, had an outstanding $3,000 warrant for theft from Los Angeles. She was arrested for the warrant.”

As the officers were leaving the hotel at about 2:09 p.m., a hotel employee told them that the woman who had rented the room was in a tan SUV outside. Officers, on foot, managed to get to her before she drove away only to have her take off.

An area search was launched in North Laguna and a patrol unit spotted the tan Cadillac Escalade heading south on Coast Highway near Aster Street.

Sgt. Kleiser provided the following: 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dennis Rooney

This is one of the first five vehicles struck north of Broadway by the Cadillac Escalade Saturday afternoon. Note the wheel in the foreground, which fell off the Escalade. The driver continued on Coast Hwy before turning onto Park Ave after crashing into five more vehicles traveling in both directions on Coast Hwy.

“The officers attempted to stop the SUV, but it immediately drove over into the opposing lanes of traffic and collided with two vehicles in the 300 block of N. Coast Highway. The Escalade continued south on Coast Highway and struck three more vehicles north of Broadway in heavy traffic. Two people, an adult female and female child, complained of pain as a result of that collision. 

“The Escalade continued south and collided with five other vehicles in the 100 and 200 blocks of South Coast Highway. She then turned east on the 200 block of Park Avenue and struck a parked vehicle there. The car finally stopped in the library parking lot after it ran into a cement pillar. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dennis Rooney

Photo by Kelly Viszolay

“The driver fled on foot and was not located. Two passengers in the car were detained and later released.” 

Detectives are working on identifying and locating the driver.

We hope to have added details in our Friday edition.   

Body discovered on Heisler walkway Sunday morning

A person walking in Heisler Park at 6:21 Sunday morning called 9-1-1 reporting that a man was lying on the walkway near the picnic tables.

Police and fire units responded and discovered that a man was deceased from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The OC Coroner will perform and autopsy and release the man’s name later this week.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said the man was 78 and a Laguna Beach resident. 

Stolen Mountain Bike – Value: $10,000

Click on photo for a larger image


On November 23, 2013, the victim left the bicycle above in the bed of his pickup truck parked in the underground lot of Inn at Laguna in the 200 block of N. Coast Hwy.

The bicycle is a Scott Carbon Fiber custom build mountain bike, and all paint and decals are custom. The bicycle is valued at $10,000.

If you have information, contact LBPD Detective Matt Meadows, (949) 497-0758

Police Files

Man arrested in men’s room after pulling a knife on another man

Chad Garcia, 30, Garden Grove, was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon just after midnight Friday after brandishing a knife and threatening another man.

A security guard was also in the Marine Room men’s room at the time and heard the threats. The guard escorted Garcia outside where they awaited the arrival of Laguna Beach Police officers.

Garcia was taken into custody for the felony charge without incident according to LBPD Sgt. Tim Kleiser. 

Bail was set at $25,000. 

Hacienda Heights man arrested after trying to smash store window

Police responded to the 300 block of Forest Avenue at 11:35 p.m. Saturday after a man was seen trying to smash the window of a store with a rock.

Jake Tineo, 20, of Hacienda Heights was detained while still in front of the store window when officers arrived on scene. The witness who had called 9-1-1 verified that the cops had their man.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser said Monday, “The window at the business had marks on it from a rock that the male was using to try and break it. They also saw that a nearby mailbox was opened and mail was scattered on the ground. Some of the mail had been opened.”

Tineo was arrested for felony attempted burglary and misdemeanor mail theft.

He was booked here and taken to county jail with bail of $20,000.

Police Files

Murder conviction overturned in 2009 beating death of Damon Nicholson in his North Laguna apartment

Damon Nicholson was murdered with a baseball bat in his Dolphin Way apartment in October 2009. At the time, the 40-year-old man was the banquet manager at Hotel Laguna and well known around town.

After an investigation, Laguna Beach Police detectives arrested two Lake Forest men, Matthew Dragna and Jacob Quintanilla, both 19, for Nicholson’s murder. Both men had gone to the Dolphin Way residence to have sex with Nicholson.

Dragna had been there on more than one occasion and court records show that he invited Quintanilla to the location on the night of the murder.

Dragna and Quintanilla were convicted of the murder in separate jury trials with Dragna convicted in December 2013 and later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed that conviction finding that Laguna Beach detectives had continued to question Dragna after he had invoked a request for an attorney. That, the court ruled, was a violation of Dragna’s rights under Miranda v. Arizona. That ruling removed the evidence that had been obtained during the questioning.

California’s Attorney General’s office acknowledged that the detectives made the error but argued that there was other independent evidence sufficient to convict Dragna. That evidence included DNA. 

The Orange County DA is expected to file charges for a new trial but have made no announcement.

A spokesperson for the Laguna Beach PD said they have no comment at this time.   


New “Coast to Coast” seat belt enforcement effort starts May 23 and aims to increase Click It or Ticket participation, save lives 

From May 23 to June 5, local law enforcement personnel will participate in the national Click It or Ticket campaign in an effort to save lives through increased seat belt use. This education enforcement period comes ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. 

According to research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while 88.5 percent of passenger vehicle occupants buckled up in 2015, almost 50 percent of occupants of fatal crashes nationwide are not restrained. In some states, the rate is as high as 70 percent unrestrained in fatal crashes. In California, more than a half million people travel our roadways at grave risk without proper restraints. These facts highlight the need for increased education, awareness, and enforcement of seat belt use. Law enforcement agencies statewide are joining the Click It or Ticket effort to emphasize the “Coast to Coast” seat belt safety awareness campaign in all 50 states. 

“As law enforcement, we have a special role in helping protect the safety of our citizens,” said Lt. Jeff Calvert. “Time after time, we see the deadly results that come from drivers and passengers refusing to wear a seat belt. Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important steps in increasing survivability in a crash. Our job is to stop those who are not buckled up, and to keep them from repeating this potentially deadly mistake.” 

In 2014, nearly half of the 21,022 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes nationally were unrestrained, according to NHTSA. During the nighttime hours of 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., that number increased to 57 percent of those killed. 

“Hundreds of thousands of citizens will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend, as well as throughout the summer vacation season. We want to make sure that people are buckling up to keep themselves and their families safe. It is the greatest defense in a vehicle crash,” said Rhonda Craft, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety. 

For more info on the Click It or Ticket campaign, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/ciot

Police Files

Two men and a woman arrested on total of 19 charges including stealing a vehicle 

A car stop on Goff St at a quarter before midnight last Saturday turned out to be a lot more than the vehicle code violation that attracted an officer’s initial attention.

Vanessa Wilson, 24, Colton, Justin Kimbro, 25, San Bernardino and Anthony Flores, 22, also from San Bernardino, were arrested for 19 charges.

Officers learned post haste that the vehicle had been reported stolen on Friday in Riverside and began treating the incident as a crime scene.

Wilson and Kimbro were both charged with felony vehicle theft and possession of a controlled substance when methamphetamine was located. Wilson also was charged with possession of unspecified stolen property. Flores was held for the meth charge.

In addition to the fresh charges above, all three had warrants.

Wilson had eight outstanding warrants including a no bail warrant out of Pasadena for two counts of ID theft. The other seven were from San Bernardino containing charges of grand theft, drug possession, shoplifting and possession of stolen property. The total bail on those warrants was $105,000.

Flores had warrants with charges of drug possession and shoplifting. His total bail was set at $50,000.

Kimbro had three San Bernardino warrants, each with two charges: one for grand theft and possession of stolen property, one for grand theft and petty theft and the third for being under the influence of a controlled substance and utility theft. Total bail: $70K.

All three were booked here and taken to county jail.

Police Files

Parolee on a rampage drives vehicle onto crowded Main Beach sidewalk

Israel Chavez resists arrest, attempts to shove officer into traffic, spits, is tased; police find an eight-year-old girl in the vehicle

Last Sunday evening at 7:21 p.m., LBPD received multiple reports of a possible DUI driver and a vehicle on Coast Highway swerving dangerously in and out of traffic, at one point almost hitting a bicyclist. 

“An officer observed the vehicle making an illegal left turn from northbound Coast Highway onto the 100 block of Laguna Ave,” Sgt Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson told Stu News. 

“The driver then turned onto El Paseo, hit a parked car, and continued north. He drove onto the cobblestones at Main Beach, then over the grass area, across the sidewalk, which was crowded with pedestrians. It’s amazing that no one was injured.”

The driver, later identified as Israel Chavez, 39, of El Monte, headed south on Coast Highway. Police officers caught up with him near Third Ave on PCH and conducted a high-risk car stop. Officers learned that Chavez was on parole for carjacking,

“Chavez showed signs of alcohol intoxication. He exited the vehicle as requested by officers but then became increasingly uncooperative, attempting to shove the officers back into the traffic,” Sgt Cota says. “Officers were shocked to see that there was an eight-year-old girl seated in the right rear passenger seat.”

Chavez challenged officers to fight and spat at one of them, becoming increasingly combative.

“An officer deployed his Taser. After a struggle on the ground, with Chavez kicking and trying to twist away, officers were able to handcuff him but he continued to fight,” Sgt Cota said.

OC Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene to assist and Chavez was finally put in the back of a patrol car. A spit mask was used to prevent him spitting at the officers.

Chavez was taken to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach for a medical clearance. After being cleared, he was taken straight to Orange County Jail and booked on charges of violating his parole, fighting/resisting officers, and child endangerment.

The child was released to her mother and grandmother. 

Chavez, the LBPD has learned, is not the child’s biological father.

Police Department Memorial Fundraiser January 27

“With the assistance of members from the Laguna Beach Firefighters Association, City Arts Commission and several residents in town, the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association (LBPEA) is now seeking community support in getting a permanent monument installed in front of our Police Department,” said LBPEA President Larry Bammer.

The memorial monument will be dedicated in the memory of the two officers who lost their lives in the line of duty protecting our city – Gordon French and Jon Coutchie.

“With the assistance of members from the Laguna Beach Firefighters Association, City Arts Commission and residents in town, the Police Employees’ Association is now seeking your support in getting a permanent monument installed in front of our Police Department.

A fundraiser, with a goal of $40,000, has been planned for Jan 27 from 5:30 – 9 p.m. at Mare Culinary Lounge. Mare is located at the intersection of S. Coast Highway and Cleo Street where Jon Coutchie’s fatal accident occurred on September 21, 2013 and where a makeshift memorial remains.

The no-host bar and silent auction will be from 5:30 – 7 p.m. with a buffet dinner served at 7 p.m.

Officer Bammer said this week, “We are getting some great auction items already from the owner of Mare, Montage Laguna Beach and Fletcher Jones Mercedes.

“To raise the funds we have partnered with the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3), to receive donations.  The Laguna Beach Police Officer Memorial Artwork Advisory Committee includes City Treasurer Laura Parisi (LB resident and Rotarian), LBPD Lieutenant (and Jon’s close friend) Jeff Calvert and myself.

“We have established that we need to raise $40,000 to get the project built. Thank you to Allesandro and Mare Culinary Lounge for offering this venue as the first event to raise the funds to move forward with this art installation.”

Bammer went on to say a charitable fund, the Laguna Beach Police Office Memorial Artwork Fund, has been established at the Laguna Beach Community Foundation to collect tax-deductible donations for the project. 75% of each ticket sold will go directly toward the Fund for the Memorial’s development, site preparation and installation. Please provide your name and address so that the Laguna Beach Community Foundation can send you a thank you for your $75 tax-deductible donation.

If you are unable to attend the event but wish to donate you can forward your donations to the Laguna Beach Community Foundation at PO Box 1628, Laguna Beach, CA. 92652. Checks can be made to “LBCF-LB Police Officer Memorial Artwork Fund”. The Laguna Beach Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, Tax ID #20-6390272.

To purchase tickets go to: http://lbpoliceofficermemorialfundraiser.eventbrite.com

Police Files

Weaving crimes together never ends up as a good thing

Sometimes, people create what police call a cluster @#&} while trying to score big on a crime spree. We have two of those to report today – one that happened way back in March and the other this past Monday and Tuesday. We promise there won’t be a quiz after you read these…

A reader sent us this photo in March

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jeff Greenough

A woman was arrested on Jasmine Street

An alert officer’s attention was drawn to suspicious occupants, a man and a woman, of a car when the officer saw the man walk away from a parked car near Cypress on Jasmine Street in North Laguna back in March. When the officer spoke to the man, Jason Sacdalan, 45, Costa Mesa, he admitted going into the parked car but hadn’t taken anything.

Sacdalan had been in a car driven by Emily Blaney, 20, of Huntington Beach, which was parked on Jasmine.

Meanwhile, another officer was taking a report on High Drive and Poplar Street for items taken from a vehicle. That officer recognized the description of the car stopped on Jasmine as the same as had been given by the victim on High Drive.

It was also at about that time that the officer on Jasmine arrested Sacdalan for two West Court warrants for drug possession with $20,000 bail.

The officer from the High Drive report assisted in a search of the car that Blaney and Sacdalan had driven, which, it turned out, was also a stolen car.

Property stolen on High Drive was inside the stolen car as was a considerable amount of other property that may have been stolen. Even now, all of it has not been accounted for, which is why we didn’t have the details to write this…before…

When the officers who responded to the scene turned their attention toward Blaney, they soon determined that she was a 10:30 in the morning drunk driver. 

Once sorted through, Blaney was charged with felony auto theft, DUI, and possession of stolen property.

Sacdalan was held for the two warrants, false information to a police officer, felony auto theft, possession of stolen property, misdemeanor possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. 

Earlier this week…

An officer took a simple shoplifting report at Montage Laguna Beach early Monday evening for a purse valued at $488. Security told police that the suspect had been seen taking the purse by a witness before he drove off.

On Tuesday morning at 10:37, an officer responded to Urth Caffe on N. Coast Hwy about a suspicious man who matched the description Montage security had for the suspect from Monday.

When the man was contacted, according to Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD, “He was standing near a vehicle on Coast Highway in front of the restaurant with a purse that matched the description of the one stolen at Montage. The purse was later confirmed to be the one taken and the man was also identified as the person who took it.”

For good measure, the vehicle the man had driven off from Montage in and he had parked on Coast Highway was a stolen car form LA County.

Lebarr Darell Littlejohn, 34, Imperial Beach, was arrested for felony vehicle theft, possession of stolen property and shoplifting.

Police Files

Man arrested at Mission Hospital after OC Sheriff’s deputies had dropped him off there for detox

While details are sparse, according to Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD, a Dana Point man, Ian Keegan, 54, who was on formal parole was arrested last Wednesday night outside of Mission Hospital, Laguna Beach after deputies from the OC Sheriff’s Dept. had earlier dropped him off to detox.

Sgt. Kleiser said Monday that the police report had not been completed and that he had no details as to the Sheriff’s deputies.

The police log said that the caller who reported the incident had said that a man who had been dropped off at Mission by OC Sheriff’s deputies was, from the log, “…walking around with a bottle of vodka and got in an SUV to leave…”

Officers stopped Keegan and after an investigation, arrested him for DUI, driving on a suspended or revoked license due to a DUI conviction and driving on a suspended or revoked license due to a DUI conviction without an interlocking device.

After contacting Keegan’s parole officer, he was ordered to be held without bail for violation of his formal parole conditions. He was transported to Santa Ana for Department of Corrections pick up there.

Police Files

Cocaine-fueled man attacks self with towel rack

Guests at the Hotel Laguna were awoken at 12:35 a.m. Thursday morning by some loud banging and yelling. 

Officers arrived and found the source of the commotion to be a man who had ripped the towel bar off the wall. The man, James Hathaway, 32, of Sky Valley, told officers he had been hitting himself in the head with the towel bar.

After further investigation, both Hathaway and his girlfriend, Ashley Neail, 29, Fullerton, were found to be in possession of cocaine. Hathaway claimed that the drugs had been given to them by a man at a bar.

LBPD Booking Photos

Ashley Neail and James Hathaway

Both were arrested and booked into the Laguna Beach Jail for possession of a controlled substance. 

Tips for trick-or-treaters tonight from the LBPD

LBPD hopes that Stu News readers have a lovely evening while they are doing their trick-or-treating. However, there are a few safety tips that they want everyone to keep in mind. 

Be sure to use flashlights or glow sticks so that you are more visible to cars.

Travel in groups or with an adult that you trust. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

These are some fierce pumpkins

Use the crosswalk, looking both ways before you cross. 

Only consume prepackaged candy, 

And make sure to have dad and mom check the candy out before you eat it. 

Keep in mind, the Laguna Beach Police Department has candy as well, so please stop by if you wish.

Police Files

Golf cart driver gets third DUI after fender bender

Last Friday, December 15, a Fullerton resident rear-ended a silver Honda sedan at about 4 p.m. 

When the driver of the Honda approached her about the incident, she offered $20 for the damages, and then fled to a Blue Lagoon condo. The driver called the police after smelling alcohol on the suspect’s breath.

The suspect, Breanne Nicole Budzien, had two prior DUI charges and her license is on probationary status. 


Budzien, 25, of Fullerton, was arrested on DUI charges and later released from LBPD with a future court date.

Police Files

Two little old ladies told one story – the store’s video told another

Police said a clerk at a boutique in the 200 block of Forest Ave reported Monday afternoon that as she was assisting two elderly women with a potential jewelry purchase when she noticed one of the women appear to be attempting to place a necklace in her purse. When she confronted the women they left the store.

She described the two ladies as being quite thin with “…lots of plastic surgery.”

The clerk followed the subjects and called police.

Police found them in the alleyway behind the church on Second Street.

LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus said in an email, “They had a completely different story. They were interviewed and released. A subsequent review of the security video from the store seems to indicate they may have attempted to steal the necklace.”

The store could not sign a citizen’s arrest because nothing was stolen.


Hotel guest checked out with more than stolen towels

A North Laguna hotel guest paid his bill and checked out on time Tuesday.

When housekeeping went into the room to clean, they ‘noticed’ that everything that ought to have been there wasn’t.

Management took an inventory and called police.

LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus provided a list of the stolen items that matches the words management gave when calling the station: “It was pretty much everything that wasn’t bolted down…”

Sgt. Callus said, “The suspect stole a TV, food items from the refrigerator, ice bucket with tray, king size duvet, comforter, feather pillow, coffee maker, bathroom set, storage trays, hair dryer, two bathrobes and miscellaneous towels.

“The estimated total value of stolen items was…$1412.”

Police Files

Two different drunk drivers were more than just DUI

Julie Sabol, 54, Fullerton, was arrested for drunk driving and misdemeanor battery on a police officer Saturday afternoon. A cell caller reported that a woman driver was swerving, stopping in the roadway and that she had hit a parker car, according to Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD. She was heading into town on N. Coast Hwy.

A patrol unit saw the car the caller had described in the Shell gas station and made contact with Sabol.

After she exited the car and was being interviewed by the officer, she kicked him.

She was placed under arrest.

At 1:20 a.m. Saturday, a cell caller reported that a car had struck a metal dumpster and a parked car, totaling the car in the 3000 block of Laguna Canyon Road.

Sgt. Kleiser said that when an officer arrived on scene, “…he saw two males walking away from the collision and detained them. The driver, 25-year-old Mamerton Gomez-Juarez from Lake Forest was arrested for misdemeanor evading, DUI with a prior, driving with a suspended license, and resisting arrest. He also had an outstanding $15,000 warrant. 

The passenger, Eliseo Lopez, 22, from Lake Forest, was arrested for resisting arrest.

Police Files

The lure of lingerie leads to arrest

From an LBPD press release

On May 2, LBPD Officers responded to a burglary investigation at Delicate Illusions, located at 1857 South Coast Highway.  Delicate Illusions is a romantic boutique. The store owner and victim reported over $1400.00 worth of merchandise and cash had been taken during the burglary, which occurred while the business was closed.

During the initial investigation, LBPD Officers reviewed surveillance video from inside the store and recognized 53-year old Reese Westenberger as the perpetrator.  A crime bulletin was distributed throughout the police department listing Westenberger as a suspect in the case.  

On May 31, a bicycle patrol officer recognized Westenberger standing outside of 20652 Laguna Canyon Road. Westenberger attempted to flee the area on foot, and after a short chase, he surrendered.  Westenberger was taken into custody and charged with burglary, grand theft, and vandalism.  

Is thief no longer under any illusions?

When interviewed by Detectives, Westenberger denied involvement.  Westenberger was booked into Orange County Jail and held on $25,000 bail.

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation or other similar incidents is encouraged to call the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.  For further information, please contact Sergeant Jim Cota at (949) 464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  

To submit tips anonymously, please contact Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS or 855-847-6227. You can also reach Crime Stoppers online at www.crimestoppers.org.

Rash of vehicle burglaries Saturday night

Throughout the day on Saturday, at least seven victims reported that their cars had been entered overnight and items stolen. 

Amongst the stolen property were sunglasses, wallets, paperwork, a computer, and a purse with cash inside. Some of the vehicles had been locked and others were forced open.

“Detectives are currently looking at all leads,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “Progress is being made on locating a suspect.”

Remember, if you see something, say something.

Renters on the rampage

In two unrelated incidents this week, occupants of rented residences are suspected of burgling multiple items from the homes in which they were staying. 

A vacation home in the 31800 block of Circle Drive had TVs, carpet, electronics and computers missing, to the tune of $20,000. The incident occurred in the last two weeks.

In the 21700 block of Ocean Vista Drive, a refrigerator, washer/dryer, dishwasher, and microwave were removed.

Though the incidents are not related, neighbors are once again encouraged that if you see something, say something.

Police Files

Shipwrecked in Laguna

The evening of Tuesday the 14th on Main Beach, Laguna residents were met with something unexpected.

Laguna Beach Police, Fire, and Marine Safety, as well as OCSD Harbor Patrol, congregated at the shore following reports of a 26’ boat running aground. 

The two uninjured occupants, a local transient and a man from Laguna Niguel, had arrived on Main Beach after the vessel had suffered from electrical problems.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Valerie Sokola

The sailboat was not in very good shape when it ran aground Tuesday

“Marine Safety personnel called in a vessel assist company to assess the options,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “The two subjects did not have enough money to pay for the boat to be extracted and wanted to push it back into the ocean.”

Instead, the boat was deemed a hazard, and Marine Safety took custody and responsibility of it. They monitored the boat overnight and called in Public Works in the morning to pull the boat further up the shore during high tide, twelve hours after the boat ran aground.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Tracy Newton

Heavy equipment was brought in for the removal of the vessel Wednesday morning

The boat was removed Wednesday morning. 

Yoga locker burglar and credit card thief pleads guilty

In February, a man entered a Laguna Beach yoga studio and ransacked the lockers, later using stolen credit cards to pay his bill at a local restaurant.

He left town on a train, and continued his life of crime at stops between San Francisco and San Diego over the next few months.

Douglas Schlichting was arrested in June by the Coronado Police Department, and on Monday, pled guilty to charges of residential burglary and identity theft.

Photo courtesy LBPD

Douglas Schlichting

As a third strike felon, Schlichting faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 11 years and 8 months. 

“He also has a probation violation out of San Francisco, where they will choose to sentence him to an additional 8 years consecutive or concurrent,” said Cota.

Schlichting’s sentencing will be on January 9, 2018.

Man bites officer, gets arrested

Wednesday evening, a drunk man on Cleo Street got unruly with officers.

Joshua Szalanczy, 21, Florida, was passed out on the sidewalk when officers arrived to check on him. 

When officers placed him under arrest, he tried to fight with the officers, biting one in the leg in the process.

LBPD Booking Photo

Joshua Szalanczy

In the end, the officers prevailed and Szalanczy was arrested for being drunk in public and felony battery on a police officer. The bitten officer was not seriously injured.

Police Files

$10,000 bike stolen out of open pickup truck bed

Police received a call at about 20 minutes before midnight Saturday reporting the theft of a bicycle valued at $10,000 in the 200 block of N. Coast Hwy. The owner described it as a black Scott carbon fiber with blue decals and blue wheels.

The stolen Scott carbon fiber was similar to this one – but a different color

Police said the owner had placed the bicycle – unlocked – in the bed of a pickup truck in the downtown area at night.


More smoke than fire on S. Coast Hwy Sunday afternoon

Four Laguna engines, a ladder truck from Orange County Fire Authority, a chief officer and an ambulance responded to the 2500 block of S. Coast Hwy at 1:01 p.m. Sunday where it was reported that smoke was coming through the roof of a structure.

The first engine on scene reported there was a multi-level residential home with smoke visible.

The fire department said the size of the home and the complexity of its layout made it difficult to locate the origin of the smoke. After some time, an unattended log in a fireplace was located and it was determined that the heavy smoke had come from that source.

Holes had to be cut into the roof in order to ventilate the residence and remove the smoke as firefighters continued searching for any other source of smoke or active fire.

Although the fire department didn’t say so in this incidence, it is not unusual for a smoldering log to create considerable smoke in a closed room with the fireplace flue closed.

No one was injured.

A county engine company and a medic unit from Newport Beach responded to the city for coverage during the incident.

Police Files

The details of what happened at Cress Street Friday

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Chris Tomlin

The OC Sheriff’s SWAT Team rescue vehicle at Cress Street Friday

The following is a statement from the La Casa Del Camino Hotel and has been verified through the LBPD by Stu News Laguna as being accurate.

Around 6:45 a.m., several guests reported a perfume-like odor and complained of itchy eyes and sore throats. As a precaution, a member of hotel staff phoned the Laguna Beach Fire Department. 

Firefighters arrived promptly on the scene and began conducting voluntary evacuations as a precaution. Police were requested by the LBFD at 7:15.  

Avila’s El Ranchito and the Surf and Sand Resort stepped in to lend a hand. Michael Avila assured La Casa Del Camino they could move their guests over to El Ranchito even though they weren’t even open yet. The Surf and Sand generously offered a room for the overflow as well.

During these evacuations, a guest on the third floor who appeared to have a negative reaction to the smell, refused to evacuate his room. 

Around 7:30 a.m., the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad and SWAT team, along with the Orange County Fire Authority’s Hazmat unit were called to the hotel in order to investigate the suspicious circumstances and identify the source of the smell. The scene was immediately contained and no threat was present to the Laguna Beach Community. 

“The SWAT team went into the room [at 2:30]. We did not locate the individual. We did not see anything suspicious,” said Laguna Beach Police Department Emergency Operation Coordinator Jordan Villwock. “It’s believed that the subject possibly left before our arrival this morning.” 

After a thorough search of the establishment, no threat was found. The smell was caused by a bottle of cologne being left unattended on a heater. 

Despite complaints of feeling ill, no hotel guests have been hospitalized or reported any injures due to these events. 

“This is a good exercise for us to go through as hoteliers,” said owner Chris Keller. “The Fire Department and the Police Department have been outstanding. Our guests are really amazing and understanding. This is how a community comes together.”

La Casa Del Camino and its restaurant concepts reopened at 4 o’clock and guests were allowed to return to their rooms. 

Details & update on the Arch Beach Heights house fire

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Christina Shook

The home that burned on La Mirada Street Thursday night (and reported in our Friday edition) was completely destroyed according to the Laguna Beach Fire Department. Two firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

LB Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse said there were two unusual circumstances about the call that came in just after six o’clock. “Our dispatchers had just received a call about multiple fire alarms in a multi-unit building on S. Coast Highway and a full structure response was dispatched.

“As those units were responding, the La Mirada Street calls came in and it was quickly apparent that we had the probability of a fire there.”

A second structure response was dispatched meaning eight fire engines and three ladder trucks were responding to calls in Laguna Beach at the same time.

Chief LaTendresse redirected the first response apparatus, which included all four Laguna Beach engines, from the alarm call to Arch Beach Heights. 

The call on S. Coast Highway turned out to be a false alarm.

Chief LaTendresse then explained the second unusual circumstance. “The lower levels of the home on La Mirada Street were fully involved almost immediately; probably at the same time the home’s fire alarms went off.

“Our engines could see the flash [of massive flames] quickly as they were responding and we were able to call it a working fire Justas quickly. That meant a second alarm and because of the false alarm call downtown, the second alarm response was already en route.”

Eight fire engines and three ladder trucks were in Arch Beach Heights within minutes of the call and that made a big difference in keeping the massive flames from spreading to any neighboring residences.

There were two people in the residence at the time of the fire. Chief LaTendresse said they were able to get outside quickly. “One of the women decided to go back inside in an attempt to save her pet birds. A neighbor saw that and followed her to extoll that she needed to leave, which she said she was doing because there was too much smoke for her to stay. She did not require any assistance for smoke inhalation.”

The three pet birds perished in the flames. 

The cause of the fire is still being determined.

For the record – police will be looking closely for drunk drivers who over-celebrated St. Patrick’s Day 

Laguna Beach Police will have beefed up DUI saturation units on the streets of town Thursday night – St. Patrick’s Day.

Don’t drink and drive and if you see a suspected impaired driver, don’t hesitate – call 9-1-1 immediately.

Police Files

Intoxicated woman, 27, grabbed officer’s wrist trying to pull him down

Officers made contact with two women and a man on Crescent Bay Beach at 9:33 last Friday night after seeing them with a bottle of vodka.

While the officers were speaking to the trio, one of the women, 27-year-old Franchesca Jennie Anderson of Alhambra, who appeared to be intoxicated to the officers, began filming them and soon began placing the camera within inches of one officer’s face.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “The officer backed up a number of times to avoid having the camera in his face and told her not to do it any longer. When she refused his direction to keep the camera a reasonable distance from his face, the officer reached out to take the camera and hand it to the woman’s husband.’

Sgt. Kleiser added, “Anderson grabbed the officer’s wrist and attempted to pull him to the ground. More officers arrived to assist and arrested her.”

Anderson was arrested for battery on a peace officer and for being drunk in public.

Police Files

Sometimes a suitcase is just a suitcase…

Sometimes a suitcase is a just a suitcase, but these days nothing is certain. On Monday, July 3 at 12:18 p.m., a concerned citizen reported seeing a suitcase locked to a stop sign at Temple Hills Drive & Alta Laguna Boulevard. 

“Due to the suspicious nature, the bomb squad was called,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “They responded and determined the suitcase was not a dangerous device, but it was destroyed during their investigation.”

Officers are not sure how long the new looking suitcase had been there.

…but sometimes, a cell phone is actually a knife

On the evening of Sunday, July 2, officers responded to the 300 block of Y Place after a resident said his neighbor had threatened him with the 12” hunting knife he had in his hand.

“The suspect stated he did not have a knife, but only his cell phone in his hand,” said Sgt. Jim Cota of the LBPD. “A video recording proved otherwise.” The video showed the suspect making threats with the knife in his hand. 

Martin Edens, 53, Laguna Beach, was arrested for criminal threats and brandishing a knife. He was held with $50,000 bail. 


DUI saturation patrols will be on the streets this weekend between 5 p.m. & 3 a.m.

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team will be deploying this weekend to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. 

DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy Friday, July 7 & Sat, July 8, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests. 

When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes. Studies of California drivers have shown that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. 

If you are impaired by drugs or alcohol, hand over your keys or get a ride home

Everyone should be mindful that if you’re taking medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the impairment affects. Law Enforcement emphasizes the preventable nature of drunk driving, reminding everyone that all it takes is a little planning ahead. 

Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, license suspensions and other expenses that can exceed $10,000 not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out. 

Funding for this DUI operation is provided to the Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 9-1-1.

For further information, contact Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Police Files

Former employee Christine Black embezzles $65,000 from Laguna Nursery

On March 17, 2016, Economic Crimes Detectives opened a fraud investigation into a former employee of Laguna Nursery, who was accused of embezzling money from the business. 

“The year-long investigation revealed that Christine Black, 47, issued checks to herself and reported the checks as payments for various vendors,” Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

Black embezzled more than $65,000, Sgt Cota added. 

The investigation also revealed Black was on probation for a similar case in Rockingham County, North Carolina. In that case, she embezzled approximately $100,000. 

On July 5, Black pled guilty to 38 felony counts of forgery and identity theft in Harbor Court. She was sentenced to 16 months in jail, restitution, and is scheduled to be extradited to North Carolina at the conclusion of this case. 

“This case is yet another reminder that when you victimize small business owners and innocent people in our city, the Laguna Beach Police Department will investigate it thoroughly and bring in the resources necessary to work toward successful prosecution of the case,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD Investigations Division. 

The case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy District Attorney, Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit. 

Looking for someone to talk to? Don’t call 911

On Tuesday, July 11, officers received a call from a man reporting a domestic violence incident. 

Unfortunately for him, there was no such incident.

“He made up the call to have officers respond so he could have ‘someone to talk to,’” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “He was advised that this was misuse of 911.”

The man, Brennan Afrasiabi, 19, Laguna Beach, was arrested for misusing 911. But that wasn’t the end of it for him.

“During the booking process, he became aggressive and caused a disturbance in the jail,” said Cota. “He spat in the face of the jailer.”

Afrasiabi was subsequently charged with using violence to resist officers and was transported to Orange County Jail. 

 Snake too cool to move 

On Saturday, July 8, at 11:45 a.m., a man with a zipper cooler bag entered the library and went to the computers. 

Inside that cooler bag was a live rattlesnake.

Rattlesnake perp pic, courtesy the Internet. Not the actual perpetrator

“The man intended to sell it at the city library,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “He was also in possession of methamphetamine.”

The man, Robert Holsinger, 57, Santa Ana, was cited for possession of methamphetamine and possession of a feral/exotic animal. 

Police Files

Caught red-handed at Cleo: teamwork by cops leads to arrest of man who burgled local businesses

Reed Swingley, 54, of Sun City, thought he’d just, you know, swing by Laguna Beach last Sunday – but it turns out that it isn’t such a good idea for a suspected criminal to revisit the scene of a crime.

Especially with stolen goods inside his truck.

“During the first two weeks of July, we investigated three separate commercial burglaries and a residential burglary,” Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson, told Stu News Laguna. “The businesses included Mozambique Restaurant, Tortilla Republic and an architecture business downtown.”

Items stolen included a safe, a large amount of cash, an antique saxophone and a bronze statue.

According to Sgt. Cota, a review of surveillance video from one of the businesses, as well as the residence, identified a person of interest and a suspect vehicle. 

Then, on Sunday July 16 at approximately 5 p.m., LBPD officers learned that suspect vehicle was seen in the city. 

Patrol officers located the vehicle and initiated a high-risk traffic stop on Coast Highway and Cleo.

“This arrest was a true team effort by both Patrol Officers and Detectives. Patrol handled the high-risk stop and detectives took over the investigation. Truly a combined effort,” Sgt Cota notes.     

The vehicle driver, 54-year-old Reed Swingley of Sun City, was detained after officers saw what they believed to be some of the stolen property from these burglaries inside the truck. 

Swingley was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, as well as other theft related charges. He was booked at the Laguna Beach Jail and transported to Orange County Jail. 

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation should call the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.

And the day before, our cops had a red-letter day at Ruby’s

Despite working countless overtime hours on a spate of criminal activity and high risk vehicle stops in Laguna Beach – stops often initiated by sharp-eyed cops noticing a stolen vehicle cruising through our town – 25 LBPD police officers took the time to raise an astonishing and wonderful record-breaking $46,000 to support the Special Olympics, working alongside 12 athletes from Laguna Hills Hawks to serve customers at Ruby’s Diner on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Jennifer Mills, who manages volunteer and special events for the Special Olympics, was quoted as saying that “law enforcement usually raises about $5,000.”

Laguna’s police officers earned nine times as much. 

Thursday chase ended with crash on Wave Street

Last Thursday, Newport Beach Police pursued a driver heading south along Coast Highway. At 5:28 p.m., Casey Adamczyk, 28, of Corona del Mar, who was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon, crashed into a power pole at Wave Street.

Click on photo for a larger image

Reader Scott Methvin submitted this photo of the dramatic crash

Laguna Beach PD officers responded and assisted with the investigation. Adamczyk was arrested by Newport Beach PD and taken back to their PD for booking.

Police Files

Dogged action helps cops nab car thief

Last Friday, July 21 at around 10 p.m., diners at Moulin Bistro and Alessa Laguna looked up from their plates to see a high-risk vehicle stop taking place – and Laguna’s police dog, Ranger, being quite persuasive in encouraging a car thief to surrender.

Valarie Hewin  (58), no fixed address, was arrested at gunpoint for possession of a stolen vehicle and driving on a suspended license. Hewin also had an outstanding felony no-bail warrant for her arrest. 

“Ranger was helpful in persuading her to surrender,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt. Jim Cota said. “If you’re a criminal, you don’t want to mess with that dog.”

The black Nissan Altima had been reported stolen from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Officers first spotted the stolen vehicle driving northbound on S. Coast Highway from Nyes Place. 

German Auto thief apprehended

On Friday, an RP from German Auto brought police officers surveillance video from a burglary that took place at the business. An unknown individual entered the premises and took items from several vehicles.

“A suspect was located and admitted to stealing the items. He was identified as homeless resident Brandon Heath,” Sgt. Cota said.

Heath, age 23, was charged with grand theft, possession of stolen property, attempted vehicle theft, and tampering with a vehicle.

New police officers join LBPD

Three new Laguna Beach police officers were sworn in recently: Officer Ashley Krotine, Officer Shahriyar (Shar) Hariri, and Officer Rajen Patel. 

Officers Ashley Krotine, Shahriyar (Shar) Harrir and Rajen Patel

Officer Krotine and Officer Patel are graduates of the Golden West Police Academy and Officer Hariri is a lateral officer from the San Diego School Police Department.

Officer Patel was a police officer in London, England before moving to the United States with his family. 

“We are very happy to have them as part of our team,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt. Jim Cota said.

Police Files

Glenneyre Street residences get a smashing wake-up

On Friday night at 11:45 p.m., after getting kicked out of Skyloft, 21-year-old Laguna Beach resident Zachary McGuinness was doing burnouts in the upper Glenneyre parking structure.

Photo by Kris Kovach

What it looked like the night of…

After his Tahoe struck a parked Mazda, he left the structure and took his burnouts to the street. That didn’t end up so well for the residents in the 500 block of Glenneyre Street.

Photo by Scott Brashier

The garages were red-tagged after a drunk driver crashed into them Friday night

“He lost control of the Chevy, which veered to the right and plowed through the triple garage doors,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He was not injured,” and according to the police log, was able to get himself out of the vehicle.

McGuinness, who turned 22 on Saturday, was subsequently arrested for DUI with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above. 

Though a city building inspector red-tagged the garages, no residents were displaced.

Police Files

Driver in 2013 fatal collision sentenced to community service, probation

At 6:40 a.m. on April 2, 2013, a Tesla Model S driving northbound on Laguna Canyon Road collided head-on with a Honda Accord, killing the 47-year-old driver Alberto Casique and 38-year-old passenger Armando Gonzalez. The Tesla was driving next to a Mercedes as both vied for the single lane north of El Toro Road.

On Monday, October 16, 2017, the driver of that Tesla, Dr. Robert McFarland Pettis, pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, and was sentenced to community service and three years of probation. As part of the deal, he admitted that he had been driving at an unsafe speed at the time of the collision.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

Two men were killed in April 2013 after the Honda (left) they were in was hit head-on. The driver of the black Tesla, seen facing the wrong way on Laguna Canyon Road in the background, was sentenced this week.

The families of the victims have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pettis a well as Dekker McKeever, who was driving the Mercedes, Orange County, Caltrans, and the city of Laguna Beach, among others. 

Laguna Canyon Road closed twice in a day

On Sunday morning around 9, a motorcycle driving outbound on Laguna Canyon Road near Canyon Acres was struck by a vehicle making a left turn out of a residence. 

The motorcyclist was transported to Big Mission and the extent of his injuries were unknown.

Laguna Canyon Road reopened after approximately an hour and a half, but that didn’t last too long.

At 9:40 p.m., police and fire personnel responded to the 2600 block of Laguna Canyon Road after a vehicle collided with a utility pole. 

“It was likely that the driver fell asleep at the wheel,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He sustained minor injuries and was transported to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach as a precaution.”

The collision, in which the Honda Civic sheared a utility pole, caused low hanging wires to hang low over both sides of Laguna Canyon Road.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dave Day

Due to downed wires late Sunday night, Dave Day had to commute to his workplace on Laguna Canyon Road by bicycle, where he snapped this photo

Crews from Frontier Communications arrived on Monday to fix the affected pole and wires. The road was reopened approximately 17 hours later, at 3 p.m.

Police Files

Lizzie Mulder, embezzler who stole more than $1.5 million from local businesses, is sentenced to prison

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Mulder, the owner and operator of a financial services company based in Laguna Beach that provided accounting, tax and bookkeeping services to small businesses throughout Orange County, was sentenced this week to five years and three months in federal prison for embezzling more than $1.5 million from her clients.

Mulder, a 34-year-old former Laguna Beach resident, pled guilty in June to wire fraud and subscribing to a false income tax return for failing to report the misappropriated funds to the IRS. 

She convinced nearly all of her victims to make checks payable to “Income Tax Payments” under the guise that the money would be used to satisfy clients’ past and future tax obligations. Instead, these checks went to a fictitious business called “Income Tax Payments,” and the funds used by Mulder to pay for her rental home in Laguna Beach, cosmetic surgery, vacations, a horse, and more. 

Photo courtesy LBPD

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Mulder befriended most of her victims before stealing more than $1.5 million from them between July 2009 and May 2016

“By developing and continuing personal friendships with the victims, Mulder was able to assume responsibilities for their small business accounting needs and then proceeded to steal from them,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Her conduct resulted in various levels of financial loss and emotional distress to the victims, many of whom were required to drain their personal bank accounts or retirement funds in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.”

In addition to her time in prison, Mulder has been ordered to pay $1,538,781 in restitution to seven victims, including the IRS.  

Spate of residential burglaries continues: three more reported in the last week

On Tuesday, a resident was dropped off at her home on Smithcliffs Road and realized immediately that something was not right. Suspecting that someone was inside the residence, she called the police. 

Officers and a canine unit confirmed that the residence was empty, but someone had definitely been inside. 

A final loss inventory has not yet been completed, but some of the victim’s jewelry was taken.

“This is possibly related to other residential burglaries,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.“We’re investigating the links.”

On Monday morning, a resident in the 200 block of Lower Cliff Drive came home after being away for three weeks and realized that someone had been inside the residence.

The loss, which included UPS uniforms, a fur coat, a computer, Kindle, iPad and other miscellaneous items, was estimated at about $3,000. 

The suspect may have accessed this home through an unlocked door.

And again, on Sunday, in the 200 block of Crescent Bay Drive, a resident returned home to find random items taken from their house – a computer worth $1,200, an iPhone 6 worth $800, makeup, a classic print Louis Vuitton bag, a UPS package and more – the total loss was estimated at $5,000.

At this residence as well, the suspect may have entered through an unlocked door.

“Residents must be sure to lock all doors and windows – always – and take additional precautions if the home will be empty for a few days,” said Sgt. Jim Cota.

Along with these precautions, residents need to be reminded, Sgt. Cota said, that

the LBPD offers vacation house checks. Just stop by the police station during business

hours to fill out a request form.

America First rally scheduled for Main Beach on Sunday – what residents need to know

A rally to “…bring awareness to Extortion 17 and Benghazi” has been organized for Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m. at Main Beach.

At time of writing, 44 people had RSVPed as “Going” on the Facebook page, with another 262 “Interested.”

The Laguna Beach Police Department is prepared for this event and will have officers on foot as well as some on horseback patrolling the area.

Photo by Scott Brashier

Officers on horseback patrolled at the America First rally in August, where an estimated 2,500 people gathered

LBPD and outside agencies will be setting up at 5 p.m. 

“Residents should continue with any plans that they have,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. “LBPD is here to protect residents. Don’t change your life or lifestyle because of the activities of protestors.”

At least one counter-protest group has been in touch to seek an area set aside for them.

OC Crime Lab discovers errors in blood-alcohol tests

Earlier this month, the Orange County Crime Lab (OCCL) discovered a clerical error in calibrating one of two machines used to analyze blood alcohol concentration. The error affects cases from the end of May 2013 to the beginning of October 2013.

Following the discovery, the OCCL conducted a full audit of the last five years of DUI alcohol casework. In the course of that audit, the OCCL discovered a .001 error from the calibration of the other blood alcohol instrument between December 2012 and May 2013. One hundred blood samples processed between these two dates will be corrected by .01.

None of the cases involved Laguna Beach PD DUI arrests.

The OCCL is working with its accrediting organization to document all corrective actions taken and the procedural changes detecting all calibrator variations. Additionally, the OCCL is cooperating fully with Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and the Orange County Board of Supervisors to request an audit by the California Department of Health to confirm all procedural and casework standards. Once this external audit is completed, the findings will be presented to the Board of Supervisors and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

“I am confident that the Orange County Crime Lab is taking the necessary steps to insure that these clerical errors do not occur in the future,” stated Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. “Our Crime Lab is among the largest crime labs in the nation and is nationally- and internationally-recognized for its cutting edge technology and accomplishments.”

Police Files

LBPD motor officer injured by a passing motorcycle

A Laguna Beach Police motor officer suffered a dislocated arm Sunday night on Thalia Street near Wendt Terrace when a passing motorcyclist the officer was signaling to stop struck his outstretched arm. 

The motorcycle rider was among a group of an estimated 25 bikers that callers had complained about around 8 p.m. for “…revving their engines and speeding…” in the area of Alta Laguna Park in Top of the World.

The motor officer and other LBPD officers were responding to the location when the motor officer encountered five motorcycles near Thalia and Wendt and attempted to detain them. 

After the motor officer was hit, a patrol unit pursued the offending motorcycles and located one of the riders in the 900 block of S. Coast Hwy. Two of the motorcycles had collided on Thalia as they rode side-by-side, according to police.

The second rider was taken into custody inside a nearby restaurant after a 9-1-1 caller reported that a man with a helmet and motorcycle gear was talking on his cell phone, “…yelling, limping, yelling into the phone in a panic…” 

An officer detained him at the restaurant within a minute of that 9-1-1 call.

That man was identified as Luis Antonio Gonzalez, 30, Pico Rivera. The first rider held was Victor Manuel Velazquez, 26, Whittier. Both men were arrested for felony DUI, disobeying a police officer and hit and run, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD, said.

The extent the officer’s injuries were not immediately disclosed. 

Police Files

Serial car thief caught: more individuals under investigation

Laguna Beach Police officers located and arrested one of a group of individuals who have been committing thefts from vehicles in the city.

22-year-old Johnny Cervantez from San Bernardino was arrested on Saturday for receipt of stolen property, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

Officers are still investigating the thefts. Stu News Laguna will provide more information once it is available. 

Dog gets involved in arrest: is rescued by LBPD

An interesting side-note from the LBPD’s Facebook page related to the San Bernardino search: While serving a search warrant, detectives came across an eight-week-old German Shepherd, who had obvious injuries to its legs and paws and was not being properly cared for. 

The owners of the dog said they didn’t want him and also said they had been trying to get rid of him, but because of his injuries no one would take him. Working with a local rescue, detectives arranged to have the dog surrendered for adoption. 

From LBPD Facebook page

German Shepherd puppy is rescued thanks to LBPD detectives

Detectives did this while recovering stolen property from the house and identifying additional suspects in the case. The LBPD says they are happy to report that the owners voluntarily turned over the dog to rescuers and he is now healthy and preparing to be adopted, thanks to the excellent work of Sgt. Cota, Cpl Sendele, Ashton, Gensemer and Officers Mirakian and Ocampo. 


$5 million+ of software, camera equipment taken from a truck

Overnight on Thursday, a truck parked in the 400 block of Jasmine Street was entered. The owner discovered the door cracked open, but no damage to the car.

Missing was $15,000 in cash as well as approximately $5 million in computer software.

“The investigations division is looking into the incident to identify any suspects,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

Peace, love and protective police kept Saturday rally safe, joyful and positive

Approximately 350 people gathered at Main Beach on Saturday morning to celebrate love, diversity and equality, and to protest racism and neo-Nazi philosophies following the tragic events in Charlottesville. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lynette

Almost all demonstrators carried placards with positive messages

The decision to rally before the following day’s planned America First march would, Mayor Toni Iseman and Democratic groups hoped, offer residents an opportunity to express their emotions while denying oxygen to the anti-immigration group meeting on Sunday evening. 

“Here in Laguna, we don’t just tolerate diversity,” Iseman said, “We embrace diversity.”  

The “Unity Rally” was peaceful (in a loud way, given the chants) from beginning to end. Police officers were visible, deterring the likelihood of aggression on anyone’s part, though this particular crowd seemed composed almost entirely of like-minded people. 

Several speakers, including Mayor Iseman, paid tribute to the LBPD for their vigilance and support, as well as their work in communicating with the community about the rally.

A lone Trump supporter, Cherie Allen, aimed a double thumbs-down sign a few times in the direction of the placard-carrying crowd. But Allen said she shares the desire for peace, yet feels that as a Christian she is targeted sometimes by liberals. 

She supports President Trump, “Though I don’t agree with everything he says,” Allen said. “But he hasn’t been given a chance. He needs to be given the respect of the office.” 

The 50-year-Laguna resident sat quietly during the speeches, occasionally mouthing agreement or disagreement, but listening respectfully.

“I can’t support people who [support abortion],” noted Allen, who says she has sometimes been known as the “Peace Lady of Laguna.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lynette

L-R: Rick Fletcher and his wife, Lori Werstein and Dan Mariner

Most at the rally felt particular protective of Laguna.

Resident Dan Mariner said, “What makes Laguna great is that it is such a melting pot, a microcosm of America. Different cultures are welcome here.”

Rick Fletcher nodded. “Laguna is all about love.”

Rick’s wife (my apologies, I can’t find her name in my notes!) told Stu News Laguna, “My parents brought me here when I was just five years old, decades ago. I know they’d approve of this. Laguna is no place for hate.”

Daughter-in-law Lori Werstein commented: “It felt hopeful and peaceful, very positive, this morning. That’s what we need.”

Thank goodness, there were no sounds of gunshots or screams of injured victims: only the honk of horns, chanting, and the barking of dogs; no smell of smoke, only the briny breeze; no shoving, only hugs and pats on the back.

Laguna’s reputation as a peaceful town remained intact. And then came Sunday…and (see Barbara Diamond’s report), peace pretty much continued to reign.

--Lynette Brasfield

Police Files

Something’s up in the neighborhood…

On Thursday morning, the Laguna Beach PD was called to help out Homeland Security and the IRS with a federal search warrant. 

“The warrant was executed at approximately 8 a.m. at a residence in the 2000 block of Crestview Drive,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “Two vehicles and documents were seized by the federal agents.”

Because it is an ongoing federal investigation, no further details are available at this time. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy LBPD Facebook

Police Files

Squatters arrested for burglary and ID theft, spray paint home walls with their initials

An observant resident noticed some suspicious activity at his neighbor’s vacant house in the 600 block of Ramona Avenue on Saturday. An unfamiliar truck was parked in the garage, a window was open, and people unknown to the neighbor were seen around the property.

Officers arrived around 11:45 p.m. to investigate and found that a man and a woman had been living inside the residence for about 10 days without permission from the owner. During that time, they had spray painted the walls with their initials. 

Photo courtesy of LBPD

While squatting inside the home, Justin Westgaard and Dionne Hart left their mark in the form of graffiti

In addition, the pair, Justin Westgaard, 39, Laguna Beach, and Dionne Hart, 45, Costa Mesa, were found to be in possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia, numerous IDs, mail, and financial information belonging to other people.

LBPD Booking Photos

Justin Westgaard and Dionne Hart

Hart and Westgaard were taken to Orange County Jail on charges of burglary, identity theft, and drug related charges. 

More police than protestors at Sunday’s rally

“They recently changed their name to Onward America from America First,” said Sgt Jim Cota of the group that promoted a rally in Laguna Beach this last Sunday.

 The group was allowed to speak in front of the boardwalk...with a slew of law officers in riot gear covering the entire walkway behind them, becoming just silhouettes as the sun began to set. “We have a strong law enforcement contingency that’ll involve all of our law enforcement partners throughout the county, so I would expect upwards of 150 officers total, ready to go. There are horses that are staged. They’re not going to be dispatched immediately, only if they are needed,” Sgt Cota told Stu News as they waited to see what the evening would bring.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jason Feddy

Police from all over Orange County were at Main Beach Sunday night to help ensure public safety

The group began to speak with a bullhorn to onlookers, mainly protesting how the 2012 Benghazi attack was handled. This lasted for all of 15 minutes before a counter protest group was on the scene. There was an intense law enforcement presence all around. At this point, a group of 20 or so police came into the sand area, separating the two groups, with one group leaving first. Another squad of 30 officers across the street standing two by two on Broadway Street began crossing the Pacific Coast Hwy at around this time (approximately 8 p.m.).

A total of about 60 protesters and counter-protesters were in attendance on Sunday. No arrests were made and the crowds dispersed by 8:45 p.m.

One resident pointed out that the cost was something to consider for all of the equipment expended for this rally. The police barriers, the police with their riot gear – how much did this all cost, the resident wondered. Another passerby lamented that Laguna Beach is so peaceful, usually, and that the contrast recently was very evident –definitely not the usual tranquil beachfront that residents and tourists alike are used to enjoying.

Red Flag Warning issued for Laguna Beach

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the Orange County Coastal Zone, including Laguna Beach, effective through Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. A wind advisory has also been issued where wind speeds between 15-25 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph are possible. Temperatures will be near or in excess of 90 degrees. An elevated sense of awareness is imperative during extreme weather conditions.

Laguna Beach residents should take this time to evaluate their preparedness levels. The City asks residents to refer to the Ready! Set! Go! Program available on the Fire Department website (www.lagunabeachcity.new/cityhall/fire). Register for AlertOC, the city’s mass notification system, by going to www.alertOC.com. Make sure to include your cell phone number, text number, and email addresses so emergency alerts can reach you no matter where you are. In order to ensure you are contacted during a Red Flag Warning, register with the Nixle Red Flag group by texting “LBRedFlag” to 888-777.

During a Red Flag Warning, parking restrictions are implemented for the Diamond/Crestview neighborhood. Any vehicles parked in marked parking spaces with a “red flag” painted in the center of the asphalt may be cited or towed. 

When Red Flag Warning are issued from the National Weather Service, this information will be shared on the city’s website, social media accounts, official press release, and through the Red Flag group in Nixle.

Police Files

Pharmacy on wheels: Cops find enormous stash of pills on traffic stop

On Saturday, at around 1 a.m., a driver on Laguna Canyon Road noticed someone driving erratically, weaving and almost hitting the reporting party. Naturally concerned, they called the police. Officers arrived shortly thereafter and began a routine traffic stop. 

They soon realized that they had on their hands a veritable mobile pharmacy. 

“There were so many different pills, it would take half a page to write them,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. A few of the more popular drugs found upon searching were: marijuana, morphine, oxycodone and methamphetamine. By volume, the most confiscated were 120 Topiramate tablets, 57 Carisoprodol tablets, 40 Hydrocodone tablets, and 30 Suboxone tablets. Despite this impressive array of medications, the driver was not a doctor, and did not have any affiliation with a medical clinic.

The driver, Shauna Kester, 30, Garden Grove, was arrested for two accounts of possession of drug paraphernalia, for being under the influence of a controlled substance, and for possession of a drugs for sale. Bail was set at $20,000. 

This was one of the largest if not the largest pill busts of the year by LBPD, according tos Sgt. Cota.

Police Files

Police looking for suspect who cut another man

with a beer bottle

A bar fight at the Sandpiper escalated into an assault with a deadly weapon when one of the men involved struck the other man in the face with a beer bottle.

Paramedics treated the victim but the extent of his injuries was not released.

Police are looking for the suspect, described as being about 27 or 28, last seen wearing a black overcoat over a RVCA t-shirt ‘covered in blood’, blue jeans and a brown hat. Additionally, the police log indicated that witnesses said the suspect was thinly built and about 6’ 2” and had a mustache.

He spoke with what was described as an Aussie accent.

Anyone with information is asked to call (949) 497-0377.

Police Files

Mountain biker tumbled 200 feet down sheer cliff above Laguna Canyon Rd Friday afternoon is still listed to be in critical condition

An unidentified mountain biker in his 50s fell from his bike along Telonic Trail Friday afternoon and tumbled some 200 feet down a sheer cliff to a ledge, fire authorities said. The cliff is located above the 2800 block of Laguna Canyon Road between Alta Laguna and the canyon floor.

The man suffered fractures and internal injuries that included his chest area and was still listed in critical condition at Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana as of late Monday evening. 

Laguna Beach and Orange County Fire Authority firefighters and paramedics along with a fire authority copter responded to the remote rescue after the 4:02 p.m. 9-1-1 call from a friend of the fallen biker. Rescue operations were begun from both above and below the cliff ledge.

The difficult and dangerous terrain made reaching the injured man a challenge and it took about an hour for a paramedic to be lowered to the ledge. The paramedic did what could be done to stabilize the victim and at the same time, made observations as to the safest and best way to extricate the biker who was barely conscious.

Harnesses were established and a stokes basket was lowered that allowed the fire authority copter to airlift the man to Santa Ana leaving the area at about 6:40 p.m.

The biker was wearing a helmet, authorities said.

Capo Beach man arrested for delivering marijuana

Robert Cadman, 57, Capistrano Beach, was arrested Saturday evening for possession of marijuana for felony sales and furnishing marijuana. 

At 5:42 Saturday afternoon, an officer made contact with a man seated in a car in the 200 block of Fairview Street, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, Monday.

“During the conversation, the officer learned the male had marijuana in the vehicle that he claimed he was delivering,” Sgt. Kleiser explained.

Non-profit collectives can make deliveries under current Laguna Beach law.

Sgt. Kleiser added, “The man admitted to receiving money form people he delivers to.” Collectives don’t do that.

Cadman was in possession of a little more than a pound and a half of marijuana.

Police Files

16-yr-old Laguna Beach boy arrested for robbery Saturday night

Officers responded to the 1400 block of S. Coast Hwy at 7:33 Saturday night for a report of a robbery by fore – no weapons.

A Laguna Niguel man said a teenager had forcibly taken his BMX bicycle and his skateboard then took off.

Police did an area check and located a 16-year-old Laguna Beach boy with the stolen items.

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said Monday that the suspect was “…detained in the alley behind the Koffee Klatch and arrested for robbery.

No other details were immediately available, Sgt. Kleiser said. 

Woman suffered leg injury at Tablerock was hoisted out by copter

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by John Thomas

An injured woman and a paramedic being hoisted from Tablerock Beach

Fire rescue paramedics responded to Tablerock Beach at 3 o’clock Monday afternoon after a 9-1-1 caller reported a woman with a leg injury.

She was at Little Cove and unable to walk. Fire personnel called for an OC Fire Authority helicopter to perform a hoist rescue because the tide was rising quickly.

Paramedics stabilized the woman on the beach and the hoist rescue was handled without any difficulties. The copter brought her on board along with a paramedic and she was flown to hospital in less than an hour after the 9-1-1 call was received.

Three young children who were with the woman were taken to the hospital by LB police officers.   

First date was the last date – woman told police

A woman called 9-1-1 at 9:56 Saturday night from a S. Coast Hwy restaurant and said her date had hit her in the face. She added that it was their first date and that she wasn’t sure of his name.

He had left the restaurant on a motorcycle, she said.

A patrol officer stopped a motorcycle a short time later headed outbound in the 600 block of Laguna Canyon Road and investigated and arrested the male rider for DUI.

It didn’t take police too long to connect the rider, Gregory Louis Piazza, 46 from Mission Viejo, to the 9-1-1 call.

The woman who had called said she was sure this was their first and last date.

Police Files

Burglary victim sees suspect – wasn’t easy, but cops nabbed him

Steven Edward Cain, 49, no fixed address out of Oklahoma, was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property and resisting arrest last Thursday night after police received a call from a burglary victim last weekend.

The victim called police at 9:29 p.m. after spotting a suspect the RP had caught on a surveillance camera when his garage was burglarized on June 25. $300 in cash had been taken from a wallet inside the RP’s unlocked vehicle inside the garage.

Police responded to a parking lot in the 31500 block of Coast Hwy where they encountered and detained the possible suspect, Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said.

“As they were in the process of investigating the incident, at about 10 o’clock, Cain fled on foot to Table Rock Beach. Other officers responded along with the OCSD’s airship to the area and eventually found him hiding on the rocks. Officers located his car nearby and found several stolen items inside,” Sgt. Kleiser added.

Cain was taken into custody at gunpoint at 10:24.

Copter used to hoist stranded victim from rocks at Thousand Steps

Fire and police responded to Thousand Steps Beach at 7:47 Saturday morning to assist two young women who had become stranded on the rocks offshore. 

Sgt. Tim Kleiser of the LBPD said, “Due to difficulty in extracting one patient from the rocks, OCSD’s helicopter/rescue team responded and was able to rope hoist the victim from the rocks.” She was taken to hospital with minor injuries, authorities said.

The other, uninjured, victim was assisted to shore by lifeguards.

Police Files

“Smashed window” car thief grabs goods worth $5,000

On Monday afternoon, a burglar smashed the windows of a Mercedes parked in the 200 block of High Drive – different from the usual MO of stealing items from unlocked cars. A suitcase with $5,000 worth of clothing was stolen from the car, which belonged to the visiting friend of a resident.

“We have had quite a few thefts from unlocked vehicles,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “It’s an easy crime of opportunity.”

“With summer approaching and many visitors coming to town, citizens have to lock their vehicles and their residences,” Cota urged.

But he reminded people that even locked cars can be subject to crime, and that it is important to be aware of suspicious behavior. 

“Remember, if you see something, say something,” Cota added.

Woman gives TV the brush-off, goes to jail

Officers were called to the ASL on Monday morning to remove a woman who was not allowed to be on the property.

When they got there, she had done more than trespass.

According to the police log, 10 witnesses confirmed that Sarah Beach, no fixed address, had used a broom to break the flat screen TV that belongs to the shelter.

Beach was arrested for trespassing and felony vandalism. Bail was set at $20,000.

Police Files

There’s no Jell-o in jail

On Saturday, August 5 at 5:17 a.m., a residential alarm went off in the 800 block of S. Coast Hwy. Officers went to the scene and found an open slider door, which they entered. After announcing their presence, they heard movement on the upper floor.

Ross Simard, 34, Malibu, was detained in handcuffs after coming down the stairs. He first claimed to be the owner of the property, and then claimed his girlfriend owned the property. But, the names he gave were not associated with the property. The caretaker and owner verified that Simard should not have been on the property.

Surveillance footage shows Ross Simard, 34, Malibu, at a residence in the 800 block of S. Coast Hwy.

 “A search of the interior showed Simard had taken food out and made himself a snack, which included Jell-o,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

Simard was arrested for burglary, providing a false name to police, and a $300,000 felony warrant for a prior burglary in Los Angeles. 

“He also told officers he swallowed two grams of heroin before he was contacted inside the residence,” said Cota. “He was taken to Mission Hospital for a medical clearance and then transported to Orange County Jail,” where, we are told, there is no Jell-o. 

Doctor shopper is prescribed jail

On Wednesday around 4 p.m., a woman arrived at Mission Hospital for multiple medical ailments. But, medical staff was aware that a woman matching her description would visit hospitals, request medications and extend her stay. 

Officers were contacted, and the woman, Texas resident Tenetra Jones, 31, attempted to leave upon finding this out.

“Inside Jones’ bag was discharge paperwork from various hospitals,” said Cota. “They all had different names. Also located was prescription pills in another name.

“Officers believed she was ‘Doctor Shopping’ and had over 30 different medications and associated ailments in which certain medication was given,” he explained.

Jones was ultimately arrested for providing false names for medical services, providing a false name to an officer, and entering a business with the intent to defraud.

Police Files

Motorist vs bicyclist: bicyclist wins

On Thursday, August 10, at 9:42 a.m., Laguna Beach police officers responded to a report of a disturbance at the intersection of Bluebird Canyon Road and S Coast Hwy.

According to witnesses on scene, the disturbance began when the suspect, a motorist, intentionally struck a person riding his bicycle. When confronted about this by another bicyclist, the suspect then intentionally tried to run him over as well. The suspect fled the scene prior to officers arriving.

Laguna Beach Police Department patrol officers and detectives responded to the scene and obtained a description of the suspect and his vehicle. Using this information, detectives identified Kevin O’Neill, a 53-year-old resident of Laguna Beach, as a possible suspect. Witnesses and victims positively identified O’Neill in a photo lineup.

On Sunday, August 13, police officers stopped O’Neill while he was driving his vehicle and placed him under arrest. He was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and booked into Orange County Jail.

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call the Laguna Beach Police Department at 949-497-0701. For further information, please contact Sergeant Jim Cota at 949-464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Road rage results in DUI arrest

On Saturday around 3 p.m., callers reported that a Toyota Camry rear-ended a Tesla and attempted to drive away.

When officers arrived, they discovered that the victim stood in front of the Camry as it was attempting to leave the scene and was struck by the vehicle.

“The driver, identified as 57-year-old Anaheim resident William Boeck, exhibited signs of driving while impaired and was investigated for driving under the influence,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. 

Boeck was arrested for a fourth offense of driving under the influence and, since he tried to hit the other party with his car, assault with a deadly weapon.

Police Files

LBPD reminds residents to lock their doors following vacation rental break-in

Laguna Beach residents aren’t the only victims in the recent spree of burglaries across town. 

A visitor staying in a vacation rental in the 1100 block of N. Coast Hwy woke up at around 3 a.m. on Wednesday to find someone in her room. Upon seeing that the previously sleeping guest was awake, the suspect fled – but not before grabbing a jacket with $40 inside.

“The suspect entered through unlocked doors,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “People need to lock the doors to their residences and vehicles.”

The jacket was recovered, but the money was gone. And, there was a beer on the front porch the following morning that hadn’t been there the night before.

LBPD is looking into the case to see if there are any leads.

Rats! We have a gnawing suspicion that a certain thief was disappointed when he opened stolen packages 

Imagine the scene: you’re just your average burglar ambling along Cerritos Street early Thursday morning, wondering whether today will be your lucky day, looking for open windows or doors, when you see a few nice size boxes sitting on the doorstep of a home…so you pick them up. 

They’re heavy and rattle when you shake them. Seems like this could be valuable stuff – the kind of stuff thieves like you can make money on. It’s been a slow thief day.

You scurry away, packages in hand. Feeling beady eyes on you, you turn – has the homeowner noticed you? But no, it’s a pair of rats sitting on a fencepost, whiskers upturned. If you didn’t know better, you might think they were smiling at you, as if to say, hey, we recognize you, and thanks, buddy! 

Thanks, buddy – we see you’re one of us…

Funny what nerves will do to your mind.

When you get home, you open the boxes to find – 60+ rat traps. Nearly $85 worth of rat traps and their associated equipment, to be exact. A plague on the house you burgled!

It’s not your lucky day after all. And you have a gnawing feeling the cops will be after you soon. 

And we think you’re right about that.

Police Files

LBPD officer arrested in elder abuse case: internal investigation launched

On Tuesday, November 28, officers from the Fullerton Police Department arrested three individuals in connection with an ongoing elder abuse and fraud investigation.

One of those individuals was LBPD’s Officer Rock Wagner, 58, a nine-year veteran of the police department. Arrested along with him were his sister, Wendy Wagner, 55, and her boyfriend, Norman McBride, 58. All three were arrested for elder abuse and fraud, and were released from the Fullerton City Jail after posting bail.

Officer Wagner has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

In an interview with Stu News Laguna, Police Chief Laura Farinella estimated that the internal investigation would take approximately 30-45 days.

“We will not compromise a thorough and accurate investigation for the sake of getting it done earlier than it takes,” she said.

While disappointed with the arrest, the LBPD wants to express to the community that no criminal activity is alleged to have occurred within Laguna Beach or while Officer Wagner was on-duty.

“The arrest of Wagner was definitely unexpected and has sent a disappointing ripple throughout the entire department,” said Farinella. “With that said, this arrest is not a reflection of the hard-working, ethical men and women of the Laguna Beach Police Department, and nothing in this case has ever pointed to his work here as a police officer.”

Fullerton PD was informed of the alleged misconduct in June 2017 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Orange County Adult Protective Services. Chief Farinella was made aware of the investigation a few months ago by Fullerton PD. 

“One of our lieutenants was there at the time of the arrest and [Wagner’s] badge, gun, and ID ware taken. It was at that time he was placed on paid administrative leave and given the appropriate paperwork related to this status,” Farinella said.

Fullerton PD officers said that there was more than one alleged victim, related to the suspects, and the allegations relate to the theft of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suspects are not accused of any physical abuse. 

“We have a war on trees [in our town],” says Mayor Iseman after vicious attack kills eucalyptus

In August, an unknown suspect poured gasoline on a eucalyptus tree a block away from Thousand Steps Beach. The fire department responded to absorb the fuel, and a consulting arborist was called in by the city’s Public Works and Code Enforcement departments to evaluate the tree.

“Public Works staff followed the consulting arborists’ recommendations to remove the fuel and periodically visited the site to monitor the situation and evaluate the health of the tree,” said Shohreh Dupuis, director of Public Works, in a letter. At that time, the tree did not appear damaged beyond recovery.

That did not last long. A few weeks later, the foliage turned brown and the canopy began to die. A dozen nails were found in the tree trunk, which were removed immediately. 

“During the follow up inspection, the arborist suggested that the damage caused by the vandalism had systematically affected the tree to a level that was likely to be irreversible,” said Dupuis.

The tree has not recovered and is now dead. The Public Works department is following the City Council’s Public Tree Removal Policy for its removal, as it has become a fire hazard.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

A 50-foot tall eucalyptus tree will be removed after a series of attacks killed it

“We have a war on trees going on [in this town],” said Mayor Toni Iseman. Last November, someone cut gashes into five eucalyptus trees in front of Montage Laguna Beach. And in May of this year, several nails were hammered into a tree in the 1000 block of Cortez.

Unfortunately, LBPD is not actively investigating the recent vandalism that killed the eucalyptus tree because they have no leads on the incident.

“If you can prove that a tree was purposely or maliciously killed by a person, a case can be presented to the DA’s office for filing consideration,” explained Sgt. Jim Cota. “A report was generated and Code Enforcement conducted an investigation. If there had been any solid leads on who committed the crime, a report would have been sent to Investigations for assistance in either an arrest or filing a charge with the DA.”

Red Flag Warning issued for Laguna Beach

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning effective through Thurs, Dec 7 at 11:59 p.m. A high wind watch has also been issued where wind speeds between 20-40 mph and gusts of up to 60 mph are possible. Laguna Beach residents should refer to the Ready! Set! Go! Program available on the Fire Department website (www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/fire). 

Register for AlertOC, the city’s mass notification system, by going to AlertOC.com. To ensure you are contacted during a Red Flag Warning, please register with the Nixle Red Flag group by texting “LBRedFlag” to 888-777.

Residents should be aware of parking restrictions in the Diamond/Crestview neighborhood during Red Flag Warnings. Any vehicles parked in spaces marked with a “red flag” in the center may be cited or towed.

Fire Files

Firefighters on full alert as Red Flag Warning is extended: “Elevated sense of awareness urged”

The National Weather Service extended the Red Flag Warning for the Orange County Coastal Zone through Saturday, Dec 9 at 8 p.m. Police and fire personnel urge an elevated sense of awareness during these extreme weather conditions.

Laguna Beach Fire Chief Kirk Summers reported that LBFD had two engines and two Battalion Chiefs assigned to the Thomas Fire in Ventura County on the fire lines Thursday.

“Closer to home, we have staffed up every available engine, including our wildland engine and our reserve engines, and the rescue squad,” Summers continued. “All but four of our firefighters are on duty in anticipation of the extreme fire weather conditions.”

Jordan Villwock, the city’s Emergency Operations Coordinator, reported that CERT volunteers were posted at Alta Laguna Park this week as a visual deterrent and for public outreach. 

“The PD is using Beach Patrol Officers to maintain a fire watch there during the night,” Summers added. 

The Police Department is also enforcing Red Flag parking restrictions in the Diamond and Crestview neighborhoods.

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Click on photo for a larger image

CERT volunteers on patrol at Alta Laguna Park this week

 “The Great Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council activated their Red Flag Patrol earlier this week, so you might see cars driving around town with red flags,” Villwock said. 

City Council Bob Whalen said that he believed the situation brought attention to the need for undergrounding utility poles along evacuation routes. 

“Over the past few days the wildfires raging throughout Southern California have required over 100,000 to flee their homes in minutes. The speed with which the fires have spread is incredible,” said Whalen said. “Watching people run from their homes underscores for me how crucial it is to all of us in Laguna to underground the utility poles on Laguna Canyon Road and other evacuation routes in the city. This will be the first priority in the city’s undergrounding plan.

“I am confident that voters will understand how crucial this plan is to public safety and will support it at next November’s election,” he concluded.

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Courtesy LBFD

Laguna Beach Firefighters were involved in firefighting at the Thomas Fire for 48 hours before getting a break on Thursday

Laguna Beach residents should take this time to evaluate their preparedness levels, Villwock said. He asked that residents refer to the Ready! Set! Go! Program available on the Fire Department website (www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/fire). 

Villwock also encouraged residents to register for AlertOC which is the City’s mass notification system by going to www.alertoc.com. Residents should make sure to include cell phone number, text number, and email addresses so that they can be contacted no matter where they are. 

In order to ensure they are contacted during a Red Flag Warning, residents should register with the Nixle Red Flag group by texting “LBRedFlag” to 888-777. 

Despite reports of a “purple flag” warning, Summers explained that there’s no such thing. “There is a fire severity scale that uses colors to indicate fire risk in various areas. The purple indicator is fairly new and has made its debut in this weather event.” 

Police Files

Package thief captured before Christmas

With the massive rise in online retailers, many people do all their Christmas shopping from the comfort of their couch. With the click of a few keys, a package can be delivered to your doorstep – unfortunately making many people an easy target for thieves.

One such thief, who stole packages from doorsteps all over Orange County, including Laguna Beach, was arrested by the Garden Grove PD on Tuesday, December 19.

Anthony Palusso

Photo Courtesy of LBPD

Anthony Brian Palusso was located and arrested thanks to the community and the use of home surveillance. He has prior arrests for thefts as well. 

For future package deliveries, LBPD provided the following advice:

-Require a signature for deliveries and bring packages inside immediately.

-Provide specific delivery instructions to keep packages out of view of the general public.

-Give an alternate delivery address, such as your work or somewhere were someone is present, to prevent packages from sitting on the porch for a long period of time.

Laguna Beach Police Department receives grant for special traffic enforcement and crash prevention

LBPD Lt. Jeff Calvert announced that the Laguna Beach Police Department has been awarded a $51,253.00 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for a yearlong program aimed at preventing deaths and injuries on our roadways through special enforcement and public awareness efforts.  The grant received by the City of Laguna Beach will aid in the city’s ongoing effort to improve traffic safety and the quality of life.  The Laguna Beach Police Department will use the funding as part of an on-going commitment to keep our roadways safe through both enforcement and education.

The grant will assist in efforts to deal with traffic safety problems and to reduce the number of persons killed and injured in traffic collisions.  While traffic deaths from all causes declined by nearly 39 percent between 2006 and 2010 in California, they rose by 2.6 percent in 2011.  State and federal officials anticipate that figures will show another rise for 2012.  DUI deaths remain the largest sector, at nearly 30 percent of traffic fatalities.  Recent trends show increases in two new categories—distracted driving and drug-impaired driving.

Activities that the grant will fund include:

Specialized DUI and drugged driving training such as Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), and Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE).

DUI Saturation Patrols

Distracted driving enforcement

Speed, red light and stop sign enforcement

Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders

Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets,” identifying worst-of-the-worst DUI offenders

Stakeout operations to observe the “worst of the worst” repeat DUI offender probationers with suspended or revoked driver licenses

Funding for this program is from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Police Files

Laguna Beach resident charged with defrauding Orange County businesses of more than $1.5 million

On January 26, 2016, LBPD Economic Crimes Detectives began a fraud investigation against Elizabeth Mulder, a resident of Laguna Beach, after a local business owner identified Mulder as his accountant and alleged that Mulder embezzled $200,000 from his wine business, JAC Wines.

The investigation revealed that between July 2009 and May 2016, Mulder devised and executed a scheme to defraud and obtain money from small businesses by gaining the trust of their owners, some of whom allowed her to gain control over their financial accounts. In total, Mulder embezzled over $1.5 million from her victims, according to documents filed in federal court.

When sentenced, Mulder faces up to 23 years in prison.

A victim talks about her experience with the embezzler

Among her victims was JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, president of Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates, an upscale travel agency based in San Juan Capistrano. 

Kurtz-Ahlers tells StuNewsLaguna that she thought everything was going smoothly during the five years, 2011 – 2016, that Elizabeth Mulder acted as her accountant, primarily handling income tax issues for Kurtz-Ahlers’ upscale travel agency.

Then Kurtz-Ahlers found out that all the money she thought she’d paid to the IRS had disappeared into Mulder’s pocket. 

“I was in shock. I’d known Elizabeth Mulder’s mother, Alice Whynaught, for years, which made me feel quite comfortable hiring her daughter,” Kurtz-Ahlers said. “To be honest, I admired Elizabeth, I thought she was a terrific entrepreneur, very successful – meanwhile she was a skillful manipulator. She took advantage of her mother’s connections to get clients and then embezzle from them.”

Along with the shock of realizing her funds had been embezzled, Kurtz-Ahlers still has to deal with IRS. They expect Kurtz-Ahlers to pay what she owed for those five years – plus penalties and fines – and it is taking a great deal of negotiation to come to a settlement with the IRS.  

Skillful, yes, but in deception, not finance

“Elizabeth came across as someone who was sincere and really wanted to help you. Plus she had so many clients, I thought she must be good at what she did. That’s what everyone thought.”

But Mulder was in the process of embezzling what would turn out to be 1.5 million dollars from clients who trusted her. She was good at what she did – except her skill was in theft.

“Police detective Jordan Mirakian of the Laguna Beach Police Department was amazing,” Kurtz-Ahlers says. “We all went to him in a group and he was diligent about taking the information about every case. She was quite inventive in the different ways she took advantage of her clients.”

Search warrants executed by LBPD Detectives at the Mulder residence and her bank accounts revealed additional victim businesses throughout Orange County. These companies included Toni & Guy Hair Salon (Newport Beach), Kurtz-Ahlers LLC (San Juan Capistrano), Bella Pilates (San Clemente), Andra Builders, Inc. (Costa Mesa), and California Print 2 Copy (Irvine).

Mulder deceived clients into making checks payable to a phony business she created called “Income Tax Payments,” under the guise that those payments would satisfy the clients’ outstanding IRS tax obligations. She also created false personas as representatives and/or investors of companies to lead her clients to believe various expenses were being paid for the benefit of the business.

LBPD “brought in every available resource”

“This investigation serves as a reminder that our police department will pursue individuals in positions of trust who take advantage of innocent victims. We brought in every available resource, including our partners from the Federal Government, to ensure that this case would be appropriately prosecuted and justice would be served,” said Captain Jeff Calvert, LBPD.

Mulder used the money embezzled from the victims for a variety of personal expenses including a rental home in Laguna Beach, cosmetic surgery, personal vacations, living expenses, horse rentals and the purchase of horse equipment.

This case was investigated by the Laguna Beach Police Department Investigations Division, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the IRS Criminal Investigation, and the United States Attorney.

For further information, please contact Sergeant Jim Cota at (949) 464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Two helicopter rescues in two days

The Fire Department has been busy this week. On Wednesday, June 8, at 2:57 p.m., the Department received a call from the 600 block of Diamond Street. A construction worker had fallen from a construction site. 


Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy of LB Fire Department

Helicopter rescue in progress

The lack of stairs made it impossible to reach him other than by helicopter, and moving the patient was critical due to the extent of his injuries. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy of LB Fire Department

Patient is safely en route to the hospital thanks to our firefighters and the OCFA

The Fire Department, working with the OC Fire Authority, was able to hover and then drop someone down to rescue the patient and deliver him to Mission Hospital.

Golfers hear call for help

Then on Thursday morning at 9 a.m., golfers at The Ranch at Laguna Beach reported hearing calls for help from a steep hillside.  Access to the person was impossible by foot and the patient was unable to move due to a foot injury.  

Working again with the OCFA, Laguna Beach Fire Department deployed a “short haul” approach to airlift him to the hospital in Mission Viejo.


Stolen vehicle leads to chase, spike strips deployed

Laguna Beach Police were alerted to a stolen vehicle located at Forest Avenue and Laguna Canyon Road. The driver, Juan Gutierrez, chose to flee in the vehicle through the downtown area without stopping. 

The vehicle ultimately headed north to Newport Beach. With the assistance of Newport Beach PD, the vehicle was disabled utilizing Spike Strips. 

Three occupants were detained and two were arrested. They were Gutierrez and Arriaga. Gutierrez was also in possession of approximately one gram of methamphetamine.

Police Files

Here’s a shocker in Police Files – good news!

Remember our story last week about Reed Swingley, 54, of Sun City, who stole goods from individuals as well Mozambique Restaurant, Tortilla Republic and an architectural business downtown? Items that included personal jewelry, a safe, a large amount of cash, an antique saxophone and a bronze statue, found in his truck?

To recap, last Sunday, after a high-risk traffic stop, Swingley was arrested for burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, as well as other theft related charges.

But (in addition to his arrest) here’s the good news: detectives were able to track down some of the people who had their valuables stolen.

Courtesy LBPD

Betty Jo Young is thrilled to have her jewelry back, courtesy LBPD

According to police reports, 89 year-old Betty Jo Young, whose belongings and jewelry were stolen from her hotel room in town while she was in the hospital recovering from a fall, was thrilled to know that her diamond wedding rings and a diamond heart pendant, given to her by her late husband Coleman Young, had been recovered.

Also, LBPD Sgt Cota tells us, a rare bronze art piece was returned to its owner, Horst Noppenberger, who owns Noppenberger owns Horst Architects in Laguna Beach.

An antique saxophone was also returned to its owner.

Photo courtesy LBPD

Detectives Mirakian and Ocampo celebrate the return of stolen goods

“This has been a great experience for our detectives and a tribute to LBPD teamwork,” Sgt Jim Cota said. “We are in the process of giving the stolen property back to the owners. We just gave a woman back her purses and we’re going to be giving a woman back her wedding ring. She is ecstatic!”

Sgt Cota added that the investigation of this case is still ongoing and, because of its complexity, will take time to complete.

You’re never too old to … steal?

Just because you get older, of course you still want to wear the kinds of clothes that’ll help you steal the show at a party – but most senior women prefer to buy rather than burgle when choosing an arresting outfit.

Not so for three “older” women (according to police reports, not me, I’m 61) who attempted to swipe clothes from Sunny Days and were arrested on the corner of Laguna Ave and S. Coast Highway. 

Diana Lynn Carnivalli, 51, of Nevada, with charges pending, and Linda Maria Webster, 46, Nevada, with a Ventura warrant bail $5000, were taken into custody.

Arrests were for petty theft, possession of stolen property, and burglary tools – small pliers used to cut the sensors off clothing.

Apparently a Chihuahua, pushed in a cart, was an unwitting accomplice.  

The third woman was released with no charges.

Police Files

LBPD will be out “in full force” Sunday, in anticipation of possible rallies

Sgt. Jim Cota told Stu News Laguna on Thursday evening that LBPD will be out “in full force” Sunday, Sep 24 at Main Beach, in anticipation of possible rallies including a previously scheduled (but possibly canceled) America First rally. There will be multiple agencies on hand again, including officers on horseback.

America First’s Johnny Benetiz told LBPD that he would “not be rallying on Sunday”, said Cota, after reports he had received death threats to his family.

However, it is unknown if others from the group will show up, as original plans were to gather Sunday starting at 3 p.m.

Regardless of whether or not America First supporters show up, a peace rally is scheduled for Sunday at Main Beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The rally will be aimed at “promoting peace and unity for our community”. Organizers encourage rally goers to wear pink to support The Race for the Cure.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

LBPD will patrol Main Beach Sunday in anticipation of possible rallies


Three more residential burglaries reported this week

Laguna Beach residents reported three more residential burglaries this week. 

On Sunday, an unknown suspect broke into a residence in the 200 block of San Joaquin Street. Artwork and kitchen items were moved or taken, and a $2,000 chair was also stolen from the residence. A complete inventory is still being compiled.

Two burglaries on High Drive were reported on Wednesday, both of which occurred sometime after August 30. 

“In the first, the suspect broke a bedroom window,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “The suspect went through specific drawers looking for small items but did not ransack the entire home.”

The second High Drive burglary had similar circumstances: the suspect broke a rear glass door and went through drawers, but did not ransack the residence. The exact loss for both is still unknown.

“So far, we do not have a connection in the burglaries, but we are not ruling it out,” said Cota.

Cell phone conversation interrupted by robber

On Sunday at 12:52 p.m., officers went to the bus depot on Broadway Street to respond to a call.

While there, the officers were approached by a man who reported that another man had stolen his cell phone.

“The victim stated that he was talking to his mother on the phone when the suspect hit him with a closed fist twice in the mouth and side of his face,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. “The suspect took the phone and ran away.”

Officers were able to locate the suspect, identified as Bryce Summers, 18, no fixed address.

Summers was detained and the phone was returned back to the victim.

Once video footage of the crime was reviewed and the victim’s story verified, Summers was arrested for robbery and was transported to Orange County Jail. Bail was $100,000.

Police Files

LBPD offers advice and empathy in response to Las Vegas shooting

The Laguna Beach Police Department is closely monitoring the tragic events from Sunday’s “Route 91 Country Concert” in Las Vegas, during which at least 59 people were killed and 527 injured. 

Preliminary news reports indicated that among the innocent victims of the active shooter incident were a number of off-duty police and firefighter personnel from jurisdictions throughout the country, including Orange County. 

“Our thoughts are with everyone involved in the incident, including the family and loved ones affected by this tragedy, and law enforcement, other first responders and medical staff who responded to the scene and worked tirelessly to preserve life,” said Sgt. Jim Cota in an interview on Monday.

The Laguna Beach Police Department offered the following possible courses of action in an active shooter situation:

Get out, if possible. Try to remain calm, and find cover and/or concealment. You MUST take action to protect yourself. Assist the injured, if it is safe to do so. Secure your location. Silence any cell phones and remain quiet. And, defend yourself. 

Thieves steal laptops from local business, get caught trying to sell them in town

On Wednesday, September 27 at about 6:30 p.m., Seven-Degrees reported the theft of two laptops. The suspects were described as two white men in their mid-twenties. 

About three hours later, two white men in their mid-twenties approached a man at Oak Street and Glenneyre Street, and offered to sell him some stolen laptops. The man turned them down, and called the police after they left.

Surveillance footage from the theft confirmed the suspect’s identity, and officers arrested Nicholas Huffman, 21, Colorado, for possession of stolen property.

Police Files

Three burglary suspects in custody after chase through backyards in the Temple Hills area

Lagunans woke this Friday morning to the sound of circling helicopters and sirens. 

Mary Hurlbut, of Cerritos Drive says she was sitting in her living room when she heard footsteps. “I looked outside and there was a police officer on our back deck with guns drawn,” she said. “He told us to make sure all our doors and windows were locked as they were pursuing two suspects.”

Three suspects in all were taken into custody, Sgt Jim Cota tells Stu News. “The incident began as a response to a burglary occurring in the 2900 block of Zell Drive,” he said.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

This was Mary Hurlbut’s view this Friday morning first thing—immediately after finding a cop with gun drawn on her deck

“Officers responded to the area, near Temple Hills Drive and Bluebird Canyon. They saw a suspect fleeing on foot. With the assistance of a helicopter and the K-9 unit he was apprehended without further incident,” Cota added.

This was no easy task for police officers, given, as Mary Hurlbut describes, the lush backyards of homes in this area.

Once again, LBPD nabbed their suspects.

We’ll update details on our Facebook page.

Burglar will face felony animal cruelty charges after gecko is injured

When the LBPD takes on a case, they want justice for all the victims of a crime.

And last week, a much-loved gecko became one of those victims. She WILL see justice done.

Residents will recall that on July 26, five Laguna Beach jewelry businesses at the Shops at the Cliffs shopping center were burglarized, and more than $200,000 in merchandise was stolen by "well-dressed" thieves. 

Last week, exactly two months after the burglaries, LBPD detectives arrested one of the two suspects caught on surveillance video during the thefts.

Detectives went to Oceanside and located Edward Torrison, 30, at a home where he resides with his girlfriend.

“Torrison was very surprised,” said Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “So surprised that he took off running from Laguna Beach PD officers through downtown Oceanside. I think he was shocked that he was finally caught.”

Torrison fled down an alley, over a fence, and into a business, where he attempted to jump through a window and shattered the gecko’s cozy aquarium, the only home the little lizard knew.

“The gecko (a girl, named Aloha) is fine,” Sgt Cota assures us. “She is resting and back with her owner. Although tail-less, I am told she will be alright, and her tail is not supposed to grow back.”

Still, little Aloha could have died. And also, a tail is not something you want to lose if you’re a gecko.

So it is that the LBPD is adding a charge of felony animal cruelty to the list of charges against Torrison, which include multiple theft and burglary related charges as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

Aloha’s owner Cory Whitlock, seen here with Detectives Dave Gensemer and Joy Butterfield, is just happy she’s alive

Stu News learned some additional interesting information about the arrest, one of the most significant for the LBPD in recent years, its successful conclusion a reflection of the smarts of its hard-working investigative team.

Sgt Cota tells us that the thief had an enormous amount of jewelry inside the garage of the residence. 

“Two loaded handguns were also located inside the house and garage. There was so much jewelry in the large tool chest with multiple pull drawers that we did not have the room in our detective vehicles to transport it all back to Laguna Beach,” he tells us. 

Sgt Cota had to pay a Oceanside tow truck company to haul the very large chest and jewelry back on a flatbed the night of the arrest. 

(By the way, we hear that Sgt Cota drew the short straw and got stuck following the tow truck at slow speeds all the way back to Laguna Beach from Oceanside, which even included a stop at the San Clemente border check area.) 

“Border patrol agents inquired what we were hauling back into Orange County because not every day does a flatbed tow truck haul a very large tool chest with hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen jewelry at 2 a.m. in the morning,” Cota accurately observes.  

He says that it is going to take a long time to investigate this particular case given the magnitude of the crimes and the number of stolen items. 

Police departments around Southern California laud the arrest

Other police departments from Orange County and San Diego and Riverside are celebrating the arrest and working with the LBPD on the case, because Torrison had been involved with many burglaries prior to his arrest by LBPD.

Sgt Cota told Stu News, however, that right now there is no link between the recent residential burglaries in Laguna Beach and the commercial burglaries committed by Torrison. 

“It appears he targets businesses more, but we will not rule out any involvement in residential burglaries,” Sgt Cota added. “If it is not Torrison, then that means there are other people coming into our city and committing the crimes. We’ll get those guys too. We always do. 

“Our investigative team is the best around as their track report speaks for itself in terms of the high volume of arrests they make. They do not know how proud of them I really am. They work countless hours and take the crimes they investigate very seriously. I am just fortunate enough to supervise a great group of detectives. They deserve all the credit!”

Police Files

LBPD nabbed three burglary suspects from Riverside on Friday morning, with help of K-9 bite

As we reported on Friday, LBPD was able to apprehend three suspects involved with a burglary reported on Zell Drive that morning. A resident had reported a suspicious truck in his neighbor’s driveway, and another caller reported three suspects had attempted to force entry through a side bedroom window. 

Within minutes of the call, officers on scene saw three suspects inside the truck driving away. 

The three suspects abandoned the truck in a nearby residential area and fled on foot. With air support from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department as well as their K-9 units, the suspects were located. 

LBPD Booking Photos

Gwendulyn Ceballos Jimenez, Allen Ykwang Lin, and Michael Murilloh

Gwendulyn Ceballos Jimenez, 21, Allen Ykwang Lin, 29, and Michael Murilloh, 31, all from Riverside, were taken into custody after an extensive search of the area. Ykwang Lin had to be persuaded to come out of the canyon where he was hiding – OCSD’s K-9 unit was more than happy to assist. The minor bite injuries Ykwang Lin sustained were treated. 

“Our residents acted quickly and did a fantastic job reporting the suspicious activity that led to these arrests,” said Captain Jeff Calvert in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such engaged residents who understand that it is a team effort to keep our community safe.”

The suspects were booked into Orange County Jail for residential burglary and possession of stolen property. LBPD detectives are in the process of identifying additional victims through the stolen property recovered in the truck…which was also stolen. The investigation is ongoing.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy of LBPD

Officer McGuire and Detective Gensemer are looking for the owner of the other stolen truck, which they think belongs to a 2- to 4-year-old. If you know who this truck belongs to, please call the LBPD at 949-497-0701.


Well-dressed Edward Torrison pleads guilty

This week, Edward Torrison pled guilty to the thefts that occurred this summer in Laguna Beach at the Shops at the Cliffs, where the losses exceeded $200,000. 

He pled guilty to four counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of grand theft, and one count of receiving stolen property. 

LBPD detectives arrested Torrison on Sept. 26 in Oceanside. A second suspect shown on the surveillance footage is still at large. 

Torrison is suspected to be involved in several other burglaries that occurred throughout Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties.

Police Files

Thieves are doing their Christmas shopping in Laguna, it seems – by breaking into cars…

“These thieves are looking for anything visible of value in plain view or vehicles left unlocked,” said LBPD’s Sgt. Jim Cota when asked about a recent string of vehicle burglaries. Whether or not the seven thefts that occurred between Sunday and Tuesday are related is still being investigated.

Sometime late Monday night, two pairs of sunglasses valued at about $1,000 were taken from a vehicle (most likely left unlocked), and $500 worth of Christmas presents were stolen from another unlocked vehicle. One victim noticed items missing from their car on Monday. Two cars on a driveway were searched by a burglar on Sunday, and both were said to have been left unlocked.

One victim’s vehicle was locked on Sunday, but the burglar still managed to steal $500 worth of shoes and clothes. Another strike on Sunday left the victim missing their wallet and $400 in gift cards, and yet another victim’s glove box was riffled through.

“We need to get the message out: remove all personal items of value from your vehicle, and always lock your doors,” Cota said.

Police Files

Jaw-dropping scam on Glenneyre takes bite out of victim’s bank account

A heavy-set man in his thirties or early forties, wearing navy blue medical scrubs, recently conned a victim on the 1100 block of Glenneyre Street into buying vouchers for three teeth-whitening kits, including the promise of discounts for dental procedures.

“He paid $328.41 on his credit card,” said Sgt Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “When he called and made an appointment with a Laguna Niguel dentist’s office, that’s when he learned that the vouchers were fraudulent.”

Unfortunately, it looks like the victim is just going to have to grin and bear the loss, because the suspect has not been located.

Tesla driver in April’s double fatal charged by DA

Robert McFarland Pettis, MD, 48, Laguna Beach, was scheduled to be arraigned in Harbor Justice Center yesterday (Monday) on felony charges stemming from a double fatal head-on crash on Laguna Canyon Road last April 2.

In a press release Friday, OC District Attorney spokesperson Farrah Emami said, “At approximately 6:40 a.m. on April 2, 2013, Pettis is accused of driving at a high rate of speed in his Tesla Model S northbound on State Route 133 in Laguna Beach. Pettis is accused of crossing over the double yellow lines into the southbound lanes and driving into oncoming traffic.

“He is accused of crashing head-on into a Honda Accord and killing 47- year-old driver Alberto Casique and his passenger, 38-year-old Armando Gonzalez.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Stock photo courtesy LBPD

Two men were killed on April 2 after the Honda (left) they were in was hit head-on by the black Tesla facing the wrong direction further along Laguna Canyon Road

Pettis is facing two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one felony count of driving the wrong way on a divided highway causing death, and sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily harm. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of nine years and eight months in state prison.

Reports at the time of the crash said Pettis’ Tesla and a white Mercedes sped away from the red light at Laguna Canyon Road and El Toro Road. Pettis allegedly told police after the crash that he was forced into the oncoming lane.

No charges have been filed against the Mercedes driver.

Police Files

Police Employees raise money for surviving children of 31-year-old Mom who was killed on Mother’s Day 

The Laguna Beach Police Employees Association released the following statement late Monday afternoon: 

On Mother’s Day morning, Laguna Beach Officers responded to a 9-1-1 call from witnesses reporting a traffic collision on El Toro Road near Laguna Canyon Road. Both drivers, Sandra Maldonado, 31, Mission Viejo and Manuel Mercado, 86, Laguna Woods, passed away from injuries sustained in the crash.

In Sandra’s vehicle were her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Thankfully, her son and daughter were not injured and two Laguna Beach residents comforted them until emergency personnel arrived. They have since been released to family members.

Our Police Association has received inquiries today from residents and business owners regarding donations. The Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association has sent up the Maldonado Scholarship fund for Sandra’s two children. 

Donations can be made via our website at www.LagunaBeachPEA.com and clicking on the link “donate to the Maldonado Scholarship fund”.

We have reached out to the Maldonado family and offered our assistance and sympathy in this tragic time.

Mother’s Day crash claims 31-year-old Mission Viejo Mom of two and 86-year-old man from Laguna Woods

A 12:30 a.m. two-car traffic crash on El Toro Road near Laguna Canyon Road took the life of 31-year-old Sandra Maldonado from Mission Viejo and Manuel Mercado, 86, Laguna Woods. Maldonado was pronounced dead shortly after the crash at a hospital. 

Her two children, ages 4 and 7, were in the car she drove (a 1995 Toyota Corolla) and police said their injuries were minor. A motorist who drove by took the children out of the Toyota and placed them in his car, police said. 

Mercado, driving a 2005 Honda Pilot, died Sunday night at Mission Hospital, Mission Viejo. His wife suffered only minor injuries.

Police said the Toyota was headed eastbound from Laguna Canyon Road when the two vehicles sideswiped. Both vehicles were “extremely damaged”, police said.

The Toyota spun on the roadway after the collision and the Honda rolled over and off the road into bushes where it landed upright. Both drivers had to be extricated by firefighters.

Police arrived on the scene and reported that both drivers were unconscious but breathing. Three engines and three paramedic units from Laguna Beach and the Orange County Fire Authority along with a ladder truck from the OCFA responded.

El Toro Road was closed until 7 a.m. 

The crash is still being investigated and police have said that neither alcohol nor speed seem to be factors in the cause.

Police Files

Three home burglaries in five days: Laguna police warn residents to be extra vigilant 

In Friday’s edition, we reported on a home burglary that had been interrupted by the North Laguna homeowner last Wednesday the 13th.

On that same evening, just before 8 p.m., a home invasion in the 400 block of Windsor Place was interrupted by a cat sitter entering the residence.

According to a post by the homeowner on NextDoor, the burglar broke a window to enter and left with jewelry.

“With the close distance from the other burglary that night, they could be associated, but we have nothing concrete yet tying them together,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

On Sunday at 12:41 a.m., a citizen in the 300 block of Loma Terrace saw an unknown man leaving a residence. The screen and window were removed from the home.

Police officers have not determined if there is a connection between this event and the other recent burglaries in Laguna.

“We will be beefing up patrol officers looking for the people responsible,” said Cota.

Laguna Beach residents must remain vigilant and report suspicious looking individuals and vehicles – and if you see something, say something, he advises.

Additionally, residents can take advantage of vacation checks offered by the police department. To apply for basic house check services, visit the Laguna Beach police station at 505 Forest Avenue. And, alert neighbors you trust about any upcoming trips and ask that they keep an eye on your property during that time. When you leave town, don’t leave signs of an empty house.

“Our police department cannot be fully effective without the community’s help and support,” said Cota. “We need you as much as you need us. Together we can make a big difference.”

LBPD welcomes two new officers

The Laguna Beach Police department swore in two new officers on Monday.

Officer Priscilla Angeloni was sponsored through the Golden West Police Academy after serving as a jailer.

Officer Jeremiah Kennedy spent the last three years working for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.


Click on photos for a larger image

Photos courtesy of LBPD

Meet LBPD’s newest officers, Priscilla Angeloni and Jeremiah Kennedy

Police Files

LBPD nabs “big fish”: suspected thief with $500k in jewelry, loaded guns

On July 26, five Laguna Beach jewelry businesses at the Shops at the Cliffs shopping center were burglarized, and over $200,000 in merchandise was stolen. 

On Tuesday, exactly two months after the burglaries, LBPD detectives arrested one of the two suspects caught on surveillance video during the thefts.

“This was the big fish,” said Sgt. Jim Cota. “We’ve been working on this investigation for two months.”

Detectives went to Oceanside and located Edward Torrison, 30, at a home where he resides with his girlfriend. When detectives attempted to detain him, Torrison fled on foot, down an alley, over a fence, and into a business, where he attempted to jump through a window and successfully shattered a gecko aquarium. (We were assured that the gecko was unharmed and given a new home.)

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy of Laguna Beach PD

Edward Torrison was detained with the help of Oceanside police following a brief chase that involved a broken gecko aquarium and an attempt at jumping through a window.

Torrison was arrested with the help of the Oceanside PD and some brave citizens.

“This arrest was the culmination of excellent police work coupled with a steadfast determination by our investigations unit to apprehend the offenders,” said Captain Jeff Calvert in a statement. “It serves as a reminder that when individuals commit a crime in Laguna Beach, we will leave no stone unturned in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

A search of his residence revealed an estimated $500,000 in stolen jewelry, two loaded firearms, and stolen pieces of art. The investigation is ongoing, and LBPD is working with law enforcement agencies throughout Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties to identify additional victims.

Torrison was arrested on multiple theft and burglary related charges, as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was taken to Orange County Jail where he is being held on $500,000 bail.

The second burglar is still outstanding, and encouraged to turn himself in to the Laguna Beach Police. 

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call the Laguna Beach PD at 949-494-0701. For further information, please contact Sgt. Jim Cota at 949-464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Feces smeared at residence

A resident in the 31800 block of Circle Drive reported an unusually disgusting event on Tuesday. 

Somehow, an unknown suspect got through two locked gates to smear feces on the property.

“Neither of the gates had been tampered with, so we have no idea how the suspect got onto the property,” said Sgt. Jim Cota.

A few weeks ago, a similar feces-smearing incident occurred when someone reported feces on their car door. Officers are not sure if the two events are related.

“About 8 years ago we had a caretaker from Newport Beach throwing used diapers onto the streets of North Laguna,” said Cota. “But we haven’t had any occurrences of feces being spread on walls before.”

Police Files

Mid-day burglar arrested for stealing clothes and cash

On Sunday afternoon, a LBPD officer was in the right place at the right time.

“The general manager of a restaurant in the 200 block of Brooks Street flagged down an officer around 2:15 p.m.,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He pointed to a man running away from the patio area.”

The officer took chase and tracked down Cesar Badillo-Munoz, age 28.

“He was wearing a jacket that still had a merchandise tag on it from a local business,” said Cota. “He claimed he paid $80 for it, but later admitted he had stolen it along with other clothing items that he was in possession of, including hats and t-shirts.”

Back to the restaurant manager…

“Badillo-Munoz had been acting suspicious inside the restaurant,” said Cota. “The employees noticed that he had gone into the office and taken cash from an unlocked safe – that’s what alerted the manager to flag down the officer.”

Inside the pocket of the stolen jacket, officers found a total of $2,166.

Badillo-Munoz was arrested for burglary, grand theft, and, since he ran from officers, resisting arrest. 

Community meeting regarding recent burglaries a success – more coming in the future

On Wednesday night, LBPD hosted a community meeting at the Susi Q Center regarding the recent burglaries in North Laguna.

Sgt. Cota estimated there were 25 people in attendance, as well as himself, Sgt. White, Sgt. McGill, and Detective Ocampo. 

“We talked about the uptick in burglaries in the city, security measures residents can take, vacation home checks conducted by the police department, and other resources for the public to learn about major events,” said Cota. “Overall it was a very good meeting.”

“Based on the attendance and questions that were asked, we will be doing a lot more of them,” he added. “It was really good and informative for citizens.”

Remember, if you see something, say something – you could stop a crime. 

A pigeon and a pumpkin – was it the full moon?

Last Thursday there was a full moon – and we’re attributing that to some recent odd occurrences around Laguna….

On Monday morning, a business reported that there had been pumpkins smashed, hay scattered, and posted signs ripped. Was it a werewolf on the rampage? Perhaps, but the victim provided security footage of the incident.

On Monday evening, a man was reported wandering downtown carrying a dead pigeon. When questioned about it by police officers, he was unable to recall where he had picked up the unfortunately deceased bird. The man, 18-year-old Emil Brenenstuhl, was ultimately arrested for public intoxication, but we won’t rule out vampires as the cause for the dead bird.

After all, it is Friday the 13th….

Police Files

Thief waltzes away with dancing woman

On Friday evening, a resident in the 200 block of Chiquita Street reported that a sculpture had been stolen from their home. 

The sculpture, a bronze dancing woman on a base of green marble, had been listed on eBay. The loss was estimated at $7,000. 

Copycat sought in wilderness parking lot burglary

Last May, LBPD apprehended a suspect who had been breaking into cars parked in Laguna Coast Wilderness lots on Laguna Canyon Road.

Now, it seems a copycat is back at it.

On Saturday morning, a woman’s car, parked in the lot in the 3200 block of Laguna Canyon Road, was broken into while she was hiking. 

When she returned to her vehicle, she found that her purse, credit cards, house keys, and two iPhones had been stolen.

“Detectives arrested the last guy responsible for all of those vehicle burglaries, but it looks like someone new is back at it,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

Remember to lock your vehicles and hide your valuables.

Police Files

LBPD officer arrested in elder abuse case

On Tuesday, November 28, officers from the Fullerton Police Department arrested three individuals in connection with an ongoing elder abuse and fraud investigation.

One of those individuals was LBPD’s Officer Rock Wagner, a nine-year veteran of the police department. Arrested along with him were his sister, Wendy Wagner, and her boyfriend, Norman McBride. All three were arrested for elder abuse and fraud, and were released from the Fullerton City Jail after posting bail.

While disappointed with the arrest, the LBPD wants to express to the community that no criminal activity is alleged to have occurred within Laguna Beach or while Officer Wagner was on-duty.

“As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest of standards and in no way is the arrest of Officer Wagner a reflection of the hard-working men and women of this outstanding police organization, said Police Chief Laura Farinella in a statement.

Fullerton PD was informed of the alleged misconduct in June 2017 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Orange County Adult Protective Services.

Little details are currently available, though Fullerton PD officers said that there was more than one alleged victim, related to the suspects, and the allegations relate to the theft of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suspects are not accused of any physical abuse. 

Officer Wagner has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

Police Files

A kiss on the cheek and a punch to the chin = jail

A woman called 9-1-1 Sunday afternoon from the 200 block of Ocean Avenue who said she had been kissed on her cheek and then punched in the chin by an inebriated woman that she didn’t know. She told police that she had been sitting on an outside wall when it all happened.

She described the other woman who had left the area. When police arrived, the woman drove down Ocean Avenue. She was stopped rather quickly.

Erin Kathleen McMillen, 53 of Laguna Beach, was arrested for DUI and on a citizen’s complaint for misdemeanor battery.

40 million in currency taken from a desk drawer

Iraqi and Vietnamese paper currency stolen

A resident in the 22300 block of Third Avenue in South Laguna reported that Iraqi and Vietnamese currency with a face value of 40 million in dinars and dongs and a US dollar value of close to $10,000 was missing.

According to the RP, an unknown suspect had removed the currency from a desk drawer.

No further details were immediately available.

Police Files

Robbery arrest made at Husky Boy Burgers

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14, officers received a call that a robbery had just occurred at the Mobil gas station in the 100 block of N. Coast Hwy. 

“Four suspects entered the gas station and took beverages from the store,” said Sgt. James Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “When they were confronted by the sales clerk, one of the four struck him in the face and took his cell phone. They fled in a Chevy Camaro.” The crime was captured on surveillance video.

An immediate area search was conducted and the suspect vehicle was located at the Husky Boy Burgers parking lot. Inside the vehicle were four juveniles and one adult, all from San Bernardino County. The four juveniles were taken into custody; one of them (the main aggressor) was charged with Robbery, Theft, and Assault.

According to Emergency Operations Coordinator of the LBPD, Jordan Villwock, at no time did the police department believe the community was at risk. 

Detectives identify individuals responsible for rash of vehicle burglaries

On June 3, LBPD Officers responded to multiple vehicle burglary reports throughout North Laguna Beach. LBPD Detectives were called in to assist with the investigation. During their follow-up two suspects were identified in the case, Rachel Alvarez and Johnny Cervantez.

LBPD booking photos

Rachel Alvarez and Johnny Cervantez

On June 8, LBPD Detectives went to the City of Redlands and interviewed Alvarez, and she confessed to her involvement in the burglaries and relinquished the stolen property in her possession. The stolen property included a laptop that belonged to a schoolteacher, which contained the only copy of her student’s grades.  

Alvarez and Cervantez were booked for possession of stolen property, drug, and theft related charges. Alvarez has already plead guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution. 

This investigation is ongoing, and LBPD Detectives are still pursuing additional suspects in this case. 

“In almost all of these cases, the victims left their vehicles unlocked. Crooks enjoy the path of least resistance, and it is much easier to target victims who do not protect their property. The best way to prevent crimes of opportunity is to secure your belongings and hide valuables from the public view,” said Captain Jeff Calvert.

Anyone with information related to this case is encouraged to contact Sergeant Jim Cota at (949) 464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . To submit tips anonymously, please contact Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS or 855-847-6227. You can also reach Crime Stoppers online at www.crimestoppers.org.

Police Files

Property manager arrested for jewelry heist of South Laguna home

On Tuesday, August 15, Laguna Beach Police Officers responded to investigate a report of a residential burglary in South Laguna. The residence is a vacation home, and the owners were out of town at the time. The property manager, 36-year-old Raul Aguilera, had notified police about the burglary and the homeowners listed multiple pieces of jewelry missing from their residence. The total reported loss of jewelry was more than three quarters of a million dollars – $765,912.00.

On August 21, detectives from the Laguna Beach Police Department began their investigation and through additional follow-up, identified Aguilera as the suspect in the case. The investigation led detectives to a pawn shop in Orange County, where they were able to locate some of the missing jewelry and seize it as evidence.

On August 23, detectives served a search warrant on Aguilera’s residence. During the search of Aguilera’s home, detectives located additional stolen property and jewelry belonging to the victims in this case.

Aguilera was taken into custody without incident and booked into Orange County Jail, where he is being held on $765,912 bail – the exact amount the jewelry had been valued at. He has since pleaded not guilty to the felony grand theft charge.

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.  For further information, please contact Sergeant Jim Cota at (949) 464-6671 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


DUI Checkpoint nets five arrests

LBPD conducted a DUI/Drivers License checkpoint on August 26, in the area of Coast Highway and Aliso Beach between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety for officers and the public. 

Here are the stats from Friday: 1,834 vehicles went through the Checkpoint; 864 drivers were greeted. Five DUI-Alcohol suspects were arrested. Four drivers were cited/arrested for operating a vehicle unlicensed or while suspended/revoked and four citations were issued. 

Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, other expenses that can exceed $10,000 not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out. 

The Laguna Beach Police Department will be conducting numerous DUI education/enforcement details throughout 2017 in an ongoing commitment to lowering deaths and injuries upon our streets and highways. 

The checkpoint was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Drivers – Call 9-1-1.”

Police Files

Lumberyard vandal apprehended in Tustin

In the wee hours last Thursday morning, a suspect destroyed lights in front of the Lumberyard Restaurant. The damage was estimated to be about $2,000. 

Unfortunately for the suspect, the Lumberyard is right across from the Laguna Beach Police Department, and the entire incident was caught on camera. Not to mention, the suspect had been called to bail out a friend of theirs who had been arrested that night. 

“Sometimes people make bad decisions when they are mad, and this was one of them,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson.

Click on photos for larger images

Photos Courtesy of LBPD

LBPD detectives were able to positively identify the suspects who vandalized the Lumberyard lights thanks to security footage 

“The Investigations Team quickly identified the suspect and located him. There was no hesitation in making the arrest,” said Cota. 

 LBPD Detective Jordan Mirakian called the suspect before the arrest. “I told him, you’re caught, now let’s put this behind us. He agreed. The arrest was uneventful, which is the way we like it,” he said.

LBPD Booking Photo

Noah Laguna

Noah Laguna, 19, Tustin, was taken into custody without incident in Tustin on Thursday. He admitted to what he did and was booked into the Laguna Beach Jail on charges of vandalism.

“We will not tolerate extensive damage done to our businesses and have someone think they are going to get away with it,” said Cota.

More than termites gone after fumigation

Having a home fumigated for termites is not uncommon. Unfortunately, when the tents go up, the home can become a target for crime.

This was the case for homeowners in the 800 block of Coast View Drive. When the owners returned after their house was fumigated, they discovered that the closets had been ransacked, with $10,000 in cash and two watches valued at $40,000 taken.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this happening,” Sgt. Cota said.

There are no suspects at this time, and the extermination company is conducting its own investigation into the matter as well.

Police Files

Logan Street gang members arrested during high risk traffic stop on Ramona Boulevard

At 8:39 p.m. on Wednesday, December 27, on the 600 Block of Ramona Boulevard, officers were alerted about a 1998 Lexus 400 that had been reported stolen heading inbound on Laguna Canyon Road. A high risk (felony) traffic stop was conducted. 

Six occupants were found to be inside the vehicle: two adult men, Allen Moreno (23) and Jonathan Duran (20), along with two juvenile boys and two juvenile girls.

All occupants of the vehicle were from Santa Ana, with the four men admitting to being members of the Logan Street Gang. Upon a record check, Moreno, the driver of the vehicle, was found to be on active parole. No bail was issued. 

Duran, who was found to be in possession of six grams of methamphetamine, was released after booking.

The juveniles ranged in age between 13 and 16, and were issued citations for possession of alcohol.

High risk traffic stops, according to policeone.com’s video, demand three fundamental steps: compensate for the risk, control the threats, and conduct a safe traffic stop. Having a plan and training to the plan are paramount when it comes to officers facing situations such as these.

Police Files

Multiple guns stolen from home on Coronado Drive: fingerprints might provide DNA evidence

At 8:07 p.m. on Saturday, Dec 30, an officer took a burglary report from a resident at the 1200 block of Coronado Drive. Sometime between Dec 25 and 30, an unknown suspect pried open an exterior bedroom door and stole three firearms and an Xbox.

According to the logs, DNA was obtained on the scene.

“This case was just given to the Investigations Division and [is now] an active investigation,” said Sgt. Jim Cota of the LBPD.  “DNA can be someone’s handprint, saliva off a cup, even a fingerprint.”

We wonder how many burglars and would-be burglars realize how far the science of DNA has come in recent years. 

12 pairs of designer glasses snatched from tented house, also on Coronado Drive

Laguna residents, also in the 1200 block of Coronado Drive, left on vacation between Dec 21-23 and had their house tented for termites. When they returned, they noticed that a box of 12 designer prescription glasses had been taken from one of their vehicles inside the garage. The approximate loss is valued at $40,970.

“War on trees” continues

Two eucalyptus trees on a property located in the 31000 block of PCH were cut down sometime on the night of Wednesday, Dec 28.

“The property manager stated that when he returned to the property on Thursday Dec 29, two of the eucalyptus trees on the property had been cut down,” Sgt. Cota stated. “The trees were located on the hillside approximately 50 yards from the house. The estimated value of the trees is $400.”

Detectives are looking into whether a dispute over a view was at the heart of this incident. They will be looking into the matter to see if it is a criminal or civil matter.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

A recent victim of the “war on trees,” this eucalyptus was poisoned and had to be cut down by the City

Don’t let possible buyers take your car for a test drive or this could happen to you

On Wednesday, Dec 27, on the 3200 block of Laguna Canyon Rd., two people took a 1999 Ford for sale on a “test drive” and did not return – they must have liked its performance. It was located out of town in Westminster shortly before 5 p.m.

“People selling their cars need to be cognizant who they are selling the car too and never let someone take the vehicle for a test drive alone,” advises Sgt. Cota. “If you choose to let someone take it, retain their driver’s license and take a photograph of them. A cash deposit would also be a great deterrent as well.” 

78-year-old grandmother falls for $10,000 phone scam

A 78-year-old Laguna woman received a call instructing her to immediately wire transfer $10,000 to Banco Internacional Del Peru to bail out her jailed granddaughter there.

This is a scam that has been perpetrated several times on elderly residents here in the past. StuNewsLaguna has written and warned residents about this scam several times in recent years and published an FBI press release as well.

In this instance, the grandmother checked with family members after she had wired the funds from her bank, according to LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus.

She learned that her granddaughter was fine and in the United States.

Police Files

Paddleboarder saves friend’s life at Moss Street Beach

On Sunday at 10:17 a.m. at Moss Street Beach, Laguna Beach police received numerous 911 calls about a man yelling for help in the ocean. Due to the fog that morning, none of the callers could see the man.

“Two friends were paddle boarding when one of them went down for an unknown reason,” said Sgt. James Cota of the LBPD. 

The man brought the woman to shore and provided CPR. According to the police log, the woman was in full cardiac arrest, but began breathing at 10:35 a.m.

Mercy Air was called to transport the woman to the hospital. According to a GoFundMe page set up for her, she suffered a seizure due to a brain tumor. She is currently under sedation in the ICU.

Police Files

Run + ignore officer’s commands = maybe a  Taser

On Thursday around 9:30 p.m., officers contacted a man at Jasmine Street and N. Coast Hwy. The man was drinking alcohol from a cup and gave officers a false name.

During the interaction with officers, the man, later identified as Ralph Bowers, 47, Huntington Beach, took off running from the officer in the middle of Coast Hwy.

“Bowers ignored the officer’s commands to stop,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “He was told to stop or a Taser would be utilized to stop him.”

Despite these verbal warnings, Bowers continued to run and was subsequently tasered. Additionally, a brief fight ensued between him and the arresting officer.

Bowers was taken into custody and charged with resisting a police officer, delaying/obstructing an officer, providing false information, and battery on an officer. He was booked and transported to Orange County Jail. 

Remember, DUI doesn’t just mean booze: checkpoint planned for this weekend

The Laguna Beach Police Department will be conducting a DUI/driver’s license checkpoint on Saturday, August 26 at an undisclosed location within the city limits between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

California has seen a disturbing increase in drug-impaired driving crashes, according to the press release. Laguna Beach PD and the Office of Traffic Safety aim to educate all drivers that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.” Prescription drugs and marijuana can also be impairing, especially in combination with alcohol or other drugs, and can result in a DUI.

Research shows that crashes involving an impaired driver can be reduced by up to 20 percent when well-publicized, proactive DUI operations are conducted routinely. In California, alcohol involved collisions led to 1,155 deaths and nearly 24,000 serious injuries in 2014 because someone failed to designate a sober driver.

Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment and checking drivers for proper licensing. Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, license suspensions and other expenses that can exceed $10,000…not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out. 

Funding for this DUI operation is provided to the LBPD by a grand from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 911.’

For further information, contact Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Police Files

Boyfriend and girlfriend arrested in last week’s home burglary

On Tuesday, we reported that a Laguna Beach resident returned home on Friday to a burglary in progress – his garage door had been broken in and there was an unknown Hyundai parked in his driveway. 

The RP called police and waited for officers to arrive. While waiting, he saw a man and a woman walk out of his house with a clothes hamper. The pair entered the Hyundai parked in the driveway and left – with $5,000 in stolen purses and $12,000 in stolen jewelry.

On Wednesday, Laguna Beach detectives went to the City of Orange to visit Zachary Morales, 26, and his girlfriend, Tiffanie Moreland, 23, suspects in the case. When detectives spoke with the pair, they denied their involvement in the Laguna Beach burglary despite the following:

1. A white Hyundai Sonata was seen fleeing from the Laguna Beach burglary. Tiffanie drives a white Hyundai Sonata.

2. The female suspect in the Laguna Beach burglary case was described as thin, with pink hair. Tiffanie is also thin, and had pink hair up until this past weekend, when she changed it to magenta.

3. Stolen property from residential burglaries in Villa Park and Laguna Hills was found in a storage unit leased to Zachary and Tiffanie.

4. Zachary is on parole and served time in prison for residential burglaries.

LBPD Booking photos

Zachary Morales and Tiffanie Moreland

Morales and Moreland were arrested for burglary.

Police Files

What will Laguna do to prepare for future rallies?

Since the rally on Sunday didn’t happen after all – with just a scattering of protesters and counter-protesters wandering around the cobblestones – what will the police department’s strategy be for future possible rallies?

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lynette Brasfield

All was quiet on the western front on Sunday

How does Laguna strike a balance between costs of preparing, and the need to prepare for possible violence?

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Police outnumbered protestors on Sunday

These are difficult questions, and we appreciate all that LBPD does to keep our community safe.

Stu News asked Sgt Jim Cota what the police department’s plans were at this time for the America First rally that is scheduled for Sunday, Oct 22 at Main Beach.

Sgt Cota told Stu News, “We will have the same coverage. This one appears that it will be much larger.”   

It’s an ongoing question. We’d love our readers’ feedback.

Undercover narcs make buy bust arrests

On Thursday and Friday of last week Laguna Beach detectives arrested four individuals during two undercover operations.

The Thursday arrest was made in North Laguna after a man and a woman offered to sell them methamphetamine. 3 ½ grams of the drug, syringes, scales, baggies and other drug paraphernalia were found in their car.

Alexander Enrique Galindo, 21 of Anaheim, was arrested for three felony charges: possession of drugs for sales, transportation of drugs for sales and false personation making another person liable for his criminal acts and two misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Dara Faye Sheinman, 28, Irvine, was arrested for felony transportation of drugs for sales and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Both were booked and transported to Orange County Jail.

Three LBPD detectives and two Federal agents arrested two men at the Irvine Spectrum for offering to sell the undercover officers 50 MDMA (ecstasy) pills.

Douglas George Williams, 23, Brea, was taken into custody on felony charges of possession of a controlled substance for sales, felony possession and transportation of a controlled substance for sales and felony possession of a controlled substance.

Christopher Ray Ayala, 23 of Tustin, was arrested on a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance for sales.

Police Files

Someone threw a beer bottle at a Laguna fire engine responding to an emergency call on Coast Highway

Around midnight Sunday, Laguna Beach Fire Department Engine 2 responded from its station on Agate Street northbound on Coast Hwy to an injury traffic crash. When it went through the intersection at Brooks Street, police said, “…a glass object was thrown at the front of the engine…” It shattered just below the windshield.

The engine continued to the call.

When a police report was made, the fire captain told police, “The area where it shattered smelled like beer.”

A group of people was spotted on the ocean side of Coast Hwy right after the beer bottle stuck the engine but no suspect was obvious among the group.

Police said the fire engine had just minor paint damage.

Editor’s Note: We can count on one hand the number of “editorials” we have written over the years…and we won’t here except to say: If that beer bottle had hit and damaged the windshield of the engine traveling with red light and siren, it might have caused the engineer behind the wheel to swerve and it may have caused a major traffic crash. We only hope that someone who knows the stupid butthead who threw that bottle will let him or her know they are a jerk – at best, a jerk.


Bicyclist injured in collision with car in North Laguna

As a Laguna Beach was riding his bike southbound on Coast Highway at Aster Street just before 5 o’clock Tuesday afternoon, a car pulled away from the curb as the bicyclist began turning right onto Cliff Drive.

The car collided with the bicyclist injuring his upper thigh.

Paramedics stabilized the shaken man at the scene and transported him to Mission Trauma Center in Mission Viejo.

Police Files

18-year-old arrested for stealing a car

On Monday, August 14, at 9:12 p.m., officers were alerted to a stolen Toyota Tacoma entering the city. It had been stolen out of Lake Forest on Friday.

Laguna Beach police officers located the car and had all three of its occupants detained by 9:25 p.m.

The driver, 18-year-old Luis Reynasoto from Lake Forest, was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle, receipt of stolen property, and burglary.

The truck was returned to its owner.

Don’t light tree branches on fire

On Sunday afternoon, a caller reported seeing two men using rags to extinguish a tree branch that was on fire near Stan Oak Drive and Laguna Canyon Road.

Orange County Fire Authority was called, but requested that Laguna Beach handle the situation due to the small size of the fire.

The branch was extinguished just six minutes after the initial call.

One of the two men, Kameran Cherrier, 29, Laguna Beach, was arrested for resisting officers and for misdemeanor reckless burning.

Police Files

Man who sucker-punched Trump supporter will see jail time

On Tuesday, August 22, Richard Losey, 20, from Ohio, was arrested for sucker-punching an African-American Trump supporter after the rally that took place on Sunday the 20th at Main Beach. He was charged with misdemeanor battery.

On Friday, September 1, Losey pleaded guilty and was sentenced to thirty days in county jail followed by three years of informal probation.

Resident discovers burglary in progress at his home

On Friday, September 1, a resident in the 30600 block of Driftwood Drive arrived home only to realize that an unfamiliar car was parked in their driveway. The resident also noticed that the garage door appeared to be broken in.

The RP called the police and waited for officers to arrive. While waiting, he saw a man and a woman walk out of his house with a clothes hamper. The pair entered the white Hyundai parked in the driveway and left, hitting the victim’s vehicle on their way out.

When officers arrived, they confirmed that the home had indeed been broken into, and the duo had made off with $5,000 in purses and $12,000 in jewelry.

The suspects were described as a woman in her 20s or 30s with pink or red hair, and a man wearing a blue bandana across his face.

Police Files

North Laguna resident interrupts a burglary

On Wednesday at 9:02 p.m., officers received a call from a resident in the 500 block of Poplar Street.

“The woman heard some noise in a guest bedroom and when she went to investigate, a man wearing a black hoodie and gloves told her to ‘get out of here’,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. 

According to a post on NextDoor, the victim went back into her bedroom where she immediately called 911.

Officers arrived on the scene two minutes later, but the man was no longer in the house. They were unable to find him in the area as well. 

Officers believe the suspect entered the home through a screen in the guest bedroom that had been pushed into the room.

No loss was reported at this time.

Fire Files

Fire inside Central restaurant leads to evacuations, business closures

On Friday, Dec 29, at around 3 p.m., a structure fire was reported at Central restaurant at 361 Forest Avenue. Laguna Beach and Newport Beach Fire Departments quickly responded and the area was cordoned off, causing severe traffic congestion for hours. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Ellen Coleman-Germano

According to reports, Friday’s fire originated in the walls of Central’s kitchen

At this time, it is not clear as to the exact cause of the fire, but reports coming in to emergency dispatch mentioned that the flames were in the walls of Central’s kitchen. 

Neighboring businesses in the building, including The Vault and the Hudson Salon & Spa were evacuated, and, according to owner of the Hudson Salon, Katrina Martino, power was out for a few hours. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Firefighters were quickly on the scene

Martino says that the smoke smell took a while to dissipate but thankfully no one was injured, as prompt action by LBFD and NBFD ensured that the fire did not spread.

No closures of businesses due to the fire occurred the next day, except for Central, which will remain closed for a few weeks while repairs take place, according to sources.

Stu News will update this report as more information becomes available.

Police Files

Active shooter exercise proves frighteningly realistic – and effective – involving more than 100 first responders 

This was the scenario developed for the active shooter exercise which took place on Wednesday this week at LCAD: a (fictional) 40-year-old disgruntled male with a fixation on LCAD had been seen on campus a few days prior. He’d posted threats on social media. Now he was endangering the life and safety of students, staff and faculty at the college.

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Photo courtesy LBPD

First responders with guns drawn

How would the police and fire department defuse this active shooter threat? And what aspects of their response might need more practice or adjusting?

These were the reasons for setting up this exercise, expertly put together by Sgt Eric Lee and Jordan Villwock, Emergency Operations Coordinator, who worked hard to gain funding through a grant of 100K from the Urban Area Working Group.

Makeshift blood, gunfire from blank rounds, sirens and fallen victims (actors) made for a realistic and frightening scene, but first responders kept their cool during three tense morning exercises and three afternoon exercises. 

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Photo courtesy LBPD

A bloodied victim is attended to during the exercise

 “This [comprehensive] operation was coordinated by the Police Chief over the course of a year,” said LBPD spokesperson Sgt Jim Cota. “It was motivated by the Columbine event.  Each team was evaluated by evaluators and debriefings were held immediately afterwards.”

Representatives of the Laguna Beach Unified School District as well as police agencies from Irvine, UCI, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, as well as 40 members of the LBPD were present.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

Policing could be said to be an art form also

City manager John Pietig, the mayor of Laguna Beach and the president of LCAD, Jonathan Burke, either observed or took part – Jonathan Burke playing the role of victim, at his request.

The successful exercise proved another feather in the cap for the LBPD under the leadership of Chief Laura Farinella, who gained tremendous praise in 2017 also for her handling of the America First protest march. She is understandably extremely proud of her officers.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

The successful exercise was another feather in the cap for the LBPD

For further information, contact Public Information Officer Sgt. Jim Cota at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 949-464-6671. 


DUI checks planned for today, Jan 12 & Jan 18

Officers from the Laguna Beach Police Department’s DUI Enforcement Team will be deploying this weekend to stop and arrest alcohol and drug-impaired drivers in the Department’s ongoing traffic safety campaign. DUI Saturation Patrols will deploy Friday, Jan 12 & Thurs, Jan 18, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. in areas with high frequencies of DUI collisions and/or arrests.

In California, this deadly crime led to 1,155 deaths and nearly 24,000 injuries in 2014 because someone failed to designate a sober driver. Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes.  

Studies of California drivers have shown that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. A study of active drivers showed more tested positive for drugs that may impair driving (14 percent) than did for alcohol (7.3 percent). Of the drugs, marijuana was most prevalent, at 7.4 percent, slightly more than alcohol.

Hand over your keys if you’ve had too much to drink

Everyone should be mindful that if you’re taking medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the impairment affects.  

Law Enforcement emphasizes the preventable nature of drunk driving, reminding everyone that all it takes is a little planning ahead. Designate a sober driver or call a cab. But whatever you do, don’t drink and drive. The cost of a ride home is cheap! Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, license suspensions and other expenses that can exceed $10,000 not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out.

Funding for this DUI operation is provided to the Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Driving – Call 9-1-1. 

For further information, contact Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Police Files

Homeless man arrested for displaying
a knife at security guard

A patrol officer driving in the 200 block of Forest Avenue at 11:20 p.m. Friday saw a man that he recognized holding a knife without the blade exposed who was yelling obscenities at a security guard from a downtown restaurant.

The officer stopped and detained Alexander Anderson Harris, 65, no fixed address, at gunpoint. A subsequent interview revealed that Harris had held the knife in a threatening manner at the security guard.

Harris was arrested for exhibiting a deadly weapon – a misdemeanor.


Five Laguna Beach youths detained after
they ran through LBHS

Police detained an 18-year-old and four juveniles at 2 a.m. Friday morning after a caller reported that they had been throwing “things” at the high school Artists Theatre.

When police arrived, they all ran through the school to the athletic field and onto Short Street where other officers headed them off.

Sgt. Louise Callus said the five males had knocked over garbage cans and thrown the contents at walls.

All were issued citations for resisting an officer. The 18-year-old was released at the scene and the juveniles were taken to the police station and released to parents.

Police Files

Woman hit a car and took out a tree – turned up in ER

A 9-1-1 caller reported that a Ford F150 pickup truck had struck a parked car and then drove onto the median on Laguna Canyon Road and hit a tree. Officers responded to the 10:25 p.m. call Sunday and found a large uprooted tree on the median.

The caller provided a license plate number that listed an owner in Lake Forest. Sheriff’s deputies checked the home but the pickup was not there.

Later, Saddleback Hospital ER called LBPD informing them that the female driver was being treated there. Laguna officers went to the hospital and interviewed the driver.

Sgt. Louise Callus said the report would be referred to the District Attorney for possible prosecution for hit and run only.

No other details were available.

Newport Beach man arrested after breaking into store

Joseph Edward Flamm, 46, of Newport Beach was arrested on two felony charges related to a burglary at a store in the 300 block of Broadway early Tuesday morning.

An alarm company called LBPD at 3:21 reporting glass breakage in the clothing consignment store. Officers arrived and saw that the front glass had been smashed and searched the store, which was empty.

An area search turned up Flamm nearby and he was in possession of jewelry that was identified as having been taken from the store.

Flamm was arrested on felony charges of commercial burglary and possession of stolen property. He was booked here and taken to county jail with bail of $20,000.

LBPD gather to honor fallen officers during annual ceremony


Laguna Beach Motorcycle Officer Jon Coutchie died in a traffic accident in 2013 while tracking a reported erratic driver.

Officer Gordon French was shot in 1953 by Carl Miller, who was being booked on suspicion of check kiting, and he died on the trip to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. 

Both officers were honored at the Remembrance and Flag Folding Ceremony, held annually on Sept. 21, the anniversary of Coutchie’s death, in front of the police memorial, “Eternal Legacy.” 

“A memorial wasn’t erected in Gordon French’s honor (at the time of his death), but because of his sacrifice, something more important took place,” said former Police Chief Paul Workman. 

Recognizing that French’s life might have been saved if medical care had been closer, the community rallied to raise the funds to build South Coast Community Hospital, which opened its doors in 1959, the first hospital in South Orange County, now an affiliate of Mission Hospital.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Sande St. John

LBPD gather outside the police station to honor fallen officers

French was 49 when he died, widowing his wife and leaving his two children fatherless. 

“It is the sacrifice of officers in past years, like Gordon, who so often have saved the lives of officers today,” said Workman.

 Training has vastly improved, Workman said 

In 1965, academy classes lasted two weeks. When Workman joined the force in 1975, graduation took 11 weeks. Now, it takes six months.

“Today, we do everything possible to teach young officers how to avoid placing themselves in harm’s way,” said Workman.

Sometimes training doesn’t help. 

Jon Coutchie’s life was cut far too short, but it was a life well-lived, said Police Capt. Jeff Calvert, Master of Ceremonies and chronicler of Coutchie’s life.  He never flinched from the duty, but it wasn’t as easy as he made it look.

Officer Jon Coutchie

Calvert spoke touchingly of Coutchie. Who better? The two had been friends since high school and it was Calvert who urged Coutchie to join the department after he was discharged from the U. S. Army.

“I knew Jon would love being a police officer because he lived by the same core values that police officers are sworn to uphold,” said Calvert. 

Coutchie, with four tours of duty as a Ranger in the mid-east under his belt, aced the Police Academy course in 2009 and established himself in Laguna’s department, as an officer and a comrade.

“Jon didn’t have children, so he would always volunteer to work shifts on Thanksgiving and Christmas for officers who did have children.” Calvert said.

However, he also served as instructor in firearms and defensive tactics and was selected to become a motorcycle officer. 

“I like to think of Jon at rest in heaven and vigilantly watching over his Laguna Beach team, his Ranger team, his family and his friends.” said Calvert.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Sande St. John

Matt Rolfe, firefighter second time performing, first was for 911 event; John Falk, retired LBPD the very first time performing on drums; and Davy Lopez, bagpiper/firefighter engineer. Facing away from the camera, Derek St. John former director, Laguna Club for Kids

Calvert praised the Laguna Beach residents who stepped up to support the “grieving and deeply wounded department” after Coutchie’s death. 

“The construction of our police memorial, ‘Eternal Legacy,’ wouldn’t have been possible without the unwavering commitment of our community, the Police Employees Assn., the City Council, City Manager John Pietig, Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, and artists Gerard Stripling and Michele Taylor,” Calvert said.

Calvert concluded by introducing department Honor Guard Sgt. Dave MacGill, who presented a ceremonially lowered and folded flag to Captain Jason Kravetz, in recognition of his nearly 30 years of dedicated service to Laguna Beach. 

Kravetz was speechless.

“Everybody knows I am a crybaby,” Kravetz choked out, before his throat completely tightened. It was okay. 

The annual ceremony brought tears to the eyes of more than a few folks in the audience, as they, Mayor Toni Iseman, Police Chief Laura Farinella and solemn police officers, firefighters and lifeguards placed white roses at the foot of the memorial to fallen officers.

Hard to forget.

Police Files

Laguna Beach man sustains critical injuries after crash early Thursday

On Thanksgiving morning at 1:16 a.m., callers reported hearing a crash in the area of Park Avenue and Tahiti Avenue.

“A single vehicle reportedly drove off the hillside and rolled several times,” said Sgt. Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “The driver was ejected from the vehicle at some point.”

A helicopter was called in to extract the driver, a Laguna Beach man in his 20s, from the bottom of the ravine. He was taken to the hospital with critical injuries.

LBFD participating in National Fire Prevention Week

This October, the Laguna Beach Fire Department will be participating in National Fire Prevention Week, which is being held October 6 -12.

This year’s focus will be on “preventing kitchen fires,” which is the leading cause of home fires and fire related injuries in residences.

LBFD, in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association and fire departments across the nation, is using the month of October to promote safe kitchen habits while using stoves, microwaves, fryers and other appliances. Four safety tips to consider while using your home kitchen are:

When you fry, grill, or broil food, stay in the kitchen

Maintain a kid and pet-free zone at least 3 feet away from the stove

Turn pot handles away from the stoves edge

Keep an oven mitt and lid nearby when you’re cooking to use in case of grease fire. If you have a grease fire, slide a lid over the pan, turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until the contents inside have completely cooled.

In addition, throughout the month of October, the Laguna Beach Fire Department will be visiting the local schools and participating in community events to encourage everyone to remain vigilant about the dangers of wildland fires, as we all reflect on the Laguna fire storm of 1993.

Today, the Laguna Beach Fire Department has implemented a “Ready, Set, Go” program that aims to reduce property loss by increasing defensible space while developing a wildfire action plan for your home and family.

Get Ready- Create a defensible home through advances in building construction and fuel modification.

Get Set- Prepare your family and have a plan, so when a fire strikes you know what to do and where to go.

Go Early- By leaving early, you give your family the best chances of surviving a wildfire.

For more information regarding the “Ready, Set, Go” program or to obtain a wildfire home consultation please visit the Department website at http://lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/fire/

Additionally, the Laguna Beach Fire Department will be hosting its annual Station Tour Day on Saturday, October 12. The four city fire stations will be open during the day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come meet your local firefighters, tour the fire engines and stations, and ask questions on what you can do to keep yourself and your family fire safe this year.

Police Files

Scuba diver dies at Diver’s Cove Sunday afternoon

A 67-year-old Yorba Linda man died Sunday afternoon at Diver’s Cove.

At 3:10, lifeguards, paramedics and police responded for a swimmer in distress.  CPR was being administered when the emergency units arrived.

Police said, “According to the victim’s adult son, he was scuba diving with his father when the elder man complained about being tired and feeling ill. The son attempted to rescue-swim his father to shore during which time the victim stopped breathing.”

The victim, identified as Paul Beto, was taken to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach where he was pronounced dead.

The OC Coroner will perform an autopsy today.

BMW stolen Saturday with owner’s rat terrier inside

The owner of a 1995 black BMW 525 sedan reported that a younger white male had stolen the car at Catalina and Cress Street and was last seen travelling in reverse eastbound on Brooks.

Disconcerting to the owner of the BMW was the fact that inside the car was a white rat terrier weighing about 20 pounds.

Police performed an area search but were unable to locate the BMW. A countywide Red Channel broadcast was issued at 5:20 p.m.

LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus said a 9-1-1 caller reported seeing the stolen vehicle speeding north on the 405 at Brookhurst Street in Fountain Valley about 15 minutes later. The CHP was also unable to locate the car.

As of Monday afternoon, neither the car nor the dog had been recovered.

Police Files

Woman using cell phone leads cops into car chase

On Sunday morning at 11:41, a bicycle officer saw a woman using a cell phone while driving in the 300 block of S. Coast Hwy. The bike officer pulled up next to her and tapped on her window and told her to pull over.

The driver took off and made an illegal turn onto Laguna Avenue. The bicycle officer couldn’t catch her but he advised her location and observed her driving recklessly up Park Avenue including passing cars by driving into oncoming lanes.

A patrol unit managed to make a stop in the 500 block of Legion Street,

A search of her car turned up pills and pot.

Los Angeles resident Serina Justine Cardenas, 23, was arrested for felony drug possession, misdemeanor evading and numerous traffic violations including reckless driving and driving on a suspended license.

She was booked with bail set at $20,000.


Drunk driver loses control and flips over at Big Bend

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

Laguna Beach Police issued the following press release Thursday:

Officers responded to the area of Big Bend early this morning regarding a traffic collision reported to involve one vehicle, a Land Rover, into a pole. Dispatch received several calls to report this collision.

During the investigation it was discovered the vehicle had been heading outbound on Laguna Canyon Road when the right tires left the roadway edge. The driver (sole occupant) overcorrected and the vehicle began to skid sideways to the left, crossing the inbound lane, before colliding with the curb and hillside.

The momentum of the vehicle enabled it to travel up the hillside before rolling over one time and ending up facing inbound on all four wheels.

The driver, Michael L. Carr, 43, Long Beach, was determined to be DUI and was taken into custody. No injuries were reported.

Next time, the driver promises to lower the boom

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

The Laguna Beach Police Dept issued the following press release Tuesday afternoon:

“On 09-17-2013 at 1341 hours [1:41 p.m.], a boom truck…travelling southbound on N. Coast Hwy at the intersection of Aster St/Cliff Dr struck the overhead signal pole and a streetlight, causing both to crash to the ground.  Currently, both southbound lanes are closed due to the poles blocking the lanes.  Apparently, the boom on the truck was extended and struck the overhanging portion of the signal pole and then hit the streetlight.

“Officers are currently directing traffic in the area and expect heavy traffic in the area for an unknown duration of time.”

It’s as if car crashes are an epidemic here lately

There have been a series of traffic crashes in town recently – several were horrific enough to have caused life-threatening injuries. Fortunately, no one died.

Sunday afternoon at Big Bend

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LBPD

This Toyota Camry driven by a 77-year-old Laguna Beach woman ended up in a commercial driveway near Big Bend on Laguna Canyon Road Sunday afternoon

Shortly before 5 p.m. on Sunday, police and fire units responded to a crash at Big Bend on Laguna Canyon Road. Callers (there were several) said a Toyota Camry that was headed into town had completely missed the curve and struck a large rock on the other side of the road.

The Camry was launched and corkscrewed into the air. While off the ground, the car struck a water main and a natural gas meter in front of a business. The car flew past several pomegranate trees and slid to a stop on its right side in a commercial driveway at 2975 Laguna Canyon Road.

77-year-old Efy Shirazi of Laguna Beach had to be extricated by firefighters. She was alone in the Camry.

Miraculously, her only apparent injury was a fractured right elbow. Paramedics transported her by ambulance to Mission Trauma Center due to the mechanism of the crash. She was held overnight for observation, police said.

Traffic was slowed for over an hour.

Pedestrian struck on Temple Hills Drive Friday night

A man in his thirties was struck near Temple Hills Drive and Cerritos at 11:22 Friday night by a car driven by an elderly female.

Police said the man walked across Temple Hills Drive.

In an email, LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus said, “The pedestrian was intoxicated, was wearing headphones and texting at the time of the collision.”

He was taken to Mission Trauma Center for treatment. No word on the extent of his injuries except that they were not life threatening.

56-year-old woman struck in crosswalk at S. Coast Hwy & Cress St.

A 56-year-old woman from Medford, Oregon was struck in the crosswalk at S. Coast Hwy and Cress Street at 1:10 Monday afternoon in a low-speed crash.

A 59-year-old man from Laguna Beach, driving a Lexus RX350, turned south onto Coast Hwy from the light at Cress Street and, police said, didn’t see the woman still in the crosswalk after the light changed.

The woman was taken to Mission Hospital for treatment of complaint of pain to her left hip and leg.

Man injured at S. Coast Hwy & Nyes Place Monday night

Details of a rear-end crash late Monday night at S. Coast Hwy and Nyes Place were not available.

We do know that a 38-year-old man was taken to Mission Trauma Center for treatment of chest pain and possible internal injuries.

Driver in non-injury single car crash had four prior DUI convictions

Laguna Woods resident Patrick Michael Babayans, 27, was arrested for DUI with four prior convictions at 5:08 a.m. Friday in the 600 block of S. Coast Hwy. He had hit a parked car.

He left his vehicle and ran up to Legion Street where officers took him into custody.

Babayans was booked and taken to county jail with bail of $50,000.

Important public safety info for Laguna Beach

Nextdoor, the Private Social Network for Neighborhoods to facilitate virtual neighborhood watch and disaster preparedness – goes live September 16

In an effort to help facilitate a virtual neighborhood watch and a disaster preparedness program, as well as foster neighbor-to-neighbor communications, the Laguna Beach PD has partnered with Nextdoor (http://www.nextdoor.com), the private social network for neighborhoods.

The City will go live on Nextdoor Monday Sept 16.

Nextdoor is free for the residents and the City. Each Laguna Beach neighborhood has its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, accessible only to residents of that neighborhood. Residents can use their website to get to know their neighbors, ask questions, and exchange local advice and recommendation. For example, neighbors use Nextdoor to share information about neighborhood watch and safety issues, how to better prepare for a disaster, local events, and much more.

Neighborhoods establish and self-manage their own Nextdoor website. Information shared on Nextdoor is only visible to verified members. The Laguna Beach Police Department will be able to post important information, such as crime updates or disaster preparedness tips to Nextdoor sites within the City. The Police Department will not be able to access the resident’s websites, contact information, or content.

“In this day and age, it is vital for neighbors to come together and look out for one another. Nextdoor makes it easy for neighbors to establish virtual neighborhood watch and help combat crime” said Nikie Hernandez, Community Services Officer. “Nextdoor will help create a stronger and safer community that we call home.”

Nextdoor was specifically designed to make neighbors feel comfortable sharing information with one another in order to build stronger communities. All members must verify that they live within the neighborhood. Information shared on Nextdoor is password protected and cannot be accessed by those outside the neighborhood or found on Google or other search engines. In addition, Nextdoor never shares personal information with any third parties.

The City of Laguna Beach has been mapped into fifteen different neighborhoods. Those interested in joining their neighborhood’s Nextdoor website can visit http://www.nextdoor.com and enter their address. If you have questions about your Nextdoor website you can contact Nikie Hernandez, Community Services Officer, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or 497-0382.


September is National Preparedness Month - are you prepared?

The City of Laguna Beach encourages its residents to be informed, make a plan, build a kit, and get involved.

Be informed by self-registering your cell phone numbers, text numbers, and email addresses with AlertOC, Orange County’s regional mass notification system. In fact, on September 24th, two million Orange County residents will receive a call at 10 a.m., register today and make yourself two million and one! Register at http://www.alertoc.com.

Make a plan; prepare yourself and your family for a disaster by making an emergency plan. Visit http://www.ready.gov for more information.

Build a kit; you may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days. Visit www.readyoc.gov for a list of what should be in your emergency kit.

Get involved, by taking a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class where you will learn information about emergency preparedness, disaster medical operations, fire suppression, and more! Visit www.lagunabeachcity.net for more information on CERT. Or sign up for NextDoor.com which is a secured social networking site already established for your neighborhood. Here you can organize your neighborhood to become more resilient to a disaster!

For questions regarding any of these programs contact Jordan Villwock, Emergency Management Coordinator, mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 497-0701.

Another teen crashes at Park & Tahiti – with a sad twist

Police and fire personnel responded to Park Avenue and Tahiti Ave t 10:53 p.m. Tuesday for an injury traffic collision. Officers arrived and found an 18-year-old male resident of Silverado whose Ford Mustang had failed to follow the curve in the road and collided with a metal retaining rail on the side of Park Ave, police said.

Sgt. Louise Callus said in an email, “If it hadn’t been for the railing the car would have driven off an incline, which dropped over 80 feet into the canyon below. The driver was the only one in the car and he was not injured.

“He initially claimed that he had swerved to avoid another car, but the ninety-three feet of locked wheel skids indicated that he had been driving close to sixty miles per hour prior to colliding with the rail. After an extensive interview, he finally admitted to his parents and the investigating officer that he had tried to commit suicide by driving over the cliff. He was detained and transported to MHLB on a mental health hold.”

Callus said there was no indication of alcohol being involved.

Man threatens to have Hell’s Angels collect debt

According to the police log, a man on Terry Road called the cops Monday night at 8:20 and said he and another man disagreed on the performance of a contract.

The other man, the caller said, had been at his house threatening to have the Hell’s Angels motorcycle 1% club come to the house to collect.

The man also threatened to vandalize the caller’s home, the log said.

While talking to the 9-1-1 operator, the caller said the man had returned and the log notes that a “commotion” could be heard in the background while the caller had put the phone down.

He came back on the line and said the other guy had split, “When I told him I had called the cops.”

Police are investigating the claim of the caller who provided the identity of the visitor to his home.

Police Files

Found boy, 4, spent hours with cops Friday night

The police log began what is a bizarre story that happened on Main Beach last Friday afternoon.

Lifeguards reported that a boy who said he was four had been found. He knew his first name and his mom’s first name, but not his last name. He described her quite well: she was wearing a pink bathing suit and had a “Cars” bag (from the movie) and red hair. He didn’t know where he lived, however.

Police said the boy had been playing with the kids of a family visiting the beach who didn’t realize that he was alone for nearly two hours at and approached lifeguards with the information at 5:44.

Police spoke with the boy and a thorough search of the beach by cops, beach patrol and lifeguards between Heisler Park and Pearl Street was unsuccessful.

An officer brought the boy to the police station to care for him while dispatchers and front counter records clerks began calling area hospitals and other police agencies to inquire about the mother. They utilized all possible computer sources as well.

They continued for four hours with the boy staying in the company of the officer the entire time.

As it became later and the search for the boy’s mother proved fruitless, Child Protective Services were contacted.

Sgt. Louise Callus said, “They advised us to bring the boy to Orangewood Home.”

The mother contacted the police department later Friday night and was asked to come to the police station where she was interviewed.

Police would not say what their action, if any, might be but did say the mother was directed to contact a social worker at Orangewood after 8 a.m. Saturday morning.


Man whose corpse was found in Ventura freezer was not a Laguna Beach resident, police explain

As reported here Tuesday, the body of Jeffrey Korber, who had been reported missing here in July 2011, was found inside a freezer in a Ventura storage unit.

Initial media reports, spurned by a Ventura police press conference, said that Korber had been a Laguna Beach resident.

LBPD spokesperson Sgt. Louise Callus corrected that report Thursday afternoon at our request.

“He never did live here. He traveled all over the country and lived in his car. Family members who do live here reported him missing in 2011,” Callus said. Leads ran out in 2012 and the detective assigned to the investigation closed the case when there was no indication of criminal wrongdoing.

The detective did however, trace Korber’s car from Florida to the home of one of the murder suspects in Ventura.

How that was accomplished was not disclosed by LBPD.

When asked why LBPD was the lead investigating agency for Korber’s disappearance, Callus provided the penal code section regarding missing persons.

Any employee encountering a person who wishes to report a missing person or runaway shall render assistance without delay (Penal Code § 14205). This can be accomplished by accepting the report via telephone or in person and initiating the investigation.

Those employees who do not take such reports or who are unable to render immediate assistance shall promptly dispatch or alert an employee who can take the report.

A report shall be accepted in all cases and regardless of where the person was last seen, where the person resides or any other question of jurisdiction.

Police Files

Victim’s teenage son sees suspect vehicle a day later – suspect arrested for forging credit card and ID theft

Last Thursday night a Laguna Beach woman called police to report that she had lost her credit card inside Ralphs Market and that it had been used at a local gas station to make an $82 purchase.

Police went to the gas station to review the video during the time span when the charge was made. The suspect had purchased $82 in gas for what police said was a “…very distinctive truck…”

That information was passed along to the victim who told her teenage son.

On Friday afternoon, her son saw the suspect truck parked in the 200 block of Moss Street and called police.

LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus said in an email Monday, “Officers responded and contacted the resident, who admitted he had found a credit card and used it to purchase $82 worth of gas. He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of theft by forged credit card and obtaining credit using another person’s ID. He was booked and released on his own recognizance.


Daughter of landlord threatened by biker bar owner

A local woman called police Friday night after she found flowers on her doorstep with a note threatening her father.

According to the police log, the note read: “Unless you want flowers on your grave – quit f…..g around with the bikers.”

The woman explained that her father is the landlord of a biker bar on Ortega Hwy and the bar owner is negotiating a sale of the bar. There has been a dispute between the landowner and the bar owner.

She also told police that the suspect had also come to her workplace threatening her there as well.

Police are increasing patrols in her neighborhood and workplace.

Police Files

Taxi driver gets pilfered after picking up a fare at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage Monday

A cab driver from the desert got far less than she expected Monday night after she picked up a fare in Rancho Mirage at the Betty Ford Center. The man in his early twenties gave her an address in Laguna Niguel. Along the way, he said he needed to make a stop in the 2800 block of Ocean Front in Laguna Beach.

Captain Jason Kravetz of the LBPD said in an email Thursday, “The male suspect got out of the cab and fled with his belongings. The cab driver tried to call her husband to tell him what happened, but noticed her cell phone, Garmin GPS and car charger were all missing.”

According to the police log, the suspect tried the front door and a couple of windows of the home on Ocean Front unsuccessfully before running away.

Captain Kravetz added, “The total loss is $487 including the $157 cab fare. We do have a possible named suspect. The cab driver used someone’s phone on Ocean Front to make the call to police.”


Poor communicator ends up behind bars

Timing, they say, is everything. From an incident that happened Tuesday afternoon at Wells Fargo Bank, communicating is important too.

A bank employee called the cops after a man tried to use a credit card with a female’s name on it. When that was pointed out, the man left the bank without saying anything. The bank kept the credit card.

Before officers arrived, the man had returned and explained then that he had gone to his car for his ID. The credit card was his mother’s and he had her permission to incur charges.

The bank called the police again to tell them that there was no fraud and police were no longer needed.

At about that same time, officers made contact with the bank employee and the man who fit the description that had been broadcast by the dispatcher.

Whenever officers make contact in the field, the usual protocol is for them to run their information for wants and warrants.

Anthony O’Neal Cooper, 27, had a Florida no bail felony warrant with a notation that Florida would pick him up nationwide if arrested. The charges on the warrant were probation violation, possession of marijuana for sales and grand theft.

He was booked at LBPD and taken to county jail to await extradition.


Border Patrol & friends arrest 24 illegal immigrants

US Border Patrol, OC Sheriff’s deputies, Newport Beach officers and State Parks patrol officers, assisted by helicopters in the pre-dawn hours Thursday at Crystal Cove, arrested 24 suspected illegal immigrants. They had come to the coastline in a 25’ panga boat, authorities said. Four of those arrested were women.

A witness who was riding his bike in the area around 7:30 a.m. said it appeared that the last of the immigrants were being rounded up. He also said some of the officers were dressed as joggers or hikers as they rounded up people.

The OC coastline has seen many instances over the past few years of panga boat landings including some here in Laguna Beach.

Police Files

Homeless man seriously injured when assailant beats him relentlessly with a guitar at Broadway bus depot

Last Friday afternoon at 6:23 police responded to the bus station on Broadway after a 9-1-1 caller reported a physical fight between two men. They were able to identify the combatants as soon as they arrived.

One man, later identified as Adam McQuerry, 41, no fixed address, had what police termed as a “large laceration on the back of his head and a swollen right eye, and wounds on his arms and body.” LBPD Sergeant Louise Callus added, “According to witness statements…[McQuerry]…was extremely intoxicated and had been taunting and challenging another male subject to fight.”

Gustavo Vitale, 46, no fixed address, accepted the challenge and used his guitar as a weapon. Sgt. Callus added that witnesses said Vitale “…had smashed the guitar into the face and head of [McQuerry]. He continued to use his, now broken guitar, as a weapon on the intoxicated male…”

Vitale was arrested for felony assault with a deadly weapon.

McQuerry was treated by paramedics and taken to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach. On the way, paramedics caring for him inside the ambulance called for police assistance because McQuerry threatened them.

McQuerry was arrested by absentee booking for being drunk in public.

Police also took a report from the owner of a gray Honda Accord who said that the combatants had cracked his windshield as they fought.


Man sits down to dinner in Albertsons – $64 worth of food including raw meat that he hadn’t paid for

A 9-1-1 call from Albertsons included the description of a man sitting on the floor eating raw meat and cheese from packages he’d grabbed and hadn’t paid for.

Sgt. Louise Callus said, “The man was opening closed packets and consuming food products. The suspect had selected a variety of food and drinks from the store shelves, brought it to the deli department, sat down, and started consuming the items…[including raw meat]. He was sitting on the floor with a large amount of food and drink directly in front of him.  Most of the food packages and drinks had been opened, and he was busy eating and drinking as officers approached.  He had nearly $64 worth of food items around him and no money in his pockets.”

Dustin Maupin, 32, no fixed address after arriving from Missouri, was arrested for felony commercial burglary.


Driver bails out of stolen car and manages to elude cops by running onto Victoria Beach

An officer ran a license plate at 1:09 Saturday morning on a Chrysler Concord and called for backup units when the plate came back as a confirmed stolen car.

The officer had sufficient units for a felony car stop and turned on the overhead red lights at Coast Hwy & Wesley Drive. The Chrysler took off and turned onto Victoria Drive before bailing near the Sunset Terrace steps to Victoria Beach.

The Chrysler kept going and collided with a parked car.

An officer chased behind the suspect who was out of sight by the time the officer arrived at the sand.

Sgt. Louise Callus said in an email, “Officers followed the path of the subject onto the sand and then northbound around the cove. There are many large properties in the immediate area, which have beach access. A jacket, shoes and a broken cellular phone were located on the ground along the route the driver fled.”

The car was searched and, as police termed it, “…substantial” evidence was found that gives police direct information to the probable suspect. The car was fingerprinted.

Police said the probable suspect also has an outstanding DUI warrant.

Dangerous bomblet detonated by bomb squad Wed.

A resident in the 1300 Block of Terrace Way reported Wednesday afternoon that he had a bomblet, which had been inside a cluster bomb.

LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus said the man had owned the military device for a few years but he didn’t recall where he had obtained it. Munitions are illegal to own. “A friend had recently told him it was dangerous.”

Internet photo

Cluster bombs can contain hundreds of bomblets – each an explosive device

Fire and police personnel responded to the 2:30 call and took a cell phone photo of the device. Residents nearby were evacuated.

Callus added, “I forwarded the photo to the Sheriff’s Bomb Squad and they confirmed that it was a dangerous explosive.”

Five members of the bomb squad responded in four vehicles and took charge of the situation. They exploded the bomblet in a containment vault.

The bomb squad called the scene secure at 5:32 p.m. and residents were allowed to return to their homes. No one was injured.

Police Files

LBPD & the Feds searching for whoever poisoned PMMC sea lions

Chlorine poured into a pool injuring 17 sea lions ready for release

Press release from the Laguna Beach Police Department

Last week a suspect trespassed onto the property of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and introduced a large amount of chlorine into the water filtration system. This chlorine mixed with the salt water and contaminated one of the pools, where 17 sea lions were being treated.

Prior to the incident, most of these sea lions had already been given a “clean bill of health” and were due to be released the following day. Unfortunately, this attack re-injured all 17 of them. At this time, 15 of the sea lions have been diagnosed with varying degrees of corneal ulcerations. Eight have already healed, but another seven continue to receive treatment from a staff veterinarian.

This is the first known animal assault ever to take place at the non-profit Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC), which services all of coastal Orange County. As such, many resources are being used to identify the perpetrators.

Laguna Beach Police Detectives have interviewed several people having access to the facility. These detectives are working closely with investigators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a joint investigation. 

City surveillance footage is also being reviewed in an attempt to locate the suspect(s) or their vehicle.

If the public has any knowledge about the suspect(s), they are encouraged to call Laguna Beach Detectives David Gensemer or Abe Ocampo at (949)-497-0377 or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

Specifically, the Police Department is interested in speaking with citizens who saw anything unusual outside of the PMMC on Monday April 27 between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Tuesday April 28.


Date of Occurrence: Overnight Monday April 27 to Tuesday April 28 between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Location: Pacific Marine Mammal Center- 20612 Laguna Canyon Road Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Crime: Suspect(s) entered the facility and introduced a large amount of chlorine into the filtration system, which contaminated one of the pools. This pool housed 17 sea lions getting ready for release later in the week. All 17 were injured with varying degrees of corneal burns. The suspect(s) are facing federal and state charges, which could include:

Violation of the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 USC Chapter 31)- “Harassing, hunting, killing or attempting to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. The term harassment means any act of pursuit, torment or annoyance which has the potential to injure a marine mammal.” Individuals convicted of this federal violation can be subject to $20,000 fines for each violation and imprisonment for one year. 

California State Penal Code violations could include CPC 597-Animal Cruelty, which states that a person is guilty of this crime if they “wound, torture, maim or mutilate a living animal maliciously or intentionally.” 

This convicted person could be subject to a $20,000 fine and a year in jail. 

Expired registration lands two men in jail

A patrol officer made a routine traffic stop early Tuesday afternoon near the North Laguna Shell station when he saw that a car’s registration was expired.

After a few minutes, wants and warrants were checked and San Clemente resident Gabriel Rijborz, 24, a passenger, was taken into custody for a pair of Harbor Court drug warrants.

The driver, Jose Alvis-Jorge, 29, Irvine, was driving on a suspended/revoked license. An ensuing vehicle search turned up a quantity of drugs that resulted in Alvis-Jorge being arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance for sales and transportation of a controlled substance for sales.

Details about the type and quantity of drugs were not immediately available. 

Laguna officer spends “spare time” helping in Kenya

Photos courtesy Greg & Debbie Hiler

Debbie and Greg Hiler with Peter and Carolyne – two of the children, which they sponsor in the Mathare Valley, Nairobi, Kenya. Greg is an officer with LBPD

Corporal Greg Hiler has been a police officer here for the past 15 years. StuNewsLaguna first met him shortly after he’d finished his probation and had just begun patrolling on his own.

I recall being impressed by his devotion to family and church and his quiet and courteous demeanor. He told me then that he hoped to work mostly day shift so that he could spend the evenings with his kids. Most new officers want to be working night shifts – where the “action” is.

Last year, I learned that Greg and his wife Debbie were about to embark on their fourth trip to the slums of the Mathare Valley in Nairobi, Kenya. The work they do there is through Eastside church.

Click on photo for a larger image

Debbie told me then that the area where they had been (and were returning to in July of 2012) is poverty-stricken. “There is no running water, electricity or sewer. Those that live there live in very small shanties made of old tin.”

They will be leaving again in July for the Nairobi slums. This year the Hilers will be the leaders of the 82-member team

“We will have a medical team, a dental team, an arts team (sewing, hair cutting, dancing etc), a soccer camp and we will be doing business development,” explained Greg. “Debbie started planning in March on how to accomplish what has been her dream of taking a gift for each child that is sponsored by Eastside (over 1000 kids) and then managing to present each gift to the child and take a picture so that when we return we will be able to present the sponsor with the picture!”

The Hilers are sponsoring three children in Kenya, Peter, Carolyne and Ruth.

“We left part of our hearts in Kenya and with the Kenyan people,” Greg said, “We are thrilled to be returning this summer.”

Click on photo for a larger image


These tears bring the Hilers back. Carolyne, one of the children they sponsor, is at the left with a friend as they said goodbye last summer.

The Hilers volunteer for the project through their church, which sponsors nearly 900 kids in Kenya. Greg will be a leader of 50 team members this summer while Debbie will be in charge of the handling and distribution of gifts collected for the 900 children.

“We feel blessed to be able to participate in this incredible opportunity and know that there is a lot of work ahead as we begin to prepare”, said Debbie.

“We could use help,” Greg told me. The Hilers need to raise $6600 by June 13 as their part needed to pay for the trip and its projects.

“We’re close to our goal but we would surely appreciate it if anyone in Laguna could make a contribution.”

Contributions are tax deductible. Visit www.grouprev.com/thehilerfamily2013

Stu Saffer

Police Files

Cell caller led police to drug arrest and loaded gun

A cell caller reported that the driver of a car on El Toro Road had a firearm on board at 11:14 Friday night.

Officers made a car stop in Aliso Viejo.

“The officer asked the driver if there were any weapons in the vehicle and the driver said there ‘might be’ a handgun in a backpack,” said Sgt. Louise Callus of the LBPD Monday.

A Bersa Thunder 380 was found along with a quantity of pills classified as a controlled substance.

Alejandro De La Cruz-Jiminez, 25 of Aliso Viejo, was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of a concealed weapon and possession of a loaded concealed weapon.

Bail was set at $20,000.


Another person victimized by phony ad for

beach rental on Craigslist

A man from Orange knocked on an Ocean Front door and told the resident that he had rented the place for the weekend.

The victim had paid a deposit of $800 online to a person representing that he was the rental agent. The victim had seen an ad on Craigslist, police said.

There were several such frauds reported on Laguna Beach properties last year.

One false move might have ended in a horrific way for a group of five LBHS students Tuesday

LBPD Sgt. Louise Callus said, “A female came to the front counter at the police station at 12:13 p.m. Tuesday and reported that she had seen a male subject in a vehicle parked at the Mormon Church adjacent to the school district parking lot. It had appeared to her that one of the subjects in the car had a BB gun or a rifle.”

According to the police log, the female then turned and ran out of the station.

Callus continued, “An officer arrived on scene and saw a group of teenagers near the car described by the female. One of the boys was holding a camouflage rifle while pointing it over the fence down at the high school parking lot below.

“He was ordered to drop the rifle and immediately complied. The subjects were detained. The LBHS principal, assistant principal and school security were called to the scene. The subjects were all released to their parents and a report was taken for violation of PC 626.10 Bringing or Possessing Weapons on School Grounds.”

The charge is against a 17-year-old. The case will be referred to the juvenile court.

The weapon turned out to be a .177 caliber pellet gun according to police.

A police source not cleared to comment on the situation told StuNewsLaguna that the ending could have been grave. The source said that no matter who it is, or where they might be, if anyone encountered by a police officer is pointing a rifle over a fence where other people might be makes any furtive action, the officer is trained to protect himself and others.

“Thank goodness the boy dropped the gun without hesitation…”

Cops hope you can help identify burglary suspects

Laguna Beach police are asking the public for assistance in identifying burglars in two separate incidents that occurred here recently.

On May 10 at 7:50 a.m., officers responded to a burglary alarm at European Optical (1276 S. Coast Highway). They arrived to find a shattered front window along with several pairs of glasses strewn about the entryway.

http://youtu.be/VA4vO1cagKo shows the two suspects parking behind the store prior to the burglary.  One of them stays with the car, while the second man walks towards the business.  He returns a short time later, obtains a tool to break the window, and leaves to commit the burglary.

The second suspect wore a hoodie, which he pulled up over his head before wrapping something over his hand and punching through the window. The loss was approximately 65 pairs of glasses valued at $13,000.

European Optical suspects

The second commercial burglary occurred at 12:35 a.m. on May 23. Two suspects are seen on video - http://youtu.be/2AnXne9qnWg - smashing the lower portion of a glass door at Ganahl Lumber (1765 Laguna Canyon Road).  They wore hoodies over their heads as they entered the business and stole multiple items. The loss was $8,200 in tools and miscellaneous store items.

Ganahl Lumber suspects

Anyone with information about either burglary is being asked to call Detective Matt Meadows at (949) 497-0758.

DUI Arrests

None this period


Incident Reports

Tuesday, May 16

San Nicholas Court | 400 Block | Burglary

9:14 p.m. Between May 9 and 16, an unknown suspect attempted entry to a residence. The owner found cuts to the front door, locks, garage door, and dents to both garage doors. 

Nyes Place | 500 Block | Fraud

3:21 p.m. An unknown suspect tried to open accounts in the RP’s name.  

Moorea Way | 1300 Block | Trespassing 

2:56 p.m. An unknown person slept inside the RP’s guest house and broke some items. A burglary is not suspected. 

Monday, May 15

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Judith Maureen Doner, 75, Costa Mesa

Curtis Abbott, 52, no fixed address

Glenneyre Street | 1900 Block | Missing Person

10:10 p.m. A man was reported missing; he left a home around 7 p.m. and was last seen in a vehicle going southbound on Coast Highway from Aliso. 

Coast Hwy | 30800 Block | Drinking in Public

7:55 a.m. Alexander Anderson Harris, 67, was arrested for drinking in public. Bail was $500. 

Sunday, May 14

Glenneyre Street | 800 Block | Warrants

6:25 p.m. Terry Sanders, 39, no fixed address, was arrested on three Harbor Court warrants: one for Newport Beach municipal code violations, one for illegal lodging, and one for being drunk in public. 

Coast Hwy | 30800 Block | Lost Property

2:05 p.m. The RP’s wife left three rings valued at $60,000 in a restroom. When she returned after an unspecified amount of time, they were missing.

DUI Arrests

Anthony Rettberg, 36, New Jersey – Sunday, January 7

Incident Report

Saturday, January 6

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Robert Jerzy Progowski, 42, Aliso Viejo

Kevin Michael Kiely, 21, Yorba Linda

5th Avenue | 31700 Block | Grand Theft

12:52 p.m. A laptop, a hot spot, and other items were taken from an unlocked vehicle the day prior. 

Broadway Street | 300 Block | Warrant

10:06 a.m. Ralph Francis Bowers, 47, Huntington Beach, was arrested on a West Court warrant.

Friday, January 5

S. Coast Hwy| 500 Block | Property

2:53 p.m. A small leather purse with a long strap was stolen the night prior. The RP had left the purse at the location.

Rim Rock Canyon Road | 1700 Block | Burglary

10:35 a.m. Someone went into the RP’s residence when she was there the day prior and stole her purse.

Broadway Place & N. Coast Hwy | Warrant

Diane Green, 48, Anaheim, was arrested on a West Court warrant for driving without a licence.

Thursday, January 4

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Ibrahim Ismali Eldumiati, 51, Irvine

Eric Lawrence, McGuffick, 53, no fixed address

Brian Robert Schaar, 32, no fixed address

Regatta Road | 1400 Block | Vandalism

2:59 p.m. The RP’s trees were cut down by a named suspect.

Coast Hwy | 30800 Block | Defraud Innkeeper

9:55 a.m. The subject left without paying their $462 bill the day prior at 3 p.m.

Wednesday, January 3

Arrests for Being Drunk in Public

Charles Fredrich Alzner, 34, Irvine

Morningside Drive | 1300 Block | Petty Theft

1:32 p.m. The RP’s placard and glasses were taken from the vehicle that was parked in the garage. The total loss was $200.

S. Coast Hwy | 100 Block | Hit & Run

12:41 p.m. A white GMC Yukon hybrid was sideswiped on the driver’s side.

Coast Hwy | 30800 Block | Traffic Collision

10:40 a.m. A limo hit a flower bed, causing $450 in property damages. 

Wave Street | 100 Block | Vandalism

8:14 a.m. A named suspect poured salt on the RP’s grass and plants, poured oil on the floor, and took mini blinds from the location.

LBHS Schedules



Friday, March 3

Boys Volleyball

@ Edison – 5:45 p.m.


Saturday, March 4

Girls Softball

@ Rialto – 10 a.m.

Boys Baseball

Valencia – 11 a.m.


Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillepsie, Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

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