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Police Files

Chief Thompson joins other OC police and sheriffs in stance against hate crimes and bigotry

The Orange County Chiefs of Police & Sheriff’s Association, and all of its membership, stands in unity with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across the country.

“We condemn hate crimes and bigotry against these communities and remain committed to our role in protecting these individuals from hateful acts.

“Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by instances of hate or intolerance. We stand against these unjustified attacks and against the fear and pain that they cause. We urge everyone to come together in solidarity with the AAPI community, and to do everything we can to prevent hate and discrimination.”

Police Files Chief Thompson

Click on photo for a larger image


Police Files

Dog is reunited with his owner after being stolen from local grocery store

On Sunday, April 4 at approximately 9 p.m., an officer responded to Ralph’s (700 South Coast Hwy) in reference a stolen dog investigation. The dog owner secured his 3-year-old Lhasa Apso “Beauderaux” to a bike rack and entered the store. Upon exiting, he realized his dog was missing. The owner searched the parking lot and after negative results, he met with the store employees and reviewed the surveillance camera. He observed an allegedly intoxicated male take his dog and flee in a silver sedan. 

Shortly thereafter, dispatchers received a call reporting a suspected intoxicated driver leaving a north Laguna restaurant. The reporting party was an employee who advised a male was refused service due to his obvious intoxication. The male left the restaurant in a grey Honda. 

Minutes later, dispatchers received another call from an employee from an adjacent restaurant reporting an allegedly intoxicated male was inside their business requesting alcohol. The male left and walked towards a grey Honda.

Officers located the Honda and conducted a vehicle enforcement stop in the 300 block of Cypress Drive. The driver was identified as Christopher Barbee (Artesia resident). He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of DUI. 

Another officer responded to the scene and observed Barbee’s passenger was in possession of “Beauderaux.” The dog was recovered and reunited with his emotional and grateful owner. 

Police Files 4 6 21

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBPD

“Beauderaux” is reunited with his emotional and grateful owner thanks to community and LBPD

According to LBPD PIO Lt. Jim Cota, Barbee was arrested on suspicion of DUI and felony theft of the dog. He was later transported to Orange County Jail.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


Police Files

Robbery involving knife reported on Anita Street near Temple Terrace

An armed robbery involving a knife was reported to Laguna Beach Police on Friday, March 19.

According to LBPD Lt. Tim Kleiser, on Friday, March 19 between 2:30 and 3 p.m., a victim told officers she had parked her car on Anita Street near Temple Terrace when she was robbed and threatened with a knife while in her vehicle.

“About two minutes after parking, she noticed a Hispanic female walk to the passenger side of her vehicle. The female reached into the front passenger side window and grabbed the victim’s purse. The victim confronted the suspect and the suspect pulled out a knife and threatened the victim. The victim drove away and notified the police. The approximate loss is about $2,000. The victim was not injured during the incident,” stated Lt. Kleiser.

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to call LBPD’s non-emergency line at (949) 497-0701.


Police Files

Laguna Beach Police involved in vehicle pursuit and officer-involved shooting

On Thursday, March 11, at 6:19 pm., a Laguna Beach Police Officer attempted to make a traffic stop at Smithcliffs and North Coast Highway. The driver fled from the officer and struck two vehicles on North Coast Highway. Additional Laguna Beach Officers responded as the driver was pursued into Newport Beach. The driver made a U-turn and headed back south on Coast Highway into Laguna Beach. As the officers passed Nyes Place, an officer conducted a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver to disable the vehicle. As the driver quickly exited the vehicle, an officer-involved shooting occurred, injuring the driver. The driver was identified as Tobiah Paul Steinmetz, 36, from Jupiter, Florida. 

Officers rendered aid to the driver, and he was transported to a hospital for treatment. At this time, he is in critical but stable condition. No officers or bystanders were injured, including the drivers of the two vehicles the suspect struck at the beginning of the incident. 

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will conduct an independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting.

The Laguna Beach Police Department will conduct an administrative review of this incident.

FBI executes search warrant at home on Catalina Street

Several local residents reported to Stu News Laguna that they witnessed “an FBI operation” in the early morning hours on Thursday, March 11, in the 1100 block of Catalina Street.

According to witness reports, “at least 10 people wearing jackets that said FBI on the back” were at the home, as well as an LBPD vehicle. 

“The front door of the house was open, and officers were going in and out,” according to a witness.

Stu News Laguna reached out to both LBPD and the FBI regarding the incident. 

“The Laguna Beach Police Department assisted the FBI this morning (March 11) in their execution of a federal search warrant in the 1100 block of Catalina Street. At the conclusion of the operation, Garrett Gauvain was taken into custody by Laguna Beach Police for Possession of a Firearm (within a 10-year conviction). He was booked into the Laguna Beach Police Department and later posted bail and was released. No children or minors were involved in this investigation,” LBPD Lt. Jim Cota stated.

Rukelt Dalberis, Public Information Officer with FBI Los Angeles, confirmed that the court-authorized search was executed, and also stated that no federal charges have been filed at this time. 

He could not comment any further on the nature of the warrant or LBPD’s arrest, he said.

“We cannot comment further…(the search warrant) is under seal,” Dalberis stated.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


Police Files

PCH closed following pursuit, suspect arrested for alleged vehicle theft

Coast Highway was closed in Newport Coast early Friday (February 19) afternoon following a police chase that had come to a conclusion there.

The suspect, William Joey Bennett, 29, of Los Angeles, was spotted near Ruby’s Diner in Laguna Beach in a vehicle reported stolen out of Los Angeles. Laguna Beach police pursued the vehicle as it headed north into Newport Beach where Newport Beach Police also joined in the pursuit. 

The suspect was stopped near Crystal Heights Road but then refused to exit the vehicle. SWAT teams from Newport Beach and Irvine PDs arrived on the scene and eventually forced the man to finally surrender.

Laguna Beach Police arrested the suspect, and he was later booked into Orange County Jail. He was arrested for allegedly taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent/vehicle theft and on an outstanding warrant. He was also under Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) for carjacking, according to LBPD Lt. Jim Cota.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


Police Files

28 thefts from vehicles reported in Laguna Beach during December 2020

The City of Laguna Beach had 28 documented thefts from vehicles during December 2020.

“Wednesday was the hardest hit day of the week during the hours of darkness. Unfortunately, it appears a whopping 70 percent of the vehicles may have been unlocked when the crimes occurred,” the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association shared on Instagram.

“Items targeted included golf clubs, packages, sunglasses, mail, wallets, backpacks, cameras, and snowboarding equipment totaling approximately $42,000.”

To prevent theft from your home or vehicle, remember to:

--Remove valuables (purses, backpacks, wallets, money, electronic devices, etc.) from your vehicle.

--Ensure that vehicle doors are locked.

--Check that all the exterior house doors, windows, and garage doors are closed and locked.

--Turn on exterior lights.

--Practice proactive crime prevention techniques and keep your property where it belongs – with you! 

Statistical data provided by Laguna Beach Police Department.

Traffic stop leads to more catalytic converter theft arrests

On January 14 at 3:22 a.m., LBPD officers conducted a traffic stop at Legion Street and South Coast Hwy. The officers conducted a thorough investigation, including a search of the vehicle. Inside the car, officers located two catalytic converters that were removed from vehicles, most likely in Dana Point. Additionally, the officers located tools used to remove the converters from the undercarriage of vehicles. There was also a large amount of possible stolen tools inside of the car. 

All three occupants, two males and one female, were arrested for violation of grand theft and possession of stolen property. The female was also charged with violation of possession of narcotic paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


Police Files

Spate of catalytic converter thefts leave locals unnerved; more arrests made

More locals have reported the theft of catalytic converters from their vehicles since our last issue, marking a dozen plus such thefts in Laguna Beach in the last three weeks.

On Saturday morning, January 9, LBPD took to Nextdoor with the following announcement via Community Services Officer Natasha Hernandez:

“Was your catalytic converter stolen this morning? While you were sleeping, at approximately 2:30 a.m. this morning, officers conducted a traffic stop in the area of Wesley Drive and Coast Hwy. Upon investigation, five freshly cut stolen catalytic converters were located. The occupants stated the catalytic converters came from three Toyota Prius vehicles, a white Ford F150, and a Honda CRV, color unknown. All…occupants were taken into custody. Please check your vehicles to determine if you have been a victim. If you think you were a victim of this incident of have questions regarding catalytic converter thefts, please contact the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701.

Police Files 1

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Courtesy of LBPD

Catalytic converters recovered by LBPD during traffic stop

Yesterday, January 11, LBPD released the following press release via Lt. Jim Cota:

“Over the last several months, thieves have targeted vehicles in several south Orange County cities (including Laguna Beach) in attempts to steal catalytic converters. These thefts are occurring in the early morning hours under cover of darkness. Thieves can remove a catalytic converter quickly, often in less than two minutes. The thieves have been primarily targeting older Ford trucks and Toyota Prius vehicles. 

“In the early morning hours on December 26th, Laguna Beach Police officers arrested three male subjects suspected of stealing catalytic converters after fleeing from their abandoned getaway vehicle. Several catalytic converters were recovered in that vehicle. The investigation remains ongoing.

“On the morning of January 9, just after 2:30 am, Laguna Beach Police officers conducted a traffic stop and located five catalytic converters, burglary tools, power saws, and narcotics inside the vehicle. Four male subjects were taken into custody for possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools, possession of a controlled substance, and paraphernalia.    

Police Files 2

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Courtesy of LBPD

Suspects arrested by LBPD: (L-R) Moises Barahona-Martinez, Juan Castro, Erick Cubias, and Kevin Sanchez-Maldonado

“The Laguna Beach Police Department wants to remind our community to take precautions to prevent these types of thefts by parking your vehicle in a garage or well-lit area under video surveillance if possible. If you observe any suspicious persons, please immediately call the Laguna Beach Police Department.”

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


Police Files

At least five more locals report catalytic converters stolen from their vehicles

At least five more locals have reported the theft of catalytic converters from from their vehicles, following our story on Tuesday reporting at least four catalytic converter thefts, a fiery crash resulting in multiple arrests of suspects, and an ongoing investigation by LBPD.

The new reports came in on January 4 in the 30800 block of Coast Hwy, reporting the theft had occurred two days prior; on January 5 in the 1800 block of Glenneyre Street, reporting the theft had occurred three days prior; on January 5 in the 1400 block of Santa Cruz St, reporting the theft had occurred two days prior; on January 5 in the 2600 block of Solana Way, with the date of theft unknown; and on January 5 in the 1700 block of Glenneyre Street, with the date of theft unknown.

LBPD is investigating these thefts, along with the previous thefts reported.

Lt. Jim Cota urges residents to remain on guard and to report suspicious circumstances to LBPD, as a caller did on December 26, helping lead to the arrest of three suspects that evening. “Our citizens need to stay vigilant at all times of the day and night. Please report all suspicious persons to the PD.”

LBPD may be reached at 949.497.0701 in a non-emergency situation, or at 911 in an emergency situation.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


Police Files

Suspects arrested following fiery crash after allegedly attempting to remove catalytic converter from a vehicle; at least four other locals report converters being stolen from their vehicles

LBPD is investigating a series of catalytic converter thefts that have occurred recently, including at least four reports in the last 10 days.

On Saturday, December 26, shortly after midnight, Laguna Beach Police officers responded to a suspicious incident in the area of Myrtle Street and North Coast Hwy. The reporting caller said that “there was a male underneath a Toyota Prius.”

The caller further stated that it appeared the male was removing something from the vehicle, which he thought to be a catalytic converter. The subject then reportedly entered an older Dodge minivan and left the scene heading northbound on North Coast Hwy.

A Laguna Beach Police officer spotted the possible suspect’s vehicle passing her in the 600 block of High Drive. As the officer made a U-turn, the suspect’s vehicle then appeared to accelerate away.

Another officer located the vehicle on fire shortly thereafter in the 500 block of Poplar Street.

Police Files van on fire

Photos courtesy of LBPD

The Laguna Beach Fire Department responded, knocking down the vehicle fire and the spread of the fire to a nearby hillside. At the same time, police searched for the suspects while first maintaining a strong perimeter.

The Orange County Sheriff’s helicopter “Duke” provided air support during the search. 

Corporal Fillers’ K9, Ranger, was also called to the scene and was able to locate two suspects hiding in the 300 block of Harold Drive, according to LBPD Lt. Jim Cota. Kong Vang, 42, and Youa Moua, 27, were taken into custody on charges of allegedly resisting/delaying arrest.

Shortly thereafter, another officer found Mong Vang, 34, hiding nearby inside a large succulent bush. He was taken in custody and found to be in possession of burglary tools. He was charged with possession of burglary tools and for allegedly resisting/delaying arrest. Additionally, he was also arrested on two felony no-bail warrants.

Arson investigators later took custody of the burned vehicle and will be inspecting it at their tow yard to determine the cause of the fire.

Police Files van burnout

An investigation is underway concerning possible additional charges for those arrested. According to Lt. Cota, “some [catalytic converters] were found burned inside the fleeing vehicle that caught fire.”

Lt. Cota commended the original caller of the potential theft, “Our citizens need to stay vigilant at all times of the day and night. Please report all suspicious persons to the PD.”

LBPD may be reached at 949.497.0701 in a non-emergency situation, or at 911 in an emergency situation.

Editor’s Note: An arrest contains allegations that a suspect has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.


Police Files

Local woman faces two counts of murder for Tuesday evening Newport Coast vehicle crash

Grace Elizabeth Coleman, 22, of Newport Beach, has been charged with two counts of murder for crashing into a Santa Ana family’s car, killing a husband and wife while she was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. The couple’s three young daughters were seriously injured. Prosecutors are alleging her blood alcohol level was more than .20 percent at the time of the collision.

Police Files Grace Elizabeth Coleman

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Police Department

Grace Elizabeth Coleman mugshot from prior suspected DUI arrest in August 2020

Coleman is charged with two felony counts of murder, one felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, one felony count of driving with a blood alcohol of .08 percent or more causing bodily injury, and one felony count of hit and run with injury. She has also been charged with three felony enhancements of great bodily injury for causing injuries to all three of the couple’s daughters. 

Immediately following the collision, Coleman allegedly attempted to leave the scene but was apprehended by Newport Beach Police nearby.

Coleman has also been charged with one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol and one misdemeanor count of driving with a blood alcohol of .08 percent or more in connection with an August 29, 2020 arrest in Laguna Beach. 

Coleman faces a maximum sentence of 34 years and eight months to life in state prison if convicted on all charges.

She is a 2017 graduate of Laguna Beach High School and had attended Santa Barbara City College.

Gabriela Andrade, 28, of Santa Ana, and her husband, Henry Saldana-Meija, 27, of Santa Ana, were driving with their three daughters, ages 1, 4 and 5, near the intersection of Pelican Hill Road and Newport Coast Drive Tuesday evening, Dec. 8. At approximately 7:46 p.m., Coleman is accused of running a red light and crashing into the family’s vehicle, killing both parents and seriously injuring their three daughters who were secured in car seats. 

“Three young girls are orphans because of the selfish decision of a stranger,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Everyone knows how dangerous drinking and driving or using drugs and driving is, and that it is a crime. Yet over and over again people choose to get behind the wheel after drinking or using drugs, and they are killing innocent people and destroying lives. This has to stop. Children should not have to grow up without their parents because someone decided to make the wrong decision and get behind the wheel while intoxicated.” 

Coleman was originally placed under police supervision at the hospital and her bail was set at $2,000,000. On Thursday, a judge revoked her bail during her arraignment.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Fundraiser for family of couple killed Tuesday in traffic collision underway

Police Files family GoFundMe

Courtesy of GoFundMe

A GoFundMe account has been established for the family of Gabriela Andrade, 28, of Santa Ana, and Henry Saldana-Meija, 27, of Santa Ana, who were killed Tuesday night, Dec. 8 in a tragic Newport Coast traffic collision. The couple leaves behind three young daughters, 5, 4 and 1, who were also seriously injured in the accident.

A 22-year-old Newport Beach woman driving a Range Rover is accused of running a red light while driving under the influence and colliding with the family’s Nissan Versa.

By yesterday afternoon, the account had exceeded $100,000 while showing more than 1,500 donors.

The GoFundMe can be accessed here at Gabriela .A. and Henry .S. Expenses.

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