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Laguna Beach


Police Files

Boat deemed “panga type” washes ashore at Brooks Street Beach Saturday night

Police Files Boat on Beach SNL 3.29

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Photo by Louis Weil

A private boat washed ashore Saturday evening (March 26) at Brooks Street Beach according to onlookers. Just after 8:30 p.m., Laguna Beach Police officers were called and dispatched regarding a 27-foot pleasure craft that had apparently washed aground in the vicinity.

Also responding to the call were the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with Laguna Beach Fire and Marine Safety. The abandoned vessel was suspected to be a “panga type” of incident after agents investigated and found no one onboard or in the nearby area. LBFD’s response was related to a potential search and rescue issue if those services were needed. An ongoing investigation continues.


Fire Files

Early morning fire destroys old boathouse building on Coast Highway

Fire Files smoke through roof

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Photos by Robyn K.

Smoke billows through the upper levels of old boathouse

About 1:30 a.m. early Friday morning (Jan. 7), the Laguna Beach Fire Department responded to a structure fire in the 1000 block of Coast Highway in the old boathouse building.

Upon arrival, the fire had engulfed the multi-story building with smoke and flames billowing from the roof area. According to LBFD, “It took firefighters a little bit to knock down the blaze due to access issues in the above floors while the fire extended into the walls and attic spaces.”

Newport Beach Fire and the Orange County Fire Authority assisted.

All occupants and firefighters fortunately made it out safely and no injuries were reported.

The fire is under investigation.

Fire File trucks with lights on street 1.11

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Fire trucks line Coast Highway for early morning firefight


Police Files

Pick-up truck crashes and tumbles down canyon

Police Files wrecked truck

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Courtesy of a Dunning Drive resident

The pick-up truck, right sided, after being pulled from the canyon

A three-quarter ton pick-up truck heading down Flamingo Road left the roadway on Friday, Jan. 7, and according to an eyewitness, tumbled down the hill and ended up at the bottom of the adjoining canyon.

Initial reports were that two men were extricated by the Laguna Beach Fire Department and brought up to a waiting ambulance on Dunning Drive.

According to an eyewitness neighbor on Dunning Drive, a firefighter working the area the following day said that “one guy looks like he’ll make it, but the other guy was questionable.”

The truck was later removed from the canyon and also brought up to Dunning Drive.


Police Files

$107,000 grant to be used to make our roads safer

The Laguna Beach Police Department was awarded a $107,000 grant from the Office of Traffic Safety and will roll out a police traffic services program to deter dangerous and illegal driving behaviors that increase the risk of crashes in the community. 

“Impairment, speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors jeopardize the safety of other people on the road,” said Lieutenant Tim Kleiser. “This funding allows us to provide necessary traffic enforcement measures with the goal of reducing serious injury and fatal crashes on our roads.” 

The grant will pay for additional enforcement measures, including: 

–DUI checkpoints and patrols specifically focused on suspected impaired drivers.

–Enforcement operations focused on suspected distracted drivers in violation of California’s hands-free cell phone law.

–Bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement operations focused on driver behaviors that put vulnerable road users at risk.

–Enforcement operations focused on top violations that cause crashes: speeding, failure to yield, stop sign and/or red-light running and improper turning or lane changes.

–Community education presentations on traffic safety issues such as distracted driving, DUI, speeding, and bicycle and pedestrian safety.

–Officer training and/or recertification: Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST), Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).

The grant program will run through September 2022.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Police Files

Two more alleged panga boats wash ashore

At 6:13 a.m. on Sunday, Sept 19, LBPD officers were dispatched to Crescent Bay (South) Beach in reference to a possible panga boat landing. Upon arrival, officers discovered one abandoned vessel on the shore and one Spanish-speaking female hiding near the restrooms. 

According to LPBD Lt. Jim Cota, “The female was shivering, and her clothing was soaked. She appeared ill and complained of a headache and sore throat. She requested medical assistance and was transported to Mission Hospital - Laguna Beach for hypothermia treatment. The Maritime Coordination Center (MCC) was notified and Customs and Border Protection were dispatched. Arrangements were made for an agent to interview the female at the hospital and for the vessel to be removed from the beach.”

Police Files 1

Police Files 2

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Courtesy of Wendi Dvorak

Shortly thereafter, at 6:31 a.m., officers were dispatched to Victoria Beach in reference to a second possible panga boat landing. Upon arrival, officers discovered an abandoned vessel on the shore and several life vests scattered on the sand. A resident reviewed their security cameras and advised the vessel landed at approximately 4:30 a.m. and several people were observed fleeing the beach. MCC coordinated the removal of that vessel also.

Both incidents are still under investigation.


Police Files

Panga boat washes ashore at Anita Street Beach, investigation ongoing

On Thursday, Sept 16 at 5:10 a.m., officers were dispatched to Anita Street Beach for a report of an unoccupied motorboat washing up on the sand with several drums of fuel still inside of it. Upon LBPD’s arrival, the Maritime Coordination Center (MCC) was contacted, and officers searched for layoff vehicles in that area.

Police Files 1

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Courtesy of Louis Weill

The panga was a single-engine, 30-foot vessel with 16 lifejackets and 12 fuel containers. US Coast Guard responded and contacted vessel assist in removing the panga that had already capsized. The panga was removed, and the Laguna Beach PD Maritime team will work with MCC on the investigation. 

Police Files 2

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Submitted photo

According to LBPD Lt. Jim Cota, it is believed the people aboard the boat survived. “This investigation is still ongoing,” he stated.

Laguna Beach Fallen Officer Remembrance Ceremony on Tuesday

On Tuesday, Sept 21, LBPD will host its annual Fallen Officer Remembrance Ceremony. The remembrance ceremony honors two Laguna Beach Police Officers who were killed in the line of duty serving the Laguna Beach community – Officer Gordon French (End of Watch, February 13, 1953) and Motor Officer Jon Coutchie (End of Watch, September 21, 2013).

Police Files 3

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Courtesy of City of LB

Police Files 4

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Courtesy of City of LB

The ceremony will start at 3 p.m. in front of the Eterenal Legacy police memorial, in front of the Laguna Beach Police Department, and will conclude around 3:30 p.m. 

LBPD will also be dedicating its new K-9 memorial at this time.

A reception will be held following the ceremony.


Police Files

Motorcyclist dies in fatal collision in the canyon, DUI suspect arrested

On Saturday, Aug 7 at approximately 10:15 p.m., Laguna Beach Police and Fire Dispatchers received 9-1-1 calls of an injury traffic collision on Laguna Canyon Road just past Laguna College of Art and Design involving a motorcyclist and a vehicle. Police and Fire personnel arrived within minutes and pronounced the motorcyclist deceased at the scene. 

Preliminary investigation revealed that three vehicles and a motorcyclist were traveling outbound approaching the 2300 block of Laguna Canyon Road when the motorcyclist attempted to pass on the left side. At the same time, the driver of one of the three vehicles tried to make an unexpected U-turn, which caused the motorcyclist to collide with the vehicle. 

The deceased motorcyclist is identified as 55-year-old Stefano Albano of Corona. The driver of the vehicle that attempted to make the U-turn, 68-year-old Becky Merrifield Ettinger of Huntington Beach, was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Due to the fatal collision, all lanes of Laguna Canyon Road were closed from Broadway at Forest to El Toro Road from 10:25 p.m. to 5:45 a.m., and traffic was rerouted. This traffic collision is still under investigation. 

Late-night stolen vehicle pursuit ends in arrest, one suspect still at large

On Saturday, Aug 8 at 9:24 pm, Laguna Beach officers were alerted of a stolen vehicle headed inbound at the 2200 block of Laguna Canyon Road. An officer located the vehicle and a pursuit ensued. The vehicle ultimately stopped at Monterey and Jasmine Street, where two of the three occupants ran from the vehicle. One remaining subject was identified as a juvenile and detained at the scene. 

After creating a perimeter, a helicopter and additional personnel from Irvine PD and Newport Beach PD were called to help search for the other two occupants. The driver, Amari Randall, was located nearby in the bushes and surrendered. The final suspect remains at large. 

Randall was charged with multiple crimes and the juvenile was taken to Juvenile Hall and is facing handgun-related charges. 

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

Missing Garden Grove man washes ashore in apparent accidental drowning

On Thursday, April 22 at 10:45 p.m., Laguna Beach Police and Fire personnel responded to a report of an unresponsive male who appeared to have washed ashore at Mountain Street Beach. On arrival, emergency personnel immediately rendered life-saving measures to revive the male. He was transported to Mission Hospital - Mission Viejo, where he was pronounced dead. 

The male individual was identified as Long Tran, 35, from Garden Grove. Tran was reported missing with the Garden Grove Police Department earlier in the evening by his family.

Upon initial review, Laguna Beach Police Detectives and the OCSD Coroner believe this incident was an accidental drowning. An autopsy will be conducted next week to determine the actual cause of death.

If anyone has any information about this incident, please contact Detective Drake at (949) 497-0767.


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

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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

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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.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

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