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Police Files

Sunday sees a rash of crime in Laguna and plenty of arrests: LBPD warns residents to be vigilant

Early Sunday morning at 5:09 a.m., LBPD foiled a burglary and made two arrests for possession of stolen items, burglary tools and meth.

At 12:35 p.m. police officers took four people into custody, two of them charged with grand theft and conspiracy to commit a crime.

At 4:45 p.m., police officers pursued a man in a stolen car who tried to escape arrest by gunning his car toward police officers, who then fired two shots, which didn’t stop the car thief – but the man, identified as Richard Lewis, 54, was cornered not long after and captured near the high school. 

Details about all three incidents are contained below.

Car thief arrested in residents’ backyard after shots fired

“Police officers began a pursuit of a silver Toyota Corolla suspected to have been stolen in Palm Springs the previous day,” Sgt Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson said. “The driver turned into the 100 block of Thalia, which dead-ends at the beach. Police officers attempted to block his exit route with their cruisers but the man did a sharp U-turn and aimed his car in their direction.

“A female had jumped out - we later determined she wanted no part of it. 

“One of the officers, as the car headed toward him, feared for his and his partner’s life and the safety of people on Coast Highway, so he fired two shots.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut 

Police cars line Thalia

The shots didn’t stop the car thief, later identified as Richard Lewis, 54, a parolee at large wanted on an outstanding no-bail warrant, who then drove toward Cuprien Way. 

A police helicopter circled above the area near the high school, warning people to stay in their homes and be on the lookout for a man in his fifties with a moustache, wearing a plaid shirt.

“The suspect abandoned the vehicle on the 600 block of Cuprien and was cornered in a backyard on Glomstad Lane after jumping fences,” Cota said.

Cota says once in custody, the man complained that his leg hurt, “Not surprising after jumping all those fences,” Cota commented.

Resident Kay Metis said, “We were in the epicenter of helicopter circle with the suspect ultimately apprehended 100 yards from our home. We had ordered a pizza from Gina’s Pizza and they called us back to tell us there was an “active shooting” and they couldn’t get to our home.”

Metis added, “It was a harrowing time for a bit but Laguna Beach pulls together in these rare moments which ultimately results in a feeling of safety.”

(And Gina’s Pizza delivered as soon as the commotion died down, Metis adds…)

Sgt Cota noted, “LBPD will be handling the investigation as the DA’s office won’t get involved because there were no injuries. The OC Sheriff and Newport Beach PD helped out, in a great example of community collaboration.”

Getaway car doesn’t get suspects away

Earlier, at 12:35 p.m., officers responded to citizens’ calls about a theft from Robin’s Jean at 264 Forest Ave. The suspects had grabbed several pairs of jeans and other items and were running toward the US Bank parking lot. 

LBPD booking photos

A waiting car, a white BMW, picked them up and headed south on Glenneyre. Officers located the vehicle after a short pursuit when the BMW turned on Cress. A high-risk vehicle stop ensued. 

Four people were detained. Joshua Hoover, 20, of Inglewood and Jodan Hongocollins, 18, of Los Angeles were charged with grand theft and conspiracy to commit a crime; Maasai Lopez, 21, on a count of petty theft; and charges are pending for Laneice Barnes, who had a stolen ID in her possession. 

U-Haul contains oddly-dressed thieves and their haul

Earlier on Sunday at 5:09 a.m. a resident called to report a white U-Haul with back doors wide open on the 400 block of Panorama Drive.  

“Something seemed suspicious about the vehicle and the RP was correct, there was something not right at all,” Sgt Jim Cota said “Thank goodness for alert residents.”

Inside the vehicle, LBPD patrol officers found a man, 33, and a woman, 23, both dressed oddly - he wore a firefighter’s outfit and she was dressed in some kind of emergency worker’s gear. 

Officers found meth and a meth pipe inside the vehicle, along with burglary tools - and plenty of stolen goods, including clothing and firefighting gear that had been stolen from an out-of-town firefighter staying at a local hotel.

LA resident Travis Alexander, 33, and Buena Park resident Robin Griffin, 23, were arrested for possession of stolen items, burglary tools and meth; in addition, Griffin was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, a felony.

Detectives are combing through the property to identify which items have been reported stolen.

“We stopped a residential burglary about to take place,” Sgt Cota tells Stu News. “I can’t say enough about the patrol officers who did a great job and the residents who were doing exactly what we ask everyone to do - if you see something, say something. They deserve huge credit. That’s pretty awesome to be willing to get up and do something at that time of the morning.”

How Laguna residents can help

Sgt. Cota adds:

“The citizens of Laguna Beach need to be vigilant. We have terrific residents and the more they help the better off we all are. The Laguna Beach Police Department needs your support and backing as we take on people who come into the city to commit crimes,” he said on Monday as he detailed the crimes for Stu News Laguna. 

“We are prepared for any event or incident that they may bring. Laguna Beach and surrounding cities have changed over the years and that’s not the fault of Laguna or the citizens, it’s that society has changed and criminals head to specific cities for opportunities. 

“The Laguna Beach Police Department is committed 100 percent to its citizens and the people who come to this city on vacation or to just spend the day.”          

--Lynette Brasfield