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Police Files

Drive-by vandalism attack strikes Laguna again

On Saturday, Feb 29, between 6:31 and 8:11 p.m., LBPD officers responded to four vehicle vandalism investigations on Coast Highway from 600 North Coast Hwy to Vista Del Sol.

The first incident was reported at 6:31 p.m., at the 1000 block of South Coast Hwy. According to police reports, a victim reported that the back window of their vehicle was suddenly shattered. A witness reported hearing a pop and seeing something hit the victim’s car.

Four minutes later, at 6:31 p.m., at South Coast Hwy and Vista Del Sol, another victim reported that “a large rock” was thrown at their windshield while they were driving northbound on South Coast Hwy.

Then, at 7:26 p.m., at the 600 block of North Coast Hwy, a victim reported that her window was suddenly, completely shattered while she was parked on North Coast Hwy. According to dispatch logs, she believed that someone might have purposefully shot a BB gun or thrown something at her vehicle.

The final incident occurred at 8:11 p.m., at South Coast Hwy and Aliso Circle. A victim reported that a “rock hit [their] windshield, broke it, and damaged the roof” while they were driving northbound on South Coast Hwy.

LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Cota said, “Rocks appeared to be the instrument used to cause the damage this time. The suspect vehicle was described as a dark four-door sedan. These crimes are similar to the vandalisms that occurred in our city on Friday, Feb 21.”

The cities of Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Seal Beach also had similar vandalisms occur Saturday night. 

Sgt Cota said, “The suspects were not located.”

Two men caught on video in connection with three alleged incidents of wine theft worth $1,500 

On Thursday, Feb 27, at approximately 11:38 a.m., an LBPD officer was dispatched to Whole Foods, at 283 Broadway St, in reference to a report of multiple incidents of alleged petty theft caught on video. 

Sgt Cota said, “The reporting party advised that two men were caught on camera stealing $500 worth of wine during each incident. The incidents occurred on Wednesday, Feb 19, Thursday, Feb 20, and Wednesday, Feb 26. This case will be submitted to the Investigations Division.”

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

-By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Man arrested for arson after allegedly igniting newspapers on fire in the canyon

On Tuesday, Feb 25, at 5:22 a.m., LBPD and LBFD personnel responded to the area of Laguna Canyon Road in reference to a vegetation fire.

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “The reporting party described the male suspect to be wearing a white robe and standing near the flares as the fire was burning.” 

Sgt Cota said, “Upon the officers’ arrival, the fire had been extinguished and the male suspect was contacted just a few yards away from the original location of the fire. It was determined the suspect, Brent Aaron Morita, 42, was the one who started the fire with newspapers, and has done so in the past as well.” 

Morita was arrested for alleged arson.

No bail was set.

Suspect arrested after allegedly threatening to cut a person for not giving him money

On Wednesday, Feb 26, at 9:16 a.m., Anthony Tabarsi, 54, was reported to have been screaming at pedestrians near 200 Forest Ave. 

According to Sgt Cota, “He [allegedly] yelled at the reporting person for not giving him money and then said, ‘I will cut you.’ He [allegedly] reached into his pocket and the victim backed away about 50 feet while yelling at him. Tabarsi was located by officers and later identified during a field show-up.” 

Sgt Cota said, “He was arrested for [alleged] terrorist threats and later transferred to OC Jail.”

Bail was set at $50,000.

No laughing matter: Two adults and one minor arrested on nitrous oxide charges

On Wednesday, Feb 26, at 6:38 a.m., LBPD officers were sent to the 100 block of Crescent Bay Drive after a resident saw passengers inside of a BMW who appeared to be inhaling something from balloons. 

According to Sgt Cota, “Officers contacted two adults and one juvenile from Santa Ana. The subjects were found in possession of balloons and a tank of nitrous oxide.” 

Sgt Cota said, “The minor driver admitted to borrowing his mother’s vehicle without her permission. A 20-year-old rear passenger admitted to buying the nitrous tank. He was charged with possessing/using nitrous oxide, [known as] laughing gas, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” 

Sgt Cota said, “The juvenile and the other adult were also charged with possessing/using nitrous oxide.”

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

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Vandalism “shooting spree” damages local stores, homes, and cars

On Friday, Feb 21, at approximately 7:52 p.m., LBPD Dispatch began receiving multiple calls regarding vandalisms to windows of businesses, homes, and vehicles between the areas of 1400 N Coast Hwy to 1500 S Coast Hwy.

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “A pellet gun appeared to be used in the vandalisms. The suspect vehicle was described as a dark gray four-door sedan. Officers were unable to locate the suspects.” 

According to police records, the first incident took place at 7:56 p.m., at the 1300 block of S Coast Hwy. “The RP was stopped going southbound when someone threw something against the RP’s vehicle and hit the RP’s head. The window was shattered; there was a mark on the vehicle.” According to dispatch logs, the RP declined medical attention. 

Later at 8:05 p.m., at Anita Street and S Coast Hwy, LBPD received a call regarding a front windshield of a vehicle that “was hit and damaged.”

Thirteen minutes later, at 8:18 p.m., at the 1500 block of S Coast Hwy, an incident was reported in reference to a broken window at a resident’s home. 

Then at 8:57 p.m., at the 700 block of S Coast Hwy, a caller reported [an unspecified business] that a “front window was broken and glass was falling.”  According to dispatch logs, the “window was dropping large chunks of glass on the sidewalk, making it unsafe.” The RP said the weapon was “possibly a pellet gun and the window was still cracking.” The owner was contacted and advised by LBPD.

Later at 7:52 p.m., at Cottage Furnishings, at the 800 block of S Coast Hwy, LBPD received a report that “someone drove by and threw something at the window and the window was all cracked.” As Sgt Cota reported, the RP said the suspect was driving a “dark grey four-door sedan.”

Another incident that occurred on Friday was reported Saturday, Feb 23, at 11:40 a.m., at the 1300 block of S Coast Hwy. A store manager reported a “shattered display window that occurred sometime last night.”

Police Files Vandal Shootings Vertigo Home

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of Vertigo Home Facebook 

Vertigo Home was hit during a vandalism “shooting spree” on Feb 22

And Vertigo Home, at 1550 S Coast Hwy, was also targeted on Friday. According to their Facebook page, a display window was shattered. The post on Saturday morning said, “Fortunately, no monkeys were injured during last night’s drive by shooting,” in reference to a Seletti brand monkey lamp in the front window.

Lastly, on Saturday, at 12:49 p.m., at S Coast Hwy and Nyes Place, LBPD received a report of a “black Mercedes driver side window that was hit by something, possibly rocks or a BB gun.”

Sgt Cota said, “The investigation is ongoing.”

LBPD helps NBPD with alleged stolen car arrest

On Monday, Feb 24, at 12:25 a.m., LBPD officers were alerted to an alleged stolen vehicle coming into Laguna Beach. The officers eventually located the vehicle near El Moro (Crystal Cove) travelling northbound into Newport Beach. 

According to Sgt Cota, “One officer was able to get assistance from NBPD and a high-risk car stop was conducted at Poppy Street and Coast Highway. The vehicle was reported stolen out of Newport Beach.”

Sgt Cota said, “The female driver was detained and after an investigation it was uncovered that the reported stolen may be part of an insurance fraud scam.”

According to Sgt Cota, NBPD agreed to assume responsibility of the case since it originated in their city, the vehicle was recovered in their city, and the suspects live in Newport Beach.

Local unlicensed teen allegedly takes parents’ car without permission, overturns it and is found injured

On Monday, Feb 24, at 12:42 a.m., LBPD officers responded to a traffic collision with injuries involving an overturned vehicle at El Toro Rd and Laguna Canyon Rd. 

According to Sgt Cota, “Officers were informed that the vehicle was on fire, but the driver was out of the vehicle. Officers arrived and discovered that the vehicle was on fire, but officers were able to extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher.”

Sgt Cota said, “The solo occupant and driver was found to be an unlicensed 17-year-old teenager, who had taken the vehicle without parental permission. Due to the nature of the accident and the fact that the driver was a juvenile, LBFD transported the female to Mission Hospital for a medical evaluation.”

The vehicle allegedly hit a metal no pedestrian crossing pole, which caused the vehicle to flip upside down. The vehicle was towed from the scene and a collision report was taken.

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

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Overall crime in Laguna Beach decreases for second year in a row

Laguna Beach continues to boast an extremely low crime rate. For the second year in a row, LBPD is again pleased to announce that overall crime has decreased in 2019.

Crime statistics comparing 2018 to 2019 show a 4 percent overall reduction in crime (from 576 total crimes in 2018 to 556 total crimes in 2019), which is difficult to achieve after enjoying a 14 percent crime reduction in 2018. Property crime, specifically larceny, decreased 18 percent from 316 reported incidents in 2018, to 257 reported in 2019. 

This reduction is the direct result of fewer beach thefts due to intensified foot patrols directly on the sand and in the parks adjacent to the beach. 

Police Files Property Crimes Stats

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of LBPD

Property crime decreased by 15 percent last year

In 2019, there was an increase in simple assaults, which was mostly attributed to domestic violence incidents. There was also a slight increase in reported sexual assaults. These incidents are from known assailants, reports LBPD.

LBPD uses a data-driven approach to track crime on a monthly and yearly basis, effectively identifying and targeting specific crimes and problem areas through creative strategies, enforcement, and community engagement and education. 

Police Files Violent Crimes Stats

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of LBPD

Violent crime statistics for Laguna Beach

This ongoing and active evaluation of how to positively impact an issue is directly related to LBPD’s success. Having officers assigned to address the community’s specific needs has proven successful. These assignments include Community Outreach Officers, a Business Liaison Unit, School Resource Officers, and Traffic Officers to mention a few. 

“The overall decrease in crime is attributed to having the highest staffing levels, a data driven approach to impact repeat call locations, and the support from the community and City Council on initiatives such as the Main Beach and Heisler Park engagement booths,” said LBPD Chief Laura Farinella.“The men and women of the Laguna Beach Police Department are to be commended for their diligent efforts in identifying crime and nuisance issues and working with the community to find innovative strategies to impact these challenges.”


Police Files

Motorcyclist sustains major injuries after SUV reportedly makes illegal U-turn

On Friday, Feb 14, at 3:09 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to an injury traffic collision on North Coast Highway at San Joaquin Street. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “The collision was caused by a Mazda SUV that [allegedly] made an illegal U-turn from the north curb line in the 1500 block of North Coast Highway to the southbound lanes.”

 Sgt Cota said, “A motorcycle that was accelerating northbound in the number two lane struck the front left fender of the Mazda. The motorcycle rider was thrown approximately 45 feet into the number one southbound lane.” 

Both lanes of North Coast Highway were closed for 15 minutes as LBFD tended to the subject’s injuries. One lane each of northbound and southbound North Coast Highway was opened as soon as practical. All lanes were opened 75 minutes after officers arrived on scene. 

Sgt Cota said, “The rider was transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. The single occupant of the Mazda, a Laguna resident, remained on scene until family arrived. The injuries of the rider were substantial.”

 A traffic collision investigation and report was completed.

Man struck with metal object by suspect while crossing the street with niece and nephew

On Friday, Feb 14, at 7:59 p.m., LBPD officers responded to the 100 block of South Coast Highway in reference to an alleged assault investigation. 

According to Sgt Cota, “The victim was walking north on the east sidewalk of South Coast Highway approaching Ocean Ave, holding his younger niece’s hand in one hand and his younger nephew’s hand in his other hand. He was struck in the head from behind with a metal object.” 

The metal object was later identified as a trash can insert, taken from a stationary utility trash can. 

Sgt Cota said, “The victim nearly fell to the ground as a result of the attack. He turned around and observed a male running away from him, south on the same sidewalk.”

LBFD responded and treated the victim for a hematoma to his head. 

“Officers conducted an area search and located a male transient, holding the trash can insert in the 200 block of Park Ave,” Sgt Cota said. “The male was identified as Roberto Torres. He appeared to be under the influence and was making unintelligible statements.”

Roberto Navarro Torres, 55, was positively identified by the victim and subsequently arrested for alleged assault with a deadly weapon. 

“It was later determined Torres also used the metal object to strike two occupied vehicles on South Coast Hwy,” Sgt Cota said. “One of the vehicle owners declined a report and a vandalism report was completed for the other owner.”

Bail was set at $25,000.

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

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Driver falls asleep at the wheel, drives off cliff

On Wednesday, Feb 12, at 12:29 a.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to a traffic collision involving a single vehicle that drove off the roadway. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “Officers arrived in the area and spoke to the driver who told them he fell asleep while driving and drove off the road, over a cliff, and landed in some bushes near Vista Del Sol and S Coast Hwy. An officer located the vehicle a long way down the slope and buried in the bushes,”

Sgt Cota said, “The tow truck driver was unable to extricate the vehicle at that time of the evening because a crane was needed to lift the vehicle out and daylight would be useful.” 

The tow company was scheduled to return later in the morning to remove the vehicle.

Two coyotes sighted by LBPD at Brooks Street

Two coyotes, likely a mother coyote and her pup, ran past two LBPD police officers at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb 12. 

According to LBPD Civilian Services Administrator Jim Beres, “The officers were searching for a male subject they thought might be hiding in a vegetated area near Glenneyre Street and Brooks Street. While conducting the search for the male subject, the coyotes suddenly ran out from the vegetated area past the officers and ran up Brooks Street.” 

Beres said, “One of the coyotes did brush up against an officer’s leg, as it ran past the officer. The coyotes did not attack the officers and were likely startled as the officers were walking through the vegetated area at 3:30 a.m.” 

In an abundance of caution, Animal Services will be posting “Coyote Alert” signs in the vicinity of Glenneyre Street and Brooks Street. 

“Additionally, Animal Services will be conducting a Living with Wildlife community meeting somewhere on Brooks Street in the next week or two,” Beres said. 

-By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Laguna Beach resident sentenced to nine months in college admissions scandal

Doug Hodge, 62, formerly the chief executive of PIMCO and a Laguna Beach resident, was sentenced to nine months in prison for paying $850,000 in order to get his four children into Georgetown University and USC as fake athletic recruits.

Hodge was charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in the college admissions scandal.

Hodge is the latest person to be sentenced in the William “Rick” Singer college admissions fraud scandal. Singer, of Newport Beach, worked as a college admissions consultant.

Hodge will also have to pay a fine of $750,000, serve 500 hours of community service and remain on supervised release for two years.

Female cyclist taken to hospital after being struck by Porsche

On Saturday, Feb 8, at 1:11 p.m., LBPD officers responded to a report of a cyclist versus auto collision at 20327 Laguna Canyon Rd. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “Upon arrival, officers indicated it was a cyclist riding the wrong way on Laguna Canyon Road, which was struck by a vehicle making a left onto Laguna Canyon Road.”

The vehicle that hit the rider was described as a white Cayenne Porsche.

Sgt Cota said, “The cyclist was transported to Mission Hospital with minor injuries.

“This report and investigation is still ongoing.”

Driver loses control in wet conditions, hits fence

On Sunday, Feb 9, at 10:18 a.m., LBPD officers responded to a report of a traffic collision with unknown injuries. 

Sgt Cota said, “Officers arrived on scene and discovered it was a single vehicle into a chain link fence near the off ramp of SR-73 and SR-133.”

“The solo occupant of the vehicle was not injured and lost control in the wet conditions,” Sgt Cota said. 

His vehicle was towed from the scene and a report was taken.

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

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Man starts fire in canyon, also admits to fire at bus depot

On Tuesday, Feb 4, at 11:36 p.m., LBPD officers and LBFD responded to a vegetation fire reportedly near the ASL, at the 20500 block of Laguna Canyon Road. Officers arrived on scene and extinguished the 5’ x 10’ brush fire with their fire extinguishers. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “Upon arrival, officers contacted homeless subject Michael Garcia next to the flames. LBFD personnel was on scene and investigated the unlawful fire.” 

Sgt Cota said, “Garcia admitted to starting the first fire on the cement pad as a warming fire and the second smaller fire he lit to illuminate the creek to look for a female friend. Garcia also admitted to causing the fire at the bus depot a month prior.”

A fire investigator was notified and will conduct a follow-up investigation.

Garcia was on probation, so his probation officer was notified. 

“Garcia was arrested for fire-related charges and violation of his probation terms,” Sgt Cota said.

No bail was set.

Alleged stolen vehicle arrest also leads to meth

On Monday, Feb 3, at 6:44 p.m., LBPD officers were alerted to an alleged stolen vehicle traveling inbound on Laguna Canyon Road. Officers located the vehicle as it passed through the 600 block of Laguna Canyon Road.

Sgt Cota said, “A high-risk traffic stop was conducted in the 1500 block of South Coast Highway. A female driver and male passenger were detained from inside of the vehicle. Marijuana, methamphetamine, and paraphernalia were found inside of the vehicle.” 

“The driver, Christin Shanna Hill, 34, was arrested for [alleged] possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of narcotic paraphernalia,” Sgt Cota said.

Bail was set at $50,000.

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

  -By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Illicit drug bust: Man arrested with meth, cocaine, and PCP

On Thursday, Jan 30, at 10:17 p.m., an LBPD officer made a traffic stop at South Coast Hwy and Vista Del Sol, and contacted the driver Jonathan Ditmer. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “A vehicle search was conducted which resulted in officers finding a large amount of drugs. The drugs included marijuana, MDMA, methamphetamine, psilocybin, PCP, edibles, concentrated cannabis, cocaine, and an unknown white powder.”

Sgt Cota said, “Ditmer had the drugs separated into multiple smaller bags. $6,620 in cash, a digital scale, cell phone, and a soda can with a false compartment concealing multiple baggies of drugs inside were also found.”

Police Files drugs Police Files Jonathan Ditmer Police Files marijuana

Photos courtesy of LBPD

Suspect Jonathan Ditmer with drugs found in his vehicle

Jonathan Robert Ditmer, 44, was placed in custody for alleged possession for sales of controlled substances, in addition to several other narcotic charges. 

“It should be noted that Ditmer was also arrested on Sept 22, 2019 by LBPD,” Sgt Cota said.

Bail was set at $100,000.

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

Pedestrian hit by car found at fault, according to LBPD

On Saturday, Jan 25, at 8:57 p.m., LBPD and LBFD responded to a reported vehicle versus pedestrian traffic collision at the intersection of South Coast Hwy and Ocean Avenue.

According to Sgt Cota, “The driver was a male Beverly Hills resident. The pedestrian was identified as a homeless female. Independent witnesses stated that the driver was driving his BMW north on South Coast Hwy in the number one traffic lane driving at approximately 35 mph.”

Sgt Cota said, “The traffic signal was green as he entered into the intersection. At the same time, the [subject] crossed South Coast Hwy, walking west to east against the red ‘DON’T WALK’ signal.”

Sgt Cota said, “The driver’s side view mirror of the BMW collided with the pedestrian and one of the drivers’ side tires drove over the top of her right foot.”

She was allegedly intoxicated and determined to be at fault, according to Sgt Cota. She refused medical attention and the only visible injury she sustained was a laceration to her foot. A report was taken.

-By Suzie Harrison


Police Files

Great white shark reported by diver at Boat Canyon, Marine Safety closes beaches in caution

On Tuesday, Jan 28, at 5 p.m., at the 600 block of Cliff Drive, LBPD received a report regarding a diver bumping into what he believed to be a great white shark. 

According to Marine Safety Capt Kai Bond, “At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, a diver snorkeling at Boat Canyon reported a sighting of a shark to Marine Safety personnel. And in turn, the Marine Safety Department took the following actions – we documented the incident utilizing the state shark policy incident report. In addition, we launched our Marine Safety drone, called Osprey One, to search the area from Crescent Bay to Main Beach.”

Capt Bond said although Marine Safety did see some pinnipeds and marine life, “we did not observe a shark.”

“Out of abundance of caution, we posted an advisory for one-half mile in each direction, where the location was reported of the initial sighting, which went from Crescent Bay Point to Bird Rock,” Capt Bond said.

The posting remained up for 12 hours. It was taken down the next morning after the Marine Safety drone was launched again and did a thorough search of the area.

“We didn’t see the shark and the posting was lifted,” Capt Bond said. “I’d like to reiterate that sightings are rare along our coastline. Typically, when they’re seen they’re passing through our waters.”

Doctor Christopher Lowe, Professor and Director of the CSULB Shark Lab Dept of Biological Sciences – HSCI 122, in Long Beach, is the expert in shark activity and information that Marine Safety refers to. Capt Bond reiterated how rare seeing sharks are near our coastline as substantiated by Dr Lowe’s expertise.

LPBD arrests man wanted on federal warrant for human smuggling

On Monday, Jan 27, at 12:42 p.m., at the 1700 block of Laguna Canyon Road, an LBPD officer conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “The driver, Coby House, was contacted and found to have an outstanding no bail with full extradition federal warrant for smuggling people.” 

Sgt Cota said, “The warrant was confirmed through federal probation as being signed off by a federal judge and enforced by U.S. Marshals.” 

“Coby Christopher House, 21, was arrested for the warrant and later taken to OC Jail,” Sgt Cota said.

No bail was set.

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

Burglary at Rimcrest Circle reported

On Monday, Jan 27, at 12:43 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to a report of an attempted burglary in the 3200 block of Rimcrest Circle. Officers arrived and contacted the reporting party who stated an unknown subject had entered the residence earlier. 

According to Sgt Cota, “The RP’s relative was inside of the residence and the suspect was scared away. There was a loss of approximately $6,000.”

According to police reports, the rear slider was smashed, and the incident was caught on camera. The suspect covered their face. Two cameras and three camera lenses were taken.

 A report was taken and submitted to the Investigations division.

  -By Suzie Harrison

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