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Laguna Beach

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

“They are brazen…” Two slickly dressed men steal nearly $200K from five shops at The Cliff

On July 26 at approximately 5 a.m., two men forced entry into five businesses located at The Shops at The Cliff’ Restaurant. The businesses included an art gallery, a jewelry store, and three other merchandise and retail shops. 

The total loss is estimated at more than $200,000. The suspects are described as two white male adults wearing long pants, button-up long-sleeved shirts, and heavy-duty gloves. Both were also wearing fedora/driving cap style hats.

LBPD is actively investigating a series of related commercial burglaries. Detectives have released images and surveillance video of the suspects and are asking for the public’s help in identifying them. (See above.)

“They are brazen, slick bandits. We are already getting tips galore,” Sgt. Cota told Stu News Laguna. “Time is ticking for them.”

Anyone with any information regarding this investigation or other similar incidents is asked to call the Laguna Beach Police Department at 949-497-0701. 

To submit tips anonymously, contact Crime Stoppers at 855-TIPS-OCCS or 855-847-6227. You can also reach Crime Stoppers online at

Man arrested with drugs, switchblade, leaded cane

On Sunday around 9 p.m., officers who responded to assist lifeguards near West Street Beach found more than they were expecting.

Forty-five minutes after arriving, Christopher Romano, 36, Rancho Santa Fe was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

He was also found to be in possession of drugs and weaponry, including a switchblade and a leaded cane. Romano was booked on those charges and held with $20,000 bail. 

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

Smurf gets young men into trouble: Was it Jokey?

On Monday afternoon, a citizen reported vandalism that had just occurred on the 100 block of Thalia Street – the word “Smurf” had been written with a white marker onto a trashcan. 

Two young men, who were sitting in a vehicle directly next to the trashcan, proved to be uncooperative with officers. Inside the vehicle, the officers found an open 12 ounce glass bottle of Corona beer and an odor of marijuana. 

“A search of the vehicle revealed more beer and three grams of marijuana,” LBPD spokesperson Sgt. Jim Cota said. 

Officers found a white marker consistent with the graffiti on the trashcan in the center console. 

Vincent Podegracz, 19, from Redondo Beach was cited for possession of marijuana and possession of a paint marker. 

The other occupant, Dylan Hyman, 19, of Torrance, was taken into custody for possessing a fake identification used to purchase alcohol, possession of a switchblade knife, delaying/resisting arrest, possession of alcohol, and possession of a paint marker and aerosol cans to commit vandalism.

Not the kind of behavior one would expect from true Smurf fans! 

The moral of the story? It doesn’t pay to be uncooperative with the cops, no matter how minor the offense may seem.

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

Unwanted sleepover nets arrest

On Monday, August 7 around 8:15 a.m., officers responded to a residence under construction in the 2400 block of S. Coast Hwy. A caller had reported a suspicious person on the property.

“Upon arrival, the officers immediately recognized the man as Reese Westenberger,” said Sgt. Jim Cota, LBPD spokesperson. “Inside the residence, property was located that belonged to him.”

Westenberger, 52, no fixed address admitted to staying at the residence overnight and storing his property there.

He was arrested for burglary and later transported to Orange County Jail.

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

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

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..

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

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

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