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Police Files

Laguna Emergency Services Teams on scene in two minutes to help drowning victim at Woods Cove

On Tuesday, Sept 11, Marine Safety Dispatch received a 911 call at 10:33 a.m. for a possible swimmer in distress at the north end of Woods Cove.

“Laguna Beach Lifeguards, LBPD, and LBFD responded and were on scene within two minutes and witnessed a male approximately 40 yards off shore floating face down in the water,” said Marine Safety Capt Kai Bond. He was in between rocks.

Lifeguards made contact with the victim, who was unconscious and unresponsive, and performed CPR to him along with LBFD. He was transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. Further information about the man is unavailable.

“No one knows exactly what happened and an update hasn’t been provided,” Capt Bond said. “But it’s a reminder to always swim in front of an open lifeguard stand, swim with a buddy, and to swim within your ability.”

The quick response could be a difference maker in the victim’s outcome. Hopefully he is on the mend.

 “We had a unit on patrol of the area and they were able to get on scene within two minutes,” Capt Bond said.

LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said the victim was still alive but in grave condition on Tuesday afternoon.

According to call records, a witness who was in her vacation rental at the time of the accident could hear and see the victim yelling out for help. She said he was approximately 20 yards out. A second person also called 911 from Diamond Street and Ocean Way to help.

There was 2-4 foot surf with yellow flag conditions that day according to Capt Bond.

Detox technician seemingly needs to detox

On Sunday, at 1:52 p.m., an officer conducted a traffic enforcement stop and contacted the driver and Tustin resident, Diana Ruth Viguri, 46.

Viguri stated that she is a detox technician at a residential drug treatment on Park Avenue and consented to a search of her vehicle. During the search, methamphetamine was located inside her purse and she was taken into custody. 

Once in custody, according to Sgt Cota, she told the Jailer she was concealing a baggie of methamphetamine in her private areas. Viguri was immediately transported to the hospital for a medical clearance and the removal of the methamphetamine. 

While on the way in the vehicle, she reportedly slipped off a handcuff from her wrist and retrieved the baggie and swallowed it.

Bail was set at $1,000.

Repeat offenders...offend repeatedly

On Sunday, Sept 9, at 3:22 p.m. at the 700 block of S Coast Hwy, a suspect took an unknown item from a store. The suspect allegedly hid the item under a jacket that he was carrying. Staff was unable to detain him but LBPD was. Reese Mitchel Westenberger, 53, of Laguna Beach, was arrested for petty theft and trespassing.

Bail was set at $1,000.

Since May 1, in a little over a four-month period, Westenberger has been arrested 6 times by LBPD according to Stu News Laguna records. He has also been arrested 2 times by Newport Beach Police Department in that same time.

On Monday, Sept 10, at 2:38 a.m., Eric Lawrence McGuffick, 53, of San Clemente, was arrested on a bench warrant at Ocean Ave & S Coast Hwy.

Bail was set at $2,500.

According to Stu News Laguna records, Since May 1, McGuffick has been arrested 5 times by LBPD.

Police Files

Arson arrest made following altercation and fire at The Inn at Laguna Beach

On Friday, Sept 7, at 6:41 a.m., LBPD officers responded to The Inn at Laguna in reference to a physical fight. 

Police Files Sterling“Officers located the suspect Jermaine Sterling at the Mobil Gas station who matched the description. Five minutes after the altercation, LBPD and fire responded to The Inn at Laguna for a dumpster fire,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said. “North Coast Highway between Broadway Street and Aster Street needed to be closed down shortly for emergency equipment to contain the fire.”

Smoke was reported to be pouring from the garage out of the dumpster.

A Nixle alert was issued warning about traffic delays. Both directions of Coast Highway were closed between Broadway Street and Aster Street.

“At 2 p.m., officers obtained video surveillance of the altercation and fire. The footage clearly shows Sterling set the fire and flee the area,” Sgt Cota said. “Sterling was arrested and interviewed regarding the arson. He was ultimately charged with Arson.”

Jermaine Austin Sterling, 33, Laguna Beach, was arrested for arson.

Bail was set at $250,000.

Bike rage incident reported near Emerald Bay

On Saturday, Sept 8, at 10:16 a.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to Emerald Bay and North Coast Highway in reference to an assault amongst bicyclists. 

The reporting party was a cyclist who was riding in a group of approximately 10 other cyclists. They were part of a local bicyclist group.

“The group of cyclists were travelling in the number one northbound traffic lane of North Coast Highway,” Sgt Cota said. “As the group rode towards the intersection of Viejo Street, the suspect began a dispute in reference to the way he was riding.”

 The dispute continued as the group continued riding northbound.

 “A short time later, the suspect approached the RP’s left side and called him a [expletive]. The suspect then grabbed the RP’s left shoulder, shook him, and then pushed him off towards the side of the road,” Sgt Cota said. 

The attacked cyclist nearly collided with the curb but was able to maintain control of the bike and was able to prevent himself from coming off his bicycle. 

“The RP is desirous of prosecution and is willing to assist in the prosecution of the suspect,” Sgt Cota said. “This case will be forwarded to detectives.”

Python missing for over two months, perusing the streets of Laguna, reunited with owner 

On Friday, Sept 7, around 11 p.m. at Coast View Drive, Nicolas Radisay and his wife Jenny were driving home from visiting friends when they came across a snake slithering across the street.

Nicolas gave the full story to Stu News in detail.

“My wife and I were driving home. My wife saw the snake and said, ‘Oh my God, is that a snake?’” Nicolas answered, “It sure is.” 

“She exclaimed, ‘Don’t you dare get out of this car,’” Nicolas said, “It was too late.”

 In his words…

“My first thought was it was a displaced rattlesnake which someone might run over. I’ll call animal control, so they can properly relocate it.

When I noticed it was a python I placed my shoe in front of her to see if she was aggressive. She balled up slowly and let me touch her with my hand, which affirmed that she was shy, but domesticated. So I picked her up.

Police Files Python

Click on photo for a larger image 

Photo by Jenny Radisay 

Rescued pet python lucky to be crossing the street at the right time, found by good Samaritan

“When I was younger, I had roommates who had snakes, I had friends who were collectors, and I am an Eagle Scout. Scouting was the primary source of how to identify indigenous poisonous snakes and non-poisonous snakes. More importantly, I learned to keep calm and how to handle or guide snakes at pole’s length while respecting snakes’ importance in our ecosystem. 

When I picked up the snake my wife wouldn’t let me back in the car. She kept the window cracked while driving next to me. She teased me and we laughed a lot, but she still wouldn’t let me in the house. 

She parked the car, ran into the house and sent the kids up to check the snake out. The kids were amazed and couldn’t believe a snake such as this would be cruising the street. Of course, they were quick to take photos and thought the snake was so cool!

Of realizing that it was a tropical snake, I prepared a home for it with rags inside a cooler. It had oxygen and would have been warm enough inside our garage. Snakes don’t need to eat often, and she clearly had been eating something. 

The kids posted pics on Snapchat and within minutes they made contact with the owner. A young boy who also lives on our street, near where the python was found, was happily reunited with his pet. His sister had accidentally left the cage open two months earlier. So you could imagine the boy’s surprise at the discovery of his long lost friend. He said she grew about six inches while she was away. 

My wife is the happiest of all that the snake found her way home; me too since my new home was likely going to be in the garage with the snake my wife so teases.”

Coyotes stalk canines in North Laguna backyard

On Wednesday, Sept 5, at 8:04 a.m. at Irvine Cove Drive and N Coast Highway, LBPD received a call about a coyote attacking a local canine. The incident was later confirmed.

The next day, at 9:15 a.m., another coyote incident was reported in the same area, this time at Irvine Cove Court.

The resident who called to report the incident said, “Every night three coyotes come and poke their noses through the fence. As a result, the dogs end up barking all night.”

The caller wanted an Animal Services officer to come and assess the situation to come meet them at the backyard fence. 

“Coyotes will sit outside approximately an hour or longer,” the resident explained.

Police Files

Swimmer dies after being pulled from ocean at Moss Street Beach

A swimmer found in the early morning at Moss Street Beach on Friday, Aug 31 died after being transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. 

According to police logs, LB lifeguards were called to the beach at 7:22 a.m. after a man was spotted floating approximately 50 yards offshore of Moss Street Beach. The swimmer, who was wearing a wetsuit, did not respond, did not have a pulse, and did not seem to be breathing. 

According to LBPD PIO Sgt Jim Cota, he was transported to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo where he was pronounced dead.

His identity has not been released.

Baby bobcat rescued by local good Samaritans dies

The 12-week old baby bobcat rescued by longtime locals Kimberly and Clay Leeds from oncoming traffic on Laguna Canyon Road succumbed to her many injuries on Thursday, Aug 30.

 The tiny kitten was at the Serrano Animal & Bird Hospital in Lake Forest under care of wild animal care specialist Dr. Scott Weldy. 

“I spoke to Dr. Weldy and he let us know unfortunately the little girl kitty who we tried to save didn’t make it,” Kimberly Leeds said. “We are so very sad she didn’t make it.”

She suffered extensive chemical burns, missing fur, damaged tissue and a wounded paw.

“The little girl kitten was about 1 1/2 kilos and was suffering from a chemical or thermal burn, according to Dr. Weldy,” Kimberly Leeds said. “Clay and I can’t fathom how the kitten was injured. It has been some time since the fire in Aliso and the “burns” didn’t look scorched – they looked more like a chemical burn.” 

“The kitten had an injured paw that looked like it happened a while ago. It was limping and very tired,” Clay Leeds said.

Police Files Baby Bobcat

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Photo by Clay Leeds

The 12-week-old bobcat kitten good Samaritans Kimberly and Clay Leeds rescued dies

It is another tragedy of living on the urban edge, explained Kimberly Leeds.

“Many bobcats take up residence under the decks of homes or close to dwellings when they den up with kittens,” Kimberly Leeds said. “The presence of humans dissuade predators to come closer making it easier to raise the kittens. Unfortunately, being nearby humans creates hazards to the kittens.”

The baby bobcat was a true fighter and trooper, often growling to protect herself, 

Dr. Weldy told the Leeds earlier in the week that the baby bobcat was doing better. She appeared to be responding to treatment.

“I’ve been told the little bobcat is recovering and is in stable condition, which is encouraging news,” Clay Leeds said.

The Leeds spotted the baby bobcat struggling to cross Laguna Canyon Road when they rescued her.

Pay attention to bus laws to keep kids safe going back to school

LBPD wants to make sure your kids are safe going back to school. LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota posted a safety flyer on the department’s Twitter page regarding rules when it comes to school bus safety and traffic.

If the school bus has its red stop sign out and the overhead lights are flashing red, drivers need to stop in both directions. If the overhead lights are yellow, drivers need to prepare to stop. If the hazard lights in the rear of the bus are flashing, drivers may proceed with extreme caution.

Police Files Bus

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Watch out for children and pay attention to bus safety rules

As summer draws to a close and children start heading back to school, family life can get pretty hectic. It’s important to remember – and share with your children – some key tips that will help keep them safe and healthy throughout the school year. 

The National Safety Council advises:

“School days bring congestion: School buses are picking up their passengers, kids on bikes are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, harried parents are trying to drop their kids off before work. It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present – especially before and after school.”

For more back to school safety tips from National Safety Council, visit

Police Files

Word to criminals: If you drive a stolen Cadillac through Laguna Beach, expect to be caught

Police Files Shawn Lenn MillerOn Sunday, Aug 26, at 11:41 p.m., dispatchers alerted LBPD officers to a white, four door, 2014 XTS Cadillac, which was stolen earlier in the day from Covina, reported by the Covina PD.

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “Officers located the vehicle on S Coast Highway near Thalia and followed it to Emerald Bay. A high-risk vehicle stop was initiated at Irvine Cove and three subjects were detained.”

One of the subjects, Shawn Lenn Miller, 24, of Covina, admitted to stealing the Cadillac. 

 “The passengers denied knowledge of the car being stolen,” Sgt Cota said. 

Miller was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle. The report didn’t say how the passengers got home.

Bail was set at $20,000.

Street musician allegedly harassed downtown

Police Files Braden Elliot BoltonOn Sunday, Aug 26, at 8:35 p.m., LBPD responded to Bushard’s Pharmacy after reports of “a homeless male subject harassing a street performer,” according to Sgt Cota. The performer called in the incident to LBPD, telling LBPD that the man was yelling at him and that they were located at the breezeway on Forest.

The street performer, later identified as a musician, repeatedly called LBPD. According to the police report, he called at least three times. 

When officers arrived, they contacted the street performer and the subject, Braden Elliot Bolton, 34, of Laguna Beach.

According to Sgt Cota, “Bolton was placed under arrest for public intoxication. While being housed, Bolton became uncooperative and spat at one of the officers. The spittle landed on the officer’s neck and uniform. An additional charge of battery on a peace officer was added.”

Bolton was transported to OCJ.

Bail was set at $500.

UPDATE: Baby bobcat rescued by local good Samaritans is recovering and in stable condition

Two big paws up – the baby bobcat rescued recently by longtime locals Kimberly and Clay Leeds is on the mend.

The Leeds went into parent protection mode, thinking quickly to save the life of a baby bobcat dashing into traffic on Laguna Canyon Road. Clay Leeds talked to Stu News about the harrowing event.

“When I saw the kitten in traffic across from the Dog Park, I realized I had to act quickly or the baby bobcat kitten would be run over. I pulled over, put on my hazards and worked to get the kitten to safety,” Leeds said. “We used an umbrella to annoy the kitten and chase it out from under a car that had stopped.”

Police Files Baby Bobcat

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of Clay Leeds

Good Samaritans Kimberly and Clay Leeds rescue a baby bobcat on Sunday

The tiny bobcat then ran to the side of the road and hid under some sagebrush. 

“The bobcat kitten was panting heavily like it was exhausted. I called LBPD and they said others had called Animal Services throughout the afternoon, but they couldn’t locate the bobcat,” Leeds said. “LBPD dispatched Animal Services and while we were waiting, the little bobcat ran back into the street. We briefly stopped traffic again, and that’s when Kimberly did a ‘blanket capture’ with a towel from a passerby.”

LBPD Animal Services came and the Leeds helped get the little bobcat into a crate. 

“I’ve been told the little bobcat is recovering and is in stable condition, which is encouraging news,” Leeds said.


Congrats to Laguna’s finest, LBPD Sgt Jim Cota accepted to USC Master of Communications Program

Stu News is proud to congratulate LBPD Sgt Jim Cota on his acceptance to the USC, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Master of Communication program in Communication Management. He will be hitting the books soon, starting the fall semester in mid-September.

Police Files Sgt Cota

Courtesy LPBD Twitter

LBDP Sgt Jim Cota pictured with Joseph at the Tip-a-Cop Special Olympics fundraiser, making others’ dreams come true, now it’s his turn

Sgt Cota in his own words:

“I am very honored and excited to be accepted into USC Master’s Program in Communication Management. This was a dream of mine since I was young kid because to me USC has always been the best of the best in schooling institutions.

 “I am prepared for the challenges coming my way in the upcoming fall semester. I was very fortunate to have the support of USC alumni Captain Jeff Calvert and LBHS principal Jason Allemann encouraging me during the application process.

 “Chief Farinella also was a tremendous support by personally writing a letter of recommendation on my behave. It will be much more special now going to the USC football games because now I am a USC student. Fight on!” Sgt Cota said. 

Right on, Fight on, Sgt Cota!

Police Files

Bobcat kitten saved by local good Samaritans 

Local Jennifer Samson contacted Stu News to let readers know that she saw a rescue of a baby bobcat on Laguna Canyon Road on Sunday. She witnessed longtime Laguna local Kimberly Leeds and her husband, Clay Leeds, perform the rescue of the adorable wild feline.

“She and another man [husband Clay] stopped traffic and used a towel to help the bobcat get out of oncoming traffic,” Jennifer Samson said. “We know Mrs. Leeds, as both of our kids go to TOW, so I recognized her right away.” 

Clay Leeds explained how the rescue occurred.

Police Files Bobcat 2

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Courtesy of Jennifer Samson

Two local good Samaritans and parents save a baby bobcat in the canyon

“We were across from the Dog Park. We blocked traffic in both directions so the kitten wouldn’t get run over if it darted out into traffic,” Leeds said. 

 Traffic only had to wait about two minutes while the Leeds got a towel out of a trunk from a passerby, he said. 

“Then, we transferred the kitten to our own blanket, so we could give back the towel,” Leeds said. “After Kimberly blanket captured the kitten, a Laguna Beach Animal Services officer help us put the kitten in the kitty carrier.”

Police Files Bobcat 1

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of Clay Leeds

In rescue mode, the Leeds save a baby bobcat without missing a beat

“My wife Kimberly learned it when she used to volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center in while she was going to Laguna Beach High School,” Leeds said. “She says no one would sit by her in class in the mornings because she smelled like herring.” 

“The kitten had an injured paw that looked like it happened a while ago. It was limping and very tired,” Leeds said. “The Laguna Beach Animal Services officer told us the kitten would most likely end up with a wild animal specialist like Dr. Weldy at the Orange County Zoo.”

Man airlifted during ER rescue at Table Rock Beach 

A man suffering a medical emergency was rescued from Table Rock Beach on Monday afternoon thanks to the valiant efforts of local safety agencies, LBPD, LPFD, and OC Lifeguards

OC Lifeguards Chief Jason Young said they responded to a medical aid call at Table Rock Beach.

He said he was waiting to look at the full incident report before he would have a complete report of the facts. 

PF Airlift Rescue

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Photo by John Thomas

ER rescue requires a helicopter transport to the hospital on Monday at Table Rock Beach

“Our lifeguards had to respond to medical aid at Table Rock Beach and the patient was treated by lifeguards and we also had paramedics dispatched,” Chief Young said. “The paramedics provided patient care and they determined they would need to airlift the person off of the beach.”

 Young explained the helicopter, Mercy Air, was called in to provide the air transport to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

“I can’t really tell you about the patient’s status because of privacy laws. I can tell you that it was an adult male patient, but that’s about all I can tell you,” Chief Young said, regarding patient specifics.

He said until he got the incident report, he could not verify 100 percent if it was a rescue that preceded the medical problem. 

“I don’t believe there was, but I would have to get my full incident report before I can verify that,” Chief Young said. “The patient was on the sand and it was initiated on the beach.”

LBFD Division Chief Api Weinert said two LBFD engines were involved to help save the man’s life. One was Station 4 from South Laguna and the other was Station 2, known as the midtown station located at the corner of Glenneyre Street and Agate Street.

“Our fire engine from South Laguna arrived on scene first made it down the stairs to Table Rock Beach and made contact with Orange County Lifeguards,” Chief Weinert said. “He was an adult male having a medical incident after he was in the water.” 

He reiterated what Young said regarding the man’s transport. As to how long it takes for a rescue like on Monday at Table Rock, he said a lot of variables are involved.

“One is the ETA of the helicopter, whether the helicopter can be landed on the beach or the patient needs to be hoisted, the location, the patient might not be right where the helicopter can land and the patient might have to be moved a little bit,” Chief Weinert said. “There are just so many variables involved.”

He said using airlift is the last choice for myriad reasons.

However, according to Chief Weinert and Chief Young, if a person should encounter a medical emergency, it’s urgent to call 911 immediately. 

“Call 911 and contact a lifeguard. [It is also helpful] if the person has CPR training and hopefully some kind of basic proceduring to feel comfortable to assist and aid,” Chief Weinert said.

Conveniently, he pointed out that they have some CPR and basic aid courses available via Laguna Beach Community Services.

Meth and coke land two young men behind bars

On Saturday, Aug 25 at 2:50 a.m., at Brooks Street and South Coast Highway, an LBPD officer conducted a vehicle stop for a burnt out headlight in the 100 block of Brooks Street. According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, Michael Young, 25, of Irvine, gave consent to search his vehicle and person. 

“A search of Young’s wallet in his rear pocket revealed zip lock baggie of cocaine. Young stated he purchased it at a party in Newport Beach,” Sgt Cota said. “Young’s driver’s license was suspended as well as he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. He was arrested for possession of cocaine and the outstanding warrant.”

Police Files Sean YoungAccording to Sgt Cota, a search of the vehicle revealed a large ziploc baggie of white residue, a bag of 55 small ziploc baggies, and a weighing scale with white residue on it. 

LBPD officers also located text messaging conversions in reference to drug sales.

Young was also charged with possession of a controlled substance for sales and transportation of controlled substances for sales. 

Bail was set at $25,000. 

• • •

Also on Saturday, Aug 25, just a few hours earlier at 12:22 a.m., an LBPD officer observed a male subject running northbound on North Coast Highway at Boat Canyon…running through the red signal without stopping. 

“The officer stopped him and asked him to sit on the curb. He did momentarily but began to walk in the roadway. He was again directed to listen to the office,” said Sgt Cota.

 LBPD said upon request, he provided his name and date of birth. The male subject was identified as Shane Patrick Gallagher, 24, of San Clemente.

Police Files Shane Gallagher“Gallagher was fidgety, sweating, and appeared nervous. He kept looking around like he was hallucinating. A consensual search of Gallagher revealed methamphetamine in his front paper wrapped in paper,” Sgt Cota said. “An under the influence investigation was conducted and Gallagher was subsequently arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance.”

Gallagher was taken to Mission Hospital for a medical clearance. Once the clearance was given by the medical staff, Gallagher was walked back to the awaiting police vehicle when he took off running while still handcuffed. 

“Commands were given to stop as a foot pursuit began. Additional officers were requested as Gallagher attempted to hit in the bushes in the 32000 block of Coast Highway,” Sgt Cota said. 

He was captured by officers and also charged with Escape with Custody and Resisting/Obstructing Arrest. Gallagher was transported to OCJ.

 Bail was set at $10,000.

Jeep on the beach...just misses pedestrians

On Friday, Aug 24, at 8:21 p.m., at the 100 block of S Coast Highway, LBPD officers were dispatched to Main Beach in reference to a vehicle stuck in the sand.

Police Files Jeep on the beach

Click on photo for a larger image 

Submitted photo

A cautionary tale: A few inches further, and this Jeep might have struck these pedestrians

“A DUI investigation was conducted and she was subsequently arrested for DUI. Her blood level exceeded .08 percent,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said.

Police Files

Bus Depot fight: suspect allegedly spits in Laguna Woods man’s face

On Sunday, Aug 19, at 7:37 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to the Bus Depot at the 300 block of Broadway Street responding to a physical fight in progress. LBPD had received several calls regarding the incident.

The involved parties were identified as Jermaine Sterling of Laguna Beach, described as wearing blue shorts and a brown zipper jacket, and a man in his 50s from Laguna Woods, reportedly wearing brown shorts and a black backpack with his surfboard in tow. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “During a verbal dispute, Sterling [reportedly] spat at the victim’s face and pushed him. He [the alleged victim] was desirous of prosecution and Sterling was subsequently taken into custody for battery.”

Jermaine Austin Sterling, 33, was arrested for battery on a person. No weapons were found. Bail was set at $500.

After-hours disturbance at Animal Shelter leads to arrests

On Sunday, Aug 19, at 3:45 am, LBPD was dispatched to the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, at the 20600 block of Laguna Canyon Road, regarding a female causing an audible disturbance, reportedly screaming racial slurs and profanities.

The woman was identified as Amber Kristen Castillo, 40, of Laguna Beach. She was said to be on foot, “in the tree area.”

“It was determined she was under the influence of a stimulant and subsequently taken into custody for [being] Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance,” Sgt Cota said. “While contacting Castillo, officers observed a man partially nude sleeping in the area.”

The man was transported to the station for being nude, an LBMC violation, and to be identified. At the LBPD station, officers were able to identify him and a record check revealed he had an outstanding warrant, Cota said.

Parolee allegedly threatens LBPD

Police Files Antonio NelsonOn Tuesday, Aug 21, at 3:56 p.m., at Laguna Avenue and S Coast Highway, an LBPD officer stopped a pedestrian for being in the roadway and was going to issue him a citation. A second officer arrived on scene when the parolee, Antonio Nelton, allegedly threatened one of the officers with physical violence. 

“Due to his statements he was detained in handcuffs and his parole agent was contacted. His threatening statements were a violation of his parole and he was taken into custody,” Sgt Cota said.

 Once in custody, he reportedly continued to threaten the officers.

 “An added charge of threatening/resisting an officer was added,” Sgt Cota said. “A search of Nelton revealed he had an illegal pepper spray cannister in his pocket, which added an additional charge.”

Antonio Maitreya Nelton, 45, of Long Beach, was arrested for felony obstruction/resisting an executive police officer and felony parole violation, with no bail.

Police Files

Tragic rollover collision lands local man in hospital, friends urge support with GoFundMe campaign

On Friday, Aug 17, at 11:15 am, a traffic collision was reported on Coast Highway between Legion Street and Laguna Avenue. 

“LBPD and Fire responded to a rollover traffic collision in the 400 block of South Coast Highway,” said LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota. “The traffic collision involved five vehicles resulting in one driver being injured. South Coast Highway between Laguna Avenue and Legion Street were closed for approximately an hour to conduct the investigation.”

The driver who was injured was local father Mark Nelson. A friend of his, Dustin Bainbridge, took to Nextdoor to start a GoFundMe campaign. 

Bainbridge said, “While I am not always a fan of GoFundMe campaigns, this one means a lot to me. My friend Mark Nelson, a full-time single father of three elementary school aged boys, was involved in a horrific accident in Laguna Beach. Mark was traveling on PCH on Aug 18 and within seconds flipped his car and the injuries landed him in the hospital.”

Police Files Nelson Car

Click on photo for a larger image 

From GoFundMe website

Beloved father and community member Mark Nelson’s car was mangled; he also sustained injuries

Nelson’s new car was reportedly totaled and he may have sustained neurological and spinal injuries, according to Bainbridge’s GoFundMe page for Nelson.

Nelson is an active member in the Laguna Beach community, a coach for flag football, serves on the parent advisory council at Top of the World Elementary, and is currently running for LBUSD school board.

Bainbridge explained, “His sole source of income comes from being a delivery driver and with no car and medical bills adding up…it is going to be a long road to physical and financial recovery for him.” (Nelson regularly delivered food to our own Stu Saffer before he passed away.) 

Police Files Nelson Kids

Click on photo for a larger image 

From GoFundMe website

Mark Nelson with his three boys

Bainbridge said, “The mother of his children is gone, so I am asking the community for any support you can offer to help him pay down his medical bills and help him rest for the next 30-60 days, babysitter, etc. as his health progresses.”

To help, go to

LBPD DUI checkpoint on Saturday nets three arrests

LBPD conducted a DUI/Drivers License checkpoint on Saturday, Aug 18 in the Coast Highway and Aliso Beach area, between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. 

“Checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety for officers and the public,” LBPD Lieutenant Tim Kleiser said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), checkpoints have provided the most effective documented results of any of the DUI enforcement strategies, while also yielding considerable cost savings. Ninety Percent of California drivers approve of checkpoints. 

On Saturday, 2,162 vehicles went through the LBPD checkpoint, 902 drivers were engaged with, three DUI-Alcohol suspects were arrested, and four drivers were cited and arrested for operating a vehicle unlicensed or while suspended or revoked.

Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, other expenses that can exceed $10,000, not to mention the repercussions on employment, transportation, and also the embarrassment of friends and family finding out. 

LBPD will be conducting numerous DUI education and enforcement details throughout 2018 in the police department’s ongoing commitment to lowering deaths and injuries upon our streets and highways. 

The checkpoint was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the NHTSA, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Drivers and call 9-1-1.’ 

For more information, please contact Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Out-of-towners throw lit firecrackers out of BMW

On Saturday, Aug 18, at 7:08 p.m., at Montage Resort and South Coast Highway, LBPD officers responded to a reckless driving call with suspects reportedly throwing lit firecrackers out of their car window, a black 325 BMW.

It was reported that there were three male occupants according to LBPD Emergency Operations Coordinator Jordan Villwock.

“Fireworks were reported. Subjects were cited, three people from out of the state, for LBMC and California Vehicle Code,” Villwock said. “The firecrackers tied together were relatively small. Yes, they threw at least one grouping of lit firecrackers out of the window of a moving vehicle.”

The suspects were cited for Laguna Beach Municipal Code and California Vehicle Code Violations, according to Villwock.

Police Files

Road rage suspect allegedly leaps out of car and assaults Laguna Beach youth

According to LBPD, a suspect got flipped off and flipped out, ensuing a road rage incident involving a Laguna Beach juvenile.

On Sunday, Aug 12, at 3:55 p.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to the intersection of Forest Avenue and Glenneyre Street for an alleged assault that had just occurred. The male juvenile from Laguna Beach said he was shoved and punched. 

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “The 17-year-old victim said a white Dodge van stopped behind him and a male got out of the passenger side of the vehicle and shoved him for ‘no reason.’”

According to Sgt Cota, it was later revealed that the juvenile allegedly flipped off the van before he was shoved and punched. The suspect got back into the vehicle and fled outbound on Laguna Canyon Road.

“The case is currently being investigated by detectives. We already have the suspect identified and will be interviewing him,” Sgt Cota said.

Residents are asked to contact LBPD with any information if they saw the incident at (949) 497-0701 or any instance of apparent road rage.

Drunk or high on a bike can land you a CUI

“Yes, you can be arrested for being intoxicated on a bicycle,” reminds Sgt Cota.

On Sunday, Aug 12, at 6:35 p.m., LBPD and Fire personnel responded to Montage and South Coast Highway for a traffic collision involving a vehicle and bicyclist.

According to a witness, the biker cut right in front of the vehicle. 

When LBPD arrived, it was determined the female bicyclist sustained minor injuries, including a bruise and minor road rash. She declined medical attention. 

 “She was clearly intoxicated and was riding her electric assist bicycle in the roadway,” Sgt Cota said. “The other involved motorist said the bicyclist swerved into the number one lane and struck the rear passenger door of her vehicle.”

Independent witnesses provided similar statements about her poor riding skills.

“A cycling under the influence (CUI) was conducted and the suspect was later arrested,” Sgt Cota said. “She provided a breath sample which resulted with readings exceeding .08% BAC.”

The intoxicated biker was riding with a beach chair strapped on her back, crossing the street, apparently headed to the beach. 

LBPD reported that northbound traffic was delayed for approximately one hour.

Bail was set at $500.

(Editor’s Note: Stu News Laguna does not publish names of DUI offenders on their first arrest, unless there are additional circumstances (e.g. injuries to others or major property damage) which we feel warrant including their name.)

Lost tortoise still at large: can we help lead him home?

In Tuesday’s edition of Stu News, it was reported in the Police Files that a turtle was found by a Good Samaritan, but it was actually a tortoise. 

The report said, “On Thursday, Aug 9, at 1:57 p.m., at the 100 block of Avenida Majorca a woman reported to LBPD that she found a turtle and has had it for a week. ‘She thought she would find the owner, but she hasn’t.’”

 Some may call it semantics – tomato/ tomato, turtle/tortoise – but that’s not the case in this case. According to a source, both reptiles are from the same family, Testudines. “Turtles can live in water or on land with some species being almost solely aquatic, whereas tortoises are land-dwellers.”

Major difference between turtles and tortoises are feet and shell shape. Because turtles spend time in the water, they have webbed-feet, and their shells are flatter for stream-lined swimming. A tortoise has more of a dome shape to its shell.

Police Files Tortoise

Click on photo for a larger image 

Courtesy of LBPD

A tortoise not a turtle has still not been matched with its owner, but remains hopeful and upbeat 

“The tortoise that was picked up the other day in Laguna Woods has been temporarily relocated to a reptile rescue facility better suited to house and care for a tortoise than the animal shelter,” said LBPD Civilian Services Administrator Jim Beres. “The tortoise is still under the custody of the City even though it is at the reptile rescue facility.”

In an exciting turn of events, a Stu News reader contacted us and said she might know the owner/parent/guardian.

“My neighbor here in Laguna Woods has been missing her turtle. The turtle I believe is 40 years old,” said the hopeful/helpful reader.

To no avail, unfortunately, the picture was not a match.

“No one has contacted the animal shelter so far regarding a missing tortoise,” Beres said. “If someone from Laguna Woods recognizes this as their missing tortoise, they should contact the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter at (949) 497-3552.”

If anyone has information or knows who could be the owner/parent/guardian, please don’t hesitate to contact Stu News.

We’re looking for very happy ending – fingers crossed!

Police Files

Running on empty, suspected car thief busted at gunpoint at Chevron

On Sunday, Aug 12, at 10:28 a.m., LBPD officers were alerted by dispatchers to a stolen vehicle, a 2012 Toyota Prius, from Norwalk, traveling southbound on North Coast Highway from Ledroit Street. 

“The vehicle was located, and after running red lights, the driver pulled the car into the Chevron gas station at Coast Highway and Legion Street,” said LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota. “A high-risk vehicle stop was executed and three occupants were detained.”

James Saaf, 22, of Santa Ana, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property, driving on a suspended driver’s license, possession of narcotic paraphernalia, and possession of a controlled substance. He was booked, taken into custody, and transported to OCJ. 

Police Files Vehicle Theft

Click on photo for a larger image 

Photo by Mark Vuille 

Guns drawn, LBPD Officers capture suspected car thief James Saaf at Chevron

Shantell Apodaca, 38, of La Mirada, was arrested for theft/appropriation of lost property, and the third passenger, a male, was released.

 “A search of the vehicle revealed numerous credit and debit cards, some of which were in Apodaca’s purse. A full inventory of the cards was taken and follow-up will be conducted by detectives,” Sgt Cota said. “It should be noted Saaf was arrested earlier in the year near El Morro in a similar case where he provided a false identity to the officers and was arrested/booked for possession of stolen property and identity theft.” 

Bail was set at $10,000 for Saaf and $500 for Apodaca.

Mark Vuille, a 48-year Laguna Beach resident and avid Stu News reader, caught the account first-hand. 

“I had just pulled into the Chevron Station at Legion Street when a Toyota Prius pulled in, came to a stop at the pump with a Station 45 unit on his tail, all lit up,” Vuille said. “Thinking it was a mere car stop for a minor traffic violation, I paid little attention until back up arrived. First one unit, then two, three, four, and pulling up the rear, the field Sergeant, all with lights but no siren.”

He said at that point he decided to catch all the action.

“The show was in full swing when it dawned on me, I ought to video this fine display of Station 45 in action,” Vuille said.

Props to LBPD for all they do.

Brawl on the beach: 10 to 12-man tussle reported, suspect tries to tackle LBPD

On Wednesday, Aug 8, at 4:38 p.m., LBPD officers responded to Main Beach for a physical fight in progress. According to a dispatch report, the caller said, “10 to 12 guys were punching each other right in front of Ocean Avenue on the grass.” 

An officer arrived on scene and detained two male subjects for further investigation. 

One subject, Brian Ensley, was bleeding from the mouth and “clearly intoxicated,” according to Sgt Cota. “Ensley got up and walked away from the officer. The officer followed Ensley giving verbal commands to which he did not comply. The officer deployed his Taser which was ineffective.” 

A supervisor arrived on scene as Ensley continued to walk away from the officer.

“Verbal commands were again given without compliance,” Sgt Cota said. “Ensley attempted to tackle the supervisor and was taken to the ground.”

Brian Scott Ensley, 40, of Mission Viejo, was placed under arrest for assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest. His bail was set at $20,000.

Turtle on the run, on the lamb, lost in some jam?

On Thursday, Aug 9, at 1:57 p.m., at the 100 block of Avenida Majorca, a woman reported to LBPD that she found a turtle and had it for a week. “She thought she would find the owner, but she hasn’t,” reads the report. 

According to LBPD Civilian Services Administrator Jim Beres, LB Animal Services “picked up a turtle that a resident in Laguna Woods found and took the turtle to the Animal Shelter.” 

Calls by Stu News on Monday afternoon to LBPD, Animal Services, and the Animal Shelter found no trace of the turtle. Each agency said they didn’t have a turtle.

Will the turtle turn up? Will it be reunited with its owner?

Beres said he would follow up and try to locate a photo of the found turtle. “A photo might help with locating the owner of the turtle,” he said.

Police Files

Keep your dogs on leashes, reminds LBPD

The City of Laguna Beach wants to remind residents that dogs are prohibited on city and county beaches between the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the summer through September 10, and also that dogs must be on leashes at all times in public places.

Dogs in Laguna must be leashed at all times, but lately we’ve been getting complaints about unleashed dogs on beaches and in parks,” said the City in a statement. “LBPD is committed to strictly enforcing its ordinance relating to dogs on leashes. Fines will be administered to those found in violation of the ordinance. Please keep your dog on a leash!”

Police Files dog on leash

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut 

Leash up or pay, says LBPD

“During this time, dogs can be on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. provided they are on a leash no longer than six feet in length,” said LBPD Civilian Services Administrator Jim Beres. “Dogs must always be on a leash no longer than six feet in length in all public areas including city parks and some of the City’s nature trails that allow dogs provided they are on a leash no longer than six feet in length.”

Residents are encouraged to check the signs posted at the beginning of each trailhead, which indicate whether dogs are allowed on that trail.

 Dogs are never allowed off leash at any time on city and county beaches.  Additionally, per county policy, dogs are not allowed at Thousand Steps beach throughout the year – that means never, at anytime.

Dogs are allowed off leash only at the City’s Dog Park located at 20672 Laguna Canyon Road. 

Police Files No Dogs

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by OC Parks 

Canines can get big fines for roaming free without a leash…except at the City’s “Bark Park”

“The Police Department receives many complaints from citizens regarding unleashed dogs and in response to these complaints, the City is committed to strictly enforcing its ordinance relating to dogs on leashes,” Beres said. 

Fines will be administered for those found in violation of the ordinance.

If you have any questions about the ordinance relating to dogs in Laguna Beach, please contact Jim Beres, LBPD Civilian Services Administrator at (949) 464-6669.

Womans throws milk at officer

On Tuesday, Aug 7, at 10:53 a.m., LBPD officers were dispatched to the Village Mart parking lot, at North Coast Highway and Broadway Street, amidst reports of vandalism. The alleged victim had been driving her car by the area when a female reportedly threw a large rock at her vehicle, a 2011 GMC Denali, shattering the windshield and causing dents on the roof.

While one officer was speaking with the alleged victim, another officer was standing with the suspect Stephanie Marie Monge, 31, of Santee, who allegedly became violent.

According to LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota, “Without any warning or provocation, Monge threw a bottle of milk at the officer which hit him in the face and chest. An LBPD officer struggled with Monge briefly to handcuff her and once she was handcuffed she began spitting at them and trying to kick them.

“She was transported to LBPD for booking. Once at the station, she continued to be uncooperative and the decision was made to transport her directly to OCJ,” said Sgt Cota.

Monge was arrested for felony vandalism of $400 or more, throwing substances at a vehicle with intent of causing great bodily injury, and battery of a police officer.

“No officers or the suspect were injured during the altercation,” said Sgt Cota.

Bail was set at $20,000.

DUI Checkpoint is on August 18

LBPD will be conducting a DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint on Saturday, Aug 18 at an undisclosed location within the city limits between the hours of 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

California has seen a disturbing increase in drug-impaired driving crashes. LBPD supports the new effort from the Office of Traffic Safety that aims to educate all drivers that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.” 

“If you take prescription drugs, particularly those with a driving or operating machinery warning on the label, you might be impaired enough to get a DUI,” LBPD Lieutenant Tim Kleiser said. “Marijuana can also be impairing, especially in combination with alcohol or other drugs, and can result in a DUI.”

The deterrent effect of High Visibility Enforcement using both DUI checkpoints and DUI Saturation Patrols has proven to lower the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug impaired crashes. 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. 

Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment. When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving, which now accounts for a growing number of impaired driving crashes. 

Studies of California drivers have shown that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems. A study of active drivers showed more tested positive for drugs that may impair driving (14 percent) than did for alcohol (7.3 percent).

Of the drugs, marijuana was most prevalent, at 7.4 percent, slightly more than alcohol. Everyone should be mindful that if you’re taking medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter, drinking even small amounts of alcohol can greatly intensify the impairment affects. 

In 2016, LBPD kicked off a “Know Your Limits” campaign to help reduce DUIs. In 2015, there were 389 DUI arrests and in 2016 that number dropped significantly to 307.

PF DUI Costs

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Courtesy of 

Hand over your keys if you’re impaired or take keys away from impaired drivers

LBPD offers these reminders to ensure you have a safe night of fun that doesn’t involve a DUI:

--Decide before you go out whether you plan to drink or drive. You can’t do both.

--If you plan to drink, designate a sober driver before going out or map out another safe way to get home by taxi, ride-share or public transportation. You can also look up designated driver services in your area using the National Directory of Designated Driver Services (NDDDS).

--See your friend or other patron impaired trying to get behind the wheel? Take the keys and help them make other arrangements to get where they are going safely.

--Report drunk drivers – Call 911.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is partnering with law enforcement nationwide during the 2018 Labor Day “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” high-visibility enforcement campaign from August 15 through September 3.

Drug-impaired driving is a problem across the country. Like drunk driving, drugged driving is impaired driving, which means it is dangerous and illegal. Whether the drug is legally prescribed or illegal, driving while drug-impaired poses a threat to the driver, vehicle passengers, and other road users.

NHTSA wants to spread the word about drug-impaired driving and to remind all drivers: If you are impaired by drugs and thinking about driving, pass your keys on to a sober driver.

Funding for this DUI operation is provided to the LBPD by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to “Report Drunk Driving – Call 9-1-1,” it could save lives. 

For more information, contact LBPD Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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