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More Labor Day drunks on the road in the San Fernando Valley, fewer across county, says CHP

The anti-drunken driving message sent out by officials appeared to have worked over the long Labor Day weekend, with officials reporting a decline in arrests in Los Angeles County and throughout California.

The California Highway Patrol said there were 1,043 arrests compared with 1,092 in the same period last year.

In L.A. County, Wendy Brewer, Community Service Officer of the Glendora Police Department and spokeswoman for the Avoid the 100 DUI Task Force, said the number of arrests were down relative to last year.

The latest figures for the enforcement effort, which began at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 15 and ended at 11:59 p.m. Monday, showed 1,982 arrests for driving under the influence versus 2,313 last year.

Avoid the 100 had officers from 100 law enforcement agencies throughout the region, manning checkpoints, employing increased patrols and watching for impaired drivers.

“We hope people are starting to get the message that we are out there looking for them,” Brewer said. “We have had this trend of arrests going down slightly year to year.”

Figures for the entirety of the city of Los Angeles were not available. However, numbers were up in the San Fernando Valley, with 50 arrests over the holiday weekend versus 39 last year, said Officer Joelle Lemaire of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Traffic Division.

Of the county arrests this year, 74 occurred after an injury crash, Brewer said.

Two occurred in the Valley, but officials were unable to say definitively whether alcohol or drugs were involved, as both remained under investigation.

A man was killed when he was thrown from a speeding vehicle around 7:30 p.m. Monday at 13425 Sherman Way in North Holly­wood.

“The vehicle was westbound on Sherman Way at a high rate of speed when it went off the road and collided with a lamppost, then a business sign,” Sgt. Russell Carr of Valley Traffic said. “The driver, a 33-year-old man, was ejected and pronounced dead at the scene.”

There was a suspect involved and the investigation continues, Carr said, adding they were investigating whether racing also played a factor.

About two hours later, Carr said, a motorcyclist died when his two-wheeler slammed into a vehicle in the Woodland Hills area. The crash was reported at 9:50 p.m. Monday at Winnetka Avenue and Victory Boulevard.

“The motorcyclist collided with a vehicle making a U-turn,” Carr said. “The motorcyclist was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead. The vehicle driver was arrested (on suspicion of) DUI.”

Family of girl with Uzi is devastated, lawyer says

PHOENIX >> An attorney for the parents of a 9-year-old girl who accidentally killed an Arizona shooting range instructor with an Uzi said Tuesday the family is devastated by the tragedy that occurred on a brief excursion during a vacation.

The statement came as investigators released police reports and 911 recordings involving the Aug. 25 shooting of instructor Charles Vacca at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Arizona, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas.

New Jersey-based lawyer Kevin Walsh said the MacLachlan family “prayed day and night that (Vacca) would survive his injury, and they continue to pray for his family during this terribly difficult time.”

The police report says that immediately after the shooting, the girl said she felt the gun was too much for her and had hurt her shoulder.

Her family members were focused on the girl because they thought she was injured by the gun’s recoil and didn’t immediately realize that Vacca had been shot until one of his colleagues ran over to him, the report states.

The shooting set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle a submachine gun. However, neither the report nor the statement by Walsh explains why the parents let the girl take the Uzi.

The family had taken a shuttle from Las Vegas to the range. After arriving, the girl, her parents, sister and brother took a monster truck ride before heading to the shooting range.

The girl’s father was the first one in the party to handle a weapon. After he fired shots, Vacca instructed the girl on how to shoot the gun, showed her a shooting stance, and helped her fire a few rounds.

He then stepped back and let her hold the Uzi by herself. She fired the gun, and its recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, killing Vacca with a shot to the head, according to the report.

The girl dropped the Uzi, and Vacca fell to the ground. The girl ran toward her family, who huddled around her as she held her shoulder. Another instructor rushed over to help to Vacca. The other children were then taken away from the range, according to the report.

The report describes the family as shaken by the accident.

Recordings of 911 calls show that people at the shooting range desperately tried to keep the unconscious Vacca alive as they urged 911 dispatchers to send a medical helicopter.

A dispatcher urged callers to apply pressure to Vacca’s wound.

Vacca was flown to a Las Vegas hospital where he died hours later.

Prosecutors are not filing charges in the case. Arizona’s workplace safety agency is investigating the death.

County prosecutors say the instructor was probably the most criminally negligent person involved in the accident for having allowed the child to hold the gun without enough training. They also said the parents and child weren’t criminally culpable.

The girl’s mother had video-recorded the accident on her phone.

“All right, go ahead and give me one shot,” Vacca tells the girl in the video. He then cheers when she fires one round at the target.

“All right full auto,” Vacca says. The video, which does not show the actual incident, ends with a series of shots being heard.

Sam Scarmardo, the range’s operator, has said the parents had signed waivers saying they understood the rules. He also said he never had a safety problem before at the range and his policy of allowing children 8 and older to fire guns under adult supervision and an instructor’s watchful eye is standard industry practice, though he noted his policies are under review.

Vacca’s ex-wife and children have said they harbor no ill feelings toward the girl or her family. Instead, they feel sorry for the child and want to comfort her.

Cornfield contributed to this report from Trenton, N.J. News Researcher Rhonda Shafner also contributed to this report from New York.

John Wiley Price co-defendant asks federal court for permission to travel outside Texas for work

Kathy Nealy (left) walks behind her attorney Cheryl Wattley (right) after exiting the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas on July 25. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)

A John Wiley Price associate who is charged along with the commissioner and two others in connection with an alleged bribery scheme has asked a federal judge for permission to travel within the U.S. for work.

Kathy Nealy, a Dallas political and business consultant, filed a motion Tuesday to modify the conditions of her release to allow the travel “with prior notice” to the federal pre-trial services department, court documents show.

Nealy’s attorney, Cheryl Wattley, said in the motion that Nealy works with 5Linx, a “multi-level marketing company.”

“In order to continue her business, Ms. Nealy needs to participate in meetings and conferences that are held by 5Linx,” Wattley said. “Attendance at such events is very important to Ms. Nealy’s ability to earn her income.”

During Nealy’s arraignment in July, U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn barred Nealy from traveling outside Texas as a condition of her release.

Nealy was indicted along with Price on bribery, tax evasion and mail fraud charges. Also charged are Christian Campbell, a consultant, and Dapheny Fain, Price’s chief of staff. All have pleaded not guilty.

Nealy made a dramatic entrance when last year when she became a senior vice president for 5LINX, a direct sales company that claims to offer customers “life-enhancing products and services.”

A YouTube video showed her being carried up to the stage on the shoulders of coworkers at a convention last September. That was more than a year after she’d been linked in court documents to a criminal investigation targeting Price.

The video has since been removed.

Lynn has already modified Price’s and Nealy’s conditions of release to allow them to contact witnesses and alleged victims in the case, after Price’s attorney requested it.


Boy breaks free from would-be kidnapper in Azusa

AZUSA >> An 11-year-old Azusa boy got away from a would-be kidnapper Monday night, police said.

Azusa police said the child wasn’t injured during the attempted kidnapping in the 300 block of North San Gabriel Avenue.

The boy had attended a family gathering at Northside Park and was riding his bicycle home shortly after 9 p.m.

As he rode southbound along the sidewalk, a van stopped in front of him, Sgt. Chris Grant said in a statement.

Grant said a man got out of the vehicle and approached the boy from behind while the driver remained in the van.

The man grabbed the boy and pulled him towards the van.

“The suspect told the child to get into the van, however, the child struggled with the suspect and was able to get away from him,” Grant said.

The culprit got back in the van. The vehicle drove southbound on San Gabriel Avenue from Third Street.

The suspect who grabbed the boy was described as a man with dark complexion, between 20 and 40, race unknown, has a shaved head with short side burns, a moustache and a goatee. He wore dark clothing.

There was no description for the other suspect. The suspect vehicle was described as a dark-colored older model van.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the Azusa Police Department Detective Bureau at 626-812-3200.

Names of SWAT deputies involved in fatal shooting released

Maryland MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty in Violent Racketeering Conspiracy

Office of Public Affairs


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Maryland MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty in
Violent Racketeering Conspiracy

A Maryland MS-13 gang member pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as the La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and acknowledged his involvement in attempted murder and extortion in furtherance of MS-13.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland, Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

(ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Chief Mark A. Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks, Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department, Chief Alan Goldberg of the Takoma Park Police Department, and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy made the announcement.

Roni Arriola-Palma, 24, of Greenbelt, Maryland, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 9, 2015.

According to the statement of facts filed with Arriola-Palma’s plea agreement, MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador.  Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland.  MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rival gangs.

The statement of facts states that from 2009 until at least 2012, Arriola-Palma was a member and leader of the Peajes Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13.

Arriola Palma and other MS-13 members in the Peajes clique and other MS-13 cliques committed crimes to further the interests of the gang, including murder, assault, robbery, extortion by threat of violence, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and witness retaliation.

Arriola-Palma admitted that from January 2010 through at least May 2011, he attended MS-13 leadership meetings in Maryland as the representative and leader of the Peajes clique.


According to the plea agreement, on Jan. 13, 2011, Arriola-Palma attended a Peajes clique meeting with other MS-13 members near the Greenbelt Metro Station.  Another MS-13 member spoke at the meeting, criticizing members of the clique for not committing enough violent crimes on behalf of MS-13 and encouraging clique members to find rival gang members and commit acts of violence against them.


Arriola-Palma admitted that after the meeting ended, he drove other MS-13 members in a minivan.

Near the Fort Totten Metro Station, they saw a person who they believed was an associate of a rival gang.

MS-13 members attacked the victim and dragged him back into the minivan, where they continued to assault him.

After later stopping and departing the minivan, Arriola-Palma and other MS-13 members forcefully stripped the victim of all clothing and stabbed him.  After the assault, two MS-13 members dragged the victim into the woods and one of the gang members strangled the victim with his belt.  When they returned from the woods, they informed the other members that the victim was dead.  Arriola-Palma then drove the group of MS-13 members away from the scene.  The victim, however, survived the attack.

From March to November 2011, members of the Peajes clique threatened to place a “greenlight,” or order to kill, on a former MS-13 associate unless he paid them a weekly or bi-weekly “rent” or “tax,” which gang members collected from the victim.  Arriola-Palma admitted that he accepted payments that he knew were proceeds from the extortion scheme from two other MS-13 members.

This case was investigated by HSI Baltimore, the Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Takoma Park Police Department and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office, HSI Baltimore’s Operation Community Shield Task Force and the Maryland Department of Corrections Intelligence Unit.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Kevin L. Rosenberg of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William D. Moomau of the District of Maryland.


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