Suspect arrested after driver threatened with rifle and carjacked in Tustin

A driver who had been threatened by an armed man was found by police lying on the ground late Tuesday evening, Aug. 17, on Red Hill Avenue in Tustin, police said.

The woman told officers she had been carjacked by a man holding a rifle who ordered her out of the vehicle and fled in her vehicle, officials said.

Officers located the suspect in Santa Ana where he was taken into custody without incident. The victim sustained minor injuries and her vehicle was located in the driveway of a residential area of Red Hill Avenue and Bryan Avenue in Tustin, Tustin Police said in a Wednesday statement.

Police identified the suspect as Nathan Mejia, a 21-year-old resident of Tustin who was out on bail on a prior charge of possessing a loaded firearm. Mejia was arrest and booked on suspicion of carjacking, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, officials said.

The rifle allegedly used by Mejia was recovered by police, who described it as a “ghost gun.”

Ghost guns are firearms manufactured without serial numbers, and require no background checks for purchase, making them undetected firearms to law enforcement authorities, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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Man gets 5 years in prison for shooting at occupants of a vehicle on the 91 Freeway in Riverside

RIVERSIDE — A 32-year-old man with a previous felony conviction pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of shooting at occupants of a vehicle on the Riverside (91) Freeway and was immediately sentenced to five years in state prison.

Lorenzo Antonio Parra of Corona admitted one count each of shooting at an occupied vehicle, felony driving under the influence and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office dropped three related charges in exchange for Parra’s admissions under the plea agreement.

Superior Court Judge O.G. Magno accepted the plea during a status hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, imposing the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense.

According to the California Highway Patrol, a man driving a Chevrolet Silverado going west on the Riverside Freeway, near Adams Street in Riverside, came under fire about 10:40 p.m. on May 22.

CHP Officer Juan Quintero said the victim, whose name was not disclosed, exited the freeway on McKinley Avenue in Corona and called 911, describing the vehicle from which the shots originated as a burgundy Honda Accord, occupied by two people.

“The victim related that he observed the muzzle flash and heard the gunshots but did not know where the bullets struck his vehicle and was not able to obtain a license plate” number, Quintero said.

Neither the driver or his passenger was injured.

Quintero said patrol units canvassed the freeway and surrounding streets, locating Parra’s sedan on the westbound Riverside Freeway at Maple Street in Corona nearly two hours later.

Because Parra’s car matched the description given by the victim, it was stopped as it exited the freeway onto Green River Road, according to Quintero.

After officers confirmed that Parra was driving on a suspended license, he was detained, along with his companion.

“A thorough search of the suspect vehicle resulted in locating a loaded Ruger 9mm handgun, loose ammunition and one used shell casing,” Quintero said.

Parra was taken into custody without a struggle, and his passenger was released after questioning.

Investigators determined the shooting was not connected to the rash of vandalism attacks targeting vehicles traveling the Riverside Freeway between Anaheim and Riverside from mid-April to late May, resulting in windows being blown out by projectiles, identified as BBs and pellets.

Another convicted felon, 34-year-old Jesse Leal Rodriguez of Anaheim, was arrested and charged in connection with at least one of the attacks, though authorities believe he’s responsible for more.

According to court records, Parra has prior convictions for driving under the influence, felony evading and driving on a suspended license.

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After San Jose mass shooting, new gun tax falls short in California Assembly

By ADAM BEAM | The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO  — The California Assembly on Thursday failed to pass a bill that would have raised taxes on handguns and ammunition.

The bill by Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Democrat from San Rafael, would have imposed a 10% tax on the sales price of handguns and an 11% tax on the sales price of rifles, precursor parts and ammunition.

The tax would have applied to retailers, not consumers. But a legislative analysis of the bill said retailers could have passed that cost along to buyers. The Assembly Appropriations Committee estimated it would have generated $118 million per year, with the money going toward gun violence prevention programs and research.

A majority of the Assembly’s 80 members voted for the bill. But because the bill would create a new tax, it required a two-thirds vote. The bill fell five votes short of the 54 required for passage. Democrats control 59 votes. But several Democrats come from more moderate districts, making a tax increase on guns a tough vote for them.

Despite the bill’s failure on Thursday, Levine said he believes it’s possible to revive the legislation later this year.

“California is in the midst of a gun violence epidemic that will only end when our leaders have the courage to do what is right and necessary to end it,” Levine said.

The vote comes one week after nine people were killed in a mass shooting at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority rail yard in San Jose, California. Assemblyman Alex Lee, a Democrat from San Jose, read the names of each victim on the Assembly floor as he urged his colleagues to support the bill.

“We continue to see the breaking news headlines of yet another mass shooting in our nation on a nearly weekly basis. And frankly, I’m sick of it,” he said.

In a letter to lawmakers, the pro-gun group Gun Owners of California wrote that the bill wasn’t fair because it sought to “penalize the lawful for the misdeeds of the unlawful.’

Levine, the author of the bill, said his goal was in part a response to the increase in gun sales and gun violence since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

California already imposes a fee of $37.19 on gun sales, which includes a fee for background checks.

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Man pleads guilty in series of Southern California Trader Joe’s robberies

LOS ANGELES — A Huntington Park man pleaded guilty Wednesday to carrying out more than a dozen robberies of Trader Joe’s stores throughout Southern California during a four-month crime spree last year.

Gregory Johnson, 43, admitted federal counts of interference of commerce by robbery and using a firearm in a crime of violence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Johnson faces between seven years and life in federal prison, with sentencing set for Aug. 2.

The defendant admitted that from last Aug. 28 to Dec. 4, he robbed Trader Joe’s stores in Eagle Rock, Sherman Oaks, Chatsworth, Pasadena, Culver City, Rancho Palos Verdes, Agoura Hills, Brea, Santa Ana, Tustin and Chino Hills, and attempted to rob locations in Simi Valley and Corona.

During many of the robberies, Johnson brandished a handgun. On two occasions, he robbed stores in Rancho Palos Verdes and Brea, and returned weeks later to rob them again.

Johnson and his son, Gregory E. Johnson, were arrested following the Chino Hills robbery on Dec. 4, after a witness gave authorities a description of their getaway vehicle and license plate.

The younger Johnson, 20 at the time he was charged in December, pleaded guilty to participating in the Chino Hills and Chatsworth robberies. He faces up to 40 years in prison when he’s sentenced July 12 in downtown Los Angeles.

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Riverside man admits guilt in fatal Santa Ana shooting, trying to kill a deputy while in custody; gets 25-year sentence

SANTA ANA  — A 37-year-old Riverside man who took part in a fatal vehicle-to-vehicle shooting in Santa Ana and tried to kill a sheriff’s deputy while in custody pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, according to court records obtained Monday.

Emmanuel Vega pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter, shooting at a car and attempted murder, all felonies, and admitted a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm in the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of 36-year-old Juan Manuel Diaz in the 1600 block of East Edinger Avenue.

Vega also pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the Jan. 12, 2019, attack on a sheriff’s deputy, according to court records. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for that case, which will run concurrent to the manslaughter case.

Vega was given credit for 3,114 days in custody.

Vega was arrested in December 2013 in connection with the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of Diaz.

Co-defendant Steve Moreno, 31, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in January 2014 and has been awaiting sentencing. Court records in his case are sealed.

Vega opened fire from a Toyota 4Runner owned by this father into a blue van with Diaz behind the wheel, according to police testimony from his March 2015 preliminary hearing.

Roberto Diaz, who was a passenger in the van, was also wounded but survived.

Moreno told police he was a passenger in the SUV. According to the preliminary hearing testimony, Vega picked him up and they drove to a park in Irvine looking for members of a local gang.

They didn’t see anyone from the particular gang they were looking for so they played some basketball before Vega went over to a handball court to resume the search, according to testimony. They were about to leave when they saw Juan and Roberto Diaz and decided to follow them, according to the police testimony.

Vega produced a gun during the ride, but Moreno declined to use it, so Vega opened fire on the victims, who were cousins of Moreno’s wife, police said. It wasn’t clear what motivated the shooting.

Vega had been charged with murder with special circumstance allegations of shooting from a vehicle and murder by means of lying in wait. He was also facing charges of possession of a gun by a felon and attempted murder, with sentencing enhancement allegations for discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury or death and attempted premeditated murder.

In the attack on the deputy on Jan. 12, 2019, Vega used a metal shank, prosecutors said. He was also accused of attacking another deputy and a sergeant, according to court records.

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Suspect leads police on 6-hour chase in L.A., San Gabriel Valley, Inland areas

LOS ANGELES — A driver Tuesday night led police on a hours-long chase the turned into a crawl at times from South Los Angeles to San Pedro, downtown Los Angeles, the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and the Inland Empire.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Division gang unit began chasing the driver, who was accused of having a gun, about 7 p.m., said Officer William Cooper of LAPD.

Finally, after more than six hours, the bizarre slow-speed pursuit comes to an end in Ontario, with the driver getting out of the vehicle. https://t.co/5gWWWF722h pic.twitter.com/Uh4bxDR1p1

— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) February 3, 2021

Multiple patrol vehicles chased a silver car as the driver ran red lights, drove on the wrong side of traffic and cut through parking lots to make turns.

About 7:45 p.m., the driver entered onto the southbound Harbor (110) Freeway from westbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, and traveled to where the freeway ends in San Pedro before making a U-turn and heading back north.

NBC4 reported the driver was acting erratically inside the car, and at times appeared to be talking on a cellphone while inching along the northbound Harbor Freeway at speeds under 10 mph.

At one point, the pursuit passed a rubbish fire that was burning near the freeway at West 81st Street and South Grand Avenue in South Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Multiple police cruisers were blocking traffic from passing the pursuit as they followed the driver, who would slow to a near-stop, then accelerate again.

Just after 9 p.m., the driver exited the Harbor Freeway and entered onto the northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway near downtown, where the chase continued.

The driver traveled north toward the San Fernando Valley before exiting the freeway, making a U-turn and getting back on the northbound Hollywood Freeway.

Officers continued their pursuit of the driver, who turned southbound on the Hollywood Freeway, then transitioned to the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway in East Los Angeles and began traveling slowly, dropping to speeds below 10 mph for long stretches.

Multiple broadcast reports said the driver hit a spike strip at some point in the chase, blowing out the two front tires of the silver Chevrolet Malibu.

Around 11 p.m., the driver slowed to a stop several times, allowing officers to briefly get out of their cruisers before the suspect continued to move along at a slow pace.

Residents came out of their homes to take up positions on overpasses in the Baldwin Park area to watch the pursuit pass by.

At one point, someone stopped on the side of the freeway produced a sign that read, “Fools gone wild,” ABC7 reported.

Around 1:12 a.m. Wednesday, helicopter footage from NBC Los Angeles showed that something from the suspect’s damaged vehicle broke off; apparently the driver’s side rim, and there was a shower of sparks from the undercarriage. By this time the chase had reached Ontario on the eastbound 10 Freeway.

Soon after, the suspect surrendered near the Vineyard Avenue off-ramp of the 10 in Ontario, the NBC LA livestream showed.

#Breaking #Pursuit suspect in custody in #Ontario #NBCLA pic.twitter.com/ONFOVGe4Cj

— AlexVnews (@alexvnews) February 3, 2021

The Daily News contributed to this story.

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Suspect leads police on hours-long chase in L.A., San Gabriel Valley, Inland areas

LOS ANGELES — A driver Tuesday night led police on a hours-long chase the turned into a crawl at times from South Los Angeles to San Pedro, downtown Los Angeles, the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and the Inland Empire.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Division gang unit began chasing the driver, who was accused of having a gun, about 7 p.m., said Officer William Cooper of LAPD.

#LIVE: Chase now in its fourth hour as suspect continues to flee police on 10 Freeway https://t.co/Vvzpepy556

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) February 3, 2021

Multiple patrol vehicles chased a silver car as the driver ran red lights, drove on the wrong side of traffic and cut through parking lots to make turns.

About 7:45 p.m., the driver entered onto the southbound Harbor (110) Freeway from westbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, and traveled to where the freeway ends in San Pedro before making a U-turn and heading back north.

NBC4 reported the driver was acting erratically inside the car, and at times appeared to be talking on a cellphone while inching along the northbound Harbor Freeway at speeds under 10 mph.

At one point, the pursuit passed a rubbish fire that was burning near the freeway at West 81st Street and South Grand Avenue in South Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Multiple police cruisers were blocking traffic from passing the pursuit as they followed the driver, who would slow to a near-stop, then accelerate again.

Just after 9 p.m., the driver exited the Harbor Freeway and entered onto the northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway near downtown, where the chase continued.

The driver traveled north toward the San Fernando Valley before exiting the freeway, making a U-turn and getting back on the northbound Hollywood Freeway.

Officers continued their pursuit of the driver, who turned southbound on the Hollywood Freeway, then transitioned to the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway in East Los Angeles and began traveling slowly, dropping to speeds below 10 mph for long stretches.

Multiple broadcast reports said the driver hit a spike strip at some point in the chase, blowing out the two front tires of the silver Chevrolet Malibu.

Around 11 p.m., the driver slowed to a stop several times, allowing officers to briefly get out of their cruisers before the suspect continued to move along at a slow pace.

Residents came out of their homes to take up positions on overpasses in the Baldwin Park area to watch the pursuit pass by.

At one point, someone stopped on the side of the freeway produced a sign that read, “Fools gone wild,” ABC7 reported.

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Suspect leads police on hours-long chase in L.A., San Gabriel Valley areas

LOS ANGELES — A driver Tuesday night led police on a hours-long chase the turned into a crawl at times from South Los Angeles to San Pedro, downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Division gang unit began chasing the driver, who was accused of having a gun, about 7 p.m., said Officer William Cooper of LAPD.

#LIVE: Chase now in its fourth hour as suspect continues to flee police on 10 Freeway https://t.co/Vvzpepy556

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) February 3, 2021

Multiple patrol vehicles chased a silver car as the driver ran red lights, drove on the wrong side of traffic and cut through parking lots to make turns.

About 7:45 p.m., the driver entered onto the southbound Harbor (110) Freeway from westbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, and traveled to where the freeway ends in San Pedro before making a U-turn and heading back north.

NBC4 reported the driver was acting erratically inside the car, and at times appeared to be talking on a cellphone while inching along the northbound Harbor Freeway at speeds under 10 mph.

At one point, the pursuit passed a rubbish fire that was burning near the freeway at West 81st Street and South Grand Avenue in South Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Multiple police cruisers were blocking traffic from passing the pursuit as they followed the driver, who would slow to a near-stop, then accelerate again.

Just after 9 p.m., the driver exited the Harbor Freeway and entered onto the northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway near downtown, where the chase continued.

The driver traveled north toward the San Fernando Valley before exiting the freeway, making a U-turn and getting back on the northbound Hollywood Freeway.

Officers continued their pursuit of the driver, who turned southbound on the Hollywood Freeway, then transitioned to the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway in East Los Angeles and began traveling slowly, dropping to speeds below 10 mph for long stretches.

Multiple broadcast reports said the driver hit a spike strip at some point in the chase, blowing out the two front tires of the silver Chevrolet Malibu.

Around 11 p.m., the driver slowed to a stop several times, allowing officers to briefly get out of their cruisers before the suspect continued to move along at a slow pace.

Residents came out of their homes to take up positions on overpasses in the Baldwin Park area to watch the pursuit pass by.

At one point, someone stopped on the side of the freeway produced a sign that read, “Fools gone wild,” ABC7 reported.

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Homeland Security brings armored vehicle to Santa Ana in a firearms case, congressman alarmed

Department of Homeland Security agents came to Santa Ana on Wednesday with an armored vehicle to serve a search warrant, and were not conducting activities related to immigration enforcement, officials said.

Congressman Lou Correa, a Santa Ana Democrat, said on social media “this incident is very concerning and alarming to me.” Correa added, “My office and I are investigating this incident.”

Earlier today, DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations unit conducted an operation in our community. My office and I are investigating this incident. pic.twitter.com/sDxSGGXP6I

— Rep. Lou Correa (@RepLouCorrea) June 25, 2020

The incident took place at the 1300 block of Center Dr., Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. It was conducted by a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) response team, which is a branch of the DHS but is not affiliated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said. They came to Santa Ana serve a warrant regarding a firearms-related investigation.

“HSI is the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and is a vital U.S. asset in combating criminal organizations illegally exploiting America’s travel, trade, financial and immigration systems,” Haley said in an email. “As with other law enforcement agencies whose mission is to protect public safety, specially trained SRT (Special Response Team) agents may be deployed in high-risk situations or under hazardous conditions.”

The agency investigates a broad range of crimes including weapons and gun smuggling, human trafficking, transnational gang activity, international theft. HSI also works on immigration fraud, but that was not the focus of its operation in Santa Ana on Wednesday, Haley said.

She declined specify what agents had been searching for, if anything had been seized or if anyone had been detained, citing an ongoing investigation.

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Man shot in Santa Ana drives himself to hospital

A man drove himself to a hospital after he was shot in Santa Ana on the evening of Tuesday, April 28.

Medical staff notified police that the victim had arrived with a gunshot wound to his upper chest at about 8:10 p.m., Santa Ana Police Commander Andrew Alvarez said. He was treated and was expected to survive.

The patient said he was injured near a store at McFadden Avenue and Fairview Street, Alvarez said.

However, the wounded man was otherwise uncooperative, and provided no further information to police. It was unclear who might have shot him and why as of Tuesday evening.

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