Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In The News: 3 charged in shooting of San Bernardino Police Officer Gabriel Garcia

SAN BERNARDINO >> Attempted murder of a peace officer and firearms possession charges were filed Tuesday against three men in connection with Friday’s shooting of San Bernardino Police Officer Gabriel Garcia, who remains comatose and in critical condition.

District Attorney Michael A. Ramos announced the filing of charges against Jonathan Contreras, 20, Gonzalo Medina, 22, and Orlando Cruz, 24, all of San Bernardino, during a news conference at the San Bernardino Police Department. All three were arrested following the gun battle that occurred in the 1900 block of Garner Avenue shortly after 2 a.m. Friday.

Each of the three men is charged with two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer and one count of possession of an assault rifle. They are scheduled to be arraigned today in San Bernardino
Superior Court.

Garcia’s assailant, 38-year-old Alex Alvarado, was shot by Garcia’s unnamed rookie partner — whom Garcia was training —during the gun battle, and later died at the hospital, authorities said.

The three men charged Tuesday were with Alvarado and two women at the time of the shooting, police said.

“The District Attorney’s Office wants to make very clear, if you aid and abet or are involved in a conspiracy in the assault or shooting of a peace officer, we will hold you accountable, even if you don’t pull the trigger,” Ramos said.

He said an investigation continues into whether the suspects had gang ties. If so, the charges will be amended to include gang enhancements.

Police said Alvarado was a career criminal and longtime member of a Redlands street gang.

All three suspects face life in prison if convicted, Ramos said. Should Garcia die, Ramos said the charges against the three men could be changed to murder of a peace officer.

Garcia and his partner were on patrol Friday when they spotted a group of people hanging out in the 1900 block of Garner Avenue shortly after 2 a.m. They approached the group when Alvarado, reportedly brandishing a Taurus .38 Special 5-shot revolver and a Ratmil AK-47 assault rifle, began firing on the officers. Garcia was shot once in the head. His partner drew his gun and shot Alvarado during the gun battle, police said.

Both guns were on display during Tuesday’s news conference. The barrel of the assault rifle was sawed off and wrapped in a black bandanna. Two 30-round magazines for the AK-47 were also on display.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In the News: Lead prosecutor passionate about law

Lead prosecutor passionate about law
Terry Brown works in his office in the Joshua Tree courthouse. Brown oversees deputy district attorneys prosecuting cases in the Morongo Basin.

By Alexis Cubit Hi-Desert Star | Posted: Friday, August 15, 2014 7:00 pm
From the time he was a little boy watching his father as a peace officer, Terry Brown has been passionate about a career in law.
Brown’s first experience with the court environment came in high school, where he participated in a moot court-like program where students took part in simulated cases. Brown enjoyed it so much, he studied law at Southern California College, now Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, and went on to attend McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. While in law school, he clerked for a district attorney’s office and the department of corrections.
Trial advocacy allowed Brown to be a prosecutor in a mock criminal trial, using members of the community as the jury. The deeper Brown got into the field, the greater his desire to practice law became.
Some of his most memorable cases came from his five-year stint in Central San Bernardino, where he handled the homicide unit. In late 2011 when he prosecuted a cold case from 1989 where a woman was violently killed and left on the side of the road on Highway 38. With new technologies and DNA evidence, the defendant was brought to trial and convicted of first-degree murder.
Brown spent nearly 17 years with San Bernardino before being promoted to supervising district attorney for the Morongo Basin office in Joshua Tree last June.
Despite a heavy workload, Brown believes the cooperation of everyone in the office makes it easier.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

IN THE NEWS: Minister is on a mission to save girls from prostitution

Pastor Paula Daniels at the Well, a drop-in center where she counsels underage prostitutes in Lynwood. Daniels divides her time between L.A., Orange and San Bernardino counties. (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times)

Steve Lopez
Los Angeles Times

It was just after 3 p.m. in San Bernardino, 99 hellish degrees and counting, as two working girls walked along Baseline Street. They appeared to be somewhere between 16 and 19, about the same as the other females working the track in a city boxed in by freeways that deliver an endless convoy of johns.

"Can you imagine that they're put out here in this heat?" asked Pastor Paula Daniels.

Pastor Paula's mission is to rescue girls and young women from the clutches of human traffickers.

She and her posse from Forgotten Children, which runs Rachel's House of Healing in San Bernardino, take to the streets to let the prostitutes know there's a way out.

But breaking free isn't easy. The prostitutes are generally controlled by pimps, and the business is often a gang enterprise, Pastor Paula said. A San Bernardino vice officer I spoke to ran out of breath ticking off the long list of implements — from pliers to curling irons — prostitutes have been tortured with by pimps to keep them in line or to punish them for trying to run.

This is big money, said Pastor Paula, with social media making it easier for johns to find what they're looking for. And the gangs long ago discovered a basic principle regarding illicit trades.

"You can sell a dime bag of drugs only once, but you can sell a 14-year-old girl 10 or 15 times a night."

Prostitution and organized trafficking are as old as time, but lately public officials are looking at prostitutes — especially minors — as victims rather than perpetrators. Orange County officials have just announced a doubling of arrests for trafficking in the last two years, and Los Angeles County officials have rolled out social service strategies to steer girls out of the business.

San Bernardino County, meanwhile, has launched a strategy of all-out war on the trade.

"It's faith-based, it's county departments, it's mental health, education," said Dist. Atty. Mike Ramos. "We came up with … the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation … to help girls get through and transition out. When these girls were being let out of juvenile hall, guess who was picking them up. It was the human traffickers. The pimps. So we had to fix this."

The county offered diversion services to 77 under-age girls in 2013, and the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit has sent 17 predators to state prison, with 28 more cases pending trial, according to the district attorney's office.

Chris Lee, the D.A.'s public affairs officer, produced a documentary called "Teenage $ex 4 $ale." Nominated for a regional Emmy, it's used as a training film for officers and prosecutors. And Ramos has posted the photos of 30 convicted johns on the D.A. website, with 156 defendants awaiting trials that could land their mugs in the gallery as well.

But Ramos said a key piece of the strategy involves the spiritual rehabilitation of girls who are often on the run from abusive families when they're scooped up by traffickers who methodically groom them and ultimately enslave them.

"We can't do this without the Pastor Paulas of the world," Ramos says. "We need that help on the spiritual side, because it helps replace all of the horrendous, horrible situations some of the girls have been through."

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back to School

Did you know 82% of prisoners in America are
high school dropouts? Our youth need a good education and they can’t get
it if they’re not in school.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Congratulations to Deputy District Attorney Christine Masonek and everybody who worked on this case: Randy Ortis gets 99 years to life for shooting outside Redlands bar

By Kristina Hernandez, Redlands Daily Facts

The sentence was delivered in West Valley Superior Court by Judge Victor Stull after victim impact statements were read by the mother and sister of Kruze Levusi Kuaea, who was killed in the shooting.
Both women described Kuaea as a happy-go-lucky 22-year-old who was a role model to his siblings and a person that they could always count on.

“Kruze was the type of person who would walk out of a restaurant with food to go and give it to a homeless person,” said the Calimesa man’s mother, Maricia McClendon, as she wiped tears from her face. “I believe everything happens for a reason and God is in charge. And if Kruze dying means that someday you will find salvation and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, then his death was not in vain.”

McClendon looked at Ortis as she read her statement and said that the shooting not only changed her family, but his as well.

“I forgive your actions and hope you find salvation,” she said. “My heart goes out to your mom.”

The victim’s sister, Jasmine Kuaea, spoke briefly, echoing her mother’s remarks.

Prior to the sentencing, Stull said the proceedings were difficult for all involved and his decision did not come lightly.

“I agree with Kruze’s mother that nobody wins,” he said. “I want everyone to know that I take this very seriously from both sides of the table.”

Ortis, 25, was found guilty May 13 in San Bernardino Superior Court of the shooting that left Kuaea dead and two others wounded. Jurors took less than three hours to deliberate. Stull was the trial judge, and the case followed him to a Rancho Cucamonga courtroom.

Charges included first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault with a firearm.

City cameras pointed at the downtown bar’s front entrance captured the shooting and Ortis was arrested in San Bernardino on Nov. 26, days after Redlands police had released surveillance footage shot outside the tavern.

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