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Claremont police blotter 2012: A month-by-month highlight report

A string of mysterious BB gun vandalisms, house burglaries and car smash-and grabs are just a few of the incidents that have kept Claremont police busy this year. With criminals shooting water guns at cars and others falling asleep in the middle of city roadways, whoever said Claremont was quiet? Here’s a look at some of the more notable and zany crimes of 2012.

 

January

Ongoing investigations of drug sales at a residence in the 400 block of Cedar Crest Avenue ended with the arrest of 34-year-old Rudy Rodriguez of Claremont. On December 22, Claremont police followed Mr. Rodriguez as he left the residence with his 2-year-old daughter. They contacted him near the corner of Arrow Highway and Towne Avenue. Mr. Rodriguez started to fight the officers, but was eventually detained. Mr. Rodriguez was found in possession of more than 20 grams of methamphetamine hidden in a child’s sock. Mr. Rodriguez was arrested for possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell as well as child endangerment. A search of the residence revealed additional evidence of drug sales, according to Lieutenant Shelly Vander Veen.

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A Claremont pursuit ended in Pasadena on January 11 with 2 in custody. Claremont police were notified of a stolen vehicle out of Bell Gardens traveling northbound at Indian Hill at Harrison Avenue around 11 p.m. The driver failed to stop for officers. The car briefly came to a halt at Foothill Boulevard and Monte Vista Avenue and 2 back passengers exited the car, but the car continued onto the 210 freeway. During the pursuit the driver and passenger briefly traded seats and continued to drive. The pursuit came to an end at Lake Avenue after the car ran out of gas. Jorge Cerda, 27, of Los Angeles and Crystal Ramirez 29, of Pasadena admitted to swapping seats while driving and were both charged with driving a stolen vehicle and felony pursuit. The passengers were released without charges.

 

February

In February, Claremont police arrested 3 drunk drivers found passed out behind the wheel of their cars parked in the middle of Claremont roadways.

In one incident, the car was located in the middle of the northbound lanes of Padua Avenue near Base Line Road at around 3:50 a.m. on February 19. The driver was asleep at the wheel of his white Mustang, which was facing south on Padua, slowly rolling toward Base Line Road. Police used a patrol car to stop the rolling vehicle from moving into traffic. Brian Tennant, 21, of Glendora was arrested for driving under the influence.  

 

March

A Claremont police officer was transported to the hospital on March 3 after falling into a planter of cacti during a foot pursuit. Police located a stolen Honda Civic driving south on Towne Avenue near Foothill Boulevard at 12:30 a.m. When officers attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver pulled over and both he and the passenger took off running.

The officer pursued the driver for about 300 yards before arriving at a residence in the 2900 block of Huston Street in Pomona. The police officer tackled the driver in the front yard of the home and both fell into a planter filled with cacti. The suspect got up and began climbing the fence of the residence. The officer detained the man after he accidentally fell of the fence. By the time other officers arrived, it was clear that both the officer and the detained had suffered multiple puncture wounds caused by embedded cactus needles. Paramedics were able to treat the driver, but the officer was transported to a nearby hospital because paramedics were unable to remove all of the thorns. Andres Vargas, 24, of San Gabriel, was arrested for vehicle theft, as well as delaying and resisting a police officer. The passenger was never located.

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A mystery involving a case of beer and a fish tank left Claremont police at a loss. Police responded to reports of loud bangs and a man screaming heard in the 200 block of Green Street around 2:50 p.m. on March 5. When police arrived they saw a man carrying a box and walking toward College Park. When the man saw the police he dropped the box and started running. Inside the box police found a case of beer and a 2-gallon fish tank. An extensive search of the area did not reveal any burglaries or any other strange occurrences. The man was never located.

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On March 17, Edward Dominguez, 37, of Chino Hills, entered a room at the Claremont Lodge for a shower and left in handcuffs. Police were notified that Mr. Dominguez had entered the room through a window around 9 a.m. without paying. He claims he only wanted to shower and get some sleep, something he has been frequenting the Lodge for, according to Lt. Vander Veen. Employees had had enough. Mr. Dominguez was arrested for trespassing.

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An intruder, who unlawfully gained access to a home in the 300 block of College Avenue on March 22, left behind an unexpected gift for the homeowners. The homeowner, who reported nothing stolen, contacted police after finding a bag of methamphetamine and a bottle of Visine eye drops on a kitchen counter left behind by the intruder. Claremont police confiscated the items and a report was filed.

April

Robert Anderson, 31, of Twentynine Palms, was arrested on April 6 after repeatedly walking in circles with a blanket over his head in front of a salon in the 200 block of West First Street. He was located near the railroad tracks on Indian Hill Boulevard and found to have 6 outstanding warrants for drug violations and failing to pay for public transportation.

 

April

Robert Anderson, 31, of Twentynine Palms, was arrested on April 6 after repeatedly walking in circles with a blanket over his head in front of a salon in the 200 block of West First Street. He was located near the railroad tracks on Indian Hill Boulevard and found to have 6 outstanding warrants for drug violations and failing to pay for public transportation.

 

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A late night snack was spoiled for 2 San Bernardino crooks the morning of April 20. A witness watched as Matthew Olson, 22, and Kory Jordan, 25, stole soda, ice tea and snacks from the back of a pickup truck parked at a residence in the 100 block of Blue Mountain Way. Police found the men driving near Base Line Road and Town Avenue. They were arrested for possession of stolen property.

 

May

A 20-year-old female was arrested after crashing into a police car at Towne Avenue and Foothill Boulevard on May 12. The Claremont police officer was driving south on Towne transporting an arrestee when a woman driving north made a left turn in front of the officer causing the vehicles to collide. Both the officer and his passenger suffered injuries and were transported to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center for medical attention. Both were later released. The 20 year old was arrested for driving under the influence.

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Homeowners in the 400 block of Julliard Drive awoke around 7:50 a.m. on May 12 to find their front yard planted in signs and other stolen memorabilia. Items included a variety of signs from local realtors, an American flag, an artificial purple-and-green wreath, a metal post with yard flag and “Claremonters United” sign. A majority of the items were been returned to their rightful owners.

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Despite repeated attempts to get away, a Hesperia man failed to escape a police pursuit that began in Claremont May 20. Police located a stolen vehicle out of San Bernardino near the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Towne Avenue. The officer attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle but James Chilcote, 25, fled and led police on a lengthy pursuit heading east on the 210 freeway. Because of Mr. Chilcote’s erratic driving, Claremont police terminated the pursuit soon after. Five minutes later, however, Upland police notified that Mr. Chilcote had exited on Mountain Avenue, crashed on Foothill Boulevard, and taken off on foot. Claremont police returned to the case, helping the Upland officers in setting up a perimeter near the crash site. A police helicopter was called to the scene to help find Mr. Chilcote.

As the police continued searching, the driver approached a nearby residence, where the homeowner was collecting his newspaper, according to Lieutenant Karlan Bennett. Mr. Chilcote, who later admitted he had defecated in his pants because of “the drugs and pursuit” asked the homeowner to use the restroom and get a drink of water. The homeowner obliged. Mr. Chilcote then asked if the man would give him a ride. Again, the homeowner agreed. Police located their suspect in the car, conducted a traffic stop and made the arrest. Mr. Chilcote was arrested for felony evading, grand theft and possession of a stolen vehicle.

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A man arrested for indecent exposure on May 25 claimed he was indulging himself on his way home from work after being caught masturbating in a Claremont public park. However, that was only part of the unusual police report taken around 3:45 p.m. in the 100 block of Sweetbriar Drive. Jason Bray, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga was found sitting completely naked, wearing only a pair of pink high heels. Mr. Bray said he was on his way home from work in Pasadena when he decided to stop at the park. He has no other connection to Claremont.

 

June

Claremont police requested residents’ help in early June to find a man connected with blowing up mailboxes in the northeast portion of the city. Three mailboxes were destroyed by handmade explosive devices, according to a recent police report. The targeted houses were in the 800 block of Alamosa Drive, the 100 block of Limestone Road and the 3700 block of Vincennes Court. The man police believed was connected to the crimes was described as an 18-to 20-year-old white male about 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds with red or blonde hair. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue shorts, believed to be driving a black Honda Civic.

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Claremont police arrested George Warthan, 49, of Pomona on June 5 in suspicion of shooting a Claremont man in the 100 block of Brown Drive. Mr. Warthan was arrested but, at the time, police believed he was not the only one involved in the shooting, which took place around 12:30 a.m. The attack sent a Claremont man to a nearby hospital with multiple gunshot wounds to the face, neck, chest and left shoulder. Despite the injuries, the man survived, according to Detective David DeMetz.

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A routine room-check by a housekeeper at the Claremont Lodge turned into what could have been a fatal attack around 5 p.m. on June 16. The housekeeper found Charlie Clark, 47, of Moreno Valley, washing his hands in what was supposed to have been an unoccupied room at the Lodge. Mr. Clark looked at the housekeeper, putting his finger to his lips to gesture her to be quiet, according to Det. DeMetz. However, the housekeeper left to tell her manager about Mr. Clark’s break-in. Later, Mr. Clark allegedly approached that same housekeeper, took 2 knives found on her cart and came at her, moving his hands in a downward motion to attack. The housekeeper ran to her manager’s office to call the police. Police were able to locate and positively identify Mr. Clark as the attacker. He was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon as well as for being under the influence of a controlled substance. Mr. Clark had been staying at another room of the Claremont Lodge with Rosemary Johnson, 57, of Perris, who was also arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance.

 

July

Mira Loma resident Raul Zarate, 32, beat the early afternoon heat on July 19 by shooting cars with a water guns at the intersection of Auto Center Drive and Indian Hill Boulevard, according to a police report provided by Det. DeMetz. Unfortunately for Mr. Zarate, his choice of afternoon “cool down” drew cops attention to the fact that he was also a parolee at large. Mr. Zarate’s water gun was traded in for handcuffs.

 

August

Police were called to the Claremont Lodge on August 3 to solve an unusual civil dispute. A man claims he arrived to the Lodge to receive a back massage from Alesia Starks, 23, of Los Angeles, he had paid through an advertisement found online. When he arrived, Ms. Starks allegedly took off her clothes and approached the man with a condom in her hand. He immediately demanded his money back, but Ms. Starks refused. Police were called to resolve the matter. Though the man did not wish to press charges, Ms. Starks was found in possession of a glass meth pipe and was arrested.

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Police investigated a tennis game gone bad on August 7. Four members of The Claremont Club teamed up at The Club’s tennis courts to play a friendly game of doubles Tuesday night. The friendly atmosphere changed when one made a comment about his partner’s serve that didn’t go over well. The offended tennis player dropped his racket and began to choke the man, according to Lt. Vander Veen, not stopping until pulled away. While police were looking into battery charges as a result of the incident, it is unknown if charges were pressed.

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A fire was set in the middle of the Sumner School parking lot August 9 around 4:20 a.m. Two American flags and a patio umbrella were used to create the impromptu bonfire found by Claremont police. The items were stolen from nearby residences. The fire wasn’t the only thing out of place in the area. A large clay flowerpot was found smashed in the middle of the 3000 block of Mural Drive. Another was found smashed in the 1400 block of Turning Bend Drive. 

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Derrick Chiaratti, 26, of Rancho Cucamonga was found sound asleep behind the wheel of his Toyota Corolla around 5:15 a.m. on August 4. His slumber was taking place in the middle of the right-hand lane off the intersection of Foothill and Indian Hill Boulevard with his car in drive and his foot on the brake. Even stranger, he was found asleep with a knife in his hand. Police positioned cars behind and in front of Mr. Chiaratti’s car before banging on his car window and yelling for him to wake up. He continued sleeping. They opened his unlocked door, put his car in park and removed the knife from his hand, but Mr. Chiaratti continued to snooze. It wasn’t until police shook him awake that he finally came to and attempted to drive again like nothing had happened, according to Lt. Vander Veen. Mr. Chiaratti was arrested for driving under the influence.

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A resident in the 700 block of Santa Barbara reported a bicycle stolen out of the garage of the residence between August 21 and 26. Two days later the bike showed up again, being ridden in the front of the residence by a 16-year-old next-door neighbor. The boy gave the bike back, but when the bike’s rightful owner then called the police, the boy fled. Police found him and arrested him for possession of stolen property. He was later released to his parents. The boy claims he had bought the bike from an unknown salesman for $15.

 

September

A pair of women staying at Hotel Claremont learned the hard way not to trust a stranger with valued belongings. The women, who claim they were on their way to work at a local strip club, allowed a man who they had just met to stay in their hotel room on September 4 while he was waiting for a bus to take him to Bakersfield. When they returned he was nowhere to be found. Neither was their 2005 dark blue Honda.

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Road rage was taken to an unexpected new level on 2 separate occasions in early September. Both cases involved an angry driver with a gun. On September 5, following an episode of road rage near Indian Hill and Radcliffe, a driver claims he was followed to the Vons Shopping Center. He alleges he got out of the car to confront his pursuer, but was stopped short when the man pulled out a gun and asked if he had a problem. The driver backed away and apologized. The pursuer then drove off. The man with the gun is described as a white male, unshaven, wearing a white tank top. Officers were unable to locate him.

Claremont police were notified of a similar road rage pursuit near Doane and Mountain Avenues in Pomona on September 7. The driver called the police claiming the man pursuing him was brandishing a handgun. Police caught up with the vehicle after the pursuit ended in a non-injury crash. A handgun was found in the driver’s side pocket of one of the vehicles. Pomona police handled the arrest.

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Two men—one wearing a skeleton mask, the other wearing skinny jeans and what appears to be a turban—are believed to be linked with an act of vandalism to an American flag that took place at the Alexander Hughes Community Center the evening of the 11th anniversary of 9/11. A maintenance worker at the center, located at 1700 Danbury Rd., placed the flag at half-staff the morning of September 11 in remembrance of the tragedy. Video surveillance reveals the 2 men tampering with the flag around 9:30 p.m. that evening. The maintenance worker returned around 11:30 the next day to find the flag with fire damage, according to Detective Rick Varney. 

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Nearly 100 plants were reported missing from a front yard of a residence located within a gated community in the 100 block of Castleton Drive on September 25. The green swindle took place sometime between 7:30 a.m. and 11 p.m.

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A Claremont man seen lying in the middle of the center divider at Claremont Boulevard and Ninth Street caught the attention of passersby late September 29. When police arrived to the scene, they found Everett Merrill, 22, kneeling in the gutter on the east side of the median with one shoe one and one shoe off, according to Lt. Vander Veen. Mr. Merrill was seen stumbling into the north lane and attempting to get into the back of a car that was stopped at the light. The driver told police that they had no idea who Mr. Merrill was. Mr. Merrill admitted to police that he had consumed a lot of whiskey and was arrested for public intoxication. He was held until sober and then released.

 

October

A trail of blood led Claremont police to their suspect October 2. Officers were contacted about a man allegedly yelling and harassing customers at King Kong Sushi, 300 N. Indian Hill Blvd. The man left the restaurant before police could contact him but he didn’t stay hidden for long as he had left behind a trail of blood droplets for police to follow. Austin Garza, 24, of West Covina was located near the rear of the business with a bandaged pinky and blood on his hands and shoes. He refused medical treatment and was unsure how he had received the injury. It was determined that Mr. Garza was under the influence of alcohol. He was held for public intoxication and later released.

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Melted chocolate and toilet paper were only a couple of items found strewn about Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum in a reported act of vandalism on October 8. An Athenaeum employee had arrived at work to find all the lights suspiciously already on. The employee entered to find chocolate on the tiled floor, toilet paper thrown around and feces in the toilets. Beer cans and several broken tiles were found on the roof. No suspects were found at the time.

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A Claremont Unified School District employee found himself in the right place at the right time on October 10, helping to take down 2 suspects wanted for a theft at El Roble earlier that day. Between 10:30 p.m. the previous day and 5:45 a.m. that morning, 4 aluminum tables and seats worth an estimated $5000 were stolen from the intermediate school’s lunch area. Later that day, while at a recycling center in Montclair, the CUSD employee noticed a large truck with the aluminum benches in the back. He provided the truck’s description and license plate to the police, who were able to obtain the names of the suspect from a receipt provided by the recycling center attendant. Police arrested Sydney Hill, 44, of Claremont, and Jason Buffamonti, 39, of Pomona, in connection with the burglary.

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Claremont burglars turned their attention from homes to cars, in a bout of “smash-and-grab” burglaries sweeping the city. More than 15 car burglaries were reported between Friday, October 18 and Tuesday, October 23. In all cases a burglar smashed a car window to reach inside and steal property found within. Streets where burglaries took place include Amherst, Chattanooga, Hobart Drive, Lancaster Court, Lynoak, Mansfield, Pomello, San Jose, Sebastopol and Stanislaus Circle. Thousands of dollars in stolen loot included cash, laptops, wallets, tools, a digital projector, a printer and a fanny pack.

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A strange package sent to Prudential Wheeler/Steffen Real Estate, 500 W. Foothill Blvd., contained an equally strange surprise. Not recognizing the name printed on the package, the business held onto the parcel for a couple months in hopes that someone would come and claim it. When nobody ever did, the package was opened on October 17. It contained a vacuum-sealed bag of marijuana and a package of jelly fruit snacks. The contents were turned over to the police.

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Emergency aircrews were called out to Claremont on 4 separate occasions over a 2 day period in late October for car accidents. Each accident involved a biker or pedestrian.

 

November

A vandal left a smelly surprise for the owner of a vehicle parked in the 2000 block of Cape Cod Court November 4. Besides a cracked passenger-side rear view mirror, the car was strewn with a dozen smashed eggs and covered in sardines. The damage was worth an estimated $500.

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A 63-year-old Pomona man might have been a little too forthcoming with police on November 7. Employees of Citibank, 405 W. Foothill Blvd., contacted police regarding Joe Barron after he came into the business and began cursing loudly. Police spotted him sitting at a bench in front of a business nearby. Mr. Barron immediately called out to the officers and ran toward them. Police noticed he was swaying and having difficulty running. Mr. Barron admitted that he was the one the bankers had called about. He then proceeded to pull out a tennis ball-sized rock and explain to the officers that he was going to throw the rock through the window of the bank. Mr. Barron was arrested for public intoxication.

 

December

On December 19, Lee Wright, 19, of Chino, punched a man in the face then stole an iPhone and a $500 dollar watch before fleeing. Unfortunately for Mr. Wright, it was all caught on camera. The incident took place in front of the Stater Bros market, 1055 W. Foothill Blvd., and the store’s surveillance camera, mounted directly in front of the car, recorded the crime. Mr. Wright approached the man, who was standing by his car in front of the market. As the victim fled, Mr. Wright entered the man’s car and stole the items. Using the surveillance video and information from the victim, who admitted to having previous contacts with Mr. Wright, police arrived at Mr. Wright’s residence on Wednesday, December 12, and arrested him for robbery.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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