Author: Kim Tobin

24-Year-Old Man Killed in Shooting in LA Starbucks Drive-Thru

The street reopened Tuesday at Figueroa and 28th streets after a deadly shooting at a Starbucks in the early morning hours.

Surveillance video shows a white Jeep Cherokee driving toward a blue sedan in the drive-thru, jumping the curb.

You can’t see the deadly shooting take place — as a white van blocks the view.

The driver of the Jeep takes off as police are rounding the corner with lights flashing.

The man behind the wheel, 24-year-old Alexis Carbajal, was killed.

Family members told NBCLA he was recently married and was with his wife and a friend when they were attacked.

“It’s really hard, hard for me as his friend, hard for his family,” said Brian Gonzaelez who he grew up with Carbajal.

He says he was a hard worker, loved his family and never had any bad introns against anyone.

“Really hard to believe because people like that don’t have to go through that, his family, him. He was barely going through life. Just like me.”

Family members — overcome with emotion — came to Starbucks Tuesday morning — to comfort each other through the pain.

Family friend Maria Martinez says Carbajal was an angel, always with his mother and a good boy.

Their family now grieving the loss of such a young life, taken in a rampage, as they struggle to understand why this happened.

Man With Body Armor Killed by LAPD in Hollywood Identified

The man that was shot and killed by the Los Angeles Police Department in Hollywood Saturday has been identified, and may have had previous run-ins with law enforcement before coming to the Los Angeles area.

The coroner’s office has identified the man killed on Sunset and Fairfax as 34-year-old Richard Solitro.

Police were investigating at a nearby hotel Sunday morning, where guests say the suspect’s car was spotted.

LAPD says their officers were confronted on Sunset Blvd. Saturday, when a driver cut them off, hit reverse and backed into their patrol car.

They say the man got out, confronting the officers while wearing a bulletproof vest and had his hand behind his back.

LAPD says they ordered the man to show his hands several times, before he started counting down, and they opened fire.

Solitro was pronounced dead at the scene, but police say he did not have a weapon.

His black sedan had words written on it, including “King Satan 666,” references to government deception, new world order and the Bible.

The car stood out so much that a guest at the Quality Inn Hotel on La Brea Avenue reached out to NBC4 letting us know the car had been parked there and Solitro had been a long term guest.

The front desk could only confirm to us that detectives were there this morning, but they could not comment further.

We reached out to family members of Solito’s in Rhode Island and talked to his mother, who asked for privacy at this time.

A man with the same name was shot by North Providence police in Rhode Island in 2018, after they say an officer doing a mental health check at the home was confronted by a man with a replica gun.

We contacted police in Rhode Island who tell us they are aware of the incident in LA.

They would not confirm if it was the same Richard Solitro killed by LAPD officers Saturday, but they said they could release more information as soon as Monday.

Family of Woman Stabbed to Death While Walking Dogs Wants to Know Why Suspect Was Out of Jail

The son of a woman randomly attacked and killed in Riverside as she walked her dogs said the whole family is in utter shock, and wants to know why the suspect was out of jail in the first place.

Family of 64-year-old Ke Chieh Meng say they’re having a tough time saying goodbye.

“My heart… it felt like it was getting torn in half. I’m an only child too. My mother came here to this country to give me my American dream,” her son Yi Bai said.

Riverside Police said Meng was walking her dogs near Stonewall Drive and Golden Avenue early Saturday morning when she was confronted and stabbed to death by a homeless woman. The suspect was identified as 23-year-old Darlene Stephanie Montoya.

Police said Montoya was just released from jail under COVID-19 protocols after allegedly attacking a woman with a skateboard a week before. She was booked for an assault with a deadly weapon charge.

“To have her go out into the streets again — it was just a few days ago that this happened, not a year ago, where they could say that her mental situation had changed,” Bai said.

A neighbor who captured surveillance video says you can see the deadly encounter in the distance. Investigators are reviewing the footage, but calling it a random attack.

“Why was it her? Was it because she was elderly, because she couldn’t fight back? Was it because she was an easy target? Was it because she was Asian? I don’t know— I don’t really know why she was attacked,” her son said.

Detectives interviewed Montoya and say they determined that race did not appear to be a factor in the attack.

“The suspect is homeless from LA County and is obviously experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues,” Officer Ryan Railsback said, adding that “the attack could have happened to anyone.”

Why was it her? Was it because she was elderly, because she couldn’t fight back? Was it because she was an easy target? Was it because she was Asian? I don’t know— I don’t really know why she was attacked.

Victim’s son

Neighbors have been stopping by, leaving flowers and candles and their condolences.

Family members say they hope lawmakers and leaders consider who they’re letting out of jail under new pandemic protocols. 

“I hope they can see from this incident, this person or these people who are getting let out, for clearly a violent, criminal act, I mean… what if it was their daughter?” her son said.

Montoya was arrested on suspicion of murder, a weapons violation and suspicion of being under the influence of an illegal substance and was being held without bail.

Man Stabbed to Death in His Backyard in Beverly Grove; Suspect Found Dead

A man was stabbed to death in his own backyard Monday and the suspected stabber was found dead from self-inflicted wounds.

There’s a large police presence in Beverly Grove at the 6600 block of Maryland Avenue where the crime occurred.

Police were initially responding to a trespassing call Monday afternoon that quickly turned into a gruesome discovery — a man around 30-years-old was found stabbed to death.

The police tracked down the suspect a few houses away where he apparently had jumped some fences and was hiding in what looked like a guest house.

Officers then used tear gas and other devices to try and get the man to come out, but he was found dead from apparent self-inflicted wounds.

Neighbors in this area said there is a large homeless encampment nearby, and they’ve been dealing with issues for the last several months. 

“When they went into the unfortunate home of the man murdered — he said get out of here, and then he stabbed him,” said Diane Franco, a neighbor.

They said hearing that this happened on their street is terrifying for them.

“It really is crazy this happened three houses down from me and just all day I’ve been thinking about how three houses down… that could have been me. Our city is broken. It needs to be healed. We need to focus on helping the people,” said Cameron Cooper, another neighbor.

Police have not confirmed that the suspect is a transient, but they say they’re exploring every possibility about what led up to the deadly stabbing. They will continue to interview neighbors.

Investigators say at this point they are not looking for anyone else involved in this homicide.

The entire area of Maryland Avenue near San Vicente and Wilshire will be closed for several more hours.

LA Officials Worry of COVID Case Surge After Spring Break

Spring break has arrived and more and more people are starting to travel once again, leaving public health officials to remind locals and visitors about travel restrictions still in place as they hope to stop another surge like the one after the holiday season.

During spring break in the past, Hollywood boulevard has been absolutely packed along the Walk of Fame, but the Boulevard remained pretty calm on Monday.

Tourists said they’ve noticed businesses have been closed, but they still want to take advantage of spring break — while trying to stay safe.

Despite calls from public health officials to stay home for spring break, many tourists were flocking to Los Angeles.

“I feel safe,” tourist Ingrid Brizzee said. “It’s been fun. We haven’t really worried too much about it. Things are definitely stricter here than in Idaho.”

Tour buses are still taking riders along the Hollywood Hills, even though several of the overlooks are closed.

Many business along Hollywood Boulevard still haven’t opened their doors during the pandemic.

LA County Public Health officials talked about the fear of a surge Monday, and reminded everyone that the travel advisory is still in effect saying travelers need to quarantine for 10 days.

Officials said to remain close to home, and adhere to the state travel advisory, which recommends no recreational travel outside a 120 mile radius.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer highlighted spring break partying going in Miami where their test positivity rate is 9% — six times higher than LA County.

Down at Manhattan Beach some local college students said they’re staying in town to try and stay safe.

“In the area it’s definitely been an issue. There have been kids going to frat houses and partying and stuff,” UCLA student Nicolette Kemlian said.

California COVID-19 Vaccinations

The map tracks the number of doses administered by a recipient’s county of residence according to the The California Department of Public Health.

Source: The statewide totals for doses administered reflect Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Otherwise we used data from the California Department of Public Health.
Amy O’Kruk/NBC

With the threat of variants and some people still getting sick after getting vaccinated, doctors said they’re telling their patients to find the balance to stay safe and take precautions.

“I think you can enjoy your life, have a nice, spring vacation, but you do have to take proper precautions and that includes wearing a mask, especially when indoors,” Dr. Robert Winters, infectious disease specialist, said.

Award-Winning Journalist Killed in Arlington Heights Hit-and-Run Crash

Margo Spann, an award-winning journalist and board member with the National Association of Black Journalists in Los Angeles, was killed in a hit-and-run crash last week, and her family is seeking justice in her death.

A local news reporter from Milwaukee, the 40-year-old was a Los Angeles production company owner and board member of the NABJ.

“It was a joy for me to watch her career continue to blossom and bloom over the years, to see her doing what she had always dreamed of doing,” said Reverend Peter J. Spann, Margo’s older brother.

The reverend said Margo is the youngest of eight siblings.

Early Thursday morning, Margo Spann was out walking her dog near her home in Arlington Heights when a driver crashed into her in the crosswalk at Venice Boulevard and Wilton Place, according to the LAPD.

The driver sped off, police said.

A short time later, 56-year-old Ruben Granada was arrested related to the hit-and-run crash.

“Margo was so young, and to lose her so suddenly was just really something we have not dealt with as a family,” said Peter J. Spann.

Margo Spann’s fellow journalists at NABJLA are also mourning her loss and wrote, “We send out love and support to her family at this time of unspeakable pain and grief.”

The family said they’re thankful an arrest was made and that they’re putting their trust in law enforcement, along with leaning on faith and each other and hoping Margo’s life will inspire others.

“Hold your loved ones close,” said Reverend Peter J. Spann. “Tell people you love them, and remember that life is a gift. It’s a gift, and no matter how long we have it, to embrace it and in the spirit of Margo— to live it to the fullest.”

Margo also had a passion for helping black and minority students with scholarship opportunities through her family’s foundation.

They family asks for donations in lieu of flowers to the James W. Spann Foundation.

Several Families Displaced Due to Apartment Complex Fire in Montebello

A fire at an apartment complex Saturday afternoon in Montebello left eight units badly damaged and several families displaced, authorities said.

Eight units were damaged due to the fire in the 1300 block of South Greenwood Avenue, according to a public information officer for the Montebello Fire Department.

Local fire crews, which received support from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, were able to get control and quell the flames in the densely packed residential building around 4:10 p.m.

Surrounding buildings were evacuated and residents were on the street waiting to be let back into their undamaged buildings.

The American Red Cross was at the scene to help provide shelter for families that had been displaced, with the damaged building red-tagged.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Community Comes Together to Save Beloved Bar That’s Been Open for Nearly a Century

Many bars and restaurants have been struggling to stay alive through this pandemic.

Thirsty Isle is one of Long Beach’s oldest bars. It has a college and community feel.

The owner, James DeBois, decided to sell off all his bar goods he’s been collecting over the years to try and make some money and keep his business open.

Thirsty Isle in Long Beach has been open for nearly 100 years.

It’s passed through different ownership over that time and has faced many challenges. But nothing quite like COVID-19, which has kept them closed for nearly a year.

“We are not allowed to open, and I understand that. How do you make money to pay your bills? It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” said DeBois.

DeBois has owned the bar for more than 30 years.

Once the pandemic hit they shut their doors, and he began reaching into his own pocket to cover the costs that kept coming, like his $6,000 a month rent.

“I’m 59 planning on retirement and have used most of my money to refinance and done things to keep the place going during this,” he said.

During this time as a bar owner, he’s collected vintage lights, neon signs, slot machines and lots of decor.

He decided to have a yard sale Sunday at the bar to try and make some money back.

“It was amazing. I was shocked,” DeBois said.

He and his staff couldn’t believe the turnout of customers who came back to show their support as they lined up and purchased the items for sale.

“We come here a lot, it’s our favorite spot. Thirsty Isle — we have been coming here since like 2010,” one customer said.

“It just shows you how much they really are hurting. They want to stay open, so it’s up to us as a community to meet them halfway,” another customer said.

DeBois says the experience has been overwhelming and some people have even tried to overpay and offer donations.

“A sign that was here — this morning — the guy goes, what do you want for it? I said $125 and he goes, what if I give you $300? I mean the people have been outstanding. I said give me $250. I couldn’t take his $300. I felt horrible,” DeBois said.

They sold almost every item they put out, and it looks like it’s adding up enough to cover at least a month’s rent.

The bar has also started a GoFundMe account. They said anyone who donates should save their receipt, and they’ll be offered specials when they finally are able to open back up.

Running Out of Room: Mortuaries Feel the Strain of the Virus Surge

While the number of people continuing to die from COVID-19 continues to climb in Southern California, hospitals and mortuaries are having a hard time keeping up, all while doing their best to honor wishes from families.

“There’s nothing like this that we’ve experienced before, I’m coming up on 30 years this year … this is definitely unprecedented,” said Anthony Lampe, with Dignity Memorial (which owns Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary in Newhall). “This has not happened before.”

Lampe says he and his staff are working to keep up. They’re working long days, trying to set up virtual funeral arrangements and assisting other smaller funeral homes to meet the demand.

“We have put on extra staff. I’ve even brought my brother out of retirement, he’s a retired embalmer, to come back and help us out.”

There’s a several week delay on making an arrangement and several weeks out on having a service.

Depending on a family’s religion or rituals, they’ve asked some if they’re open to cremation with a memorial service set for a later date to not overwhelm the system.

On Jan. 17, The South Coast Air Quality Management District even issued an emergency order for crematoriums, allowing them to take care of their backlog, citing that the death toll is more than double pre-pandemic years.

At Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, they’re also feeling the effects.

“We have not seen the numbers of deaths that occur at the frequency,” said Dr. Larry Kidd, the hospital’s chief clinical officer.

He says their designated area to store the deceased has reached capacity.

“We have areas of the hospital that we’ve been able to utilize as an overflow area … right now we’re managing,” Kidd said.

Many times, hospitals are forced to hold remains for several days before a funeral home or mortuary can pick them up.

Owners are asking everyone to stay flexible and work together as a community as they deal with loss due to the pandemic.

As Photos of Empty Shelves Pop Up on Social Media, Stores and Toilet Paper Suppliers Say Chill Out

As COVID-19 cases keep rising in Southern California, employees are keeping the shelves stocked in the stores. 

Many customers are once again loading up on essentials like the ever important and once-disappearing toilet paper that left many scrambling this spring when they couldn’t find a roll.

Toilet paper was disappearing when lockdowns were first ordered, with many fighting to get their hands on a pack, and now photos of empty store shelves are starting to pop up again on social media. 

Photos from a Target store in Tustin and a Walmart in Irvine show nearly empty shelves. 

Ralph’s — owned by Kroger— has once again posted signs limiting customers to two packs at most.

Their other store, Food 4 Less, hasn’t put any restrictions in place.

“Don’t panic. Don’t overbuy. Our supply is strong,” Vanessa Rosales, corporate affairs director of Food 4 Less, said. “Get your shopping done early if you can.”

Representatives of Ralph’s and Food 4 Less say they are confident that the supply chain is strong and will hold steady and again. 

Because it’s the holiday season, Food 4 Less officials say they are working to keep everything stocked in the store. Sometimes you might notice empty shelves, but that can mean shipments are late or they haven’t gotten around to get out and stock everything that’s needed in the store.

Following the election, some shoppers have questioned if President-Elect Joe Biden will put any strict lockdowns into place if COVID-19 cases surge.

Some shoppers said they stocked up before the vote, fearing unrest.

Charmin officials said in May they’ve been staffing up at their factory in Oxnard and they’re still seeing continued demand for their products.

In a statement, Charmin said: “Together with our supply partners, we continue to produce and ship Charmin 24/7. Yet, still today, consumers are purchasing at record levels.”

Suppliers and stores were asking everyone to buy only what they need, and think of their neighbors to make sure there’s enough toilet paper to go around.

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