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Safety is Front and Center at San Fernando City Council Meeting PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 10 January 2013 05:37

Some Question Police Expertise

A. GARCIA/SFVS

Tony Vairo and Robert Parks

Safety in the City of San Fernando came under questioning during the council meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, because the city has experienced three murders in the last three months.

Resident Renato Lira wondered why the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department "had taken over the investigation" of the murder of 20-year-old Alejandro Lopez, which took place on Dec. 30, from the San Fernando Police Department (SFPD).

"Are San Fernando officers not ready?" wondered Lira during the public statements portion of the meeting. He also asked what it cost the city to have the Sheriff's investigators helping out.

Lira was followed by recalled former mayor Brenda Esqueda, who described herself as a representative of a community watchdog group she called "Community Eyes."

No one else at the meeting claimed to be members of this group.

Esqueda "congratulated" SFPD Chief Robert Parks for the string of murders.

"You've done something that hasn't been done in San Fernando for the past 12 years," Esqueda said, in reference to the three murders in the last three months. Before that, the last murder recorded in the city was in 2006.

Esqueda left the meeting before Parks could respond to questions regarding the Sheriff's department's involvement in the investigation. Parks said the Sheriff's Department has a "mutual aid" system with all the other law enforcement agencies in the county, and lends a hand free of charge whenever a tragedy occurs "because of their expertise," particularly in forensics and crime scene investigations.

Parks added that the Sheriff's investigators help expedite lab analysis of crime scene evidence because when they take it to the lab, "it goes to the front of the line."

During the council comments, Mayor Pro Tem Sylvia Ballin said she was "disappointed" that a former council member does not understand how these investigations work.

"But I guess education can come at any time," she said, in reference to the nearly three years Esqueda was on the council, but apparently did not know about the relationship between the SFPD and the Sheriff's Department during crime investigations.

After the meeting, Chief Parks said the "three murders is tragic" and that "we cannot prevent homicides, but we can be more active with patrols."

Flores was stabbed and then run over by a vehicle along the 800 block of Harding Avenue. San Fernando Police arrested Luis Salmeron, 19, for the murder; he is currently in jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

According to SFPD Lt. Tony Vairo, the victim and the suspect knew each other and had some sort of altercation that led to the murder.

"It was a pretty horrific sight," said Lt. Vairo as to the murder scene. A witness told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol the victim had between 15 and 20 stab wounds in his chest.

Parks noted that this violent act was not related to the other two murders reported last year.

On Oct. 6, Diego Martinez, 27, was stabbed in the parking lot of the 7 Mares Restaurant, located in the 1100 block of First Street. He died later at the hospital.

Police said they have identified a suspect and have an active warrant for the suspect's arrest. The FBI is helping San Fernando police locate the suspect in that case.

On Nov. 11, John Paul Villalta, 28, was shot to death in the back parking lot of an apartment building along the 300 block of Hagar Street. The suspect in that shooting, Randall Ortiz, 50, of Los Angeles, turned himself in on Nov. 25 at the SFPD station. Until this string of incidents, the city of San Fernando had not experienced a violent death since 2006.

Parks said having an under twominute police response time in the city, as well as the fact that the murder suspects in the recent murder cases were identified within hours or days (and two have resulted in arrests shortly after the incidents), proves the city continues to be a safe place to live.

"This is a safe community," Parks said.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 10 January 2013 05:44