Police blotter 12-27-13

Police handled a variety of off-the-wall and serious crime in 2013

Human bones, a lab experiment gone wrong and a woman bearing all on a hotel balcony are just a few of the off-the-wall features that turned up in this year’s Claremont crime log. From the Starbucks bandits to the Claremont High School vandals, here’s a look back at 2013’s more bizarre moments.



Two $1400 laptops were stolen in a bizarre coffeehouse theft on January 21. Both laptops were torn away from underneath the fingertips of their owners, working unaware on their computers at the Starbucks on Yale Avenue in the Claremont Village. Two men simultaneously stole the laptops and ran off into a dark-colored sedan waiting on Second Street, driven by another male. A similar incident was reported at a Starbucks in Chino the same day, but a connection is unknown.



Troublemakers gave Claremont Colleges students additional reason to take their time crossing College Avenue in early February. College Avenue commuters awoke Monday morning to find a makeshift crosswalk drawn across the roadway in white spray paint with the word “(s)troll” beckoning pedestrians across. The message remained emblazoned on the street, though campus safety officers had blocked each side of the walkway to discourage pedestrians from using the fake crosswalk and to allow city staff time for clean up.


A woman staying at Howard Johnson Express Inn, 721 S. Indian Hill Blvd., returned to her hotel room around 2 a.m. on February 5 to an unwelcome surprise: a man fast asleep on her bed with two rounds of ammunition next to him. The woman admitted to police that she had lent her room to a female friend early on in the day. The man refused to identify himself, but his tattoos did the talking for him. Police were able to identify him, based on his ink, as a parolee at large wanted for assault with a deadly weapon. He was also in possession of stolen property and a meth pipe. Thirty-three-year-old Oscar Castanon of Pomona was arrested for the warrant, for giving false information to a police officer and for the drug paraphernalia.



Police were called to the scene of a lab experiment gone wrong in north Claremont on March 29. Claremont dispatchers received an emergency call from a witness who claimed to have heard an explosion and scream for help in the 1900 block of Judson Court. Officers arrived on scene to find a man suffering from burns to his body after a chemical experiment blew up in his face, according to Claremont Lieutenant Mike Ciszek. He was allegedly in the process of turning marijuana into hash oil. The man was treated on scene by first responders from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and later transferred to Pomona Valley hospital for further treatment.



Jaime Frey may have been the one to see the comedy show on the evening of April 5, but Claremont police had the last laugh. The 36-year-old skipped out on paying her tab for watching the Flapper’s Comedy performance and walked right into the arms of officers who awaited her at the police department, located just down the street from the comedy club. After fessing up, Ms. Frey agreed to pay her bill. She reached into her bra, but instead of pulling out money, a bag of methamphetamine fell out, according to Lt. Ciszek. Ms. Frey was arrested for possession of a controlled substance as well as for two outstanding warrants.



A resident in the 3400 block of Grand Avenue dug up something altogether unexpected when working in the garden on June 7. The woman was planting some bushes when she came across human bones buried about a foot deep in her flowerbed. The residents have lived in the home since 1988 and believed the bones might be part of a speculated Indian burial ground.


On June 9, police made their way to AbilityFirst after the burglary alarm was activated. Officers arrived to find a tube sock and empty beer can outside a broken window. A K-9 from Chino was called in to search the building, but no one was found inside. Though it had appeared the crook had gotten away, they hadn’t gotten very far.  Donald Spotts was seen at a gas station down the street, carrying a radio and covered in blood. Video surveillance found at the scene of the crime positively identified Mr. Spotts jumping into a patio area at AbilityFirst, however, it did not show whether or not he was responsible for the break-in. Mr. Spotts gave up that part of the story himself. Questioned by police, Mr. Spotts said he had jumped into the patio area to smoke meth without detection, according to Detective Rick Varney. He claimed he had leaned up against the window and it had broken. It was then that he spotted the radio. “I was like, ‘Oh damn, there’s a radio,’” Mr. Spotts related to police. “I didn’t really want it, but I figured I could sell it.” Mr. Spotts, on parole for kidnapping, was arrested for the burglary.



Employees at the Claremont Heights Postal Service received a surprise on August 1 after intercepting 2 suspicious packages destined for the east coast. Inside the packages was an estimated 7 pounds of weed.



After a four hour game of hide-and-seek with law enforcement, 43-year-old Thomas French of Claremont was arrested on September 3 for a series of crimes that including setting a car on fire. The previous evening, Claremont police were contacted by the Monrovia Police Department to inform them that Mr. French, who police report has a history of violent crime, was wanted on charges of domestic violence and torching his girlfriend’s car, according to Det. Ewing. The following morning, Mr. French was seen exiting the 210 freeway at Towne. However, Mr. French evaded police by ditching his car in a random driveway off Scripps Drive and Wheaton Avenue and taking off on foot. A perimeter was set up and San Bernardino and Rialto first responders arrived to assist local police with their K-9 unit and airship. Officers were going door-to-door in an attempt to locate the suspect, when undercover cops near Mr. French’s home reported that he had made it back to his residence off Arrow Highway and Merrywood. He was arrested without further incident.


It’s not every day police are called to the DoubleTree Claremont to coax down a woman found standing stark naked on the third floor balcony. Such was the case on September 8, with Sarah Hambarzumjan-Calhoun, 26, of Santa Barbara, who was hanging from the balcony at one point, according to Lt. Ciszek. Officers were eventually able to detain Ms. Hambarzumjan-Calhoun, found to be under the influence of a controlled substance. She was arrested and later transported to the hospital.



The Los Angeles County HAZMAT crew was called to Golden State Water, 110 S. College Ave. on October 5 after a riled-up man wreaked havoc on the facility. The man—claiming a voice had told him to break the company’s pipes and allegedly stating, “I’d blow this place up if necessary,”—broke into the building, yelling and screaming as he destroyed pipes and equipment, according to Det. Ewing. In the process, the man caused a leak in a 40-gallon tank of chlorine. The HAZMAT team was called to the scene and the man was taken to the hospital, first for treatment of chemical burns to his body and next for a mental hold. He was also arrested for burglary and vandalism.


A prankster’s joke on October 24 did not have Claremont High School administrators or local police laughing. What might have been intended as a prank caused an estimated $5000 in damages at the local school. The day before a rival football game at CHS, pitting the Claremont Wolfpack against the Damien Spartans, school staff found the high school’s senior parking lot splashed with fluorescent green paint. The impromptu paint job ruined the concrete, spilling over hours of work by Claremont seniors’ who had been allowed to decorate their parking spots. A large green “D” was found painted near the football stadium. In addition to the paint, several people reported having their tires damaged from nails strategically placed about the parking lot.



Road rage was taken to a heightened level on November 12 near Villanova Drive and Arrow Highway when a driver honked at a passing SUV after almost being hit in the middle of the roadway. The operator of the SUV, none too please, began following the other vehicle home. The driver, realizing he was being followed, stopped in a random driveway, at which time the owner of the SUV got out of the car and confronted him, according to Lt. Ciszek. He changed his tune when the driver threatened to call the police. At that point, the man, described as a Hispanic male in his 20s, grabbed the other’s cell phone and took off.


A 22-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident was arrested on November 28 after using a stun gun to rob a guest staying at the Claremont Lodge, located at 736 S. Indian Hill Blvd. The female hotel guest, a 21-year-old from Fresno, had invited Mattias McCullough into her motel room, where he attacked her with the gun, attempted to duct tape her and stole cash and a cellphone, according to Claremont police. During the incident, the woman sustained minor injuries and was treated on scene by paramedics. Mr. McCullough was arrested several blocks away for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

—Beth Hartnett







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