Blotter news kept Claremont police hopping

Baby-talkers, black cats and all-around bad guys and gals are just a few of the off-the-wall features that turned up in this year’s Claremont crime log. From Oak Park Cemetery vandals to a teen with a car full of cannabis, here’s a look back at the crime stories that made headlines in 2014.


A hot air balloon over the City of Trees kicked off the New Year for Claremont police, who received numerous calls on January 11 regarding an unusual traffic hazard. The wayward balloon had taken off from Cable Airport as part of the annual air show and made an emergency landing in the Claremont High School parking lot, mere feet away from a light pole. The operator planned to land at The Claremont Colleges but, as he explained to officers, “I go wherever the wind takes me.” Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t a valid enough excuse for an aircraft accident investigator, who reported the illegal parking job to the Federal Aviation Administration.


A female driver decided it was a good idea to go off-roading through Oak Park Cemetery on February 23, leaving behind quite a bit of damage: three smashed gravestones, a broken water pipe that was shooting water into the air and tire marks across the grassy area. Investigation revealed that the woman, Rosa Perez, was driving under the influence with two children in her car, according to police. Detectives identified Ms. Perez in July as the driver of the white Honda and she was later charged with vandalism and child neglect.


The community was rattled when a 12-year-old Claremont girl was physically and sexually assaulted in her own home. The preteen was home alone on March 20 when she was awoken from her sleep due to strange noises. Based on evidence found at the scene, 34-year-old Joseph Chandler Davall was arrested on April 19 at his Yucca Valley home. The date farmer was charged and plead not guilty to seven felony counts in Los Angeles County, including two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child; one count each of forcible rape; sexual penetration by foreign object; and assault to commit a felony during the commission of first-degree burglaries. Trial is scheduled to begin in Pomona on January 5.


Police were greeted with a couple of bizarre scenes at Oak Park Cemetery on April 1 after discovering blood and feathers leading up to the remains of a decapitated rooster. A bloody kitchen knife, held as evidence by Claremont police, was found underneath a tree in the south portion of the cemetery. The following day, three gravestones were reported missing, each containing a bronze placard. There were no witnesses or suspects in either crime.


The Claremont Police Department made local headlines on May 5 following an officer-involved shooting. Lt. Jason Walters shot suspect Marcel Herrera while patrolling in search of a reported stolen vehicle. As the officer drove closer to the vehicle, the car sped away. Moments later, police located the car, which appeared to be empty and approached it on foot. The driver, Mr. Herrera, suddenly put the car in reverse toward the officer, at which time the officer shot at the vehicle, striking the 24-year-old in the upper torso. Mr. Herrera entered a plea of no contest to two of the three felony counts against him, including assault upon a police officer and unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle. He will spend upwards of three years in jail for his crime.


Justice was finally delivered to a former child psychologist convicted of inappropriately touching children. Thomas Gary Amberson, 58, pled no contest on June 23 to two felony counts of performing a lewd act upon a child. He was sentenced to eight years in state prison and must register as a sex offender for life. The Upland resident had a practice in Claremont and one of his patients revealed to his parents that the defendant touched him inappropriately during therapy sessions in 2010. The case was investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department.


Two middle-aged ladies started their “Girl’s Night Out” a bit early and were arrested in the afternoon for being drunk in public. Officers responded to the 1300 block of North Towne Avenue after receiving a call around 12:30 p.m. regarding two women who were asking patrons for money and appeared impaired after a witness observed the pair stumbling into a glass storefront window. Officers made contact with San Dimas residents Jennifer Williams, 41, and Lisa McIntyre, 45, and determined the women were indeed intoxicated. Ms. Williams tried to baby-talk her way out of trouble by repeatedly changing the tone of her voice to that of a small child and then admitted to “having a wittle vodka earlier,” police reported. In a preliminary alcohol-screening test, Ms. Williams blew a 3.1, nearly four times the legal limit. In addition, police discovered Ms. McIntyre had an outstanding warrant for her arrest. The gals were booked and released on bail with a citation.


A teen with a car full of cannabis gave new meaning to the word “dope” after claiming to be a marijuana dispensary deliveryman and then failing to provide proof of employment. Dillon Rust was spotted in a church parking lot and approached by police around 6 a.m. after smelling the odor of marijuana coming from his vehicle. The 19-year-old told police he delivered for a marijuana dispensary and a search of his car revealed he was well-stocked with 13 plastic bags containing marijuana, baked goods containing marijuana, a vaporizer containing a black tar-like liquid concentrated cannabis and $445 in cash. Mr. Rust was unable to provide any documentation that he worked for a dispensary or that he was allowed to possess such a large amount of marijuana. The Inglewood man was arrested and released on $20,000 bail.


Road rage reared its ugly head off the 210 freeway and Base Line Road on September 20, resulting in a fight on the freeway shoulder and an off-duty officer drawing his weapon on the enraged drivers. Around 6:43 p.m., two drivers who had been “brake-checking” and cutting each other off on the freeway had finally had enough when 24-year-old Jancarlo Gutierrez pulled to the shoulder to let the other driver pass by. The other driver, who is considered the victim in the incident, followed suit and approached Mr. Gutierrez’ car. According to Lt. Mike Ciszek, the pair exchanged a few obscenities before the victim allegedly began punching the suspect repeatedly in the face and wouldn’t let him out of his vehicle. Mr. Gutierrez then grabbed a knife from the car and slashed a four-inch laceration into the victim’s left arm, causing him to step back and enabling Mr. Gutierrez to leave his vehicle. The men continued to fight outside the car until an off-duty police officer stopped and ordered both to ground by gunpoint. Mr. Gutierrez of San Bernardino was arrested for assault. No charges were filed against the other driver, as it was determined he acted in self-defense.


Claremont High School cafeteria worker Vanessa Tinoco was arrested on October 6 and charged with oral copulation of a person under 18 and unlawful sexual intercourse. The Pomona resident initially entered a plea of not guilty but changed her plea to no contest on December 22 as part of a deal with Los Angeles County prosecutors. The 33-year-old food service worker was sentenced to three years formal probation with a three-year suspended prison sentence. Ms. Tinoco will serve one year in county jail and must register as a sex offender upon her release. One count of oral copulation of a person under 18 was dismissed as part of the plea deal. The court also issued a stay-away order of protection for the victim.


A knife-wielding woman attacked a pest control man after a bee outside a Village business allegedly stung her. According to Lt. Ciszek, the commercial pest control technician was hired by a private business located on the 200 block of Yale Avenue to remove bees from a tree when the suspect, Pomona resident Samantha Watt, confronted him. The suspect told police the incident began after she was stung by a bee and was trying to get the victim to get her antihistamine and demanded that he take her to the hospital. When he refused, the 29-year-old woman allegedly pulled out a 12-inch knife and began chasing the victim around the street. When asked if she was going to stab the victim, Ms. Watt responded, “F*ck, yeah. He had it coming. He’s a shitty person!” Ms. Watt was arrested for assault with great bodily injury and was transferred to Century Regional Detention Facility on a medical issue. She was later charged with misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and entered a plea of not guilty. A pretrial hearing was set for December 29.


A black cat that crossed paths with Claremont police aided in her own arrest after an officer discovered her in the back of his patrol unit following another call for assistance on Yale Avenue. According to Lt. Ciszek, officers responded to a battery call at Walter’s around 1:20 a.m. where they arrested 26-year-old Kayvan Fard. The Los Angeles resident had been involved in an altercation with another customer and when security intervened, he punched them in the face. Mr. Fard briefly lost consciousness after the fight and had to be transported by ambulance to Montclair Medical Hospital. When the officer returned to his vehicle around 2 a.m., he heard heavy breathing then saw 25-year-old Vanessa Zambrano, who was dressed in a black cat costume, passed out in the back seat. The San Marcos resident was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and released on $250 bail.


The year closed with the arrest of two suspects wanted in the December 2 robbery of the Arco AM/PM gas station at the corner of Foothill and Claremont Boulevards. 27-year-old Carlos Montejano and 23-year-old Christopher Devora, both from Los Angeles, were captured by LAPD on December 18 and remain behind bars. The suspects simulated a handgun under their clothing and demanded money from the register. The clerk complied then the robbers fled on foot east through the parking lot.

—Angela Bailey

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