La Mesa Police

LA MESA POLICE RELEASE NUMEROUS PHOTOS OF SUSPECTS WHO LOOTED PIERRE’S JEWELERS ON MAY 30-31

25 arrests made so far, including 4 La Mesa residents
 
East County News Service
 
September 29, 2020 (La Mesa) -- As a result of the civil unrest event that occurred in La Mesa on May 30th – May 31st, 2020, over 50 crimes, including arson, vandalism, burglary, and theft, were reported by victims and documented by the La Mesa Police Department. Although the exact amount of damage is still being calculated, it can be reported that these crimes resulted in millions of dollars of losses to victims in the local area.

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TUESDAY PROTEST IN LA MESA STAYS PEACEFUL; MAN BRIEFLY DETAINED AFTER DISPLAYING PEPPER SPRAY AT PROTESTERS

 

By Briana Gomez

Roger Ogden and Tasha Williamson in verbal confrontation

Updated August 16 with additional comments from Ogden.

August 13,  2020 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa police detained but later released a man with alleged ties to a racist group  during a Black Lives Matter protest on Tuesday, following a vocal confrontation with activist Tasha Williamson.  LMPD led Roger Ogden into the police station in handcuffs for reportedly displaying pepper spray during the altercation. On his blog, Ogden called Williamson a “terrorist” and called her a "liar" at the rally. Williamson denounced Ogden at the rally as a “racist clown.”  Each has denied the others claims of racism and inciting terror.  View video.

Despite verbal barbs, at the August 11 rally and an earlier protest on May 1, protesters remained non-violent. Unlike a major protest May 30 that ended in burning of buildings, rioting and looting, the only arrests at the most recent protests were of individuals accused of harassing protesters, both with ties to white nationalist or racist groups. On May 1st, as ECM reported, Ryan McAdams, who has a history of racial clashes, was arrested for battery and pepper spray possession.


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LMPD OFFICER IN TROLLEY STOP INCIDENT LEAVES FORCE: QUESTONS OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY REMAIN

By Miriam Raftery

Screenshot from video via Instagram: Officer Matt Dages and Amaurie Johnson in controversial stop

August 8, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police officer involved in the controversial stop of a  young Black man near the Grossmont trolley stop on May 28, is “not employed by the City of La Mesa in any capacity,” the city announced yesterday.

The terse statement provided no details on whether Officer Matt Dages resigned or was terminated, nor whether any wrongdoing was found in an investigation. He was placed on administrative leave pending an external investigation, the results of which have not been made public.

An assault charge against Amaurie Johnson, 23, was dropped after body camera footage failed to substantiate Officer  Dages' version of the incident.

The announcement of Dages' departure has drawn reactions ranging from relief to calls for greater accountability and transparency.


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LA MESA POLICE ISSUE WARNING ABOUT PROTEST SATURDAY, CITY BANS OBJECTS THAT CAN BE USED AS WEAPONS IN AREA AROUND PUBLIC BUILDINGS

By Miriam Raftery

July 31, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police Department has issued a press release warning of a protest planned Saturday, August 1 starting at 3:30 p.m. by organizers who have not responded to inquiries from LMPD. In addition,  City Manager Greg Humora has issued an emergency order banning many weapons and objects that may be used as riot tools in a restricted area around civic buildings from noon tomorrow through 5:30  a.m. Sunday. Banned items including sticks on protest signs, bats, guns, knives, explosives, glass bottles, spray paint, and many more objects.

A flyer circulated online touting the protest over police use of force issues indicated that “civil disobedience” was planned and urged participants not to bring children, indicating the event is for age 18 and up. The flyer has prompted uneasiness among downtown merchants, some of whom have boarded up storefronts in anticipation of potential civil unrest once again.


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AMAURIE JOHNSON SUES CITY OF LA MESA OVER ALLEGED POLICE MISCONDUCT

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Kendra Sitton

July 31, 2020 (La Mesa) – Amaurie Johnson, 23, whose controversial arrest near the Grossmont Trolley station sparked protests and accusations of racial profiling, has filed a law suit against the city of La Mesa and arresting officer Matt Dages.

On May 27, La Mesa Police have stated that Johnson, who is Black, was stopped for smoking in public and later arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.  After a May 30-31 protest and civil unrest, police later released footage from multiple body cameras which largely failed to back up the officer’s claims, showing Johnson touch Officer Dages, who is White, for a fleeting moment after Dages had grabbed Johnson by the shirt and Johnson vociferously objected.

LMPD announced that it would not pursue prosecution of Johnson and dropped the charges.

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court, the officer lacked probable cause for the arrest. (A search of Dages failed to find any smoking materials or illegal substances).  The suit also contends that Johnson was the target of police violence due to his race.


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PROTEST PLANNED AT LA MESA POLICE STATION ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 1

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 24, 2020 (La Mesa) – Another  protest against the La Mesa  Police Department  has been announced  for Saturday, August 1, at 3:30 p.m. outside the La Mesa Police Department. The flyer indicates that "civil disobedience" is planned and indicates this event is for adults only. The action comes amid nationwide protests calling for police accountability and racial justice.

The protest comes two months after a May 30 protest over police and racial justice issues dissolved into a riot that ended with police pelted by rocks and bottles, three buildings burned down and dozens of buildings looted. However several protests that remained peaceful have been held since then including a unity rally and Juneteeth rally.


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SECOND WOMAN FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST LA MESA, ALLEGES OFFICER SHOT HER IN BREAST WITH RUBBER BULLET AT GAS STATION AFTER SHE LEFT PROTEST

By Miriam Raftery

Photo of Horton's injuries, courtesy of Singleton Law Firm

July 17, 2020 (La Mesa) – A woman who claims she was shot one the side of her breast with a rubber bullet or other projectile by a law enforcement officer while waiting at the Chevron gas station for her daughter, after leaving the May 30 protest, has filed a claim against the city of La Mesa seeking unspecified damages for her injuries.

Michelle Horton, 51, a former Navy officer and healthcare administrator, is white. Her attorney, Gerald Singleton, told ECM in an interview that Horton had left the protest after a dispersal order was given. He indicated that according to Horton, the shooting occurred before dark, between 8 and 9 p.m., by an officer who pulled up in a vehicle at the gas station and shot her in the chest with a projectile, without warning.


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LMPD CHIEF RECEIVES REPORT ON AMAURIE JOHNSON INCIDENT NEAR TROLLEY STATION

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Amaurie Johnson, courtesy of Ken Stone, Times of San Diego

July 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – Today, the city of La Mesa announced that an external investigation has been completed into a controversial incident that occurred May27 involved a La Mesa Police officer and Amaurie Johnson.  The result of the external investigation has been forwarded to LMPD Chief Walt Vasquez for his review and a determination on what action if any will be taken.

No further details were provided and the report has not been made public.


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LA MESA TASK FORCE ADOPTS AGGRESSIVE SCHEDULE IN HOPES OF GETTING POLICE OVERSIGHT BOARD ON BALLOT

By Kendra Sitton

Photo: Jack Shu has proposed a ballot measure to create a police oversight commission for La Mesa.

June 17, 2020 (La Mesa) -- In a meeting Wednesday, June 17, the Citizen Oversight Task Force set a plan in motion that could culminate in a November ballot initiative to bring a strong police oversight commission to La Mesa.

After missing several meetings due to the coronavirus, the group resumed meeting in the wake of mass protests and riots over the La Mesa Police Department’s mistreatment of the Black community.


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PEACEFUL UNITY RALLY ROARS INTO LA MESA

By Henri Migala

Rebecca Jefferis Williamson also contributed to this report.

Photo, left, by Henri Migala: La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez speaks with protesters

June 14, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Before you could see them, you could hear them.  With a rumble that made the air vibrate, over 215 motorcyclists from approximately 15 motorcycle clubs rolled into the parking lot across the street from the police station in La Mesa. The riders joined another 150 protesters who were waiting at the parking lot for what was billed as a “Unity Ride Meets Unity Protest”. 

This was the very site of the now infamous clash between La Mesa police and protesters that happened on Saturday, May 30 during the national protests over police violence prompted by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer now charged with murder.


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EXCLUSIVE: ECM INTERVIEWS LA MESA MAYOR AND POLICE CHIEF ON PROTEST PREPARATIONS AND RIOT RESPONSES

 

By Miriam Raftery

Videography by Paul Kruze

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – Hours after the city of La Mesa released a timeline and incident narrative on the May 30-31 protest over police violence and the riot that ensued, ECM editor Miriam Raftery and contributing editor Paul Kruze conducted exclusive interviews with Mayor Mark Arapostathis and La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez yesterday at the La Mesa community center, seeking answers to questions on protest preparations and riot responses.


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CITY UNDER SIEGE: LA MESA RELEASES TIMELINE AND NARRATIVE ON NIGHT OF RIOT, VIOLENCE AND ARSON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left by Henri Migala:  Officers outside LMPD station vandalized with graffiti by late afternoon, shortly before rioting began.

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – The city of La Mesa has released a timeline and incident narrative of the protest and subsequent riot in La Mesa May 30-31, which reveal chilling details of an increasingly violent siege waged against police and sheriff officers as well as City Hall and businesses across the city.  Despite reinforcements pre-staged, rioting swiftly grew out of control, starting from early reports of violence starting at 4 p.m. that later escalated into hurling of bottle bombs (Molotov cocktails) at police, breaking windows on police vehicles with officers inside and attacking an armored bearcat.  Looting commenced in multiple locatoins, rocks and bottles were hurled at officers, as rioters throughout the long night and early morning hours of mayhem ignited multiple vehicles, burned down two banks and a historic building,and ignited nuermous other locations.

Police defended themselves with non-lethal weapons including tear gas, pepperballs and beanbags, striking at least two people in the head. Multiple officers were also reported injured. It remains to be seen whether the looting and burning were done by protesters or outside groups that took advantage of what began as a peaceful protest and march against police violence earlier in the day, or perhaps a combination of both.


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CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST AMAURIE JOHNSON AFTER BODY CAM VIDEO FAILS TO BACK LMPD OFFICER’S ACCOUNT

 

Incident sparked protest May 30 that ended in riot

By Kendra Sitton and Miriam Raftery

Photo: Amaurie Johnson, courtesy of Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Warning: videos contain strong language

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) - The La Mesa Police Department has dropped charges against Amaurie Johnson, a black man whose controversial arrest was captured in a viral video last week.  Demostrations last Saturday at the LMPD headquarters protested the arrest of Johnson as well as the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

 La Mesa Chief of Police Walt Vasquez announced yesterday that "after a full review of all of the evidence in the criminal investigation" against Johnson, the police department will not seek prosecution "on any of the alleged misdemeanor charges."

The announcement follows release of body cam footage released June 3 showing the interactions between Johnson, 23, and La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages near the Grossmont Trolley Station on Wednesday, May 27.  That footage does not support the officer’s version of events but does show Dages pushing Johnson and grabbing his shirt.

Johnson had been arrested for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, which he denied.


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LA MESA LEADERS ADDRESS UNREST, PROMISE REVIEW, END OF POLICE CHOKEHOLD AT PRESS CONFERENCE

Lack of answers stokes activists’ anger after violent arrest, injured woman at protest

By Kendra Sitton

Photo,left by Kendra Sitton: La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez

June 5, 1010 (La Mesa) – At a press conference held Wednesday, La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis, Chief of Police Walt Vasquez and other officials provided more information on the protests and riots that engulfed the city last Saturday. Officials also revealed more details about two recent controversial police incidents in La Mesa, although not enough to satisfy the citizens involved and their families.


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PHOTOGRAPHER HIT BY PEPPER SPRAY SHARES FRONT-LINE EXPERIENCE COVERING PROTEST IN LA MESA

 

Hear our interview with Henri Migala, aired on KNSJ radio: click here

By Henri Migala

June 4, 2020 (La Mesa) - My daughter, Rachel, a selfless and dedicated social justice advocate, told me about a demonstration in La Mesa Saturday afternoon in response to the death of George Floyd. I’ve been a responsible citizen for the past several months, self-quarantining at home in response to the COVIS-19 pandemic. But like many around the world, I was outraged by the senseless death of Floyd under the knee of a Minnesota police officer.  

I wanted to support the minority community by documenting this historic occasion as a photographer and as a social scientist. So I grabbed my camera and headed for the protest, never imagining the chain of events that would soon engulf the community and put La Mesa into the national news spotlight.

Audio: 


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SILENT PROTEST HELD AT EL CAJON HOME OF LMPD OFFICER IN CONTROVERSIAL STOP

Story and photos by Kendra Sitton

May 30, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Around 100 protesters silently walked through an El Cajon neighborhood where organizers said La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages lives. The group conducted a “Power Walk” this evening to let the officer know he is not invisible, according to organizer Covu.

East County Magazine could not independently verify that Dages lives at the residence.


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PROTEST AGAINST POLICE VIOLENCE TURNS FIERY IN LA MESA

Update May 31, 2020: 1:15 a.m.  A curfew has been issued starting at 1:30 a.m. by the City Manager. Shortly before midnight, Union Bank and Chase Bank in downtown La Mesa were burned. The Randall Lamb historic building is also on fire. More stores have been looted, including Walmart and Target at Grossmont Center and shops in the La Mesa Springs shopping center.

Emergency vehicles in flames; protesters tear gassed after armored vehicle hit with rocks and bottles

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor; Briana Gomez, Miriam Raftery and Rebecca Jefferis Williamson also contributed to this story

Photo, left by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson: Vehicle burning in La Mesa

Photo, right, by Paul Kruze: Protesters during earlier peaceful march

 

May 30, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Multiple vehicles at La Mesa's Civic Center are in flames tonight, with looting of businesses across the downtown area.The chaos comes after several thousand  mostly peaceful demonstrators converged outside the La Mesa Police Department headquarters this afternoon to protest the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The protesters also demonstrated over an incident earlier this week in La Mesa when a man was detained near the Grossmont Transit Center that some contend was racial profiling.

In that incident, suspect Amaurie Johnson was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. Video on social media shows the Amaurie and the officer arguing when the officer pushes Johnson into a seated position. The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The city has also announced plans for an independent investigation. 

The protest  later resulted in confrontations, tear-gassing of some protesters and declaration of an unlawful assembly. 


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LA MESA HEARS REPORT ON CITIZEN POLICE OVERSIGHT PRACTICES, SEEKS CHANGES TO CHIEF'S PROPOSAL

By Jonathan Goetz

Photo: Screenshot, City of La Mesa video

September 20, 2019 – (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez presented a report on citizen police oversight practices at last week's City Council hearing and made suggestions for an 11-member Citizen Public Safety Panel to exchange information for the betterment of public safety in La Mesa. But his panel would lack investigative powers to look into complaints involving the police department.

Public testimony was against the Chief's proposal, and Councilwoman Dr. Akilah Weber grilled Vasquez on whether he adequately canvassed residents for input.


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DUI CHECKPOINT IN LA MESA TONIGHT, EXTRA PATROLS THROUGH LABOR DAY

East County News Service

August 24, 2019 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police Department’s traffic unit will conduct a DUI checkpoint tonight in the 4900 block of Spring Street from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.  LMPD will also have extra officer on the road now through Sept. 2 over Labor Day weekend looking for drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Department is partnering with law enforcement agencies nationwide in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement campaign over Labor Day weekend.

Labor Day Weekend remains one of the deadliest times of year for alcohol-involved crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 376 deadly crashes nationwide during the 2017 Labor Day holiday period (Sept. 1 to Sept. 5). Among those crashes, more than one-third (36%) involved a drunk driver. Last year, two people were killed, and 31 others injured in California on Labor Day alone.


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SLAMMED: LA MESA RESIDENTS AND COUNCILMEMBERS VOICE ANGER, FRUSTRATION OVER SKETCHY REPORT ON OFFICER’S USE OF FORCE AT HELIX HIGH







By Miriam Raftery

January 9, 2019 (La Mesa) – La Mesa’s Mayor, Councilmembers and members of the public voiced frustration and at times, anger at the outcome of an independent investigation commissioned by the city into use of force by La Mesa police school resource officer Scott Wulfing, who was shown on video knocking a handcuffed female student to the ground at Helix High School in January of last year.

Attorney Scott Tiedemann gave the presentation on the report prepared by Barry Aninag of B.A. Investigations, a former Irvine police commander. Aninag reportedly interviewed some 20 witnesses—but the public and council will not be permitted to read the report or statements from any of those interviews, due to confidentiality laws protecting investigations into police misconduct.  Those witnesses did not include the student, Brianna Bell, who was knocked down, and who has filed a lawsuit against the city.

Nor did the report include any details on what transpired on campus before the take-down show on the video. The report also had zero information on whether any investigation was conducted by the school or the school district, or results of any such inquiries.


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STUDENT BODY-SLAMMED AT HELIX HIGH FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST LA MESA AND POLICE OFFICER

By Miriam Raftery

October 25, 2018 (La Mesa)—Brianna Bell, a Helix Charter High School student shown on video slammed to the ground in handcuffs by a La Mesa Police officer, has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of La Mesa (Brianna Bell v. City of La Mesa, Scott Wulfing, U.S. District Court Case No. 18CV2455 BEN BLM).

The lawsuit alleges that LMPD School Resource Officer Scott Wulfing used excessive force, violated Bell’s civil rights, inflicted emotional distress, and committed assault and battery. Officer Wulfing is also named individually in the suit. He is on administrative leave pending the outcome of a third party independent investigation.


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LA MESA POLICE ASK MOTORCYLISTS TO SLOW DOWN AFTER FOUR HIGH-SPEED INJURY CRASHES, ONE FATAL

 

 

East County News Service

Photo courtesy of LMPD

October 20, 2018 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa Police are advising motorcylists to “please slow down and be careful, your life may depend on it,” after investigating four accidents involving serious motorcycle collisions including a fatality crash in the past six weeks.  “Excessive speed has been a factor in all of these crashes,” a tweet sent by LMSD states.  #Slowdown #drivesafe


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HELIX CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WALK OUT OF CLASSES TO PROTEST AGGRESSIVE ARREST OF SUSPENDED STUDENT

 

By Paul Kruze

Watch ECM news partner 10News Video of students speaking at Helix

Update January 24, 2018:  La Mesa Police have identified the officer, Scott Wulfing, and indicated he is assigned to administrative duty pending the outcome of an investigation.

January 23, 2018 (La Mesa) -- A group of some 200 students at Helix Charter High School on Monday morning walked out of their classes and gathered in front of the school chanting “Justice for Bri” to protest the aggressive arrest of an allegedly unruly 17-year-old female student on Friday afternoon.

The officer forced the handcuffed African-American girl, who has not been identified, to the ground. The San Diego Union-Tribune today reports that the La Mesa Police Department's school resources officer for Helix has been reassigned and will not be working in any schools until an investigation is concluded.


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USE OF FORCE AGAINST HELIX CHARTER HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT DRAWS PROTESTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 21, 2018 (La Mesa) – A video showing a La Mesa Police officer  slamming a handcuffed 17-year-old  female student at Helix Charter High School to the ground Friday afternoon has drawn over 17,000 views on social media, with a protest planned Monday morning on campus.


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POLICE AND FIRE BASKETBALL SHOWDOWN MAY 7 BENEFITS HELIX ATHLETICS

 

East County News Service

May 4, 2017 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police and local firefighters invite you to a police and fire basketball showdown at the Helix High School gym on Sunday, May7 at 2 p.m.  Police and Fire department vehicles will also be available for tours.


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POLICE, CHP JOIN STATEWIDE EFFORT TO STOP DISTRACTED DRIVING

 

East County News Service

April 7, 2017 (La Mesa) -- April is recognized as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  In California, the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the La Mesa Police Department, CHP, local law enforcement, and community partners throughout the state are working together to make the roads safer by highlighting the dangers of being distracted while driving, especially by cell phones.


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LA MESA COUNCIL REFUSES GRAND JURY REQUST TO CREATE CITIZENS’ POLICE OVERSIGHT BOARD, ACCEPTS RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOMELESSNESS

By Tasha Matthews

ECM Editor Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report

August 4, 2016 (La Mesa)--Councilmember Guy McWhirter opened the La Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 26th by expressing concern for our country in the wake of recent shootings of police officers. He thanked police for their brave work helping to protect citizens—two days before two San Diego Police officers were shot, one fatally.

But the Council rejected a Grand Jury recommendation to create a police oversight board aimed at assuring that citizens’ rights are protected if officer misconduct is alleged. The Grand Jury made its recommendations to La Mesa and other local cities in a report on Citizens Oversight Boards of Police Behavior.


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PHOTOS RELEASED OF AM/PM ROBBERY SUSPECT IN LA MESA

 

November 11, 2015 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police have released surveillance photographs of the suspect who robbed the AM/PM Gas Station in La Mesa this past weekend. The suspect was armed with a rifle when he entered the store at approximately 1:25 AM on 11/07/15.


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ARMED ROBBERY AT LA MESA AM/PM GAS STATION

 

East County News Service

November 7, 2015 (La Mesa) – A man armed with a rifle similar to an assault weapon entered the AM/PM gas station at 3775 Massachusetts Avenue in La Mesa at 1:25 a.m. and demanded cash.  After the clerk turned over money, the suspect left on foot and was last seen running eastbound on Waite Drive, according to La Mesa Police.

Officers from La Mesa Police Department searched the surrounding areas with assistance from the San Diego Police Department helicopter ABLE and a San Diego Sheriff’s Department canine team, but were unable to locate the suspect.

The suspect is described as a light-skinned black male adult in his 20s, approximately 5’9” tall, with a thin build. He was wearing a blue and gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and a baseball cap. The suspect also wore dark sunglasses and had the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head.


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SNAKES ALIVE! MOM FINDS 8-FOOT BOA IN LA MESA HOME

 

 

Photo, left to right:  Heartland & Rescue Firefighter/Paramedic Neil Carter, Captain Tom Brown, and Firefighter/Paramedic Sean Finley. 

By Miriam Raftery

October 16, 2015 (La Mesa) – A woman who recently moved into a rental home at 7000 Colony Drive in La Mesa with her children got a big surprise on Saturday. Walking out of the family’s bedroom, she found a huge snake in the kitchen.

The startled mother called 9-1-1 and barricaded herself in the bedroom with her children while waiting for help to arrive. Heartland Fire & Rescue in La Mesa, along with La Mesa Police and the El Cajon Animal Control soon came to the rescue.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

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