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News Reports for December to August of 2004


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The Daily Breeze – December 17, 2004

3 convicted for armed carjacking in Hermosa


Jury acquits the fourth suspect whose attorney said was just hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Daily Breeze

Jurors this week convicted three of four young men who were on trial for an armed Hermosa Beach carjacking that spawned two high-speed police pursuits. 


They also found one of the three, 23-year-old ex-convict Danuyel Ezikiel Bryant, guilty of an earlier kidnapping, robbery and carjacking in Beverly Hills.  The Torrance Superior Court jury deliberated about two days after approximately six days of testimony.


Marcus Ramsey, 23, was convicted of carjacking and evading police.  The jury found that he used a firearm during the July 29 carjacking of a disc jockey in a dark parking lot. 


Ramsey told Mark Pacheco to give him his Chevrolet Tahoe, then pointed a gun at Pacheco's chest.  When a Hermosa Beach patrol car drove up, Pacheco yelled to the officer and Ramsey drove off in the Tahoe.


Police spotted him at Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard, and he led them on a high-speed chase through several red lights until an officer bumped the Tahoe with his car on Century Boulevard near Denker Avenue. A gun was found under the front passenger seat.  Ramsey's attorney admitted his client committed the carjacking, but argued there was not enough evidence to prove he used a gun.


Bryant and William Leander Jones, 22, who was driving the Mercedes-Benz that Bryant stole in Beverly Hills, were also convicted of the armed carjacking, while Jones was found guilty of evading police for a chase that went the wrong way down one-way streets, then on to The Strand in Hermosa and the beach.


When the car got stuck in the sand, Bryant got out and ran toward the ocean. Prosecutors believe he threw a gun into the waves, while his defense attorney argued he was gesturing his frustration at being caught.


Attorneys for Bryant and Jones argued to the jury that their clients were not in on the carjacking of the Tahoe.  Bryant stole the Mercedes-Benz on July 16 after approaching a woman in the car in her garage, tapping on the window with the gun and asking for her money.


Despite her pleas to stay outside, Bryant also took the woman back into her home and stole $600 cash and jewelry before leaving in her car.  The three are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 27 by Judge William R. Hollingsworth Jr.


Bryant faces a maximum 50 years to life in prison, Ramsey 19 years and eight months and Jones 10 years and eight months, according to Deputy District Attorney Warren Kato. 


"I was impressed with the diligent manner with which the jury deliberated," Kato said Thursday, a day after the verdict was reached. "They were certainly correct in rendering the three guilty verdicts. I obviously disagree with the one not guilty verdict, but I respect their decision."


The acquitted man, Tyrone Ramsey, Marcus Ramsey's 24-year-old cousin, was the only one to testify.  He told the jury they went to Aloha Sharkeez on Hermosa Avenue and were looking for an after-hours club when his cousin got out of the car to go talk to someone.


Tyrone Ramsey said the carjacking wasn't planned, and his attorney argued to the jury that the only thing his client did wrong was hang out with "bad guys."  During an interview Thursday, Tyrone Ramsey's attorney, Andrew Edward Smyth, said he thought his client should have never been put on trial.  "I think he was telling the truth," Smyth said.


The other defense attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The Easy Reader – December 16, 2004

HB Police prevail in court battle


by Robb Fulcher


A jury has rejected claims that a police officer assaulted a Hermosa businessman four years ago, closing the latest chapter in a courtroom saga that has cost the city $250,000.  The Superior Court jury deliberated for about an hour-and-a-half on Friday, before unanimously finding in favor of the city and Officer David Bohacik.

During the three-week trial an attorney for Hermosa locksmith Frank W. Hallstein Jr. claimed that Bohacik lunged at Hallstein and had to be restrained, then challenged the locksmith to a fight during a July 2000 incident at the Pier Plaza. Attorney Thomas Beck argued that Bohacik was angered for reasons involving Hallstein’s friendship with another officer who is unfriendly with Bohacik. 

An attorney for the city argued that Hallstein had “stalked” Bohacik, monitoring police radio frequencies and following the officer to calls, deliberately provoking the incident on the Plaza. Attorney Raymond Szu called the incident “a 15-second verbal argument that took place four years ago.”

Officer was disciplined

The incident, which occurred shortly after midnight July 22, 2000, was the subject of an internal investigation by the Police Department that resulted in a one-day suspension of Bohacik, at the time a 13-year veteran of the city police force.

In a confidential memo to the officer, then-Police Chief Val Straser wrote that Bohacik had violated a department rule by failing to be “courteous, civil and respectful” to a private citizen.  “You believed Hallstein was looking in your direction, shaking his head back and forth, rolling his eyes and laughing at you,” Straser wrote to Bohacik. “Hallstein stated he noticed you snapping your head in a spastic manner and your eyes were buggy-like in rage.”

Bohacik told the locksmith to “stop the ‘bull**it’ of staring and ‘eye-f**king’” him, Straser wrote.  “You then challenged Hallstein to meet you after work, without a uniform so you could settle the matter,” Straser wrote.

An exchange of insults followed, according to Straser:  “At least I have a wife,” Hallstein said to Bohacik.  “You call that a wife?” Bohacik said, referring to Hallstein’s spouse, who was not present.  Straser did not conclude that Bohacik lunged at Hallstein.

No case’

The jury verdict on Friday marked the second court decision in favor of the city. Hallstein initially filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court, which a judge dismissed. Hallstein then turned to the state superior court to file the assault lawsuit.

Hermosa Beach Police Chief Mike Lavin said he was relieved by the jury’s verdict, and complained that Hallstein “really had no case.”  “Unfortunately the taxpayer is the loser in this,” Lavin said.

The city spent $250,000 to cover what is in effect the maximum insurance deductible for any individual claim, Hermosa Beach Risk Manager Michael Earl said. After that money was spent, additional legal fees and expenses were paid out of a 30-city insurance pool to which Hermosa belongs.

Beck said he took Hallstein’s case on contingency, expecting that the locksmith would be awarded damages in federal court. Beck billed Hallstein for no fees, but did bill for his court-related expenses. Hallstein said that figure totaled about $20,000.

Trading stalking charges

During closing arguments in the lawsuit last week, Szu told the six-woman, six-man jury that Hallstein “stalked” Bohacik on more than 70 occasions, listening to police radio frequencies and showing up at the scene of crimes and other calls.  In efforts to keep the officer and the locksmith apart, Bohacik worked graveyard shifts at times, and was sent to calls via an email system that could not be monitored on the police radio frequencies, Szu said.

Szu contended that Hallstein has “a strange fixation” with police officers. The attorney told the jury that on one occasion a Hermosa police sergeant was chasing some carjacking suspects on foot, when he turned to see Hallstein running alongside him.

Beck said that as a locksmith Hallstein often winds up in the same place as police officers, and in addition Hallstein monitors the radio frequencies and shows up at scenes of police activity to exercise his right to keep an eye on government operations.  “He’s a watchdog,” Beck told the jury.  Hallstein does not interfere with officers and they are used to his presence, Beck said.  “They know Frank Hallstein is a police groupie,” Beck said.

On the stalking front, Beck said it was Bohacik who followed the locksmith around, and the officer was told repeatedly by police superiors to avoid Hallstein and his wife.  “Who’s stalking who?” Beck asked the jury.  “I’m making an appointment with my doctor to see if maybe I’m dyslexic, because every time I’m supposed to be stalking this guy he’s following me,” Hallstein said.

Not over’

Beck said that an appeal of the jury verdict is possible.  “It’s not over,” Hallstein said. ER

The Daily Breeze – December 15, 2004

Jurors hear closing in Hermosa carjack case


The jury must now consider the roles each of the four men on trial had when they were arrested for the alleged armed car robbery of a disc jockey.

Daily Breeze

Jurors on Monday began sorting out the roles four young men took in a Hermosa Beach armed carjacking and the two high-speed police pursuits that followed.  During closing arguments in the case before the jury began deliberations, one defense attorney told the jury his client did take the car in a carjacking, but said there was no evidence he used a gun to do it.


The others' attorneys argued their clients were not in on the crime, with one attorney adding that his client's only wrongdoing was getting "in a car with a den of thieves."


But Deputy District Attorney Warren Kato argued that even though only one used a gun in a dark parking lot to carjack a disc jockey, the evidence shows all of them were involved.  "You better believe every one of them is there to back each other up," Kato told the Torrance Superior Court jury Thursday.


Trial before Judge William R. Hollingsworth Jr. began Dec. 1.  All four are facing charges for the armed carjacking. Marcus Ramsey, 23, who allegedly used the gun, is also accused of evading police for leading officers on a chase in the stolen Chevrolet Tahoe, as is William Leander Jones, 22, who led police in a pursuit in a Mercedes-Benz that had been stolen in Beverly Hills two weeks before.


Mark Pacheco, a disc jockey at the Dragon, testified that Ramsey approached him as he was loading equipment into his Tahoe about 2:30 a.m. on July 29. Ramsey demanded Pacheco give over his keys or he was "gonna (expletive) you up," Pacheco testified.


Then Ramsey allegedly pointed a gun at his chest.  Just then, a Hermosa Beach police officer drove up and Pacheco yelled to him.


Jones drove off in the Mercedes, leading the officer on a high-speed pursuit that took them the wrong way down one-way streets, The Strand and onto the beach, according to the officer's testimony.


After nearly hitting a sleeping transient, the car became stuck in the sand. Danuyel Ezikiel Bryant, 23, ran from the car toward the water, where an officer said he saw him heave something into the ocean before giving up.  Although nothing was found, the prosecution wanted the jury to infer that Bryant tossed the gun into the water.


Jones and Tyrone Ramsey, 24, Marcus Ramsey's cousin, were arrested inside the car.  Tyrone Ramsey was the only defendant who testified. He denied that the crime was planned and said he was drunk and only remembers discussing women, not cars.


Tyrone Ramsey said they went to Sharkeez on Pier Avenue and were looking for an after-hours club when his cousin got out of the Mercedes to talk to someone.  His attorney, Andrew Edward Smyth, reminded the jury that his client works for the U.S. Postal Service and doesn't need to steal for his money. Tyrone Ramsey just wanted to "walk on the wild side" and ended up in the car "with a den of thieves," Smyth added, causing the other defense attorneys to object.


Jones' attorney, Alternate Deputy Public Defender Jabe Kahnke, said there is no question his client evaded police, but said it doesn't amount to a felony because there wasn't any proof he put anyone in harm's way.


Kahnke also argued there was evidence that the carjacking was not planned because Jones and the other men knew that the area around Sharkeez at that time of night has extra police patrols "to keep a lid on bar fights and drunk drivers."


Bryant is also charged with robbing, carjacking and kidnapping the woman who owns the Mercedes on July 16 in her Beverly Hills garage. The woman told the jury he ordered her out of the car at gunpoint and, despite her pleas to stay outside, took her back into her house and stole $600 and some jewelry, according to Kato.


The woman identified Bryant in court as the man who stole from her, Kato reminded the jury.

But Bryant's attorney, Nancy Sperber, said there were alternative explanations for some of the evidence.


For instance, there is no proof Bryant tossed anything to the ocean, and said the gesture could have been more of an "Oh, shucks." Like when someone is trying to run away on the beach, they reach water "and realize they can't swim to China," Sperber explained.


Sperber also argued that the identification of Bryant as the perpetrator of the Beverly Hills crimes was shaky, especially because the victim didn't notice a pronounced scar and tattoos on Bryant's neck.  In addition, she argued that there was only one crime -- a continuous robbery -- not three separate crimes.


Marcus Ramsey, who was spotted at Sepulveda Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue in Pacheco's Tahoe minutes after the carjacking, led police through stop signs at speeds sometimes reaching 90 mph before an officer used his patrol car to ram the SUV on Century Boulevard near Denker Avenue.  Officers pulled Ramsey from the car and a gun was found under the front passenger seat, an officer testified.


Marcus Ramsey's attorney, Simon Aval, conceded that his client carjacked the Tahoe, but argued there was no evidence he used a gun. Aval told the jury it would be difficult for his client to stash the weapon under the passenger's seat while driving so fast, and added it would be more reasonable to believe he would have thrown it out the window if he had one.


"Where did it come from?" Aval asked of the gun. "I don't know."

The Daily Breeze – December 2, 2004

Trial under way for 4 men in HB carjacking case


Disc jockey tells jury he was confronted by a man with a gun.

Daily Breeze

Trial began Wednesday for four men who led police in two different pursuits following an armed carjacking in Hermosa Beach.  Mark Pacheco, a disc jockey at the Dragon on Pier Avenue, told the Torrance Superior Court jury he left work just before 2:30 a.m. July 29 and was confronted by a man with a gun at his Chevrolet Tahoe parked in a lot north of the plaza.

Pacheco identified Marcus Ramsey, 23, as the man who exited a Mercedes-Benz, reached into his baggy pants and pulled out a gun. Pacheco said he felt metal on his chest and "looked down enough to realize there was a gun."  He took a step back and handed Ramsey his keys. Just then, a Hermosa Beach police officer drove into the lot.

Officer Michael Frilot testified he pulled into the parking lot and saw what looked like an altercation. As he drove closer, one of them yelled to him, "Someone just pointed a gun at me," and motioned toward the SUV as it drove away, Frilot said.

The man also pointed to the Mercedes-Benz parked next to Frilot's patrol car and yelled, "And those guys, too."  Frilot said he saw three young men in the Mercedes look at him. The Mercedes went in reverse, almost hitting the patrol car, and sped through the parking lot before turning west on 13th Street, which is one-way in the opposite direction.

With lights and sirens on, Frilot said he followed the Mercedes as it traveled 40 to 50 mph on 13th Street, several residential streets and The Strand, where speeds reached 60 to 70 mph.

The Strand, which is meant for pedestrians and bicycles, usually has people walking home from the bars that time of night, Frilot said. The only person he said he saw was a transient sleeping in the sand a foot or two away from where the Mercedes drove on to the beach just north of 11th Street.

When the Mercedes stopped, the front passenger door opened and a man later identified as Danuyel Ezikiel Bryant, 23, ran under the Hermosa Beach Pier until he was knee-deep in the ocean, Frilot said.  Bryant appeared to "lob" something into the water, Frilot said, which police believed was a gun, although no weapon was ever recovered. Bryant then put his hands up and said, "I give up," Frilot said.

Also arrested in the Mercedes were William Leander Jones, 22, and Tyrone Maurice Ramsey, who is Marcus Ramsey's 24-year-old brother.  About 10 minutes later, Manhattan Beach police officers spotted the Chevy Tahoe at Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard waiting at a red light with its headlights off.

Officer Kristopher Thompson said he tried to pull over the SUV, but it continued on to Aviation Boulevard, where it turned left and accelerated to 80 to 90 mph, blowing through red lights, until it reached Century Boulevard.

Thompson bumped the back of the SUV near Denker Avenue and the Tahoe spun out allowing officers to pull Ramsey from the driver's seat, Thompson said. A gun was found under the seat, Thompson said.  Officers brought Pacheco to where the pursuit ended and, when he saw Ramsey, told Thompson: "That's the (expletive) that jacked me," Thompson said during questioning by Deputy District Attorney Warren Kato.

All four men are on trial before Judge William R. Hollingsworth Jr. on carjacking charges. Ramsey is facing additional charges that he used a firearm while the others are accused of participating in a crime in which a firearm was used. In addition, Ramsey and Jones are charged with evading a police officer.

During the trial, which is expected to last until next week, the jury will also hear evidence that the Mercedes was stolen July 16 in Beverly Hills. Bryant, who has prior convictions, is charged with carjacking and kidnapping for that crime.

The Daily Breeze – November 23, 2004

Suspected gang members arrested in HB carjacking


Daily Breeze

Two Lawndale teenagers took a sport utility vehicle from a frightened couple at knifepoint and crashed into another vehicle in a botched scramble to escape, Hermosa Beach police said Monday.

Emmanuel Gerardo, 18, and a 17-year-old boy, both suspected gang members, were taken into custody following a struggle with police officers. A knife was recovered, Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said.

The carjacking Sunday afternoon occurred moments after the pair failed in an attempt to steal another man's car, Wolcott said.  Shortly before 5 p.m., a Hermosa Beach man driving his car into the alley in the 100 block of Palm Drive saw the teens in a friend's garage.

"He knew that the two didn't belong there," Wolcott said.

The man confronted the teens and called police on his cellular telephone, but immediately sped away when the 17-year-old walked up to him and pulled a knife.  The teens ran to Hermosa Avenue at Herondo Street, where they confronted a 33-year-old man and 30-year-old woman who had just entered their parked car.

"One of the suspects produced a knife and the other told the victims that he had a gun," Wolcott said. "They demanded that the victims get out of the 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe. Fearing for their lives, the victims complied."

The carjackers sped north in the Tahoe on Hermosa Avenue. Meanwhile, the first man was still on the telephone with police and arrived to find the second carjacking victims, Wolcott said.

The teens raced at high speed and made their way to southbound Valley Drive, where they ran a stop sign at Second Street, crashed into an eastbound Mercedes-Benz, and veered onto the greenbelt.  The teens ran from the disabled Tahoe through an apartment complex to Pacific Coast Highway and First Street. Witnesses to the crash followed them and directed officers where to find them.

Gerardo and the 17-year-old, whose name was not released because of his age, struggled with officers but were taken into custody.  Officers recovered the knife but no gun was located.

Police arrested the pair on suspicion of carjacking, attempted carjacking, trespassing, hit and run and armed robbery. Gerardo was held on $100,000 bail at the Hermosa Beach jail.  The juvenile was taken to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, where he also was held on $100,000 bail.

"The suspects have gang affiliations and extensive criminal backgrounds, including arrests for grand theft auto," Wolcott said.


The Beach Reporter – November 25, 2004

Hermosa Beach News

Two nabbed in carjackings (11/25)

By Whitney Youngs

Hermosa Beach Police Monday arrested two teenagers for reportedly carjacking two local residents at knifepoint near the corner of Hermosa Avenue and Herondo Street.  Officers arrested and charged 18-year-old Emmanuel Gerardo of Lawndale and an unidentified 17-year-old juvenile also from Lawndale, for carjacking, attempted carjacking, trespassing, felony hit and run, and armed robbery.

According to Press Information Officer Sgt. Paul Wolcott, a Hermosa Beach resident drove his car down an alley in the 100 block of Palm Drive at about 4:55 p.m. Monday afternoon. He noticed the two suspects standing in a friend's garage and felt they didn't belong there.  "The Hermosan confronted the two suspects about their business in the garage," stated Wolcott. "Concurrent with his contacting the suspects, the Hermosan called police on his cell phone. The juvenile suspect approached the Hermosan and produced a knife. In fear for his life, the victim immediately fled from the suspects."

The two men then traveled to the scene of the second carjacking where they approached two other victims - a 33-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman - both of Hermosa Beach. The two victims were getting into a parked car when the suspect approached them.  "One of the suspects produced a knife and the other told the victims that he had a gun," explained Wolcott. "They demanded that the victims get out of the 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe. In fear for their lives, the victims complied with the suspect's demand."

The two suspects drove north on Hermosa Avenue. It was at this time that the first victim drove up and found the second victims near the corner of Herondo Street and Hermosa Avenue.  "The first victim was still on the telephone with police dispatchers," stated Wolcott. "The additional information of the second carjacking was given to police dispatchers."

The two suspects eventually made their way onto Valley Drive heading south at what police describe at a high rate of speed. The suspect who was driving the car ran the stop sign at Second Street and crashed into a Mercedes Benz, which was traveling east on Second Street. After the crash, the suspects were unable to drive the SUV, which ended up on the Greenbelt, and fled the scene.

"The Mercedes driver ended up in the hospital with injuries," reported Wolcott. "The two suspects ran away through an apartment complex and ended up in the area of Pacific Coast Highway at First Street. Witnesses to the crash followed the suspects and directed responding officers to their location."

Following a brief struggle with officers, the suspects were handcuffed and taken into custody. Police never found a gun but did recover a knife that they believe was used in both carjackings. According to Wolcott, the suspects have associations with gangs and both have extensive criminal backgrounds that include arrests for grand theft auto. Both suspects are being held on $100,000 bail.

The Daily Breeze – November 8, 2004

DEA officer injured in Hermosa Beach hit-run


The agent rolled onto the car's windshield after the impact and injured his head and had deep cuts to his back. 

An off-duty undercover Drug Enforcement Agency officer was hit by a car that sped off early Saturday in Hermosa Beach, officials said.

The agent was crossing the street at Gould Avenue and Valley Drive about 2 a.m. when a compact car driving west on Gould ran through two stoplights, said DEA spokesman Jose Martinez. The agent tried to avoid the car, but it hit him.

The agent rolled onto the car's windshield after the impact and injured his head and had deep cuts to his back, Martinez said.  The agent did not require hospitalization, but will be off work for at least a month, he said.

The car was dark blue or black, possibly a Honda, with damage to the windshield, Martinez said.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the Hermosa Beach Police Department at 310-318-0360 or the DEA at 213-621-6714.

The Daily Breeze – November 5, 2004

Man who filmed girls in Hermosa to be tried


Hermosa Police arrested convicted molester Robert Romo and found videotapes of the children in his possession.

Daily Breeze

A convicted child molester will stand trial for secretly videotaping the buttocks and crotches of little girls playing in the sand in Hermosa Beach and Long Beach, a judge ruled Thursday.

Based on the testimony of two Hermosa Beach police officers who arrested and investigated Robert Edward Romo, 44, Torrance Superior Court Judge Francis J. Hourigan said there is enough evidence to hold Romo on three charges of child molesting with a prior conviction.

Romo's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Richard Kim, argued during the preliminary hearing that the case should be dismissed because his client did nothing more than view people through the lens of a video camera.

Kim rhetorically asked Hourigan if someone could be charged and convicted for just standing on the beach watching girls.  "If that's correct, then I would suggest we need to arrest a lot of people at the beach," Kim quipped.

But Deputy District Attorney Jodi Link cited California law outlining the elements of child molesting, which include that the perpetrator is motivated by unnatural or abnormal sexual interest.  Hourigan ordered that Romo continue to be held in jail without bail and set a Nov. 17 date for his arraignment.

A portion of the videotape, which Hourigan did not watch, shows a little girl in a blue bathing suit playing in the sand, the waves breaking behind her.

She is one of four girls depicted in the videotape found inside the videocamera that Romo was carrying when he was arrested Aug. 15 for public intoxication, according to officer Eric Cahalan.  Cahalan said cardboard and a shirt were adhered to the camera by black tape.

Sgt. Steve Endom testified that the video is an hour and a half long, and about a third of it focuses on the unknown girls' crotches and buttocks.  "They're all under the age of 10, easily," Endom said. 

"Anytime a subject is in the picture, that subject was a little girl," Endom added.

The day after his arrest, Romo told Endom that he found the videocamera and tapes in the trash, and concealed it when he admittedly taped the girls' private areas because he did not want to offend them or be caught by their parents, Endom testified.

Romo said he was videotaping the girls for art studies, adding that he could not obtain pictures of their buttocks any other way, Endom said.

During a search of Romo's Long Beach home, more tapes were found, but no art supplies, Endom said. Endom said he seized seven videotapes, and has since reviewed most of them -- which all feature girls' buttocks and crotches.

Romo was convicted in 1999 for secretly videotaping up the skirts of girls and women at Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance. He walked around with the lens pointed up and a sweater concealing the camera, according to police.

The Beach Reporter - October 28, 2004

Hermosa Beach News

By Whitney Youngs

HB City Council summary (10/28) –


The City Council agreed to write a letter to the ABC in support of a change in the Alcoholic Beverage Control license of TJ Charly'z to allow for dancing inside the establishment. With the support of the council, it also requested that it review the business's activity in three months and at six months. The ABC reserves final judgment on the matter but takes into consideration the position of any particular city on a certain matter. 

A memo from Police Chief Mike Lavin stated that the problems associated with this bar/restaurant have been greatly reduced since the discontinuation of dancing. Lavin believes that with an reintroduction of dancing, the same problems will arise again.

However, the council heard the pleas of the owner claiming that this prohibition is severely affecting his bottom line and agreed to write the letter supporting a change to the ABC.

New Year's Eve - The council voted to approve the city's annual New Year's Eve celebration slated for Dec. 31 on the pier plaza. The cost to host the function is $22,500 with an additional $3,500 allocated for items such as cleanup crews and lighting.  Most of the funds are spent on the live music act, Big Band 2000, that performs jazz and swing standards from 8 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.  The affair draws thousands of locals to the downtown plaza on New Year's Eve with members of City Council leading the crowd in the countdown. Some describe the event as a miniature version of New Year's in New York City's Times Square.

200 Pier Ave. - Voting on more than 20 new conditions to the project, the City Council approved a large new commercial development that will be built at 200 Pier Ave. and calls for demolition of the existing building.  Among the conditions, those who enter the site will be able to turn left only onto the alleyway, Bayview Drive, and right only onto Manhattan Avenue. The building will consist of more than 18,000 square feet in a series of four separate buildings connected by two levels of parking and a common open space area. The site will contain 45 commercial condominiums of 333 square feet each, used strictly for commercial as opposed to residential use. The development is designed as an "office campus" with contemporary styles like building facades, metal roofs, exposed beams and wood exteriors.

The Beach Reporter – August 12, 2004

Hermosa Beach News                             

HB Residents complain about plaza patrons (8/12)

By Whitney Youngs

In a public meeting, Hermosa Beach residents and business owners along with a few elected city officials and employees Aug. 4 discussed several ongoing issues that just don't ever seem to go away pertaining to the city's raucous nightlife in the downtown area and on the pier plaza.  City officials fielded numerous complaints from residents who live in the nearby neighborhoods who are sick and tired of waking up in the middle of the night to drunken party animals, some of whom yell and scream down residential streets, urinate in front yards or vandalize private property.

Police Chief Mike Lavin commented on the present environment spanning roughly the past six months, and said that there have been no major incidents and the area overall has improved.

Newly appointed Planning Commissioner and lifetime resident Rick Koenig attended the meeting and said most of the issues discussed centered on a "fraternity-like atmosphere" in the downtown in which a handful of police officers are regulating a scene comprising hundreds of restaurant and bar patrons  "I know a lot of people are fed up with the 'red cup syndrome' where people are walking around in public drinking openly," said Koenig, "and the urination and trash in everyone's yard, including mine. These kind of meetings are good in the sense that at least it allows people to vent instead of building up animosity and so it's a step in the right direction."

The public meeting, which began as proactive but eventually turned into a rather heated debate, provided residents with an opportunity to verbalize their frustrations and concerns about a downtown that attracts throngs of young people, both local and from out of town, most every weekend and on some weeknights.

"I think these problems can be fixed. We just need some positive solutions because if all we do is antagonize each other then that's all we've done," said City Councilman J.R. Reviczky. "Unfortunately, if you get 10 people in a room, one of them is going to be an idiot; with 100, 10 are going to be; and with 1,000, you have 100. That's really what the scenario is down there and anywhere. Half of the laws that are passed by government are passed because 10 percent of people have no respect for others. You have a lot of people down there and you have a lot of people down there spending money, you're going to have that 10-percent figure no matter what. That ratio stays the same and we'll always have to deal with that 10 percent.

"We used to staff officers that were on overtime and now we actually have a special shift down there which helps with overtime costs and gives those officers a better grasp of what is going on when you have the same people down there all the time. You have to give that a chance to work and I think that is the phase we are in right now."

The meeting also served as a platform in brainstorming solutions to such problems, which have been at the forefront in the city for years now.  Planning Commissioner Sam Perotti also attended the meeting and suggested that at the next session an agenda be drafted as a way of providing a bit more structure.  "I think there needs to be continued coordination between the business operators, and the Police and Fire departments. I think that in the long run, things will work out," he said. "In the past, the Planning Commission has modified business conditional use permits by limiting hours mainly based on excessive noise and that has been an effective resource."

Resident Al Benson has been a strong proponent of cracking down on bars and restaurants that become nightclubs in the evening that he believes serve as a breeding ground for much of the boisterous behavior of patrons.

"Of all the things that are going on down there, there are monetary costs - cleaning the plaza, police overtime - and then there are human costs, people are getting hurt and I'm tired of reading in the newspapers of police being attacked as well. All these costs, are they worth it?" said Benson. "It seems like even with implementing some solutions - like reducing noise and occupancy, enforcing underage drinking - but the number of people who come down there does not change and the age group does not change and the amount of alcohol really does not change, we won't have a real effect on alcohol-related crimes."

According to the city's quarterly statistical reports for 2003, the Police Department cited the largest number of adults arrested in more than a decade.  According to the report, robbery stayed the same with 13 cases reported in 2002 and 2003. Both assaults and burglaries increased this year compared to 2002 with 140 reported assaults and 143 burglaries compared to 131 assaults and 118 burglaries reported in 2002. The number of reported D.U.I. arrests rose with 214 cases reported in 2002 and 285 cases reported in 2003.

Police transported more people to jail in 2003 with 1,012 adult arrests in 2002 and 1,315 adult arrests in 2003. The number of police calls for service increased this year from 28,728 to 32,241 while the number of disturbance calls dropped from 3,343 to 2,788.

In mid-February, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to review conditional use permits of Aloha Sharkeez and Sangria.  "The thing that I don't think people really understand is that the downtown area in the overall picture in terms of parking, taxes, licenses is about $5 million to the city and people tend to forget what it was like 10 years ago," said Sharkeez owner Ron Newman. "For the amount of people who come down, it's pretty well-run. Most of the businesses are upscale and sell food, and it's not going to go away. The people who have businesses have a right to be here. If there are problems, then those problems need to be solved between the individual and the business, and it has to be solved realistically. Hermosa is what it is and without these businesses Hermosa wouldn't be able to survive. I think there should be a city liaison that someone could go to, and that person could meet with both the business and the citizen because if you don't try and solve these problems, no one is going to win."

At its February meeting, the commission reviewed an incident report drafted by Lavin that details the history of officer calls responding to incidents taking place inside or outside downtown restaurants and bars, and several along Pacific Coast Highway.  "For the past several years, the city of Hermosa Beach has enjoyed a very popular downtown area," stated Lavin in his report. "In particular, the Hermosa night life has become very popular and several thousand patrons frequent the downtown nightclubs especially on the weekend nights. The Police Department has had to increase the amount of enforcement activity on the Hermosa plaza to keep a lid on the crowds and the associated public disturbances, assaults and public intoxication that have become very commonplace each evening between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m."

The Police Department staffs the plaza with foot patrol units on every night of the week with the exception of Monday and designates additional foot patrols on weekend nights.  "All of this activity is paid through overtime and is costing the city several hundreds of thousands of dollars each year," added Lavin. "This activity on the plaza has also been the source of numerous personnel complaints against officers, claims against the city, lawsuits and injuries to officers."

According to Lavin's report, officers received 83 and 71 disturbance calls from Sangria and Aloha Sharkeez, respectively. The report tracks the history of calls from Dec. 1, 2002, to Jan. 10, 2004. Lavin also wanted to make it clear that such number of calls were made in front of an establishment, not necessarily inside of them.  Because the two establishments ranked as the first and second in the highest number of calls among the 15 other restaurants and bars mostly located in downtown and some along PCH, Lavin asked the commission to review both CUPs. The commission will determine whether the CUPs were properly and adequately implemented as a way of controlling some of the problems that have come in the form of such disturbance calls.

Among the restaurants with the lowest number of calls, Patrick Malloy's was ranked the lowest with one call followed by the Poop Deck with two calls, the Hermosa Yacht Club and Caf/ Boogaloo with three calls, and the Mermaid restaurant and Barnacles tied for fourth place with five calls each. The report focuses on calls directly dealing with disturbances, assaults and public intoxication.  Of the remaining establishments, Shark's Cove received six calls, followed by Pointe 705 with 10, Hennessey's with 11, TJ Charly'z and the North End Bar with 13, Hermosa Saloon with 16, the Pitcher House with 17, the Underground with 33 and the Lighthouse with 45.

Carla Merriman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, commented on the "red cup" drinking scene and expressed satisfaction in knowing that the bars have begun to take initiative in recent months.  "It was good to hear that the bars are cleaning up their act," she said. "I think that more information should be given to residents regarding the value of these businesses on the plaza - Sangria, Sharkeez and Hennessey's are consistently among the top 25 sales tax producers. When I hear residents talking about people on The Strand with red cups and blaming the establishments for that, I think it's ridiculous. The restaurants and bars do not pour drinks to go. I think we need to work in the community as a whole and whatever the chamber can do to help, we would like to as a way to move in a more positive direction."

Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza Renovation was completed in 1997

Hermosa Beach Crime Statistics

Categories that have shown an increase from 1998 to 2003

Year            Rape      Burglary    Non-Injury       ALL             DUI         Criminal        ALL                Total

                                                      Auto Acc.       Assaults                     Citations     Arrests     Calls for Service

1998 --       8          113          201             77          150         562           624         19,951

1999 --       6          118          170            119          203        613           692          21,378

2000 --       6          145          195             97           152        545           629          25,147

2001 --       9          104          176            141          170        668           873          32,422

2002 --      15         118          202            131           214        943        1,027          28,728

2003 --      11         143          258            140           285        989        1,343          32,241


Hermosa Beach Crime Statistics

Categories Percentage Increase from 1998 to 2003

Rape        Burglary      Non-Injury          ALL                DUI              Criminal             All                 Total

                                       Auto Acc.         Assaults                            Citations        Arrests      Calls for Service

Up           Up             Up               Up             Up              Up            Up               Up

37 %       26 %         28 %           81 %         90 %          75 %       115 %          61 %   

Crime Statistics from: The Hermosa Beach Police Department

The Daily Breeze – August 6, 2004

Hermosa Beach resumes talks to rein in Pier Avenue Plaza nightlife

By Dennis Johnson, Daily Breeze

The complaints have become a familiar refrain for Hermosa Beach.  Public drunkenness.  Excessive noise.  Graffiti and vandalism.  Late-night revelers urinating in residents' yards.

And for the umpteenth time, city officials, residents and business owners sat down Wednesday night to listen to the complaints and contemplate solutions for the problems associated with the city's Pier Avenue Plaza.  The latest round of discussions comes about six months after Police Chief Michael Lavin issued a report to the City Council stating that officers were facing an increased threat of violence from downtown patrons.

In the months since, Lavin said, patrol officers have stepped up crowd enforcement, cited those with fake IDs and helped quell potential problems.  "They've written a lot of citations and they've made a big impact on underage drinking," Lavin told the room of about two dozen residents.

Police believe that by controlling overcrowding and underage drinking, they can rein in the fights and violence that have earned the street the nickname "Thunderdome" after the Mad Max movie.

Many in attendance agreed a solution is needed before something big breaks out downtown, the focus of which should be the bars and restaurants that draw thousands each weekend.  "I think we need to tone it down," City Manager Steve Burrell said.

"I think there are some problems with businesses down there," Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld said.

Ron Newman, the owner of Aloha Sharkeez, said that the ultimate solution should involve the bars, the residents and the city, since the Plaza's businesses aren't changing anytime soon.

To this, resident Becher Anderson said that the bar owners need to curb the problems, because the citizens of the town owe them nothing.  "The question is, how do you control 2,800 drunks at 2 in the morning?" Anderson said.

At some point the meeting inside the City Council chambers erupted into discussions between two groups, one claiming the police were overzealous in arresting people and the other wanting more controls on Pier Avenue.  Frank Hallstein, the owner of Hermosa Lock and Safe, said that the downtown bars should hire their own private security firm.

Resident Barbara Ellman agreed, proposing bar owners should collect a fee from customers that would go toward policing the area.

Another man suggested that the city start vigorously enforcing public drinking laws.  "What I'm seeing down on The Strand ... is lots of crowds (of people) with beer bottles and cans carrying them openly," Tim Personius said.

Resident Al Benson, a frequent critic of the downtown's influence on area neighborhoods, said he wondered if the cost of controlling the popular night spot was worth it for the city.

The Daily Breeze – August 5, 2004        

Your Views

A big thanks to Hermosa officers

After reading the accounts of the recent carjacking in downtown Hermosa Beach, I'd like to publicly thank officer Michael Frilot and officer Jonathan Sibbald.

Sure, they were "just doing their job," but the number of people who are willing to pursue and engage armed criminals is very small.

And while Frilot and Sibbald aren't the only excellent officers in our little department, they certainly performed superbly during this incident. Thanks, guys.


Hermosa Beach

The Beach Reporter – August 5, 2004

Hermosa Beach News

Police nab four men in alleged carjacking (8/5)

By Whitney Youngs

After ending in a car-to-car pursuit, Hermosa Beach Police last Thursday morning arrested four men in connection with the carjacking of an SUV belonging to a disc jockey who works at a bar located on the pier plaza.  The four young men - Los Angeles resident Danuyel Bryant, 23; Gardena residents Marcus Ramsey, 23, and Tyrone Ramsey, 24; and William Jones, 22, of Pacoima - were arrested and charged with carjacking, grand theft auto and felony evading of police in the early morning (about 2 or 3 a.m.) of July 29.

According to Press Information Officer Sgt. Paul Wolcott, the four suspects drove a stolen Mercedes-Benz to Hermosa Beach and parked it in a public lot in the downtown area just west of the Bijou building. One of the suspects, Marcus Ramsey, then got out of the car with a handgun.  Ramsey approached the DJ, who was loading his equipment into his SUV after finishing work at Dragon, a nightclub on the south side of the plaza. Ramsey threatened to kill the victim and demanded the keys to the SUV. The victim, fearing for this life, handed them over.

Wolcott would not comment as to why the men carjacked the DJ since it is part of the investigation.  "Usually the motivation is some kind of gain - either monetary or property," he said.

Officer Michael Frilot, who was patrolling the area during this time, observed the men flee the scene in both the Mercedes-Benz (occupied by Jones, Tyrone Ramsey and Bryant) and the SUV (driven by Ramsey), and began to pursue the Mercedes. Frilot broadcast the chase over the radio while chasing the car that eventually led the officer onto The Strand, which is a long stretch of concrete along the beach used for pedestrians, bikers and in-line skaters.  "(In response to driving on The Strand) Obviously, they don't care about people's lives anyway when they are out there robbing them in the middle of the night," said Wolcott.

Frilot continued to chase the Mercedes south on The Strand toward Pier Avenue and the suspects then drove the car onto the beach just past the municipal pier when at this point Officer Jonathan Sibbald arrived on the scene as backup.  The sand slowed the Mercedes down, and Bryant jumped out of the car and ran into the ocean with Frilot in pursuit on foot. Sibbald held the two other men in the Mercedes at bay. Frilot noticed Bryant throw something into the ocean during the pursuit, which ended once Frilot caught him.

With the details about the crime and pursuit broadcast over the radio, a Manhattan Beach Police sergeant spotted the stolen SUV and a second pursuit ensued once Ramsey failed to yield to the officer. The chase continued east onto Century Boulevard and ended on the street near Denker Avenue where Ramsey was finally arrested. Police found a handgun on the car's passenger seat. Police transported the victim to the locale where the pursuit ended, and he positively identified Ramsey as the man who threatened his life and stole his car.

Los Angeles County Lifeguards conducted a search of the water where Bryant threw the object into the ocean, but have yet to locate anything.  "Our speculation is that it may have been a gun," added Wolcott.

All four men were in police custody until their Aug. 2 arraignment at the Torrance Courthouse. According to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department records, Bryant is being held on $20,000 bail, Jones at $75,000 and Tyrone Ramsey at $20,000, all of whom are at the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles. Marcus Ramsey's bail was set at $100,000 and he is currently at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles.

Police later discovered that the Mercedes-Benz was carjacked in Beverly Hills July 18 and the Beverly Hills Police are interviewing the suspects in connection to this crime.

The Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Association

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