Crime was down, but that wasn’t the perception
Compared to 2013, serious (Part I) crimes declined in 2014 in all three beach cities. But the headline grabbing crimes that did occur reinforced the widespread belief that the early release of prisoners, resulting from AB 109, the Public Safety Realignment Bill of 2011, has made the beach cities less safe. The year’s most disturbing crimes involved a home invasion, a public brawl, domestic abuse and a kidnapping.
Elderly Manhattan Beach couple bound and robbed
Fred and Kathy Stanger arrived home late, two nights before Thanksgiving and noticed their window screens were on the ground of their Morningside Street home in Manhattan Beach.
“We sensed something right away. We knew we had a burglary.” But out of concern for his dogs, Fred, 72, entered his house, a decision he would come to regret.
“I entered the kitchen and before I could turn around, they jumped on me,’ he said. “It was the first beating I’ve taken since high school,” he said the following day.
The robbers tied up Kathy with Fred’s old elastic suspenders and tied him up with duct tape. They tore off the couple’s rings, including a diamond ring from Kathy’s mother, then pushed them through the house for the next two and a half hours with guns held to their heads, forcing them to open a safe.
“It was just like a movie. I thought, is this really the way I’m going to go out, by getting shot in the head,” Kathy said.
One of the robbers held a gun to Fred’s face for 15 seconds while staring him down.
“I don’t know what his reasons were,” Fred said. “Perhaps to terrify me, which was successful. He told us if we moved he was going to kill us.”
The couple agreed to tell their story to impress upon their neighbors the need to be cautious.
“I’m completely deflated, like an empty balloon,” Fred said.
Yik Yak no idle talk
Mira Costa High School was closed for two days in November as a result of anonymous threats made against on the social media app Yik Yak, which combines the functions of Twitter and a local community message board. The threats, which were initially vague, but became more serious, with one stating, “Almost every school shooter has left a warning before committing the crime and everyone ignored them, just remember,” according to district officials.
The school was put on lockdown shortly after a student reported the first message to a teacher. It read, “If you go to Costa, you should watch out very closely at school today.”
Manhattan Beach Police Department announced that they had identified a “female juvenile” responsible for the threats. She was not a local student.
The school district asked Yik Yak to disable the app within the district’s campuses and configured its Wi-Fi to block access to the app.
Voynov tarnishes Kings’ cup
Los Angeles Kings defenseman and Redondo Beach resident Slava Voynov was arrested in October on suspicion of assaulting his wife. Redondo Beach Police responded to a call placed by a neighbor, who claimed to hear screaming coming from Voynov’s home. When police arrived, the house was empty. However, a nurse attending to Voynov’s wife Marta Valamova at Little Company of Mary Hospital, contacted the Torrance police, who contacted RBPD. Voynov was arrested in the hospital lobby. The National Hockey League quickly suspended him. On Dec. 29 plead he pled not guilty to a felony charge of corporal injury to spouse.
Brawl at the beach
An Oct. 15, Hermosa Beach police responded to a report that about 20 people were fighting on The Strand, near the Hermosa pier. One man required hospitalization.
In a letter to city officials, the Redondo Beach parent of two of the alleged victims wrote that police were “less than surprised. They told the father of one of the kids that ‘this stuff happens all the time down here,’ and were unfazed by the gravity and severity of what happened.”
The incident spurred the city council to move forward with plans to install more surveillance cameras in the downtown.
“Timothy had full-intent and plans to murder me that day,” wrote a Redondo Beach kidnapping victim who was taken from her Redondo Beach home to a Torrance motel room on October 9. “Words cannot begin to explain the horrific and terrifying trauma I experienced that day, and am continuing to cope with,” she wrote in an email sent to news outlets.
According to the email, she awoke about 1 a.m. to the sound of her bedroom door being opened by estranged friend Timothy Thomas, 27. Thomas, threatened her with a gun, forced her into his car and drove her to a Super 8 Motel in Torrance. There, “he had everything set up,” she wrote.
“He was eager to inflict pain on me before murdering me and then himself,” the victim wrote. Eventually, the victim was able to escape and made her way to the lobby, where a desk attendant called police. The attendant evaded Thomas’s questions about the victim’s whereabouts while the victim hid under the attendant’s desk.
Thomas was found by police in the hotel room’s bathroom, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. ER