A Very Clockwork Orange Year: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Our Fair County

 

Design by Richie Beckman

JAN. 8: A homeless fellow walked into the Smart & Final store in Laguna Niguel, went to the public-address microphone and informed shoppers to make their way to the front exit because of a bomb threat.

Orange County sheriff’s deputies say the fellow was not doing his civic duty.

In the confusion of the store clearing out just after 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 4, the fellow grabbed some booze and fled.

A search turned up no explosives in the building at 30252 Crown Valley Parkway. A gander at the Smart & Final surveillance video revealed the identity of a known area transient, according to deputies, who at last word reported the thief was still at large.

Dennis Rodman. Illustration by Bob Aul

JAN. 17: OC Weekly cover boy Dennis Rodman could go to prison for up to two years because of a Jan. 13 DUI arrest.

Newport Beach cops popped the NBA Hall of Famer for suspected driving under the influence just after 11:10 p.m., when the 56-year-old was pulled over for allegedly swerving in the 4500 block of West Coast Highway (near Hoag Hospital hill). Police couldn’t miss the ride, and not solely because a 6-foot-8, 235-pound “Freak” was behind the wheel. Loud music was reportedly blaring from its speakers.

After an officer made contact, Rodman is claimed to have reeked of booze. He failed a field sobriety test, blew into a Breathalyzer a blood alcohol content percentage that’s higher than California’s legal limit, and was arrested and jailed through the following morning before being released, according to Newport Beach Police Lieutenant Rachel Johnson.

Because the Worm is already on three years’ probation for causing a July 2016 wrong-way crash on the 5 freeway near Main Street, he will likely have to serve out all or some of the original two-year prison sentence he was facing before the court’s probation offer in exchange for a guilty plea, TMZ reports.

If and when Rodman emerges from behind bars (or, as his lawyer Paul Meyer has yet again suggested, like a broken record, that his client should go to rehab), it is time for the city of Newport Beach to seriously consider trading the former NBA rebound leader.

James Anthony Lawlor. Photo courtesy Santa Ana Police Department

JAN. 31: A Santa Ana man was charged Jan. 30 with arson and attempted murder for a fire that was deliberately set to a tent with a homeless man and woman inside.

James Anthony Lawlor faces felony counts of attempted murder, arson of inhabited property and possession of flammable material, as well as sentencing enhancements for premeditation and arson with an accelerant. If convicted, the 35-year-old could be sent to state prison for seven years to life, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA).

The homeless pair lived in a tent in a vacant lot in the 1300 block of West Tolliver Avenue that is next to residences and near Lawlor’s home. Around 8:20 a.m. on Jan. 19, a man wearing black slacks and a black coat approached the tent with the pair inside and said they had 15 minutes to leave or he would return with his Glock handgun, according to the Santa Ana Police Department.

The male transient poked his head outside the tent to talk to the stranger, who then kicked the victim twice in the head before getting into his newer black truck and driving westbound on Tolliver, police say. But the same man returned to the tent about five minutes later with a red gasoline can, from which he poured gas on the tent, then lit it on fire while the occupants were inside, report police, who add the attacker next got into the truck and drove southbound on Bristol Street.

The homeless pair escaped, although the male had sustained minor burns and injuries from being kicked in the head, according to police.

Investigators from Santa Ana PD and the Orange County Fire Authority launched a probe that uncovered the truck that was possibly used in the crime. It was reportedly still parked in the area.

Police say that led them to Lawlor, who was positively identified by the victim and arrested outside his residence.

Lawlor was questioned at the police station and held on suspicion of attempted murder, arson/property, arson of inhabited structure/property, possession/manufacturing/disposal of material/device for arson, threatening crime with intent to terrorize and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

FEB. 16: Follow the bouncing, um . . .

Stormy Daniels, the porn star whom President Donald Trump’s personal attorney acknowledged paying $130,000 just before Election Day, first shared details of her affair to Nik Richie of the gossip site The Dirty.

Richie, who promptly posted the story about Daniels’ fling with the then-star of The Apprentice reality show, only to take it down when threatened with a lawsuit, resides in a gated community in Newport Beach.

Daniels is managed by Gina Rodriguez, who also appeared in adult films before becoming a personal manager.

Rodriguez used to manage Nadya “Octomom” Suleman, who back then resided in La Habra but now lives in Orange with her 14 children.

It was with Rodriguez’s help that Suleman signed with adult-entertainment company Wicked Pictures.

However, Suleman retired from the porn biz after the release of Octomom: Home Alone.

Rodriguez is now working with Daniels on an announcement about how and when she will tell her Trump story publicly.

In the meantime, Daniels has been booked for four “Make America Horny Again” shows in April at the Ultra Gentlemen’s Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The same club was known in 2012 as T’s Lounge, where Suleman was also booked. She tried to back out and strip at a rival club, which led to a lawsuit and Octomom’s eventual performance at T’s Lounge in 2013.

Do you know what’s near Ultra Gentlemen’s Club?

Trump International Golf Club.

Funny how life works, no?

Good times with Octomom, Trump and Stormy. Illustration by Sam Kerwin

FEB. 28: Things are tough all over when a guy in La Habra rushes at cops while holding an ax with “pigs” written on the handle on the Fourth of July, or when a cop in Fullerton comes up on a fellow in a crosswalk, pushes him from behind, then files a report claiming the dude was resisting arrest.

Welcome to Orange County, Mouseketeers!

A jury on Feb. 22 found Dan James Schuneman guilty of four felony counts of assault on La Habra police officers and three felony counts of resisting an executive officer.

The 48-year-old La Habra resident now faces a maximum sentence of 120 years to life in state prison, according to the OCDA.

Schuneman was extremely upset (you think?) around 8:30 a.m. on July 4, 2017, when he contacted the La Habra Police Department.

As six officers responded to Schuneman’s residence for a welfare check, he swung open the door to expose the 3.5-foot-long ax with “pigs” and different phrases inscribed on the handle, according to the OCDA.

Schuneman “walked briskly toward the officers with the ax above his head and the blade facing officers,” say prosecutors, who add, “He ignored commands to stop.”

Officers fired a less-than-lethal taser and beanbag round at Schuneman “with little effect” before one unidentified cop shot a single round at the suspect with a handgun, the OCDA says.

That stopped him.

Schuneman was taken to a local hospital to recover from the gunshot wound.

MARCH 21: A Huntington Beach surfboard shaper and son of Surf City royalty pleaded guilty March 20 to trying to get his former sister-in-law knocked off.

Joseph Jordan Taylor, whose father is 2011 Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame inductee John Reid Taylor, copped to felony solicitation to commit murder and attempted murder with a prior strike conviction for criminal threats in 2007. The 32-year-old now faces a sentence of up to 23 years in state prison, according to the OCDA.

Testifying in May 2016 at the Westminster courthouse, Huntington Beach Police Detective Trent Tunstall said that one of Taylor’s friends approached authorities in May 2015 to report that his pal had given him $5,000 to arrange the murder of “his brother’s ex.” Investigators secretly recorded a subsequent conversation the friend had with Taylor, during which a meeting with two “hit men” was arranged, Tunstall testified.

Two undercover Huntington Beach cops posing as potential assassins met with Taylor in a Westminster Mall parking lot soon after. Taylor told the undercovers he wanted his sister-in-law killed at her home after she dropped her kids off at school and that it should look like a robbery gone bad, according to Tunstall, whose detectives also recorded the meeting.

Taylor, who specified the murder should be done before a looming child-custody hearing, agreed to pay $12,000 for the hit, Tunstall said.

The defendant was arrested later that same day, right after he handed the “hit men” a $2,000 cash down payment, Tunstall testified.

Taylor’s father, a surf-shop proprietor who was part of the Hole In the Wall Gang surf team that gained prominence in the 1960s and ’70s; the defendant’s brother Matthew Austin Taylor; and their friend Travis Sprague, of Long Beach, were originally arrested in the case, but charges against them were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Design by Richie Beckman

APRIL 20: A 26-year-old Irvine man, who was ratted out by a family member, was charged April 19 with hate crimes for threatening to kill prominent Jews, possessing anti-semitic literature and being loaded for bear—if those bears were Jewish bears.

Nicholas Rose was slapped with three felony counts of attempted criminal threats, three misdemeanor counts of violating civil rights and a sentencing enhancement for three hate crimes. Being convicted of all that could result in a sentence of six years and six months in state prison, according to the OCDA.

An OCDA arraignment statement says that on or about April 16, Rose told a family member “he desired to kill people” and made “violent threats against the Jewish community.”

That family member contacted the Orange Police Department, who launched an investigation that included a search of Rose’s home, says the OCDA, which alleges the following turned up: .22-caliber ammunition, anti-semitic literature, “kill lists” of prominent Jewish community members, a list of steps titled “Killing My First Jew,” and papers referencing one church and one synagogue in Irvine and one church in Lake Forest.

The discovery led to Rose being arrested at the scene, according to the OCDA.

MAY 8: A man is looking at up to seven years in state prison for allegedly hurling a 32-ounce cup of soda and white-supremacist comments at a Middle Eastern smoke-shop manager in Anaheim.

Robert Kevin Pressler, a 54-year-old transient, is expected in the North Justice Center in Fullerton on May 14 to answer to charges of felony battery hate crime causing injury and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

The OCDA provided this account: “On May 2, Pressler is accused of standing outside of a smoke shop in Anaheim and repeatedly yelling a phrase associated with white supremacy at the store manager, who is Middle Eastern. As the manager approached the front entrance of his store, Pressler allegedly walked in that direction and threw a full 32-ounce soda cup.”

The cup hit the manager’s face, causing a small laceration and the start of an altercation that ended with Pressler calling the Anaheim Police Department.

But the officers who responded arrested Pressler, who was allegedly holding methamphetamine.

JULY 6: A 29-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to throwing a Molotov cocktail at two homeless men at their tent in Anaheim.

Andrew Eric Mongerson of Garden Grove was charged July 3 with felony attempted arson, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of flammable material.

Mongerson made an incendiary device around 1:30 p.m. on June 27, rode his bicycle toward two homeless men along Katella Avenue in Anaheim, lit the so-called Molotov cocktail, threw it at the pair and yelled insults as he rode away, alleges the OCDA. The suspect did not know the victims, one of whom was inside his makeshift tent near a bus stop while the second man stood outside it, prosecutors add.

Glass shattered near the men, and pieces remained on fire until the fuel ran out, states the OCDA, which credits the Anaheim Police Department with investigating the case, identifying Mongerson as the suspect and arresting him in Anaheim.

AUG. 10: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling for animal-cruelty counts to be added to the criminal charges against Holy Fire arson suspect Forrest Gordon Clark.

The 51-year-old, who appeared in the courtroom one day after refusing to come out of his cell, is currently charged with one felony count each of aggravated arson damaging at least five inhabited structures, arson of inhabited property, arson of forest and criminal threats, plus two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest.

A conviction could send him to state prison for life, but PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien nonetheless is calling for more charges against Clark. “Millions of wild animals—from deer, raccoons, foxes and bears to coyotes, frogs, birds and insects—are losing their homes and their lives in shockingly painful ways, as they’re unable to escape from this inferno,” O’Brien says in a statement from her Norfolk, Virginia-based activist group. “PETA is calling for cruelty-to-animals charges to be added to those pending against the man now in custody and accused of starting the fire.”

Deciding that would fall to the OCDA, whose spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden is not ruling out the possibility. “This remains an open and very active investigation, with information continuing to come in,” she said. “All of the reports will be thoroughly reviewed, and additional charges may be added based on the evidence.”

Photo courtesy of Flutes Across the World

SEPT. 18: Remember the story from 2017 about the music teacher accused of possibly giving semen-filled flutes to students in Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Newport-Mesa and Capistrano Unified school districts, as well as elsewhere in Southern California?

It was an apparent crime so heinous that the Weekly had dual reports Oct. 2, 2017, on our news and music blogs, and the then-unidentified suspect made our pre-Halloween list of Orange County’s 31 Scariest People.

Federal authorities since released the name of John Edward Zeretzke.

However, without mentioning the flute incidents, the U.S. Department of Justice has revealed that the 60-year-old Ventura resident was arrested Sept. 13 for allegedly coercing a young girl to produce child pornography, attempting to entice another victim to send him sexually explicit images, traveling to the Philippines with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children, and receiving child pornography over the internet. Twice!

The Philippines is key because part of Zeretzke’s Flutes Across the World program involved having each of his Southern California students make two homemade flutes, one they would keep for themselves and the other they would donate to students in the island nation.

Parents of those same students in Orange and Los Angeles counties received letters from their children’s schools last year warning that Zeretzke may have inserted man juice into their flutes.

For instance, the Capo Unified letter stated, “As part of this [Flutes Across the World] program, students may have received a flute made of PVC plastic piping and a single wine cork that they could decorate. Today, we further consulted with law enforcement and were advised that these flutes may have been inappropriately contaminated with the suspect’s bodily fluid. In an abundance of caution, we are asking all families who may have had children participate in this type of program either at school or within the community to remove these flutes from your child’s possession and place them in a sealed paper bag.”

It is unclear if Zeretzke still faces charges for the SoCal flute fouling. However, if convicted, he could get up to 15 years in the federal pen.

SEPT. 24: A Fullerton man is due in court for an alleged hate crime against a pregnant African American woman that happened barely a year after the same defendant pulled a hate-crime assault on a victim who is Filipino and Turkish.

Tyson Theodore Mayfield pleaded not guilty at his arraignment to felony criminal threats and violating civil rights, misdemeanor petty theft, and a sentencing enhancement for a hate crime with a prior conviction.

The 42-year-old, who when he was last convicted was described as having a swastika tattoo on his right shoulder, is accused of insulting the black woman with racial slurs and threatening her after she got off a bus at the Fullerton station on Sept. 17, according to authorities.

The unidentified victim pepper sprayed Mayfield in self defense, and he grabbed her backpack and fled, alleges the OCDA.

After the woman called police, Fullerton officers were unable to locate Mayfield. But a few hours later, he approached the same woman, who had ducked into a nearby café for safety, says the OCDA, which notes police were called again and Mayfield was arrested this time.

He is used to brushes with police, having been arrested July 13 on suspicion of defecating in public 10 days before. That case has not been resolved, according to court records.

On Sept. 4, 2017, which was Labor Day, Mayfield approached the Filipino/Turkish man he did not know and asked to borrow a lighter. After the stranger informed him he had no flame, Mayfield became “agitated,” called the victim an unspecified racial slur and punched him multiple times, the OCDA said at the time. Fullerton cops got that call as well, and Mayfield was arrested.

Mayfield went on to cop to misdemeanor counts of violating a victim’s civil rights and causing a violent injury. Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino sentenced Mayfield on Oct. 20, 2017, to a year in jail. However, he was released from custody for time served.

He has pleaded guilty other times as well. In June 2008, Mayfield copped to a felony count of mayhem and was sentenced to four years in prison. He also pleaded guilty to a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon in February 2005, earning a two-year prison stretch.

Maybe that’s where he’d rather be?

NOV. 16: In these times of mass shootings, mysterious explosions and bombs being sent to public officials, this is sobering: A man was arrested at his Tustin area condo on Nov. 14 for possessing fireworks, explosive devices and “a large amount” of bomb-making materials, authorities say.

Kevin Sean Welch, 38, was held in Orange County Jail on $1 million bail after being booked and charged with felony possession of an explosive device near a private residence, possession of materials with intent to explode, misdemeanor possession of fireworks without a permit and misdemeanor sale of illegal fireworks.

Deputies were called to a condominium at 12720 Newport Ave. in unincorporated Tustin just before 9 a.m. Wednesday when a neighbor heard a loud explosion and a piece of shrapnel landed in his back yard, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) Public Information Manager Carrie Braun.

Responding deputies went to an adjoining condominium, made contact with Welch and noticed pieces of a terra-cotta chiminea—an outdoor fireplace—in his back yard, Braun says. “Welch initially admitted to an accidental explosion resulting from an aerated can placed in the burning chiminea,” reads Braun’s release, which notes no one else was at the residence at the time and no one was injured in the explosion.

During their investigation, deputies saw what appeared to be fireworks and explosive devices in plain sight, according to Braun, who adds the OCSD Hazardous Devices Squad was called, the condo and four adjoining units were evacuated, surrounding residents were requested to shelter-in-place, and Newport Avenue was closed from Wass Street to Warren Avenue.

Once a search warrant was obtained, the bomb unit went to work and “identified a completed pipe bomb, additional partially completed pipe bombs, illegal fireworks and a large amount of precursor materials used to make explosive devices,” the spokeswoman says.

The Orange County Fire Authority Hazmat Team, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Crime Lab and the Tustin Police Department assisted during the incident, Braun notes.

Besides being arrested for what was seized at his condo, Welch “may be connected to at least two explosions in the Tustin area in the past few weeks,” according to Braun, whose department has launched a full investigation.

Former Fullerton Police Chief David Hendricks. Photo courtesy Fullerton Police Department

DEC. 7: When it rains, it pours in Fullerton: First, it was charges for the former mayor’s wife, and then it was charges for the former police chief and a captain.

David James Hendricks, the now-ex Fullerton police chief, and Captain Thomas William Oliveras Jr. were charged for their off-duty roles in the battery on emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at an August concert in Irvine.

Hendricks, who resigned as chief on Nov. 2 amid the scandal, faces two misdemeanor counts of battery on an EMT and resisting and obstructing a police officer, which could lead to the 47-year-old getting three years in county jail if convicted.

Oliveras also faces misdemeanor resisting and obstructing an officer, but only a single count of battery on an EMT. If convicted, the 50-year-old could get two years in the county slammer.

Their arraignments are scheduled for Jan. 9 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, according to the OCDA.

Captain Thomas William Oliveras Jr. Photo courtesy Fullerton Police Department

As Liam Blume reported for the Weekly, Hendricks and Oliveras were allegedly drinking heavily while watching an Aug. 24 Lady Antebellum concert with their spouses at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine.

Two Symons Ambulance EMTs, who had responded to a report that Hendricks’ wife had suffered some kind of injury, arrived to a fight scene, and while tending to the woman, Hendricks and Oliveras allegedly assaulted them physically. “Hendricks is accused of pushing two EMTs as they attempted to provide treatment, and Oliveras is accused of putting one victim in a headlock,” the OCDA said. “The Irvine Police Department responded to the scene, and the defendants are accused of obstructing and delaying the investigation.”

The incident led to Hendricks and Oliveras being placed on paid administrative leave during the Irvine Police criminal investigation.

Hendricks had only been chief for seven months when the melee happened.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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