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Investigators arrested a San Marcos man Thursday in connection with a series of three bank robberies and attempted bank robberies in Orange and San Diego counties earlier this month, authorities said.

Marco Antonio Arrango, 23, of San Marcos (left), pictured in a booking photo released by the Newport Beach Police Department following his arrest on Feb. 21, 2019. At right, a man alleged to me Arranga is seen in a surveillance image carrying out a bank robbery in Newport Beach on Feb. 8, 2019. (Credit: Newport Beach Police Department)

Marco Antonio Rodriguez Arrango, 23, was booked on suspicion of bank robbery after police arrested him while carrying out a search warrant, the Newport Beach Police Department said in a written statement.

He allegedly showed up at a Citibank branch, 1100 Newport Center Drive, about 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 8, police said at the time.

He carried a Target store shopping bag and handed a teller a note in which he demanded cash and claimed to have a bomb, police said.

The same alleged bandit is also suspect in a robbery at a Chase Bank in Oceanside, as well as a failed robbery at Wells Fargo in Escondido, both on Feb. 5, according to Newport Beach police officials.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Newport Beach police Detective Prince at 949-644-3762.

Newport Beach Police are attempting to identify a suspect in a bank robbery on Friday.

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Police arrested a man Thursday in connection with the fatal stabbing of another man at a Riverside park earlier this week, authorities said.

Terrence Hawkins, 38, of Riverside, pictured in a photo released by the Riverside Police Department following his arrest on Feb. 21, 2019.

Terrence Anthony Hawkins, 37, of Riverside was booked on suspicion of murder following his arrest on Thursday, according to Riverside Police Department officials and Riverside County booking records. He is also accused of violating his Post-Release Community Supervision, or felony probation, under the terms of AB 109, stemming from a previous conviction.

He’s accused of the stabbing death of 51-year-old Brian Byrd, Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback said in a written statement.

The homicide took place about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Shamel Park, 3650 Arlington Avenue, the officer said.

“Officers’ preliminary investigation determined an altercation occurred at the park when (Byrd) was fatally stabbed,” Railsback said.

Paramedics treated the victim but ultimately pronounced him dead at the scene, officials said.

Detectives soon identified Hawkins as a suspect in the killing and began searching for him, according to Railsback. He was captured Thursday.

The motive in the deadly stabbing remained unclear Thursday, Railsback said. Hawkins refused to speak with detectives.

Investigators were looking into whether the suspect and victim knew one another or had prior contact before Tuesday’s stabbing, Railsback said.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Riverside police Detective Brett Stennett at 951-353-7213, or Detective Dan Mercadefe at 951-353-7103. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via email to rpdtips@riversideca.gov.

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A former San Francisco police officer at the center of a scandal over racist and homophobic text messaging has pleaded guilty to bank robbery.

Rain Daugherty admitted in San Francisco federal court Thursday to robbing two San Francisco banks last year and faces 20 years in prison.

Daugherty was one of nine officers the department tried to fire for exchanging inappropriate text messages. But a judge ruled the department waited too long to discipline the officers.

An appellate court then overturned that ruling and Daugherty was placed on paid leave last year while the department restarted disciplinary proceedings.

He was suspended without pay in July when San Mateo prosecutors charged him with elder abuse for allegedly stealing $13,000 from a 76-year-old acquaintance. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge.

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The Trump administration on Thursday broke off talks on vehicle mileage standards with California, increasing the chances of a court battle that threatens to unsettle the auto industry.

The White House, which has proposed freezing the standards, said it would now move unilaterally to finish its own mileage rule later this year “with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

The administration’s action challenges California’s decades-old authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards. California has used a waiver that Congress granted it under the 1970s Clean Air Act to help deal with its punishing smog. About a dozen states follow California’s mileage standards; that group accounts for about one-third of U.S. auto sales.

Lawmakers and automakers had urged a settlement and warned that different standards could bring years of court battles and raise costs for automakers and consumers.

“The industry requires certainty about future regulatory obligations,” Honda said in a statement. State and federal government rules should aim for “continuous progress” on cutting fossil-fuel emissions and promoting electric vehicles, the automaker added.

It urged the two sides to find middle ground.

California officials and the administration accuse each other of failing to present any acceptable compromise. The dispute comes as President Donald Trump feuds with the Democrat-led state over his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall and his threats to take back federal money from a high-speed rail project. California has taken a leading role in a 16-state lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get money for the wall after Congress refused to provide it.

“Another targeted attack on CA by the Trump administration,” tweeted Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif. “Clean air should be the most basic of human rights. This is a reckless political stunt that puts the health of MILLIONS of kids, families, and communities across America at risk.”

The administration last year proposed freezing mileage standards for cars and light trucks after slightly tougher 2020 levels go into effect. Doing so would scrap an Obama-era rule that would have improved fuel efficiency in 2025 to a fleet average of 36 mpg on the road. The Obama standard would have raised fuel efficiency by 10 mpg over current levels.

Trump’s move is one of a series of rollbacks targeting Obama administration efforts against pollution and climate change.

Janet McCabe, an acting assistant administrator for air at the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama, said California’s years of technological and regulatory efforts to lower pollution have pushed the auto industry to make cleaner-burning vehicles.

The conservative American Energy Alliance asserted that the state’s politicians long have taken a stand against “affordable, abundant energy, no matter the impact on California families.”

The auto industry hasn’t given up hope for an agreement on one national standard.

A major industry organization said automakers still support gradual increases in fuel economy that account for the shift from cars to SUVs and trucks.

“We encourage everyone to keep focusing on how we get there, because this is in the best interests of all parties, including consumers,” the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement.

Because it takes several years to design vehicles, automakers have been planning to meet higher mileage requirements under Obama-era standards, as well as those in other countries.

For the 2020 model year and beyond, automakers already are designing many cars, trucks and SUVs that can be powered by conventional gasoline engines as well as more efficient gas-electric hybrid systems, auto industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research said.

For now, “essentially the industry is ignoring what Trump wants to do,” Abuelsamid said. “We know at least until this thing gets settled in the courts, we have to deal with California and the other states and have product that can sell there as well as products that can sell overseas.”

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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo takes off for a suborbital test flight of the VSS Unity on Dec. 13, 2018, in Mojave. (Credit: Gene Blevins / AFP / Getty Images)

Virgin Galactic will attempt one of its highest and fastest test flights ever, and it could bring the company closer to its goal of launching paying customers to space this year.

A rocket-powered plane, called VSS Unity, is scheduled to lift off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California Friday morning. The flight was originally scheduled to take off Wednesday but was delayed because of rough winds in the Mojave Desert.

Two veteran test pilots will be on board: Dave Mackay, the head of Virgin Galactic’s pilot corps, and former Air Force lieutenant colonel Mike “Sooch” Masucci.

Virgin Galactic made history in December when VSS Unity climbed to more than 50 miles above Earth, the line that the US government considers the edge of space, and the altitude that Virgin Galactic wants to reach during commercial missions.

The company will fly four research payloads for NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program on this mission. Bringing NASA on as a customer will make this flight the second revenue-earning mission for the company.

Virgin Galactic has been hungry for cash since founder Richard Branson announced he would no longer accept a $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia. He said he shunned the money after learning about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Branson said that he hoped the historic December test flight would help “bring in one or two other investors.”

A NASA spokesperson said the Flight Opportunities program paid Virgin Galactic for this mission as part of a larger agreement that is worth $1.5 million. The value of Virgin Galactic’s contract with NASA has not been disclosed.

More test flights are planned in coming months to fine-tune the vehicle before passengers will be allowed on board. Branson has said commercial flights could begin by July. He plans to be the first passenger on board.

“Although we passed a major milestone in December, we still have a way to go in testing the many factors that can affect a flight,” Virgin Galactic said in a Tuesday blog post.

More than 600 people around the world have reserved tickets, priced between $200,000 and $250,000, to fly with Virgin Galactic once commercial operations begin. Some of them have been waiting more than a decade for their shot.

Branson’s venture is queued up to compete directly with Blue Origin, the secretive space tourism and rocket firm founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in 2000.

Blue Origin completed the 10th test flight of its New Shepard launch vehicle and capsule system in January. Unlike Virgin Galactic, its technology is fully automated, so there have been no humans on board their test flights.

Both companies plan to use suborbital rocket technology to shuttle people to the edge of space where they can briefly experience weightlessness and take in expansive views of Earth.

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The search continued Thursday for a male driver who struck a grandmother and her two grandchildren, killing the grandmother, before fleeing the scene on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

A woman is pictured in a surveillance camera image walking with her grandchildren before she was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in La Mirada on Feb. 20, 2019. (Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

The deadly collision took place about 1:15 p.m. in the 14800 block of Escalona Drive, near La Mirada Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue, Deputy Erin Liu of the the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau said in a written statement.

The woman and her grandchildren, a boy and a girl, were walking north along the street when they were struck from behind, according to sheriff’s officials.

“Preliminary investigation at the scene revealed that an unknown male driver failed to stop after the collision and continued north on Escalona Road and out of view,” Liu said.

Detectives are seeking this gray, 2015-2017, grey, four-door Toyota Camry with damage to its passenger-side headlight area in connection with a hit-and-run that left a grandmother dead and her two grandchildren injured in the 14800 block of Escalona Road on Feb. 20, 2019. (Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

Paramedics took the grandmother to a hospital where the soon succumbed to her injuries, authorities said. Her identity was not released by coroner’s officials Thursday.

The two children were treated for injuries described as minor.

The driver of the hit-and-run car has been described only as male, sheriff’s officials said.

Deputies described the involved car as a 2015-2017, dark gray, four-door Toyota Camry with damage to its passenger-side headlight area as a result of the impact.

Investigators have released a surveillance photo of the car obtained just before the hit-and-run in hoped of generating tips from the public.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Norwalk Station at 562-863-8711. Tips maya also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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California Highway Patrol officers are currently pursuing a reportedly stolen vehicle in Bouquet Canyon, north of Santa Clarita.

Early in the pursuit, the suspect vehicle was seen driving over a spike strip. The tires were heavily damaged, and the suspect maintained fairly slow speeds throughout the pursuit.

At one point, a CHP officer attempted a pit maneuver, but the suspect was able to continue on.

Sky5 is overhead.

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A Ventura County jury convicted a gang member of murder Thursday for fatally shooting a Santa Paula woman at her own home with a stray bullet intended for a rival gang member, authorities said.

Norma Elizalde of Santa Paula, pictured in an undated photo posted to a gofundme.com page shortly after her killing in 2014.

Mark James Martinez, 37, of Santa Paula was found guilty of first-degree murder for the March 29, 2014, shooting death of 39-year-old Norma Elizalde, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office said in a written statement. The jury also found true the special allegations that Martinez personally fired the gun that killed Elizalde, that the crime was gang related and that Martinez was an active member of a gang.

He could face life in state prison without the possibility of parole when he returns to Ventura County Superior Court for sentencing on April 29, Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Catherine Voelker said.

Martinez got into a dispute with two rival gang members on a sidewalk outside of Elizalde’s High Street home, officials said. Elizalde was doing laundry on her back porch at the time, the Ventura County Star reported.

“After verbally challenging the rival gang members, Martinez invoked the name of his gang, got out of his car and attacked them,” according to the District Attorney’s Office statement. “During an exchange of gunfire, one of the bullets from Martinez’s gun went through Ms. Elizalde’s home and struck her in the neck, killing her.”

The two men involved in the confrontation with Martinez have already been convicted of crimes for their roles in the shooting.

Ernesto Marron Jr., 25, pleaded guilty in January to a count of negligently discharging a firearm, along with the special allegation of personally using a firearm and that the crime was gang related, Voelker said. He fired a gun during the violent encounter with Martinez.

Marron, who struck a deal with the prosecution for leniency in his case in exchange for truthful testimony in Martinez’s trial, has yet to be sentenced, she said.

Valente Tobias, 26, pleaded guilty in 2015 to shooting at an inhabited dwelling, along with the special allegation that the crime was gang-related, according to Voelker. He also admitted to having a previous “strike” conviction under California’s three strikes law.

Tobias received an 11-year prison sentence in November of 2015, Voelker added.

An online fund set up to benefit Elizalde’s family at www.gofundme.com/7xq9l8 in the wake of the killing raised nearly $13,000 from about 200 donors. She is survived by her husband, as well as two sons, who were 13 and 16 when she was killed, a twin sister and two brothers.

Santa Paula Gang Member Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder https://t.co/JCWgVxjAbR @PDSantapaula #criminalgang #homicide pic.twitter.com/wzEfqQDrZJ

— Ventura County DA (@VenturaDAOffice) February 21, 2019

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A man who was arrested after a pursuit ended in a fatal crash in Whittier earlier this week has been charged with murder, officials announced.

Kevin Vargas, 24, was also charged with fleeing a police vehicle causing a death, hit-and-run resulting in a death and four counts of assault on a police officer, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Vargas had been released on his own recognizance in an unrelated case when the crash occurred on Monday. He had previously been charged with fleeing a police officer’s vehicle while driving recklessly and two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence, officials said. It is unclear when that incident occurred.

On Monday, Vargas allegedly led authorities on a pursuit after being spotted in an alleged road rage incident in Whittier. He then drove into a dead-end street, but made a U-turn toward officers who were pursuing him, officials said. Whittier police alleged that Vargas tried to ram at least three responding patrol cars.

The pursuit ended when Vargas crashed into an SUV driven by Isaias Rodrigues Cruz near the intersection of Wardman Street and Pickering Avenue. Witness video shows the Vargas’ vehicle was engulfed in flames. Cruz later died from his injuries.

Vargas tried to get away from police, but he was eventually arrested.

He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Thursday and is due back in court on March 7, DA officials said.  His bail was set at $2.4 million.

Vargas faces a maximum sentence of 27 years to life in prison if convicted as charged.

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The National Enquirer has been one of President Trump’s most controversial allies, delivering scathing coverage of his opponents to super market check-out lines and funneling $150,000 to one of his alleged mistresses to buy her silence.

So it will probably come as a surprise to California state employees and taxpayers to learn they were helping fund those efforts.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, California’s massive public pension fund, CalPERS, was one of the biggest investors in the debt-laden owner of the National Enquirer, according to public records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

Through an investment managed by a New Jersey hedge fund, California’s public pension fund appears to have owned as much as one-third of American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, in 2016. It is not clear whether CalPERS continues to hold a major stake in the tabloid publisher.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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