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Wild police chase in South L.A. ends with two in custody

A man and a woman inside a stolen van were taken into custody Wednesday night after a wild police chase in South L.A.

The pursuit ended about 9:10 p.m. after a police cruiser struck the vehicle, forcing it to lose control and stop. Officers attempted to use the PIT maneuver at least two times before bringing the chase to a halt.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in Florence ran a license plate check on the Chevrolet Astrovan about 7:45 p.m. and discovered it was stolen, said Sgt. Jason Bowley.

When they tried to pull the van over at South Central Avenue and East 77th Street, the vehicle sped off and initiated the chase.

At one point, the van made a circle at a busy intersection and later hit a dog as it sped away from police. Despite having three blown tires, the van continued to evade police, at times sending sparks into the air.

The Sheriff's Department handed control of the chase to LAPD before the California Highway Patrol took over.

The unidentified man and women were taken...

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LAPD officer shoots man in Boyle Heights

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the officer-involved shooting of a man in Boyle Heights on Wednesday.

About 5:30 p.m., police responded to a 911 call of a man with a gun at Marengo and North State Street,  Officer Drake Madison said.

“Upon arrival, officers encountered a suspect with a gun and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Madison said.

It’s unknown how many times the man was struck, Madison said. He was taken to a hospital and his condition was not immediately known.

No officers were injured during the incident, Madison said.

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King fire grows to 27,900 acres, is just 5% contained

The King fire in Northern California has grown to about 27,930 acres Wednesday, fire officials said, threatening thousands of residents and hundreds of homes.

Though no structures have been reported damaged or destroyed, the blaze now threatens 2,007 homes and 1,505 other structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Winds continued to drive the fire east, west and north over mountain and ridges and through deep canyon troughs. Spotting -- or embers lighting fires ahead of the flames -- has also helped fuel the blaze, said Laurence Crabtree, a U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest.

The King fire, which erupted Sunday, is 5% contained, fire officials said. About 3,300 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is burning in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River Canyon and Silver Creek Canyon, north of the community of Pollock Pines.

On Wednesday afternoon, the fire made a significant run to the northwest,...

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L.A. may ease rush-hour construction ban for smaller streets

More rush-hour construction projects could be permitted on Los Angeles’ smaller side streets, under a plan being considered by City Council members.

The easing of the 7-year-old ban on rush-hour street work would affect about a third of the projects that the ban currently restricts and is intended to speed up construction work and save city agencies millions of dollars annually. 

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed an executive order in 2005 prohibiting construction on city streets during peak traffic hours in an attempt to reduce gridlock. Though it's been effective in cutting down on bottlenecks, the ban "took a good idea a little too far," said L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino.

The restrictions, which prohibit construction from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., reduce construction productivity 30% and increase the time needed to complete projects, Buscaino said.

He wants to test removing the ban for one year on so-called  "collector streets," which connect...

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New report on L.A. Unified's iPads reflects problems with curriculum

An evaluation of the iPads-for-all project in Los Angeles schools found that only 1 of 245 classrooms surveyed even used the costly curriculum. 

The analysis, conducted by an outside firm, also highlighted other problems, including the pace of the rollout last year at 47 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It found that district staff was so focused on distributing devices that little attention could be paid to using iPads effectively in the classroom.

The early goal "was to just get the devices out, that was basically it, just get the devices out, use them as quick as possible ... there were other goals … they were talked about but they really didn’t get implemented,” the report quoted one technical specialist as saying.

A “district leader” commented: “We didn’t have enough people so everyone was working on deployment ... that really, really impacted our professional development rollout, in fact we barely had one because of that.”

The review, conducted by a...

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Thousands diverted onto 110 ExpressLanes, then fined by toll operator

Thousands of drivers who were diverted onto toll lanes following a dramatic gun battle in Los Angeles last month were fined for not having the transponder needed to travel on the pay-to-drive lanes.

The fines, which in some cases were for as little as a dollar, were issued to thousands of commuters detoured by police onto the northbound 110 ExpressLanes near Vernon Avenue from 3 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 18 when police closed the regular lanes, city officials said.

The notices warned drivers that if the fine was not paid by Sept. 23, the amount would increase. If it wasn’t paid by Oct. 9, the notice said, it would increase again to $56.

A third fine increase would be issued by the DMV if the penalty wasn’t paid by the time a vehicle’s registration was due, the notice warned.

Transportation officials estimated that thousands of drivers mistakenly received the fines, which they said do not have to be paid. Those who did pay the fine will have their money refunded, said Los Angeles Metro...

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UC regents support renewable energy but not coal and oil divestment

A UC regents committee decided Wednesday not to sell off stocks and holdings in oil, coal and natural gas from the university’s $91-billion endowment and retirement funds but moved to have environmental and social issues more deeply influence investment decisions.

The action disappointed student activists who had been pressing the university to divest its holdings in fossil fuel industries out of concerns that burning those fuels is hastening climate change. About 35 students at times stood up at the meeting holding orange signs declaring "Divest" but did not disrupt the meeting in San Francisco.

At the minimum, activists in the Fossil Free UC group wanted regents to commit to selling off the $500 million that officials estimate UC owns in various coal-related holdings. The activists contend it does not make financial or ecological sense to keep coal investments and noted that Stanford University recently decided to drop its coal holdings.

"Coal is not an investment but an indulgence,"...

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Classic Jaguar convertible stolen 46 years ago is recovered in L.A.

When Ivan Schneider’s Jaguar convertible was stolen from in front of his Manhattan apartment 46 years ago, the now-retired trial lawyer thought it was gone forever.

He reluctantly replaced the British sports car and went on to collect other classic vehicles. But Schneider never stopped talking about his first love, a 1967 Jaguar XK-E.

“I would tell stories about this great car that got stolen,” he said Wednesday from his Miami home via video news conference. “I have had a lot of great cars since then, but none has been as pretty.”

Last month, he received an unexpected call from Lou Koven, a special agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Customs agents had found Schneider’s beloved two-seater -- in a container on a cargo ship en route to the Netherlands.

“He was in a state of disbelief,” Koven said. “He thought it was a scam.”

The Jaguar and four other missing cars were discovered in late August by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, who were assigned to inspect cargo...

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Patients sue state over backlog of Medi-Cal approvals, now at 350,000

Citing a paperwork backlog that has left the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of low-income Californians in limbo, patients represented by a coalition of legal advocates are suing the state.

In a petition filed Wednesday in Alameda County, the group asked the court to order California's Department of Health Care Services to comply with rules requiring eligibility reviews for Medi-Cal, the state medical plan for the needy, to be complete within 45 days. Some reviews haven't been completed for nearly a year.

The lawsuit also asks the state to provide benefits to otherwise-eligible applicants while income is being verified and to notify applicants affected by the backlog that they have the right to request a hearing.

"People are suffering too much and can't wait anymore," said Lucy Quacinella, a San Francisco-based attorney representing one of the plaintiffs. "The burden shouldn't fall to the consumers."

According to state officials, 2.2 million new Medi-Cal members were added as a...

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Ezell Ford's parents file wrongful death lawsuit against LAPD

The parents of a mentally ill man fatally shot by two LAPD officers in South L.A. last month filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday accusing police of racial profiling and using excessive force against their son.

Edsell and Tritobia Ford claim officers approached their son as he walked home on Aug. 11 even though he was not committing a crime. The lawsuit alleges that Ezell Ford was shot moments after he complied with police orders to lie on the ground.

The suit alleges that the officers knew Ezell Ford was mentally ill.

"Today brings us to a ... start for a search for justice," said the family's attorney, Steven A. Lerman, while announcing he had filed the federal civil rights lawsuit.

He said scores of witnesses would support the family's contentions.

"No millions of dollars or any type of award could bring that young man back to his family, and that is the ultimate tragedy," he said.

LAPD Officer Liliana Preciado, a department spokeswoman, said the agency does not comment on the...

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Court upholds civil verdict against LAPD for withholding evidence

A federal appeals court upheld a civil jury award against two former Los Angeles police detectives  Wednesday for concealing evidence that they had arrested and jailed -- for 27 months -- an innocent man.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Los Angeles' appeal of a $106,000 jury award to Michael Walker and a nearly $400,000 award for attorney fees and court costs.

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post said $348,000 was awarded for attorney fees and court costs.

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Walker, who died three years ago, was arrested in 2005 on suspicion of robbing businesses in Los Angeles with a note demanding money. Walker was  then 49, an ex-felon and alcoholic living on the streets, his lawyer said.

After his arrest, the robberies continued and another man was eventually arrested and confessed.  Detectives Robert Pulido and Steven Moody, who prepared the case against Walker, knew of the later, highly similar robberies and did...

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Rotten-egg odor from Salton Sea prompts air quality warning

Increased level of hydrogen sulfide in the Salton Sea this week -- marked by the tell-tale "rotten eggs" odor -- prompted officials to issue an air quality warning for the Coachella Valley.

Hourly concentration averages of hydrogen sulfide reached 106 parts per billion Monday night, far exceeding the state standard of 30 parts per billion, officials reported.

Citing the elevated levels, the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued an odor advisory Tuesday, warning residents they could experience headaches and nausea.

Officials said shifting winds could have pushed the rotten-egg odor to the community of Mecca and the Coachella Valley.

The 376-square-mile body of water has been long known for its potential to produce the odor. In 2012, air quality officials tied the odor to dead fish in the sea.

And things could get worse.

A recent report by the Pacific Institute argued that the Salton Sea is entering “a period of very rapid deterioration,” with salinity levels expected to...

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