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Firefighters continue to battle Northern California, Yosemite blazes

Firefighters continued to make progress Monday night battling a Northern California wildfire after banishing a private drone from the skies as water-dropping helicopters made repeated assaults on the flames.

The Sand fire had scorched about 3,800 acres in steep, dry terrain in Amador County, but fire crews had the blaze 75% contained, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Another blaze continued to rage across wildlands in Yosemite National Park and the neighboring Stanislaus National Forest. 

At the Sand Fire, a drone was spotted in the air Sunday a few miles from Plymouth. The town is about 40 miles southeast of Sacramento. Law enforcement authorities asked the owner to stop flying the aircraft and to keep it away from the flight path of firefighting aircraft that were battling the blaze.

The owner was apparently operating the drone, described as a "quadcopter," so he could "check out the fire" for his "own personal entertainment," Cal Fire spokeswoman...

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Parents arrested on suspicion of leaving 3-year-old girl in hot car

A Fullerton father and mother were arrested on suspicion of leaving their 3-year-old daughter in a hot car while they went inside a mall, police said.

The temperature inside the car was 104 degrees when officers responded to the incident Sunday afternoon at the Brea Mall, according to police. The outside temperature was 91 degrees. 

The officers, who were responding to a call about the child, were able to instruct the girl how to open the car doors, Brea Police Department officials said in a statement.

The child had been in the car for at least 15 to 20 minutes, police said. She was taken to a hospital and is listed in good condition.

Officers found the parents inside the mall, and later arrested the couple on suspicion of felony child endangerment. They were identified by police as Tae Kim, 35, and Ho Kim, 33 and were booked into the Brea jail. 

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West Hollywood approves $86-million park renovation

Rooftop swimming pools, a $3-million “grand staircase” and multiple children’s play areas are features of an ambitious remodel of West Hollywood Park approved last week by city officials.

But what about the dogs?

That’s what members of the West Hollywood City Council and numerous residents have been asking in this city known for its animal-friendly laws, where pets are formally recognized as “companions” and their owners as “guardians.” The plans for a multimillion-dollar park makeover, so far, do not include a dog park but do include three children’s play areas.

“The sort of institutional fetishization of kids is surprising because – we love our children here – but … I’m just really aware that this is an adult city,” Mayor John D’Amico said at a City Council meeting last week while asking project designers to study adding an area for dogs in the park.

There are only a few hundred children who live in the city and thousands of dogs, D’Amico said to cheers from the audience.

The council...

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USC student fatally beaten with baseball bat; 4 teens arrested in case

Four teenagers were arrested in Thursday's deadly attack on a USC graduate student as he walked home from a study group, with police saying the incident was one of at least two robberies the group attempted that day.

Xinran Ji, a 24-year-old graduate student from China, was allegedly hit on the head with a baseball bat by at least one of the suspects, according to two law enforcement sources. Detectives are probing whether other weapons were also used, the sources said. The suspects range in age from 16 to 19.

"He was literally beaten to death," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "I don't know why a group of young people would go on a crime spree as terrible as this."

Despite his injury, Ji managed to make it back to his 30th Street apartment, where his body was found around 7 a.m. by a roommate. Detectives followed a bloody trail from his home to where they believe he was attacked, near 29th Street and Orchard Avenue.

The two adult suspects were identified by police as Jonathan DelCarmen,...

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Owner of livestock auction pleads no contest in animal cruelty case

The owner of an Inland Empire livestock auction pleaded no contest Monday to animal cruelty charges under California’s “downer” law, which prohibits the sale, transport or abuse of injured livestock.

Horacio Santorsola, owner of Ontario Livestock Sales, pleaded to one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty in San Bernardino County Superior Court and will face two years of probation and fines, according to a spokesman for the San Bernardino County district attorney.

Key evidence against Santorsola came from investigators at the animal rights group Mercy For Animals, who released hidden-camera video that showed workers at the auction beating, throwing and neglecting injured, lame, or sick animals.

In the video, workers can be seen beating animals with shovels, throwing them into pens and leaving bloodied or injured livestock unattended in their stalls.

“We think that these charges should serve as a warning to auctions that animal abuse will not be tolerated,” said Matt Rice, director of...

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Man who choked prostitute with belt gets 15 years in prison

A 27-year-old man was sentenced 15 years to life in prison Monday for choking a prostitute with his belt in a motel room, and then stealing cash from her purse, authorities said.

The man, Cuong Duong, arranged a meeting last year with the prostitute at the Princess Inn motel in Westminster, the Orange County District Attorney's office said.

When the prostitute arrived, Duong told the victim he forgot money and then pretended to leave the hotel.

But surveillance video showed that Duong rode the motel's elevator to the first floor, and then straight back up without getting out.

Duong then entered the motel room, and strangled the victim from behind with the belt, according to the district attorney's office.

The woman awoke later with a towel over her face, and $1,000 stolen from her bag. Duong was gone.

Duong was later arrested and charged with attempted murder, burglary and false imprisonment.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @Caitlin__Owens, or email her at ...

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Father of baby who died after being left in SUV won't face charges

A Los Gatos man who left his infant son strapped in his SUV, causing the baby to die from the heat, will not face charges, the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office said Monday.

The man “was extremely fatigued and mistakenly believed that he had dropped off the nine-month-old at a babysitter’s home on his way to work,” the district attorney's office said in a statement.

“Like most parents, I know how fatigue can sometimes rob us of common sense and good judgment,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “While we have prosecuted child endangerment cases in the past, this tragedy does not rise to the level of recklessness that both the law and justice require.”

The father, whom authorities have not identified, parked his car on Payne Avenue the morning of April 16 with his baby strapped in a car seat. He went about his workday until he returned to find the baby about 7:15 p.m., authorities said.

The baby was pronounced dead at the scene.

Neighbors described feelings of anguish and...

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LAPD: 5 arrests made in connection with deadly assault of USC student

Five people are in custody in connection with the deadly assault on a USC graduate student whose body was found in his apartment near campus last week, Los Angeles police said. 

Los Angeles police said they believe Xinran Ji, 24, staggered into his 30th Street apartment Thursday morning after being hit with some type of blunt object just blocks away.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said four people were arrested on suspicion of homicide and another on suspicion of robbery. A source familiar with the investigation said the people arrested include three juveniles and two adults.

Other details were not immediately available. LAPD officials scheduled a press conference for 4:30 p.m. Monday. 

Investigators believe Ji, a 24-year-old graduate student from China, was walking home from a study group about 12:45 a.m. Thursday when he was assaulted near 29th Street and Orchard Avenue.

Los Angeles police said he was hit with a blunt object but managed to get back to his 30th Street apartment, where his...

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Suspect's mother charged in fatal Long Beach home-invasion

The mother of a man who allegedly broke into a Long Beach home with a female accomplice, who was later killed, was set to be arraigned Monday on felony charges in connection with the suspected botched robbery.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged Ruby Adams, 49, with first-degree murder and first-degree residential robbery. 

She also faces a special allegation of inflicting elder abuse in the commission of the crime, prosecutors said.

Adams' son, Gus Adams, 26, of Long Beach, is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 11 in connection with the July 22 home-invasion in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood.

Authorities claim Ruby Adams served as a lookout while her son and Andrea Miller, 28, allegedly broke into a house in the 3900 block of Country Club Drive. 

But the pair were met by the homeowner, an 80-year-old man whom they allegedly beat and body-slammed to the floor. 

At one point, the man managed to retrieve a gun from a room and opened fired at the suspects who fled. ...

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Man faces manslaughter, marijuana charges stemming from Bully fire

A suspected marijuana farmer faces an involuntary manslaughter charge after a body was found at a massive Shasta County wildfire ignited by his vehicle's exhaust system.

Freddie Alexander Smoke III, 37, also faces three counts of recklessly causing a fire and one count of marijuana cultivation, according to the Shasta County district attorney's office.

Authorities discovered a man's body July 16 near a home in the vicinity of Platina and Bully Choop roads, within the burn area of the 12,661-acre Bully wildfire.

The victim, who has not been identified, appears to have been attempting to flee the burn area, according to authorities with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Smoke was arrested July 11 at a marijuana-growing site, where 180 plants were seized.

The Bully fire destroyed 20 structures and resulted in 21 injuries.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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2 horseback riders missing in San Bernardino National Forest found

Two horseback riders that went missing Sunday in the San Bernardino National Forest were found Monday morning in Riverside County, authorities said.

The riders, two adult women, were last seen leaving the Wild Horse campground Sunday at 10 a.m. Three dogs were with them, as well as their horses, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. 

They were due back to the campground about 4 p.m. and to return home by 9 p.m. When the riders had not returned home that night by 9:45, they were reported missing to the sheriff's department.

It is unclear whether Sunday's storms had anything to do with the women getting lost.

An immediate search began Sunday night and continued Monday. About 20 volunteers participated in a ground search and were assisted by the aviation division, department personnel on horseback and off-road vehicles.

The riders were located in the Mission Creek Preserve in Riverside County.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland , follow ...

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More than 10,000 rush to apply in rebooted LAFD hiring drive

More than 10,000 applicants are seeking to join the ranks of the Los Angeles Fire Department, according to data released Monday, as the city rushes to reboot a hiring process halted earlier this year amid concerns of nepotism and mismanagement.

A flood of applications poured into the city Personnel Department even though the new hiring process was only approved less than three weeks ago, and the window to apply was open for just a few days last week.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city leaders have set a goal of increasing the number of women and minorities in the LAFD ranks, but the makeup of the new applicant pool closely mirrors those of the past.

Only 5% of the 10,180 applicants are female, roughly the same as at the start of the last hiring round, when a call for applicants drew more than 13,000 candidates, records show.

The share of African Americans declined from 15% in the last round to only 10% in the new pool. The number of Latinos — the largest ethnic group in the city of Los...

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