BREAKING NEWS

A Buena Park man reported missing in the ocean off of Treasure Island in Laguna Beach Sept. 11 is believed by police to have faked his own death, Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jason Kravetz said Tuesday.

John Sung Park, 29, is suspected of trying to run down a woman with his car less than two weeks after his two companions reported that he never returned from spearfishing. Divers searched for Park for several days, but no evidence of him came to shore, Kravetz said. “That was unusual,” Kravetz said.

A warrant for Park’s arrest has been issued by the LAPD in connection with the Sept. 24 assault, in which Park allegedly retrieved his Mercedes Benz from a Tarzana woman who had responded to an Internet ad putting the vehicle up for sale, Kravetz said. The woman, who had apparently tried to stop Park from driving away in the car, was not seriously injured.

In October, the LAPD contacted Laguna Beach investigators and told them Park was a suspect in an assault with a deadly weapon case and that a $95,000 arrest warrant had been issued.

Police believe Park may have faked his death in an effort to avoid a Sept. 15 court hearing in Orange County regarding an arrest in La Palma on charges of burglary, receiving stolen property, forgery and drug-related charges, Kravetz said.

Kravetz said the two companions who said they were with Park while diving will be investigated to see if they were part of the alleged fraud. During the incident in the evening hours, the two told officers they became separated in the water and lost sight of Park. When they emerged from the ocean and did not see him, they went to their vehicle and changed clothes. An hour later, they called “911.”

“The friends may have been duped,” Kravetz said.

Immediately after the initial telephone call was received by dispatchers, safety personnel began an extensive search for the diver. Laguna Beach police, fire, and Marine Safety Departments, plus the Harbor Patrol, Sheriff’s Department, Newport Beach police, Garden Grove police, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Ocean Safety responded to the scene.

While Laguna Beach has no charges pending against Park, Kravetz said he may be charged with the costs of responding to the missing diver call.

“Mr. Park is a person of interest to the Laguna Beach Police Department and is wanted for questioning,” Kravetz said.

Park is described as 5’11” tall, 170 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He has lived in Buena Park and Long Beach, and his parents live in Buena Park.

He may be driving a black, four-door 1994 Mercedes Benz C220, with a California license plate number 5ZUA733.

Anyone with information about Park’s whereabouts should contact Laguna Beach Police Det. Bill Cindel at (949) 497-0373, or their local police agency.


CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 494-2087 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.

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