Top Stories Of The Decade

The double zeros, the 2000s, the “noughties” — whatever pundits eventually call the first decade of the new millennium, it will be hard to encapsulate the range of headline grabbing news that hit Glendale in that time.

A devastating Metrolink disaster in 2005 shocked a community, while the stabbing death of a teenager forced a growing city to confront the sometimes rough side effects of a racially diversifying population.

There were battles over property, from Oakmont to the Americana at Brand, and Glendale's dubious distinction as an unfriendly pedestrian environment took shape. As Glendale prepares to forge ahead in the 21st Century, here's a look back at some of the front-page stories that have shaped this city for better or worse.

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2000

Racial tensions among youth took center stage in May when Raul Aguirre was stabbed in the chest while trying to break up a fight between Latino and Armenian gang members in front of Hoover High School.

His death sparked an outpouring of community emotion and pushed the city into years of soul searching. Community meetings drew hundreds, a human relations commission was established and Glendale Unified added conflict resolution and management sessions at every grade level. And Glendale Police reactivated its gang unit.

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2000

In July, La Crescenta was jolted when two teenage boys were found beaten to death on a playground at Valley View Elementary School.

Blaine Talmo Jr., 14, and Christopher McCulloch, 13, were beaten so badly, officials said, that they were barely recognizable. Michael Demirdjian was later convicted for the murders in 2002, receiving two life sentences.

Prosecutors alleged that Demirdjian killed the boys for their money to make up for cash he had lost in a drug deal gone bad. Demirdjian's attorney argued that the teen had witnessed the killings but did not participate.

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2001

Six female police employees filed lawsuits after claiming they were sexually harassed and discriminated against, setting off a protracted legal process that eventually cost the city millions.

Three years later, Glendale Police Officers Kathryn Frieders, Renae Kerner and Jamie Franke eventually won a $3.5-million settlement, and then sued again claiming they suffered reprisals from management as a result of the original legal action.

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2001

The Glendale Humane Society came under fire amid allegations that it was less than humane to its animals, resulting in a city audit and police investigation.

Executive Director Leslie Eppick was placed on leave by the shelter's board, and former pet adoption counselor Gerald Gracian was charged with embezzling more than $3,000 from the agency.

The action led to major shake up of the society's board and executive make-up, which led to improved image control. It eventually became a no-kill shelter, and Glendale now contracts with the Pasadena Humane Society for animal control services.

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2002

A decade-long battle came to close in December when the City Council voted unanimously to purchase the infamous Oakmont View V property for $25.25 million, essentially quashing plans developers John and Lee Gregg had for building hundreds of homes on the swath of hillside.

Of the total price tag, Glendale contributed $13.25 million, with the rest coming from state and federal funding and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. The hillside has been slated for 572 homes, but those plans were met with strong community opposition by those who wanted the land preserved as open space.

The Greggs eventually sued the city for rejecting the proposed development and for allegedly delaying the permitting process. Before litigation could take hold, the consortium reached the land purchase deal.

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2003

At about 11 a.m. May 29, Jorge Beeton sat inside his second-story apartment at Griffith Park Dude Ranch and unloaded nearly 700 rounds of ammunition indiscriminately through its walls.

The rampage and ensuing five-hour police stand-off temporarily closed the golden State (5) and Ventura (134) freeways and prompted the evacuation of dozens of nearby homes.

Glendale Police eventually shot several cans of tear gas into Beeton's apartment on 400 Paula Ave. before finding him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Inside, police found eight guns and said he had unloaded nearly 700 rounds of ammunition.

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2004

Voters in September narrowly approved three ballot measures needed to allow the Americana at Brand proposal to move forward. The special election victory for developer Rick Caruso came after years of intense political battles waged between opposition residents, the Glendale Galleria and wrangling at City Hall.

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2004

Glendale resident Vanes Martirosyan, a native of Armenia, went unbeaten in the Olympic Trials and earned a spot on the U.S. boxing team.

The 18-year-old welterweight went on to fight at the Athens games, winning his first bout but losing to Cuba's Lorenzo Aragon on points, 20-11.

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2005

In the early morning hours of Jan. 26, Juan Manual Alvarez abandoned his parked SUV on the train tracks near Chevy Chase Drive, causing one of the city's worst disasters when it caused a three-train crash that killed 11 and injured 189.

At the time, the crash was the deadliest disaster in Metrolink's history, and images of the heaps of shredded metal and emergency workers were broadcast around the world. The crash consumed the city for weeks and continues to reverberate in the legal system.

Alvarez was eventually convicted of murder, but a Los Angeles jury in 2008 spared him of the death penalty, instead deciding on life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Dozens of lawsuits were also filed against Metrolink, setting up a legal battle over the rail agency's “push-pull” method of moving train cars. Many of those lawsuits have since been settled, but legal wrangling continues.

In 2008, a Metrolink train crashed with an oncoming freighter in Chatsworth, killing 25 and injuring 135 others to claim the most-deadly distinction from Glendale.

Several Glendale residents and workers were killed in that crash as well.

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2005

Grand View Memorial Cemetery was closed to any business after state inspectors discovered cremated remains of about 4,000 people who were never buried or properly disposed of.

They, in turn, set off a series of discoveries that only compounded the legal troubles for the cemetery's operators.

Families eventually joined to file a class action lawsuit. The city eventually stepped in to facilitate limited visitation days after the cemetery's gates were closed amid insurance liability issues.

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2007

The hit-and-run death of 24-year-old Elizabeth Sandoval shone a spotlight on Glendale's abysmal pedestrian safety record, and captured headlines for months as the ensuing murder trial stretched into the following year.

Ara Grigoryan was eventually convicted for second-degree murder after prosecutors argued he exhibited a reckless disregard for human life in speeding down Glendale Avenue on July 10.

Grigoryan sped away and abandoned his Mercedes-Benz sedan in Van Nuys before fleeing to Mexico City, where he was picked up after trying to fly back to his native Armenia.

Police Chief Randy Adams seized on the incident, calling numerous press conferences during the investigation and search for Grigoryan. The case also spurred a larger communitywide conversation about Glendale's poor pedestrian safety record.

City officials have since initiated numerous public education campaigns and traffic safety stings, but pedestrian-related vehicle collisions continue to plague the city.

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2008

After years of controversy and millions spent on either side to prevent its birth, the Americana at Brand officially opened amid a star-studded affair that would come to foreshadow the $435-million behemoth's penchant for flair and over-the-top marketing.

The likes of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Natalie Cole and Tony Bennett gathered with an exclusive set to usher in a new retail history for Glendale despite the best efforts of community activists who years prior had waged battle against the city's $77-million land gift to make the project happen.

The Great Recession followed soon after, dampening the welcome mat and hurting the ability of Caruso Affiliated to unload the stock of high-priced condos.

The 15.5-acre site has since won over some of its former critics, and city officials have credited it for driving retail traffic into the city and its adjacent competitor, the Glendale Galleria.

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2008

Glendale took the regional lead in the effort to curb second-hand smoke, banning smoking in nearly all publicly accessible property, including all city-owned land, most dining patios and within 20 feet of restricted areas.

The new laws took the city from near last to the top of the heap in terms of regulating where people could light up, a move that was applauded by health officials and nonsmokers.

The rules received little if any push back during the hearing process, although advocates have complained recently of what they say is lax enforcement.

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Compiled by Jason Wells


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