By Laura Brady-Allen
Arthur Gilbert Garza, 54
described by LAPD Senior Lead Officer Fernando Ochoa as a “homeless fixture” in Eagle Rock, has pleaded no contest to a charge of rape of an unconscious person and has been released after spending roughly a year behind bars.
The rape occurred at a homeless encampment under the 2 freeway in Eagle Rock, where Garza was living at the time, according to Greg Risling, a spokesperson at the District Attorney’s office. The victim was a 22-year old woman who did not know Garza, said Risling.
Garza was arrested and incarcerated for the crime on February 5, 2018. He entered the no-contest plea on January 28, 2019 and was released from custody for time served. He received a suspended sentence of six years in state prison and five years of formal probation. He was required to register as a sex offender and is now listed in the sex-offender registry.
“I am very aware of Mr. Garza,” said Ochoa, adding that Garza must go to the police station once a month to report to the sex offender registrant officer. “I also make contact with Mr. Garza when I am in the area,” said Ochoa.
Manuel Espana, 37
a transient notorious for harassing and threatening people along the boulevards in Eagle Rock, was due in court on April 19 on a charge of felony burglary of a home in Eagle Rock, where a female resident was sleeping at the time.
The court date was cancelled, however, pending an evaluation of Espana’s mental competency. No new court date has yet been scheduled. Espana, who was arrested and incarcerated for the burglary on March 13, remains in custody.
The arrest for the burglary was Espana’s 51st arrest in the last roughly 20 years, including 15 felonies and 36 misdemeanors, according to LAPD Senior Lead Officer Ochoa.
Espana’s latest arrest came after a period in which he was off the streets. When he was spotted back on the boulevards in early March, business owners and other community stakeholders in Eagle Rock scheduled a meeting for March 28 to discuss his reappearance. Espana was arrested before that, but the meeting took place anyway, attended by some 15 people, including Ochoa and Gabrielle Taylor, a City Attorney.
The people at the meeting recounted being menaced by Espana inside the businesses where they work and shop. Taylor and Ochoa offered advice for avoiding Espana if he is returned to the streets, including obtaining a civil restraining order against him, filing police reports to document his threatening behavior and calling 911.
Two South Gate juveniles have been arrested by the LAPD for the armed robbery of a MetroPCS store at 2908 Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock on February 12. Both of the juveniles, who were arrested on March 20, are members of the same South Gate gang, said Detective Jeana Franco of Northeast LAPD.
An additional juvenile from the same South Gate gang was arrested on March 6 for the armed robbery of a T-Mobile cellphone store at 3027 San Fernando Road in Atwater Village on February 26. According to Franco, the police are “actively pursuing additional suspects.”