Thief who robbed Biola freshman is jailed

The thief held four Biolans at gunpoint and stole one’s wallet on Sunday.

Kathryn Watson, Writer

Four Biola freshmen were held at gunpoint at La Mirada Boulevard and Badlona Drive Sunday at approximately 1 a.m.

The students, all males, were walking back to campus along the sidewalk after seeing a late-night movie when a man walking toward them pulled out a gun and demanded that they drop on the ground and surrender their money, according to police and Ryan Wilson, one of the four students. The suspect stole one wallet before he fled the scene of the crime. The wallet was later recovered.

The suspect, 21-year-old Michael Anthony Mora, has been jailed on $150,000 bail, according to Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department records. He will be charged with one count of robbery and four counts of attempted robbery, all felony offenses, as Justin Shelby, public information officer for Campus Safety, noted. Mora’s first court date is set for Nov. 24.

La Mirada crime rates decreased by 35 percent in the first six months of 2009, but Sunday’s robbery proved that it is not immune to crime. The robbery joined the ranks of several vehicle thefts and non-aggravated assaults that have occurred within the last month in the area, as well as at least three house break-ins, all within one mile of Biola, according to Crimereports.com.

Police also dealt with the discovery of a 21-year-old female Whittier resident’s body in early October, the shooting of a a 45-year-old man in late October and the robbing of a video game store in Whittier at the beginning of this month.

Closer to Biola, a man suspected of having sexual motives appeared at Starbucks about a year ago on Imperial Highway and Rosecrans Avenue, initiating conversations with college women and claiming to be a believer.

Shelby said Campus Safety warned the man to steer clear of students, but could not arrest him while he was off campus. The man disappeared after about three weeks.

Shelby said students, especially females, should be wary of strangers approaching, even if the strangers seem to have good intentions. Students should never go anywhere alone with strangers, Shelby said. In public areas like Starbucks, students are relatively safe.

John Ojeiskhoba, chief of Campus Safety, emphasized that students are still relatively safe and crime happens even in the safest of cities.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “It’s okay to be nervous about it, but we cannot be living in fear.”

More recently, graduate students Eva Dittman and Hiromi Takahasi found the police surrounding their Ranch Apartment complex two weeks ago when a man living there threatened to commit suicide, which drew out police and involved gun shots.

“The police came and kicked me out,” Dittman said.

Takahashi said she was coming back from doing her laundry when she heard a gun shot.

“That was the first gun shot I had ever heard in my whole life!” wrote Takahashi, who comes from Japan. “After everything was over, I said to myself, ‘So it may be what living in the U.S. is all about.’ This was a very shocking experience for me, who came from a country where owning guns is highly restricted.”

La Mirada, however, is still one of the safest cities in the area. Police reports from 2008 show 1,135 crimes for the city, compared to 2008 reports of 2,393 in Whittier, 4,431 in Downey and 5,566 in Fullerton.

Danielle Heftey of the City of La Mirada Public Safety said large-scale incidents involving college students are usually far and few between, but Shelby said students should still take regular precautions. Although incidents are few, laptops, vehicles, and other personal possessions have been stolen in the past. Shelby said graffiti and vandalism are among the more common crimes.

“This is L.A.,” said Justin Shelby, public information officer of Campus Safety. “There’s definitely a strong criminal element to be aware of.”

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