SHERIFF LEE BACA HONORS LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT HEROES
On Tuesday, October 29, 2013, Sheriff Lee Baca presented 18 members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with highest honors during the annual Valor Awards Ceremony. The Valor and Meritorious Conduct medals are awarded annually to Department members who perform acts of great bravery or heroism, above and beyond the call of duty, to save the lives of others while placing their own lives at risk.
As part of a special presentation, eleven Lifesaving Awards and one Star Scroll were presented to members of the Department whose actions resulted in the saving or preservation of a human life that otherwise would have expired without the employee’s direct involvement.
The awards ceremony, sponsored by Galpin Motors and the Commerce Casino, was held at the Quiet Cannon in the city of Montebello. The Master of Ceremonies, ABC7 Traffic Reporter Alysha Del Valle, narrated the awards, recounting the heroic actions of each award recipient before an audience of over 400 Department personnel and their guests.
The 2013 award recipients are as follows:
Deputy Armando J. Arevalo
Deputy Gerardo Magos
Deputy Grant E. Roth
Operation Safe Streets Bureau
On the evening of November 16, 2012, Deputies Arevalo, Magos and Roth were patrolling the Florence/Firestone area of Los Angeles in an effort to contact members of the 76 East Coast Crip gang. Deputy Magos was driving an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria, with Deputies Roth and Arevalo seated in the front and back seats.
As they drove westbound on 81st Street, the deputies noticed a group of five to seven male gang members walking near the corner of Parmelee Avenue. Deputy Magos stopped their vehicle a short distance away from them. The deputies opened their vehicle doors to contact the group and illuminated them with their flashlights. The gang members immediately separated in all directions and effectively surrounded the deputies on three sides. Before the deputies could exit their vehicle, they saw multiple suspects retrieve handguns from their waistbands while the others ran for cover.
Approximately four suspects instantly fired at the deputies from multiple directions. Deputy Magos was struck in the abdomen with a .40-caliber bullet. Deputy Arevalo exited the rear passenger door but was forced to immediately dive back onto the rear seat for cover. He was showered with flying glass and debris caused by multiple bullet strikes to their vehicle. Deputy Roth returned fire at the suspects north of them, while Deputy Magos fired through the windshield at another suspect in front of their vehicle. A suspect who had taken cover behind a parked car on the south side of the street also fired at the deputies.
The situation was rapidly deteriorating around them. The deputies were trapped inside their vehicle and under a barrage of gunfire. Deputy Magos shouted several times that he was hit by gunfire and noticed Deputy Roth was attempting to clear a stovepipe jam from his .45 caliber pistol. Demonstrating extraordinary courage and in an attempt to save all of their lives, Deputy Magos leaned across and over the top of Deputy Roth and fired several rounds at the suspect north of them in an aggressive attempt to shield Deputy Roth from gunfire. This fearless act prevented the assailants from advancing on the vehicle and protected Deputy Roth long enough for him to clear his weapon. Deputy Roth then re-engaged the suspects as Deputy Magos turned his attention back to the suspect on the south side of the street, who was now crouched behind a parked vehicle.
Deputy Roth shouted to Deputy Magos to “floor it” to escape the kill zone. Deputy Magos feared Deputy Arevalo lay wounded or killed in the back seat of the radio car. He urgently drove a short but safe distance to render aid. As they sped away, the suspects continued to fire at them, striking the vehicle again multiple times.
When they reached the corner of 81st Street and Zamora Avenue, they realized Deputy Arevalo had not been hit. They exited their vehicle, took cover and scanned the area for the suspects. The gang members suddenly charged toward them on foot, and all three deputies fired at the suspects, sending them into hiding once again. At that time Deputy Arevalo’s firearm jammed.
Deputy Roth stood guard over the injured Deputy Magos as Deputy Arevalo covered them both. Arevalo then requested assistance and advised they had just been involved in a shooting and a deputy was hit. Responding deputies and paramedics arrived, and Magos was transported to a local hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery and survived.
A search of the area resulted in the arrest of four suspects and recovery of their handguns. One suspect suffered a grazing wound to his head. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged the suspects with attempted murder on a police officer.
Throughout the gun battle, these deputies’ actions were selfless and nothing short of heroic. Their combined efforts and will to survive resulted in the preservation of their own lives and that of their partners. For their tremendous courage in the face of immediate life-threatening peril, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Deputy Armando Arevalo, Deputy Gerardo Magos and Deputy Grant Roth were awarded the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
Reserve Deputy Nagapet N. Boyadjian
On the afternoon of May 29, 2012, Reserve Deputy Boyadjian was off-duty and in a jewelry store in Los Angeles when two armed, masked suspects entered the store. One of the suspects grabbed an unarmed security guard who was standing near the entrance, placed him in a rear chokehold, and pushed his handgun into his ribcage. The security officer began to struggle in an attempt to escape the suspect’s grasp.
Reserve Deputy Boyadjian saw the commotion and immediately knew an armed robbery was in progress. As the guard and suspect continued to struggle, Reserve Boyadjian sensed the noncompliant guard was on the verge of being shot. Placing his own life at risk, he quickly retrieved his off-duty handgun and advanced on the suspects, who were concentrating their efforts on the struggling guard. He ordered the suspects to stop, but they ignored him.
Fearing for the guard’s life, Reserve Deputy Boyadjian fired one round from his handgun into one suspect’s lower back, which was the biggest target that presented itself during the fight. The suspect immediately released his hold on the security guard, ran out the door along with the other suspect, and dropped his gun as he reeled in pain.
Reserve Deputy Boyadjian immediately ordered security personnel in the area to handcuff the wounded suspect and monitor the handgun that had been dropped. The second suspect fled in a waiting car driven by a third suspect.
LAPD Robbery/Homicide detectives handled this case. It is their belief that had Reserve Boyadjian not intervened, the security guard would likely have been shot and possibly killed. With one suspect in custody, they were able to gather enough information to arrest the other two suspects involved in the crime.
For placing himself in immediate life-threatening peril by aggressively defending the life of a man who was engaged in a life and death struggle with two armed and violent suspects, Reserve Deputy Nagapet Boyadjian was awarded the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
Deputy Tai Plunkett
Crescenta Valley Station
On November 21, 2012, Deputy Plunkett was off-duty and refueling his car at a gas station in the city of Burbank when he saw a man and woman arguing in a nearby parking lot while in the presence of two minor children. When he glanced over at the couple again, he saw the man attacking the female with a large knife. He could also see that the children were attempting to stop the attack, placing themselves in great danger of being hurt as well.
Deputy Plunkett was not armed and did not have the option of stopping the assault with a firearm, nor did he have time to call 911, as the woman would likely have been killed before he could make the call.
Knowing that mere seconds could mean the difference between life and death, Deputy Plunkett shouted at the suspect that he was a deputy sheriff and ordered him to stop his attack. The suspect looked at Deputy Plunkett but continued to stab the victim several more times. Disregarding his own safety, Deputy Plunkett approached the suspect and kicked him several times in the head, knocking him to the ground and ending the attack.
Deputy Plunkett then restrained the suspect using control holds as the suspect started to resist. A Good Samaritan who had been watching the incident assisted Deputy Plunkett by striking the suspect in the head with a pipe wrench. Another off-duty deputy who recognized Plunkett approached and assisted in restraining the suspect until the arrival of Burbank police officers.
The victim involved in this incident suffered over 20 stab wounds and cuts and was transported to a local hospital, where she was expected to make a full recovery. The children were not harmed.
For displaying great bravery above and beyond the call of duty and placing himself in an immediate life-threatening situation to save the life of a woman being violently attacked, Deputy Tai Plunkett was awarded the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
Deputy Gamielle K. Marshall
Deputy Victor T. Solis
On August 11, 2012 at noon, Lakewood Station personnel received a call of a structure fire in the 9500 block of Rose Street in Bellflower. They also advised that the burning single-family residence was occupied.
Deputies Solis and Marshall were the first to arrive at the scene. They instantly noticed dense black smoke rising from the back of the house and flames shooting out from under the eaves of the roof. They heard a male voice calling out for help from inside the burning residence. They looked through a living room window and saw an elderly man seated on a chair just a few feet from the front door. Deputies Solis and Marshall shouted at the man to open the front door. He explained that he could not because he was paralyzed. To make matters worse, the deputies saw that the entire structure was fortified with security bars, making entry into the home nearly impossible.
The fire spread quickly as toxic fumes and black smoke began to fill the interior of the home. The situation became even more intense when Deputies Solis and Marshall learned from a neighbor that an elderly female may also be trapped inside the house.
The deputies requested breaching tools and tried to force the security door and window open with their bare hands. Both deputies knew the victim’s only chance of survival hinged on their ability to gain immediate entry into the home. Unable to get through the front door, they ran to the north door, where they saw the garage door literally melting down due to the intensity of the heat.
Deputy Marshall returned to the front door while Deputy Solis ran to the south side of the house. Deputy Solis pulled back the security window on his second attempt by bracing his legs against the stucco wall for leverage. When he pushed the window aside, a wave of intense heat and toxic black smoke enveloped him. Feeling a burning sensation to his face and in his lungs, Deputy Solis became ill due to the intensity and level of physical assertion required to remove the security window.
Deputy Solis was unable gain entry through the window, but he refused to give up and ran to the front of the house to find another way in.
During this time, another deputy arrived at the location with breach tools, and he and Deputy Marshall worked feverishly to breach the security door. Deputy Marshall hit the door with all his strength, but the door would not budge. They eventually rammed the door until one of the locks broke off.
Unbeknownst to the deputies, smoke had partially cleared from the south bedroom where Deputy Solis earlier created an opening. This allowed a Good Samaritan to climb into the house. The Good Samaritan ran to the front door and tried to open it, but it was stuck. He then ran to the north door, where the raging fire was spreading, and was able to open it. Deputy Marshall ran into the house and disappeared behind a curtain of black smoke. He quickly located the elderly resident and emerged from behind the smoke with the elderly man hoisted over his shoulder. Deputy Marshall attempted to go back inside to look for a second victim when firefighters arrived, continued the rescue mission, and determined the house was clear of other occupants.
Both Deputies Solis and Marshall were hospitalized overnight for smoke inhalation. Fortunately, no one else sustained injuries as a result of this incident.
For placing themselves at grave risk to save the life of a paralyzed, elderly man who surely would have perished in the fire without their intervention, Deputy Victor Solis was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver and Deputy Gamielle Marshall was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Gold.
Sergeant Christopher L. Johnson
Sergeant Robert G. Maybury
Deputy Brent D. Del Valle
On November 29, 2011 at approximately 3:30 a.m., Sergeant Johnson, Sergeant Maybury and Deputy Del Valle received a “suicidal person armed with a gun” call. As they drove to the location, the call was updated to indicate the suicidal person had just fired his weapon.
Responding units rushed to the intersection of Dune and Elmcroft Avenues, approximately two blocks away from the location, to determine if less lethal options could be used. The call was updated again, indicating the suspect had left the location without his weapon and was headed toward Lakeside Park. Based on this information, Sergeant Maybury and Deputy Del Valle quickly established a containment.
As the sergeants and deputy drove toward the location, they saw a man matching the description of the suspect run into the middle of the street carrying a bottle of liquor in one hand and a semiautomatic handgun in the other. The suspect, who had his gun down at his side, immediately began challenging Maybury, Johnson and Del Valle to kill him. They shouted at the suspect to put his gun on the ground, but the suspect continued to yell and demand that they kill him, at one point getting down on his hands and knees, pointing at his forehead, and telling the deputy and sergeants to shoot him.
The suspect suddenly got back on his feet, and Sergeant Maybury and Deputy Del Valle immediately took cover behind their patrol vehicle’s open car doors as Sergeant Johnson took cover by his Chevy Tahoe. The suspect pointed his gun at them and fired a shot, striking the Tahoe. Knowing that inaction could result in injury or death to either themselves or their fellow deputies, they returned fire and struck the suspect, who fell to the ground and dropped his handgun.
They immediately formulated a plan to use less lethal means to arrest the suspect, who continued to be uncooperative as the deputy and sergeants approached him. They pulled the suspect out of the street and behind the cover of an SUV as they did not know if additional suspects were still inside the location.
The suspect was handcuffed and Sergeants Maybury and Johnson, along with additional deputies, cleared the location. The suspect’s handgun, a Smith and Wesson 9mm semiautomatic, was recovered at the scene.
Sergeants Maybury and Johnson, and Deputy Del Valle demonstrated a high degree of discipline and tactical excellence during this incident by exhausting all options prior to using deadly force. For their exceptional bravery and placing themselves in immediate life-threatening peril by engaging an armed and dangerous suspect, Sergeant Robert Maybury, Sergeant Christopher Johnson, and Deputy Brent Del Valle were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Gold.
Deputy Jenna M. Underwood-Nunez
Century Regional Detention Facility
In the late afternoon of Saturday, April 27, 2013, Deputy Underwood-Nunez was off-duty and dining with her family in the Silverwood Lake campground area of San Bernardino County when she suddenly heard someone screaming for help. She looked toward the water and saw an individual splashing approximately 100 yards into the lake and quickly determined someone was drowning.
Fearing the victim would drown if she did not act immediately, Deputy Underwood-Nunez, who was about 6 months pregnant at the time, immediately ran toward the lake. Fully clothed, she dove into the water and swam toward the victim, only to find out that the individual screaming for help was the brother of the actual drowning victim. The true victim, a 17-year-old male, was already fully submerged in approximately 15 feet of water and no longer breathing at the bottom of the lake bed.
Placing herself and her unborn child at great risk, Deputy Underwood-Nunez dove to the lake bottom and boldly searched the murky water for the victim. She miraculously located him and began to pull him to the surface but, because he was so heavy, thought she herself might not make it to the surface.
Once they surfaced, Deputy Underwood-Nunez realized she would not be able to make it to shore with the victim in tow. A man in a small inflatable boat saw the commotion and assisted Deputy Underwood-Nunez in dragging the victim’s lifeless body to the shore, where she immediately began lifesaving measures to restore his breathing. After approximately four cycles of CPR, the victim regained consciousness and was airlifted to a local hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.
Thanks to the heroic actions of Deputy Underwood-Nunez, the victim, a 17-year old high school student, was expected to make a full recovery and graduate from high school in June 2013.
For displaying great bravery above and beyond the call of duty, and placing herself and life of her baby in immediate life-threatening peril, Deputy Jenna Underwood-Nunez was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Gold.
Lieutenant David J. Thompson
Deputy Jill R. Greenwood
Malibu/Lost Hills Station
On July 27, 2012, a man kidnaped his estranged wife at gunpoint from her place of employment in the city of Malibu and forced her into her vehicle. In a violent rage, the suspect accused his wife of sleeping with a co-worker and said he would kill her, her boyfriend and himself before going to prison. The suspect held his wife at gunpoint while committing a violent sexual assault.
Malibu/Lost Hills Station detectives interviewed the victim, who detailed the suspect’s violent past and said he owned a semiautomatic handgun and never left his home without it. She was fearful the suspect would kill her, her children and her co-worker. Her statements painted a picture of a dangerous, disturbed and violent man.
Realizing the suspect was an immediate and imminent threat to the victim and the community as a whole, detectives quickly orchestrated a detailed plan to apprehend the suspect. They coordinated a pre-text telephone call between the victim and suspect, and the suspect agreed to meet the victim at a local restaurant.
Undercover detectives were in a position of surveillance and intended to swiftly apprehend the suspect as he walked toward the restaurant. Lieutenant David Thompson and Deputy Jill Greenwood posed as patrons inside the restaurant to assist in positively identifying the suspect as he approached.
Suspicious the police were present and waiting for him, the suspect, who did not look anything like his recent booking photo, used his familiarity with the restaurant to make it inside without being seen. However, one of the undercover detectives was convinced he was their man as he appeared to be holding down his shirt to conceal a firearm. The detective immediately alerted Thompson and Greenwood of his observation.
Lieutenant Thompson and Deputy Greenwood positioned themselves between the suspect and innocent bystanders, and watched as the suspect walked around for a short time. He then exited the building and they followed him outside.
The suspect appeared to be very nervous and agitated. When he positioned himself in front of pedestrians, including children, and appeared to identify Lieutenant Thompson and Deputy Greenwood as peace officers, he reached for a concealed weapon in his waistband. Due to the suspect’s position, lethal force was not an option. Demonstrating extraordinary courage and exceptional officer safety tactics, the detectives, without regard for their own safety, placed themselves directly in the line of fire to protect the public and attempted to distract the suspect. The suspect suddenly reached for his weapon, and they grabbed him before he could retrieve it. As they controlled his arms, Lieutenant Thompson was able to remove the weapon from the suspect’s grasp.
A subsequent search of the suspect netted chilling evidence of his ominous plan. Concealed on his person was a loaded handgun, 63 rounds of ammunition, and a suicide/farewell note to his parents. He later admitted he had identified the two detectives as police officers.
By placing themselves in harm’s way to protect innocent children and physically confronting an obviously armed and dangerous suspect, the selfless, heroic acts of the detectives averted an extensive and tragic loss of life. For their selfless courage in apprehending a man intent on ending the lives of numerous innocent victims, Lieutenant David Thompson and Deputy Jill Greenwood were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.
Deputy Thomas J. Bogdan
Deputy Scott G. Osborne
Sergeant Paul V. Gallo
Sergeant Mark F. Slater
Deputy Rodger A. Burt
Deputy Frank J. Diana
Deputy Jeffrey J. Martin
Reserve Deputy Lynda A. Daniels
Reserve Deputy Frederick C. Koegler
Reserve Deputy Jason L. Johnson
Reserve Deputy Cynthia A. Moyneur
Reserve Deputy Robert C. Sheedy
Volunteer Steven E. Cronkhite
Crescenta Valley Station
Reserve Deputy Jeff J. Godde
Retired Deputy Darrel L. Airhart
Deputy Mark J. Desmarteau
Deputy Tracy D. River
Special Enforcement Bureau
On March 25, 2012, Mrs. Tracy Granger of Juniper Hills, California was driving on the Angeles Forest Highway during a snow storm when she lost control of her vehicle near Mile Marker 10.47. Her vehicle slid off the roadway and down a 350-degree snow-covered embankment. Due to the rugged terrain and weather conditions, Mrs. Granger went unnoticed and lay critically injured at the bottom of the ravine. The next day her husband reported her missing and Palmdale Station personnel initiated an investigation and requested the assistance of Crescenta Valley Station personnel, including Montrose Search and Rescue Team members.
The following day a systematic search of both the Angeles Crest Highway and Angeles Forest Highway began. Over the next several hours, 100 miles of roadway were searched by both land and air.
At approximately 9:30 a.m., Reserve Deputy Johnson spotted tire marks in the snow on the right shoulder of Angeles Forest Highway. He checked the area for any signs of the victim or her vehicle, described as a white pickup truck. Because of a recent storm, combined with the white color of the vehicle, the task was particularly difficult. Reserve Deputy Johnson eventually spotted the pickup at the bottom of the canyon and immediately radioed his discovery.
Fearing for Mrs. Granger’s medical condition after being involved in a horrific traffic accident and being exposed to the elements for more than 12 hours, Reserve Deputy Johnson hurriedly descended the rugged snow-covered hillside with his medical bag and without supporting lines. He successfully negotiated a path to the bottom of the canyon and located Mrs. Granger lying outside her vehicle in the snow in extremely critical condition. He was able to detect a very faint pulse and immediately began administering emergency first aid.
A few moments later, Sergeant Slater and Reserve Deputies Moyneur and Sheedy arrived on the scene. With additional lifesaving equipment, they too descended the steep terrain without a support line and provided additional emergency medical treatment to Mrs. Granger.
Approximately five minutes later, Air Rescue 5 arrived and pilot Deputies Bogdan and Osborne safely navigated the helicopter into the rugged canyon. The Crew Chief, Deputy Airhart, lowered paramedic Deputies River and Desmarteau down to the crash scene via hoist. Reserve members Daniels, Koegler and Godde, supported by Sergeant Gallo and Deputies Martin, Diana, Burt and Volunteer Cronkhite, also arrived on scene. They worked together as a team to set up a truck-mounted winch cable to prepare for an over-the-side hoist rescue as a backup plan in the event Air 5 could not perform the rescue due to the inclement weather conditions.
Approximately ten minutes later, the Air 5 pilots decided that an air rescue was necessary due to the victim’s critical injuries. They safely maneuvered the helicopter into the canyon, and Mrs. Granger was ultimately airlifted and transported to Huntington Hospital. According to hospital personnel, the victim had “flat-lined” three times but survived due to the heroic actions of her rescuers.
For their lifesaving efforts, Volunteer Steven Cronkhite was awarded the Sheriff’s Star Scroll and Sergeants Paul Gallo and Mark Slater; Deputies Mark Desmarteau, Darrel Airhart, Rodger Burt, Frank Diana, Jeffrey Martin and Tracy River; and Reserve Deputies Lynda Daniels, Jeff Godde, and Frederick Koegler were awarded the Lifesaving Medal.
For placing themselves in potential peril to save the life of another, Deputies Thomas Bogdan and Scott Osborne, and Reserve Deputies Cynthia Moyneur and Robert Sheedy were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.
For placing himself in immediate peril to save the life of another, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Reserve Deputy Jason Johnson was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Gold.
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Leroy D. Baca, Sheriff
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
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