Police Dept.’s annual event honors 14 heroes with Purple Heart, Medal of Valor and Preservation of Life honors.
All stories courtesy the Los Angeles Police Foundation.
On Oct. 20, the LAPD hosted its annual “Above and Beyond” ceremony. This year’s event honored 14 Officers who demonstrated the highest level of courage and bravery in protecting the City.
The event was held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel downtown.
This year’s event continued the awarding of Purple Heart, Medals of Valor, and the Preservation of Life. Purple Hearts have been distributed only ten times in the history of the event. This year, three LAPD Officers were honored with the Purple Heart, nine with the Medal of Honor, and three with the Preservation of Life. (One Officer was awarded with both the Purple Heart and the Medal of Valor.)
For the sixth time, the LAPD awarded the Preservation of Life medal, a recognition of efforts at de-escalation of public safety situations by avoiding the use of deadly force during dangerous encounters. The Department is one of only a handful in the country to bestow such an honor.
During the ceremony, two Officers were remembered who lost their lives this year: Officer Fernando Uriel Arroyos and Officer Houston Ryan Tipping. Alive! reported on their deaths earlier in 2022.
It is Alive!’s great honor to publish every year the names and stories of those honored.
The Purple Heart recognizes Officers who have sustained grievous physical injury during a tactical situation and posthumously to the next of kin of those Officers who did not survive their injuries.
The Medal of Valor is awarded to Officers who distinguish themselves by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of police service. To be awarded the Medal of Valor, an Officer shall have preformed an act displaying extreme courage while consciously facing imminent peril.
The medals are awarded by the Board of Police Commissioners and presented by the Chief of Police in the name of the Department at the annual ceremony. The award consists of a medal, ribbon, and citation. The Medal of Valor was first presented in 1925, and the Purple Heart was first awarded in 2009. The Preservation of Life honor was first awarded in 2016.
The awards ceremony is made possible thanks to the generosity of the Los Angeles Police Foundation. The Club thanks Dana Katz, Executive Director, for her assistance.
This Year’s Honorees
Officer Jose L. Anzora
Officer Nicole Minarik
Officer Rodney Williams
(also Medal of Valor)
Medal of Valor
Officer Miguel Alarcon
Officer Rafael Rodriguez
Sgt. Albert Funes
Officer Christopher Aboyte
Officer Damien Castro
Sgt. Joseph Cavestany
Officer Robert Sherock
Officer Andrew Rea
Officer Rodney Williams
(also Purple Heart)
Preservation of Life
Sgt. Michael Porter
The stories of their bravery follow.
Assistance for Gang Pursuit
On the evening of Feb. 26, 2021, Newton Division Officer Jose Anzora and his partner were on patrol when they heard a Newton Gang Enforcement Detail Unit (GED) broadcast that they were following a vehicle at a high rate of speed and needed additional resources. The driver had committed several traffic infractions and was driving in a manner that showed a willful and wanton disregard for public safety. The GED officers continued to follow the vehicle until it collided with an uninvolved vehicle and came to rest. Officer Anzora and his partner immediately responded to the location to assist the GED officers.
Officer Anzora and his partner were conducting traffic control at the scene when a vehicle drove around their parked police car and struck him. He suffered severe injuries and was admitted to the hospital in critical condition. He valiantly fought for his life for several days before succumbing to his injuries on March 3, 2021.
Officer Anzora is survived by his wife Heather, mother Theresa, and brothers Nelson, Carlos and Marco Polo.
Injury During Traffic Stop
On night of July 27, 2018, Mission Area Officers Miguel Alarcon and Nicole Minarik were conducting uniformed patrol in a marked black and white police vehicle when they observed a male driving a car that was later determined to be stolen. The Officers recognized the driver as a known gang member who was on federal probation for a weapons violation.
The Officers decided to conduct a probation search of the suspect and investigate possible gang-related activity. Officer Minarik approached the driver as Officer Alarcon assumed a cover position on the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Minarik instructed the driver to exit the vehicle. He aggressively complied and, without warning, produced a .380-caliber M&P semi-automatic handgun, fired one round at Officer Minarik and struck her in the leg. When she fell to the ground, the suspect turned his attention toward Officer Alarcon and fired a single round, missing him.
In immediate defense of his life and the life of his partner, Officer Alarcon fired multiple rounds with his service pistol, striking the suspect three times and effectively stopping the deadly assault against the Officers. The suspect fell to the ground and was taken into custody without further incident. He later succumbed to his injuries.
Officer Minarik recovered from her injuries, returned to work, and is currently assigned to Training Bureau.
On March 16, 2021, at approximately noon, Communications Division received a frantic 911 call reporting that a man was under the influence of narcotics, armed with a rifle, and was shooting into the air indiscriminately. Southwest Patrol Officers responded and were able to identify the suspect and saw he barricaded himself inside a house. Further inquiries revealed he had a lengthy criminal history.
The Officers obtained the suspect’s phone number and called him to begin negotiations for a peaceful surrender. Despite concerted efforts to gain his cooperation, the suspect was adamant when he stated, “I don’t like the cops. I guess I’m going to die today!” Additional attempts to de-escalate the situation only generated more violent threats and responses from the suspect such as, “Come in and get me. I’m ready to shoot it out!” The suspect also told Officers that he had an AK-47. The Southwest Area Incident Commander requested assistance from Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), which arrived at the scene and formulated a tactical plan.
SWAT Officers Andy Rea and Rodney Williams were assigned containment on the side of the property. Other SWAT Officers were deployed on the opposite side and in an elevated position that provided a view of the driveway and rear of the property should the suspect launch an assault in that direction. As this occurred, the Crisis Negotiations Team relentlessly attempted to de-escalate the situation and negotiated with the suspect for hours.
Repeated calls to the suspect were met with negative results, and several voicemail messages were left requesting him to answer his phone. When those efforts failed, SWAT Officers transitioned to the Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to ensure the suspect could hear their efforts to communicate with him. The suspect’s family members recorded messages expressing their love and concern for him. None of these efforts aimed at a peaceful surrender worked.
Officers calmly asked the suspect to come outside, move to a door or a window, and communicate with them via the LRAD. The suspect responded by yelling profanities and screaming incoherently. SWAT Officers then maneuvered a remote-controlled robot equipped with a microphone near the front door to assist on-scene personnel in understanding what the suspect was yelling.
With darkness approaching and negotiations unsuccessful, Officers Rea and Williams moved south through the driveway, using parked cars for cover. Williams provided coverage for Officer Rea, as he momentarily stepped out from behind cover to deploy one canister of a chemical agent into the structure. Immediately after the chemical agents were used, Officers heard a single gunshot come from inside the house. The Sergeant used the LRAD system to communicate to the suspect that he would not be harmed if he stopped firing, exited the residence peacefully, and followed directions.
Rather than comply, the suspect fired another round in the direction of Officers Williams and Rea. The shot struck Officer Williams in his magazine pouch affixed to the front of his tactical vest. He quickly advised Officer Rea that he had been struck in the vest but that he could continue and had resumed his original position behind cover. Officer Rea broadcast that Officer Williams had been struck in the vest but was uninjured. In response, the Sergeant directed Officers to repeat the gas plan.
Officer Williams provided cover as Officer Rea fired one gas canister into the target location. Officer Williams then saw the door open and raised his rifle, preparing to defend his life and that of his partner, when the suspect suddenly fired a round from behind a wall that blocked Officer Williams’ view. Although Officer Williams had changed his position and tried to utilize the limited cover that was available, the round penetrated his gas mask and entered his cheek below the plastic lens. The impact caused him to drop violently backward with the wound bleeding profusely.
As Officer Williams landed helplessly on his back, Officer Rea quickly broadcast that his partner was down and pulled him to safety.
SWAT Officers located the suspect who was walking down the street with the shotgun on his right side. He pointed the shotgun toward the wounded Officer’s location when another Officer fired five rounds from his police rifle to stop the suspect’s violent actions and provide Officer Williams an opportunity to survive. The suspect fell to the ground.
Officer Williams was rushed to a nearby trauma center for emergency medical treatment by a team of physicians. He has since returned to duty and continues to serve as a member of the SWAT team.
Medal of Valor
Car Crash Rescue
Late in the evening on Jan. 9, 2021, Officer Rafael Rodriguez was off duty and at home when he heard what sounded like a car crash in front of his residence. He went outside to investigate and saw a mangled vehicle that had lost control and crashed. He could see fire starting from under the vehicle and hood of the car and ran to try to open the driver’s door.
Smoke had already filled the inside of the car, making it impossible to see how many people were there. A Good Samaritan who had also responded gave Officer Rodriguez a knife to try to pierce the window, but he was unsuccessful. At this point, flames were coming up from the side of the vehicle and the smoke made it hard to breathe.
Officer Rodriguez pulled on the driver-side door’s window, which was protruding from the crash. Although he cut his finger, he was able to pull hard enough on the door to make the window shatter. He put his hand in the burning vehicle to press the automatic unlock button and attempted to open the door, but it was stuck shut due to the crash. The Good Samaritan went to the rear right passenger side and was able to use the handle to open that door.
Officer Rodriguez knew he had to get the unconscious driver out of the vehicle immediately but saw the lower portion of his body was stuck between the seat and steering wheel. He attempted to wake the unresponsive driver. When that did not work, Officer Rodriguez grabbed the driver’s arm and pulled him between the two front car seats towards the right rear passenger door, which freed the lower portion of his body. The Good Samaritan then grabbed the other arm and helped pull the driver to safety.
Once out of the vehicle, the driver woke up incoherent and unaware of his surroundings or the situation he was in. Officer Rodriguez and the Good Samaritan calmed him down and waited with him until the Whittier Fire Dept. arrived and could treat him.
In the early evening of May 28, 2021, Community Safety Partnership Officer Albert Funes and his partner were in South Park’s substation when they heard a knock coming from the pool’s entry door (which is not accessible to the public). When they went to investigate, they encountered two witnesses who pointed toward the pool and said that someone was drowning.
Officer Funes could not see anyone in the pool but noticed a dark image when he looked at the bottom of it. He asked his partner if he knew how to swim, and his partner said no. Officer Funes knew he needed to react and, not knowing how to swim either, jumped into the shallow end of the pool and used the bottom of the pool to walk toward the person. When he was within arm’s reach of the victim, he took a deep breath and went underwater to grab the victim’s ankle. Officer Funes was able to pull the unconscious victim onto his right shoulder and walked along the bottom of the pool towards the deck where he popped his head above the surface to breathe. A bystander jumped in the pool and assisted with pulling the victim onto the pool deck.
Realizing the victim was unconscious and not breathing, Officer Funes began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while his partner assisted by applying chest compressions. A blue liquid, later identified as an ecstasy pill, came out of the victim’s mouth. Instead of stopping and worrying about his own safety, Officer Funes wiped the victim’s mouth and continued with the breathing techniques. The Officers administered CPR until the Rescue Ambulance arrived at scene to take over.
The responding LAFD Fire Captain said the victim would have died at the pool but for the actions of Officer Funes and his partner. The victim, unfortunately, passed away a few days later.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, a single-engine Cessna plane was taking off from Whiteman Airport when the pilot broadcasted a “Mayday.” As the pilot cleared the runway, he conducted a forced landing on the railroad tracks at the intersection of Osborne Street and San Fernando Road. Foothill Division Sgt. Joseph Cavestany was in the immediate area and broadcasted that a small plane had landed on the railroad tracks with one passenger inside and that the plane was leaking fuel. He requested the LAFD and additional units to assist. A request was also made to stop all rail traffic (train movement) on the tracks.
Foothill Patrol Officers Christopher Aboyte, Damien Castro and Robert Sherock arrived at the location and monitored the pilot’s condition, deciding to leave him in place due to the visible injuries to his head and face. Sgt. Cavestany instructed Officers to watch for potential fires due to the fuel leak. As the Officers awaited the arrival of the LAFD, the railroad crossing warning lights and bells were activated. Moments later the railroad crossing arms lowered, and a train horn was heard in the distance. The four Officers realized that a Metrolink train was approaching at a high rate of speed, barreling down the tracks on a direct collision course with the downed Cessna.
Knowing the life-threatening situation the pilot faced if left in the plane, the four Officers risked their own lives and stayed in the path of the oncoming train while they pulled the pilot from the wreckage. He was safely extracted seconds before the train collided with the downed plane.
Preservation of Life
On Jan. 5, 2021, Sgt. Marcos Villanueva and fellow Officers from Mission Division responded to a radio call about an assault with a deadly weapon. The suspect, a 35-year-old male, was reported to be under the influence of narcotics and alcohol and threatened to kill himself. The Officers were told the suspect was armed with a knife and was now threatening “suicide by cop.”
Sgt. Villanueva was the first to arrive on scene and stood by for more than 8 minutes as he waited for the primary assigned unit to come. To create better situational awareness, he positioned himself at the base of the driveway of the apartment complex to monitor any activity that would necessitate an immediate police response.
From his position, Sgt. Villanueva observed a person at the opposite end of the driveway flagging him down. Believing the person was either a witness or the reporting party and intending to gain additional information to share with the responding unit, Sgt. Villanueva slowly walked toward the person. As he got closer, he saw that the person walking quickly toward him was armed with a knife in his right hand and a large glass bottle in his left hand. He immediately realized this was the suspect and commanded him three times to stay put; however, the suspect failed to comply.
Sgt. Villanueva broadcast that he had contacted the suspect and needed help. The suspect then yelled for Sgt. Villanueva to shoot him. Sgt. Villanueva continually redeployed to keep a greater distance between himself and the suspect who constantly advanced towards him and who kept pleading for Sgt. Villanueva to shoot him. As he broadcasted and narrated the events on his radio, Sgt. Villanueva was forced into the street by the advancing suspect. Multiple cars passed, coming dangerously close to both. At one point, the suspect stopped in the street and screamed at Sgt. Villanueva to shoot him. He refused and told the suspect to drop the knife because he was trying to save his life. The suspect dropped the glass bottle and got within 10 feet of Sgt. Villanueva.
The patrol unit arrived, and Sgt. Villanueva directed one of the Officers to use his TASER to incapacitate the suspect. The TASER proved ineffective. The suspect continued to aggressively advance toward Sgt. Villanueva. The suspect briefly dropped his knife, allowing Sgt. Villanueva to attempt to end the standoff by employing a front kick. However, the suspect immediately rearmed himself. Another Officer grabbed his baton and delivered a well-placed strike to the suspect’s forearm causing him to drop the knife The suspect was taken into custody without further incident.
Subduing a Chain and Padlock
On the afternoon of Jan. 13, 2021, Pacific Division Officers David Martinez and Kaoru Suzuki responded to a radio call of an assault with deadly weapon where a suspect was reportedly yelling, talking to himself, and armed with a chain that had a padlock attached to it.
Upon the Officers’ arrival, they saw the suspect holding the chain with the padlock and walking aggressively behind a terrified male (later identified as a victim). Believing the victim was in immediate danger, Officers Suzuki and Martinez quickly exited their vehicle to detain the suspect.
As soon as the Officers got out, the suspect rushed towards Officer Suzuki, who unsuccessfully attempted to detain him by grabbing his arms. He then rushed towards Officer Martinez while violently swinging the chain and padlock. Officer Martinez backed up to create distance and deployed his TASER, which struck the suspect but was ineffective.
The suspect again flailed the chain at the two Officers, striking them multiple times in the upper body and head. They pushed him onto the hood of a parked car while he continued swinging the weapon at them. Officer Martinez took him down to the ground and landed on his back with the suspect on top of him. While on the ground, the suspect attempted to punch, choke and bite Officer Martinez. Officer Suzuki pulled the suspect away from his partner.
Two bystanders saw what was happening and assisted the Officers in controlling the suspect as he was placed in handcuffs. He was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon on a police Officer with additional charges for indecent exposure, brandishing, and assault with a deadly weapon.