Stories and photos courtesy Los Angeles Police Foundation
On Sept. 21, the LAPD hosted its annual “Above and Beyond” ceremony. This year’s event honored 23 Officers who demonstrated the highest level of courage and bravery in protecting the City.
This year’s event continued the awarding of Purple Heart and Medals of Valor (no Preservation of Life honors were presented this year). Purple Hearts have been distributed only 11 times in the history of the event. This year, 10 LAPD Officers were honored with the Purple Heart and 16 with the Medal of Honor. (Three Officers were awarded with both the Purple Heart and the Medal of Valor.)
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.
|Medal of Valor
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.
|Preservation of Life
The Preservation of Life medal (none were presented this year) is 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.
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; none were awarded in 2023.
Policeman John Magness
Det. Abiel Barron
Det. Andrew Teague
Officer Daniel Sanchez
Officer Adrian Bonilla
Officer Alan Ramirez
Officer Steve Wills
Policeman Richard Lundgren (also Medal of Valor)
Det. James Murawski (also Medal of Valor)
Sgt. John Preston (also Medal of Valor)
Medal of Valor
Policeman Richard Lundgren (also Purple Heart)
Det. James Murawski (also Purple Heart)
Sgt. John Preston (also Purple Heart)
Sgt. Jack Dillard
Det. Gordon Garver
Officer John Carlyle
Officer Antonio Martin
Officer David Phillips
Officer Nicholas Sysak
Officer Brandon Valdez
Officer Nicolas Chacon
Officer Mario Lemus
Officer Cody MacArthur
Officer Gabriel Rebolledo
Officer Christopher Kliebert
Officer Andrew Mejia
The stories of their bravery…
On May 15, 1920, Policeman John Magness was the front passenger in a University Division Police Ambulance. (University Division is now known as Southwest Division.) During the course of his duties, his vehicle became involved in a collision with another vehicle. Magness suffered internal injuries and a severe laceration to his right upper thigh. He was taken to the hospital but succumbed to his injuries six days later.
Policeman Magness left behind a wife and four children and is also survived by his great- grandson, LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Oreb.
In the early evening hours of June 7, 2020, North Hollywood Division Officers responded to numerous 911 calls for an Assault with a Deadly Weapon suspect. Upon arrival, Officers observed the suspect armed with a rifle pacing back and forth and barricaded inside his apartment. They contained the location and requested multiple times for the suspect to surrender. He refused to comply, and SWAT was requested.
SWAT was briefed that the suspect had discharged his rifle at his neighbors and was now barricaded in his apartment. As Officers evacuated residents from the hallway, Officer Daniel Sanchez took a barricaded position at a nearby apartment to provide cover for his partners.
Without warning, the suspect emerged from his apartment wearing a camouflage jacket and holding a big-game-hunting-style crossbow in his right hand and a rifle in his left hand. The suspect re-entered his apartment and slammed the door shut. Moments later, he re-emerged holding the crossbow in an upward position.
As Officer Sanchez pleaded with the suspect to surrender peacefully, the suspect turned toward him and lowered the crossbow to a low-ready position barricaded behind his doorway. Suddenly and without provocation, the suspect then raised it and fired an arrow at Officer Sanchez. Realizing the immediate threat to his life, he discharged two rounds toward the suspect.
Officer Sanchez sustained a laceration to his left thumb and was taken to the hospital, where his thumb was surgically reattached. Sanchez returned to duty seven months later. It was later determined that one of the rounds Officer Sanchez had fired lodged in the crossbow, essentially disabling further arrows from being shot from it.
In the late afternoon hours of March 8, 2023, Hollenbeck Division Detectives were searching for a parolee-at-large and an active Highland Park gang member who had fled from Detectives. The Detectives set up a perimeter and requested Metropolitan Division K9 Platoon personnel to search.
The K9 platoon was briefed on the circumstances of the investigation and the nature of the crime in which the suspect was involved. They formulated a tactical search plan for the contained area. Officers made multiple announcements to notify anyone in the area of the impending K9 search. The purpose of these announcements was to de-escalate the incident and give the suspect an opportunity to surrender.
They began their search and soon found the suspect hiding in a detached garage. He refused to come out and submit to arrest. The search team, including Officers Adrian Bonilla, Alan Ramirez and Steve Wills, set a tight containment around the structure to prevent the suspect from escaping.
After several attempts to apprehend the suspect, the suspect fired upon the Officers. Officers Bonilla, Ramirez and Wills were struck by gunfire, resulting in traumatic physical injuries. Officers Ramirez and Wills have since returned to work, while Officer Bonilla continues to receive medical treatment.
On the evening of June 25, 2003, Northeast Division Homicide Detectives Abiel Barron and Andrew Teague were returning from relocating a witness who had testified in a gang murder case. They were driving eastbound on CA Highway 138 when a vehicle traveling westbound on the highway illegally passed a third vehicle without sufficient clearance to merge back into its lane. The vehicle struck the detectives’ police vehicle head-on and smashed it beyond recognition.
Sadly, Det. Barron succumbed to his injuries at the scene, leaving behind a wife and 13-year-old daughter. Det. Teague was gravely injured and taken to the hospital. He suffered serious head injuries from which he never fully recovered and subsequently medically retired.
In the afternoon of Sept. 14, 1965, Policeman Richard Lundgren was patrolling in Highland Park Division (now Northeast Division) when he was flagged down by a citizen who advised that his neighbor’s home was being burglarized. Policeman Lundgren responded to the residence and upon entering the home observed the suspect gathering the victim’s valuables in a sack.
Policeman Lundgren ordered the suspect against a wall. Initially, the suspect complied. But as Policeman Lundgren approached, the suspect produced a hammer and began violently swinging it at him. In defense of his life, Policeman Lundgren shot the suspect twice. The wounded suspect continued attacking Policeman Lundgren, striking him in the face with the hammer. Policeman Lundgren fired three more shots, and the suspect finally gave up.
Policeman Lundgren was taken to the hospital, admitted for one night, and treated for the loss of five teeth. He returned to work four days later. He underwent numerous dental surgeries but continued his career for another 18 years, retiring in 1983.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 29, 1973, Devonshire Patrol Officers Jack Dillard, Gordon Garver, James Murawski and John Preston responded to a disturbance call of a man with a gun. Officers contacted a neighbor who advised them that an 8-year-old girl from the neighborhood knocked on his front door about 10 minutes prior and told him that a man was holding her mother at gunpoint in her residence. Officer Dillard got the victim’s name and phone number and called the house, but the phone did not ring. Officers Garver, Preston and Murawski went to the victim’s residence and heard noises that sounded like someone was being struck, but no screaming was heard.
Officers Dillard, Preston and Garver approached the front of the house, and Officer Dillard rang the doorbell with his baton. A few seconds later, the viewing window on the front door opened, and a female asked who was there. He replied, “Police Officers. Open the door.” The woman replied, “Help me! He is in the bedroom with a gun.” Officers Preston and Garver immediately got her out of the house.
Officer Dillard yelled into the residence, asking the man to put down the gun and come out. The man yelled back at the Officers to, “Come get him.” Officer Dillard repeatedly asked the suspect to surrender as he and Officers Preston and Garver entered a hallway. Suddenly, the Officers observed the barrels of a double-barreled shotgun being thrust out of a side hallway. The suspect stepped out into the hallway, holding the shotgun at the hip position, with his left hand on the barrel and his right hand on the trigger. The Officers backed up toward the front door, and the suspect pointed the weapon at the Officers and fired one round.
Officer Preston simultaneously fired one round from his shotgun at the suspect while Officers Dillard and Garver fired one round from their revolvers. The suspect backed up into a side hallway, as Officer Preston advised his fellow Officers he had been hit. Officer Garver grabbed Officer Preston and pulled him out the front door. Officer Murawski, who had been standing on the front porch, was also hit by the suspect’s buckshot.
The suspect came around the hallway again, and Officer Dillard fired three rounds at the suspect. The suspect slipped out of view, and Officer Dillard exited the residence. As Officers Preston and Garver made notifications of the shooting and requested an ambulance, Officers Murawski and Dillard positioned themselves behind vehicles on the street and illuminated the front door with a flashlight. A short time later, the suspect appeared in the front doorway and pointed the shotgun at the Officers. The Officers fired at the suspect, and the suspect retreated into the residence. Officers at the rear of the house observed the suspect fall to the floor. Officers reentered the residence and took the suspect into custody.
Officers Preston and Murawski were treated for their injuries and released.
Alleged Gang Member Shootout
In the early evening hours of April 2, 2008, Operations-South Bureau Gang Enforcement Detail (GED) Officers John Carlyle, Antonio Martin, David Phillips and Brandon Valdez were conducting an operation in the Harbor Area to locate and apprehend a suspect wanted for making criminal threats against Police Officers. The suspect was out on bail awaiting trial for criminal threats; however, given the potential threat he posed to the community, a judge revoked his previous bail and issued an arrest warrant.
The suspect was a documented Eastside Wilmas gang member who sought revenge for an Officer-involved shooting that occurred the previous month with a fellow Eastside Wilmas gang member. The Officers were told that the suspect was also being charged with a carjacking that happened two years prior. Additionally, the suspect had been seen with a blue steel revolver and was looking to obtain an AK-47 to kill a Los Angeles Police Officer.
Plainclothes Officers in an unmarked police vehicle responded to the suspect’s residence where they observed him enter the driver’s side of a vehicle. The Officers also observed two female passengers in the car. They broadcast the information to the designated uniformed chase team. Officers Carlyle and Phillips responded to the alley, began following the suspect, and requested backup. Officers Martin and Valdez responded to the backup request, and Officer Carlyle activated his emergency lights and siren to conduct a traffic stop.
The suspect refused to stop, accelerated, and a pursuit ensued. He started to negotiate a left turn, then decelerated, and attempted a right turn. Officer Carlyle unintentionally collided with the suspect’s vehicle, causing it to spin clockwise. The suspect tried to accelerate, but the secondary police vehicle blocked his path. The suspect exited the vehicle and pointed a handgun in Officer Martin’s direction.
Fearing he was about to be shot, Officer Martin opened his door, drew his service pistol, and fired two rounds at the suspect. Simultaneously, the suspect fired two shots at Officer Martin, striking him on the left chest under his badge. Martin fell to the ground, and as the suspect approached him, he attempted to get up and fired one to two more rounds at the suspect. Officer Valdez saw Officer Martin fall to the ground and shot at the suspect once. At the same time, Officer Phillips exited his police vehicle, took cover by the suspect’s vehicle, and upon observing the suspect shoot at Officer Martin, fired three rounds at the suspect. Officer Carlyle, fearing Officers Martin and Valdez were going to be killed, fired three to four rounds at the suspect as well.
Meanwhile, Harbor Division Vice Officer Nicholas Sysak and his partner heard the pursuit and responded in case they needed to set up a perimeter. As they approached the area, they observed the suspect shooting at the Officers.
Believing the Officers were in danger of being shot and killed, Officer Sysak turned left and intentionally struck the suspect with his unmarked police vehicle. The collision caused the suspect to lose his grasp of the pistol and fall to the ground. The pistol crashed through the windshield of Officer Sysak’s car. While Officer Sysak’s decision to drive directly into a gun battle was unorthodox, it was instrumental in disarming the suspect. The suspect was taken into custody and pronounced dead at the scene.
Officer Martin’s United States Marine Corp pin, which he wore on the top left corner of his left shirt pocket, received a direct hit from the round fired by the suspect. The pin caused the bullet to slow, greatly reducing the severity of his injury. He was treated for injuries and released from the hospital.
In the late evening hours of June 9, 2022, Metropolitan Division Officers Cody MacArthur and Nicolas Chacon were driving home from their 14-hour shift and observed a vehicle veer off the freeway, roll over several times, collide with a guard rail, a street sign and a wall before coming to rest on the right shoulder of the freeway, and burst into flames. They immediately pulled over and broadcast what had occurred.
They observed a male emerge from the burning wreckage with a small infant in his arms. He advised that his wife and other children were still in the vehicle. The Officers rushed to the burning vehicle and observed a four-year-old girl in the right rear passenger seat, a nine-year-old girl in the front passenger seat, and an adult female lying across the center console with her head facing the dashboard and her feet towards the back of the vehicle.
Both Officers were faced with the agonizing decision to prioritize the rescues based on accessibility and likelihood of survival. The Officers made the conscious decision to rescue the children first. Officer Chacon utilized his pocketknife to free the four-year-old from the seatbelt, while Officer MacArthur extracted her from the burning vehicle, while instructing the nine-year-old to climb out of the vehicle. The nine-year-old followed the Officers’ lifesaving directions and safely escaped the car. The Officers quickly led the children away from the deadly inferno.
The Officers then heard the trapped female scream and, without hesitation, returned to the burning vehicle. At this time, Devonshire Patrol Officers Mario Lemus and Gabriel Rebolledo arrived with fire extinguishers. Without regard for their own safety, all four Officers attempted to extract the female from the burning vehicle while using the fire extinguishers to prevent the fire from engulfing her. Officer Chacon, feeling his shoes melting and sticking to the pavement, tried to pull her from the vehicle by her feet, and Officer Lemus used his baton to smash the window. Due to the intense flames and heat surrounding them, their efforts were thwarted, and the Officers begrudgingly retreated. Sadly, the female perished in the fire.
Shooting at an Intersection
In the late evening hours of June 19, 2022, Foothill Division Patrol Officers Christopher Kliebert and Andrew Mejia were conducting routine patrol when a code 3 radio call of a 415 man with a gun was broadcast. While Officers were responding to the call, additional information was broadcast that the suspect was riding a bicycle, waving the weapon and pointing at vehicles.
Mejia requested an air unit and the direction of travel of the suspect. The Officers arrived at an intersection and saw him in the intersection making furtive movements to his waistband.
They positioned their patrol vehicle between the suspect and the passing motorists, exited the vehicle, and ordered the suspect to show them his hands. He turned toward them, produced a handgun, and began firing at them as he walked towards them. In defense of their own lives and the lives of citizens in the area, the Officers returned fire, which effectively stopped the suspect’s actions. •