LAPD Above and Beyond event honors courage and bravery in protecting the City.

LAPD Above and Beyond

Police Dept.’s annual event honors 23 heroes with Purple Heart, Medal of Valor and Preservation of Life honors.

Stories and photos courtesy Los Angeles Police Foundation

On Sept. 5, the LAPD hosted its important annual “Above and Beyond” ceremony, which this year honored 23 officers who have 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 eight times in the history of the event. This year, one LAPD Officer was honored with the Purple Heart, 18 with the Medal of Honor, and four with the Preservation of Life.

For the fourth time, the LAPD awarded the Preservation of Life medal, a recognition of new efforts at de-escalation of public safety situations by avoiding the use of deadly force during dangerous encounters. The Dept. is one of only a handful in the country to bestow such an honor.

It is Alive!’s great honor to publish every year the names and stories of those honored.

 

This Year’s Honorees

Purple Heart
Officer Joy Park

Medal of Valor
Officer Miguel Dominguez
Officer Antonio Hernandez
Officer Brian Putnam
Det. Todd Burns
Officer Timo Illig
Officer Michael Nagle
Officer Shannon Bryan
Officer Aaron Green
Officer Jean-Pierre Xavier Charles
Officer Jose Angel Flores
Officer Andrew Cervantes
Officer Christopher Moorhead
Sgt. Vincent Rojas
Officer Luis Lopez
Officer Harlan Taylor
Officer Kenneth Morales
Sgt. Jose Moya
Officer Cristina Shente

Preservation of Life
Officer Nathan McDougle
Officer Raymond Reyes
Officer Mario Leonidas
Officer Cody Ramaekers


The stories of their bravery follow.

Purple Heart and
Medal of Valor

 


Pedestrian Stop, Officer Shot

Officer Joy Park,
Purple Heart

Officer Miguel Dominguez,
Medal of Valor

Officer Antonio Hernandez,
Medal of Valor

Officer Brian Putnam,
Medal of Valor

In the early evening of Dec. 11, 2018, 77th Street Division Officers Mario Leonidas and Cody Ramaekers responded to a call about a woman allegedly suffering from mental illness who was holding a gun to her head.

When they arrived at the scene, the Officers were unable to find the suspect. A neighbor told them that she had a long history of mental illness, had previous contacts with the police, and could easily access both functioning and replica firearms. As they scouted the area, Officer Leonidas saw the suspect come out of her apartment and told her that they wanted only to talk to her. Within seconds of making contact, she turned her body and revealed the grip of a small handgun in her waistband.

Upon seeing the weapon, Officer Leonidas drew his weapon in defense of his life and called out,
“Don’t reach for it. Don’t do it!” Officer Ramaekers quickly moved to support Officer Leonidas, and the Officers found themselves approximately 10 feet away from the suspect when she reached into her waistband, got the gun, and held it down to her side.

Knowing their personal safety was at risk and considering the nature of the suicide call, the Officers opted not to fire their weapons. Officer Leonidas repeatedly tried to de-escalate the encounter by assuring the suspect that they did not want to hurt her and that everything would be okay. Within a few minutes, the suspect let her gun fall to the ground but refused to walk away from it.

During an intense 40-minute standoff, Officer Leonidas continued his attempts to convince her to move away from the weapon so that Officers could take her into custody safely. She repeatedly hurled insults at them and demanded that they kill her. She eventually surrendered and was taken into custody without any further incident.

 

Medal of Valor


Gang Shootout

Det. Todd Burns

Officer Timo Illig

Officer Michael Nagle

On Oct. 10, 2006, Southeast Area Det. Todd Burns and Officers Timo Illig and Michael Nagle were driving through an area claimed by the Front Street Watts Crips gang on one side and the Back Street Watts Crips gang on the other side. The Officers were returning to the station after completing a follow-up investigation when Officer Nagle heard gunshots and yelled to his partners, “They’re shooting…they’re shooting at each other.” The Officers saw a man walking backwards in the street, armed with a handgun, exchanging fire with another man while a third man stood on the street watching.

Officer Illig slowly drove their unmarked car, which was not armed with any emergency equipment, looking for effective cover while the first gunman pointed his weapon in the direction of the second man they had seen. Seeing that there were no other streets to turn onto, Officer Illig developed a tactical plan to drive past the two gunmen and park their car behind a parked van. This would block the first suspect’s escape route and put the Officers in the best position to take him into custody.

Before they could get out of the car, the suspect emerged from behind the parked van while still holding his gun. Officer Illig raised and pointed the pistol through the driver’s side window and yelled, “Police. Drop the gun. Stop. Let me see your hands. Drop the gun.” The suspect, who was within 10 feet of the police car, turned towards the Officers with the barrel of his gun pointed at Officer Illig. Fearing for his life and the lives of his partners, Officer Illig fired eight rounds in the direction of the suspect. As he fired his weapon, Officer Illig leaned close to the steering wheel to avoid being shot.

Officer Burns, who was in the rear passenger seat, heard the shots and saw Officer Illig slump forward. With the suspect still pointing his weapon at the Officers and thinking Officer Illig had been shot, Officer Burns pointed his pistol out of the front driver’s side window and fired seven rounds. The suspect fell to the ground. Officers Illig and Nagle got out of the car, and Officer Burns provided cover while Officer Illig handcuffed the suspect.

 


Domestic Chase And Shooting

Officer Shannon Bryan

Officer Aaron Green

In the early morning hours of July 14, 2017, Foothill Division Officers Shannon Bryan, who was in his probationary period, and Aaron Green, a Training Officer, were on patrol when they responded to a radio call of a domestic dispute wherein a man was arguing with his pregnant wife. When they arrived at the scene, they learned that the suspect had left the house but that the wife was afraid of him because, she said, he had a history of domestic violence. The wife told the Officers she had discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia at the house and that her husband allegedly had a history of using meth and was extremely paranoid as a result of his drug use.

The Officers determined that, because there was only a verbal dispute, no crime had occurred. They told the victim they would look in the area for the suspect and would stop and talk to him if they found him.

As the Officers left the house, they saw a car with its lights off driving toward them and recognized the driver as the possible suspect. They got into their police car, followed the suspect, and attempted to initiate a traffic stop for driving without headlights. As soon as they activated their overhead lights, the suspect fled in his vehicle. They broadcast that they were in pursuit of a reckless driver and requested backup, an air unit, and a Supervisor.

The Officers briefly pursued the suspect on and off two freeways before he exited the freeway and headed back in the direction of the original radio call. They began to formulate a plan to prevent the suspect from entering the victim’s residence. Officer Green stressed the importance of not letting him enter the residence because of the danger he posed to the victim and the possibility of creating a hostage situation.

The suspect stopped his car in the driveway of the victim’s house, got out, and began running toward it. As the Officers exited their car, Officer Green saw a shiny metal object in the suspect’s hand that he immediately recognized as a gun. Officer Green advised Officer Bryan of the weapon and the two Officers began to chase the suspect on foot as he entered the house, ran through it, and continued to the yard back out into the street.

Fearing the suspect would double back and either
kill or seriously harm the pregnant victim, the Officers put the victim’s safety above their own and continued the foot pursuit. With only the light from the air unit overhead, the Officers spotted the suspect, who began shooting at them while he ran towards them. Fearing for their lives, both Officers fired at the suspect, striking him several times and killing him.

 


Traffic Stop and Shooting

Officer Jean-Pierre Xavier Charles

Officer Jose Angel Flores

On the afternoon of Nov. 15, 2017, Van Nuys Division Gang Enforcement Detail Officers Jean-Pierre Charles and Jose Flores were driving
a marked police vehicle when they observed someone committing numerous traffic violations. As they followed the suspect’s vehicle, the suspect tried to change lanes and almost hit another car.

Before making a traffic stop, the Officers first conducted a Want/Warrant check on the car’s license plate and learned that the car had been reported lost or stolen. They then activated their red and blue lights and chirped the siren to initiate a traffic stop.

The suspect turned into a parking lot, nearly hitting several vehicles and pedestrians before exiting the lot. At this time, both Officers believed he was trying to flee and broadcast the current situation. Once the suspect accelerated to a high rate of speed and failed to yield, they advised Communications Division they were now in pursuit.

Immediately thereafter, Officer Charles saw the suspect stick his arm out of the window and point a gun in the officers’ direction. Officer Charles witnessed a muzzle flash and heard several gunshots. He shouted, “He’s shooting at us! He’s shooting at us!” to which Officer Flores then broadcast that shots had been fired.

The suspect’s car then went across an intersection and collided with a traffic signal pole before coming to rest. The Officers got out of their car, drew their weapons, and took positions of cover behind their vehicle’s doors. Simultaneously, the suspect exited his vehicle, raised his gun in the direction of the Officers, and fired several rounds.

Fearing for his own life and the life of his partner, Officer Charles fired seven rounds at the suspect to stop the lethal threat. Officer Flores also fired at the suspect and then redeployed to the back of the car to broadcast an “Officer needs help” call.

A Sergeant from Van Nuys arrived on scene, saw the suspect lying on the sidewalk, and requested a rescue ambulance. The Sergeant then formed an arrest team that included Officers Charles and Flores, who then approached the suspect and immediately handcuffed him.

 


Fire Leads To Shooting

Sgt. Vincent Rojas

Officer Andrew Cervantes

Officer Christopher Moorhead

Officer Harlan Taylor

In the early morning of April 24, 2018, Southeast Division Officers responded to a “Fireman needs help” call. Officers Andrew Cervantes and Harlan Taylor were first on scene and were advised by LAFD personnel that there was an active shooter inside the residence and that there were two victims down in front who had been shot by the suspect. The firefighters also reported that they had just knocked down a structure fire inside the location and may have been fired upon by the suspect.

Officer Taylor took charge of the scene and broadcast
a request for additional units to respond and advised there was an active shooter at the location with victims down in front. As Southeast personnel responded, Officer Taylor directed them to take positions of cover around the target location. The Officers could see one of the victims but not the other.

Officer Taylor put together two groups of four Officers
in a diamond and positioned them to cover two sides of the location. The groups bounded to their respective positions while using cover.

At this time, Sgt. Vincent Rojas arrived at the scene and assisted the groups and provided Supervisor oversight of their activities. Together, Sgt. Rojas and Officer Taylor developed a plan to attempt a rescue of the female victim. They also observed the male suspect inside the residence and ordered him to exit, but he refused. They saw the suspect moving around by the front door.

Officer Christopher Moorhead joined Officers Taylor and Cervantes in formulating a plan with Sgt. Rojas to try to rescue the victim. They advised the Officers on the perimeter of their plans and that the other Officers should avoid any contagious fire should the suspect appear or pose a deadly threat to the Officers.

Officers Taylor, Moorhead, and Cervantes left their positions of cover to reach the victim who was lying on the sidewalk. With Officer Cervantes taking a lead with a shotgun, Officers Moorhead and Taylor took hold of the victim’s arms and legs and dragged her behind cover where they determined she was deceased. The Officers then resumed their positions around the residence.

The Officers determined that the second victim was, in fact, the individual who had initially started the fire and who shot the female victim (his mother) before turning the gun on himself.

As SWAT arrived and begin setting up at the location, the suspect surrendered without incident. He was arrested for murder and taken to the hospital.

 


Saving Victim Through Fire

Sgt. Jose Moya

Officer Luis Lopez

Officer Kenneth Morales

Officer Cristina Shente

In the late hours of July 10. 2018, Mission Division Officers Luis Lopez and Kenneth Morales were on patrol in the Sylmar area when they saw a plume of smoke cutting through the skyline. They then drove over following the trail of smoke and discovered a single-family residence had caught fire.

As they exited their car, the Officers could see flames consuming the roofline and black smoke pouring out from the open front door. Nearby neighbors informed the Officers that the resident was a hoarder and most likely still inside.

Upon confirmation that the LAFD had been contacted, the Officers attempted to enter through the front door but were unsuccessful. They then entered the side yard and kicked in a rusted gate only to discover they were now in harm’s way due to the proximity of the fire. The Officers also discovered a second gate that would prevent them from entering the backyard and areas of the home not engulfed in flames.

Ignoring their pain and potential risk of further injuring themselves, Officers Lopez and Morales entered another area of the yard. There they discovered a yard filled with debris and then noticed floor-to-ceiling smoke through the windows and sliding glass door. The Officers tried to contact the victim verbally and by striking their batons and flashlights on the side of the house. They then heard a low groan from the incapacitated victim.

Immediately thereafter, Officer Morales used his baton
to break the sliding glass door to vent out the smoke, and both Officers proceeded to attempt
to rescue the victim. Unfortunately, due to the thermal layer (which in home fires can reach up to more than 400 degrees), unevenness of the ground caused by the hoard and the dense smoke, the Officers were driven out. They were choking and heaving from the smoke inhalation and toxic materials that had entered their lungs.

Undeterred, the Officers, while still choking and coughing up debris, made attempts to reach the victim and continued to communicate with him
to ensure he was still alive. A neighbor, who was trying to extinguish the fire using her own hose, handed it to Officer Lopez to spray the thermal layer, which then resulted in exposing the Officers’ faces to dense smoke, further irritating their already burning eyes and causing uncontrollable coughing.

At this time, Mission Division Sgt. Jose Moya and Officer Cristina Shente arrived to help. Officer Lopez broke another window enabling the Officers to enter the house and create an escape route through which the heat and gasses could vent properly.

With Officer Shente hosing the room, the other Officers were able to enter the house safely. Officer Morales found the victim and began digging him out of a pile of furniture and other items that
had pinned him down. Sgt. Moya joined in to remove dozens of heavy objects to free the victim. The two Officers struggled under the considerable weight of the victim but were able to carry him (with Officer Lopez’s assistance) out of the house and into the backyard. Once she observed that the officers and victim were safely out of the house, Officer Shente ceased hosing the room.

Although they were able to breathe properly, the Officers were at risk due to them being surrounded by flammable material but managed to carry the victim through the gates and past a searing wall of flames. Once they exited the last gate and were safely on the street, the Officers felt the residual aftermath – exhaustion, coughing from inhaled toxins, and smoke in their eyes.

The victim was hospitalized in critical condition
but survived his injuries. All four Officers were taken to the hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation and screened for toxin exposure. They all returned to work the next day.

Preservation of Life

 


Reports of Uzi Near Businesses

Officer Nathan McDougle

Officer Raymond Reyes

In the early afternoon of Sept. 13, 2017,
West Valley Division Officers Nathan McDougle and Raymond Reyes were on patrol when they received a radio call that a man near a local business had an Uzi machine gun and was acting erratically. As the Officers raced to the scene, they received an update from a witness that the suspect appeared to be under the influence of narcotics, was still acting erratically, and was carrying the Uzi under his arm while eating.

When the suspect saw the Officers, he dropped his food, moved the weapon to his hand, quickened his pace, and headed away from the Officers. The Officers were in a precarious position, as they carefully trailed the suspect on foot and gave him commands to drop the weapon and stop. Refusing to comply, he started swinging the weapon back and forth in his hand.

As Officers McDougle and Reyes continued their pursuit, they took into account all of the open and occupied businesses, pedestrians on the sidewalk, and all of the occupied vehicles around them.

They were cognizant of the danger their firearms presented should they have to resort to lethal force. At this time, a plainclothes Detective arrived in an unmarked vehicle and notified the Officers that he was there and could use his car to provide cover if the suspect started firing. The suspect went to the back of a nearby parking lot and turned to face the Officers who had gotten within 20 feet of him. He was still holding the Uzi in his hand.

Rather than firing their weapons, the Officers gave him one last chance to comply with their commands. The suspect slowly advanced on
the Officers with the Uzi in his hand dangerously pointed at the ground. He then moved one step, dropped the weapon to his side, and was quickly taken into custody without further incident.

It turns out that the weapon was a toy and that the suspect was suffering from a mental condition – two things the Officers had no way of knowing.

 


Thwarting of Possible Suicide

Officer Mario Leonidas

Officer Cody Ramaekers

In the early evening of Dec. 11, 2018, 77th Street Division Officers Mario Leonidas and Cody Ramaekers responded to a call about a woman allegedly suffering from mental illness who was holding a gun to her head.

When they arrived at the scene, the Officers were unable to find the suspect. A neighbor told them that she had a long history of mental illness, had previous contacts with the police, and could easily access both functioning and replica firearms. As they scouted the area, Officer Leonidas saw the suspect come out of her apartment and told her that they wanted only to talk to her. Within seconds of making contact, she turned her body and revealed the grip of a small handgun in her waistband.

Upon seeing the weapon, Officer Leonidas drew his weapon in defense of his life and called out,
“Don’t reach for it. Don’t do it!” Officer Ramaekers quickly moved to support Officer Leonidas, and the Officers found themselves approximately 10 feet away from the suspect when she reached into her waistband, got the gun, and held it down to her side.

Knowing their personal safety was at risk and considering the nature of the suicide call, the Officers opted not to fire their weapons. Officer Leonidas repeatedly tried to de-escalate the encounter by assuring the suspect that they did not want to hurt her and that everything would be okay. Within a few minutes, the suspect let her gun fall to the ground but refused to walk away from it.

During an intense 40-minute standoff, Officer Leonidas continued his attempts to convince her to move away from the weapon so that Officers could take her into custody safely. She repeatedly hurled insults at them and demanded that they kill her. She eventually surrendered and was taken into custody without any further incident.

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