Sheriff Lee Baca honored 20 members of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday, giving them Valor and Meritorious Conduct Medals, each for acts of heroism performed in the line of duty.
Below are the heroes to which the county of Los Angeles owes so much:
For displaying great bravery in the face of immediate life-threatening danger, with complete disregard for their own personal safety, Sergeant Douglas Creighton and Deputy Alfred Aguilar were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Gold.
On May 15, 2009, during the early morning hours, Sergeant Creighton and Deputy Aguilar were dispatched to a residential fire. After seeing the house fully engulfed in flames, the neighbors told deputies that the elderly resident was alone inside the home.
Sergeant Creighton and Deputy Aguilar immediately ran to the residence, stepping over downed electrical wires, without regard for their safety.
As small arms munitions and propane tanks exploded around them, they heard noises coming from the northeast room of the house. With flames billowing from the home, they tore the screen door from its track and looked through the elevated glass door. They located the elderly male laying on the floor and pulled him through the open door to safety. Although the victim suffered smoke inhalation and third degree burns, he survived the ordeal.
For displaying great bravery in the face of immediate danger, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Deputy Darrel Airhart was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.
On August 9, 2009, Air Rescue 5 was dispatched to rescue a woman who had fallen 40 feet off a rock to the canyon floor in the Angeles National Forest and was unable to move.
Air Rescue 5 arrived within four minutes and located the victim in a precarious position, making it impossible to lift her out. With time of the essence, Deputy Airhart was lowered to the canyon floor quite a distance away.
The arduous terrain put Deputy Airhart’s skills to the test, as he swam through 8-foot-deep water while towing a rescue litter and performed a hasty rappel from a narrow rock outcropping to reach the victim.
He then stabilized the victim, secured her, and moved her to a better location to lift her over 200 feet from the canyon floor, all within one hour of the rescue call.
For displaying great bravery above and beyond the call of duty, with full knowledge of the risk involved to his personal safety in order to save the lives of others, Deputy Mark Wood was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.
On July 7, 2009, a tragedy unfolded when a distraught off-duty police officer entered the Santa Clarita Valley Station Lobby. The female officer planned to carry out a “suicide by cop” attempt to end her life.
After speaking with a couple of Department members at the counter, Deputy Wood engaged the officer in a brief conversation and quickly determined she was agitated and armed. When she suddenly reached for her waist area and pulled out a handgun, Deputy Wood quickly jumped over the counter to prevent a shooting, placing himself in imminent danger.
He attempted to wrestle her to the ground and secure the gun, but she moved out of his reach and began to point her gun towards desk personnel. Deputy Wood distracted the officer and tried to lure her outside while others took cover.
Realizing the officer did not follow him out, Deputy Wood ran to the back door to reach the lobby. By the time he entered the lobby, the officer fatally shot herself after pointing her gun in the direction of where the desk personnel had been seconds earlier.
Deputy Wood’s quick actions and unselfish thinking, placing himself in harm’s way, prevented a bigger tragedy from occurring.
For placing himself in immediate peril to perform an act of great bravery, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Deputy Robert Erickson was awarded the Department’s Line of Duty Award.
For placing themselves in immediate danger to perform an act of great bravery and placing themselves in peril to save the life of a fellow teammate, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Sergeant Anthony Baudino, Deputy Oscar Barragan, Deputy Patrick Golden, and Deputy Thomas Mayberry were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Gold.
For displaying great courage above and beyond the call of duty, under immediate life-threatening peril, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Deputy Clipper Hackett was awarded the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
On August 22, 2007, members of the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) were requested to assist in serving a high-risk search and arrest warrant for an attempted murder suspect.
When they arrived at the suspect’s home and ordered him to come out, he refused. Believing the suspect was armed and that his mother was inside the residence, creating a potential hostage situation, Sergeant Baudino ordered an immediate entry.
As Deputy Hackett forced the door open with a ram while Deputy Erickson provided cover, the suspect fired a shotgun, missing Deputy Hackett but striking Deputy Erickson. As Erickson quickly retreated, he stumbled and fell.
Without regard for their personal safety, Sergeant Baudino and Deputies Golden, Barragan, and Mayberry immediately formed a human shield in the line of fire between Deputy Erickson and the suspect to protect him from further injury, while Deputy Hackett assisted him in retreating from the area.
They did not provide cover fire, believing the suspect’s mother was still in the house. A K-9 unit was then deployed, and SEB personnel took the suspect into custody.
For placing themselves in immediate peril to perform an act of great bravery, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Sergeant Eric Lindblom, Deputy Freddy Brown, Deputy Vanessa Chow, Deputy John Davoren, and Deputy David Vasquez were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.
On October 12, 2009, Lakewood Station deputies were dispatched to a robbery-in-progress call at a local restaurant. Witnesses said three armed suspects fled in a black car after committing the take-over robbery.
Shortly after, deputies located and attempted to stop a vehicle matching the description of the suspect vehicle. The car failed to yield and sped off, but stopped a few minutes later. As the suspects ran in different directions, deputies immediately set up a containment and requested assistance.
Deputies from the Special Enforcement Bureau, including a K-9 unit, arrived. After making several announcements for the suspects to surrender, an Aero unit saw one suspect run toward a residence but lost sight of him. Sergeant Lindblom attempted unsuccessfully to contact the residents of this home and deployed the K-9 unit into the rear yard.
The Long Beach Police Department then received a 9-1-1 call from a frantic woman inside the same residence saying the suspect had broken into her home and she had locked herself in the bathroom with her baby. She also said she could hear her family members yelling from other parts of the house.
Sergeant Lindblom immediately formed a Crisis Entry Team consisting of Deputies Brown, Chow, Davoren and Vasquez. As they prepared to enter the back door of the home, they could see two victims inside. Believing the suspect was hiding in the hallway, they placed themselves in danger and entered the home to rescue the victims.
As they were evacuating the residents, the suspect suddenly appeared. Deputies ordered the suspect to the ground at gunpoint and took him into custody. Fortunately, no one was injured.
The other two suspects were later arrested in the containment area. A handgun and the stolen money were found.
For placing themselves in immediate peril in the face of immediate life-threatening danger, with complete disregard for their own personal safety, Deputies Remberto Candelario and Deputy Lorraine Phillippi were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.
On September 20, 2009, Altadena Station deputies responded to an attempt suicide call. When they arrived, they saw a distraught male laying on a steep rooftop, covered in blood.
The man sat up, began spitting up blood, and appeared to be losing consciousness. Fire department personnel arrived to assess the man’s injuries. The man suddenly stood up as if to jump off the roof. Deputies tried to deploy a stun bag to subdue him, but it malfunctioned.
As Deputies Candelario and Phillippi climbed onto the roof, the man quickly moved closer to the edge preparing to jump. Deputies Candelario and Phillippi deployed their tasers, striking the man and causing him to fall onto the roof. As Deputy Phillippi handcuffed one hand, the male began to fight. Deputy Candelario tased him again.
Deputy Phillippi, trying to maintain her balance on the steep incline, made several unsuccessful attempts to handcuff the male as he continued to resist.
Fire department personnel helped to hold the man down while Deputy Phillippi handcuffed him. He was then secured to a flat board and safely removed from the roof and received treatment for his self-inflicted wounds.
For displaying great courage above and beyond the call of duty, under immediate life-threatening peril, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Deputy Clay Grant Jr. was awarded the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
A normal day off for Deputy Grant quickly turned into a life and death confrontation on May 3, 2010, while shopping at a local retail store. As he walked down the main aisle of the store, he heard a woman scream and saw several people running frantically. Suddenly, he saw a female, covered in blood, holding a knife in each hand approaching him.
Deputy Grant immediately identified himself as a deputy sheriff and pointed his handgun at the suspect, ordering her to put the knives down. Instead, the suspect ran past him.
Without regard for his personal safety, knowing that innocent bystanders were in danger, he quickly followed the suspect. She then stopped and turned toward Deputy Grant as he ordered her to put the knives down.
Seconds later, the suspect threw the knives on the ground in front of her. Deputy Grant ordered the suspect to the floor and handcuffed her with the assistance of store security personnel.
It was later learned that the suspect had violently attacked and stabbed five victims at the store prior to Deputy Grant’s intervention.
For placing themselves in immediate danger to perform an act of great bravery and placing themselves in peril to save the lives of others, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Sergeant Dana Camarillo, Sergeant Gabriela Herrera, Sergeant Thomas Vernola, Deputy Christopher Allende, Deputy Joel Andrade, Deputy Joshua Corrales, Deputy Jose Diaz, Deputy Daniel Leicht, Deputy Mark Perez, and Deputy Kasey Woodruff were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.
For displaying great courage above and beyond the call of duty, under immediate life-threatening peril, with full knowledge of the risk involved, Deputy Freddy Brown was awarded the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
A seemingly quiet morning quickly revealed a horrific scene on May 6, 2010. While on patrol, Deputies Brown and Diaz heard what they believed to be the sound of an assault rifle being fired in rapid succession. After requesting assistance, they learned of a burglary-in-progress call at a nearby residence.
Deputies Brown and Diaz took cover as they scanned the area for the shots. Deputy Brown then saw muzzle flashes in the window of a two-story house. Within seconds, the gunfire stopped and he saw a male leaving the location.
Placing himself in danger, Deputy Brown ordered the suspect to drop his weapon. Instead, the suspect turned and pointed the rifle at him. Fearing for his life, Deputy Brown fired two rounds at the suspect, striking him. The suspect dropped his weapon and fell onto the street.
Sergeants Camarillo, Herrera, and Vernola, in addition to Deputies Allende, Andrade, Corrales, Leicht, Perez, and Woodruff, soon arrived and joined Deputies Brown and Diaz.
They quickly handcuffed the wounded suspect. They quickly formed hostage rescue and arrest teams believing additional suspects may still be inside the residence holding hostages.
When they entered the home, they uncovered a tragedy. Two victims had been brutally murdered and two others were critically injured, one of whom later died at the hospital. Several victims had escaped the massacre by climbing out through the second-story windows and jumping onto a partial roof.
For demonstrating the courage to survive by overcoming his injuries and returning to work, Deputy James Mulay was awarded the Department’s Line of Duty Award.
Deputy Mulay never would have imagined the horrific sequence of events that would change his life on August 28, 2006. On this date, deputies responded to an armed bank robbery call and learned that the suspect had fled in a car.
After hearing the crime broadcast, Deputy Greenwood spotted a car matching the description of the suspect vehicle. She followed the car a short distance and requested assistance.
Realizing he was being followed by deputies, the suspect immediately accelerated to a high rate of speed, driving erratically down the center divider and into oncoming traffic. She temporarily lost sight of him down a winding road.
Working as a motor unit, Deputy Mulay was searching for the vehicle further east, when the suspect suddenly drove up behind him. Deputy Mulay accelerated to avoid being hit and maneuvered around the vehicles in front of him to prevent a collision.
The suspect then sped up and deliberately rammed Mulay’s motorcycle, causing him to crash into a parked vehicle. Although the suspect fled the area, he was subsequently arrested the following day.
Deputy Mulay sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to the hospital. He underwent several surgeries and extensive physical therapy. Due to his determination and will to survive, Deputy Mulay made a remarkable recovery and returned to work a year after the incident.
All the honorees were quick to point out that while they got medals for things they've done, other deputies do things every day which no one ever sees, and no one hands out medals.
For these deputies, it's all in a days work, but for us their sacrifice will never be forgotten.