Officer Robert Bennyworth
Officer Peter Casey
Officer Joe Cordova
Officer Hilton Henry
Officer Ernest Jimenez
Officer Stephen Kehoe
Officer Ruben Ornelas
At 7 o’clock on the morning of October 20, 1992, an estranged husband broke into his wife’s apartment and, armed with a .357 magnum pistol, threatened her with death. In order to save herself, the woman fled – but had to leave her 3-year-old daughter behind. When the victim’s sister approached the apartment in an attempt to retrieve the child, she barely escaped death when the suspect fired at her through a window.
Responding patrol officers established telephone contact with the suspect, who demanded a television set, a news helicopter, and “three of LAPD’s toughest policemen” to meet him at the front door. He threatened to kill his daughter if his demands were not met. SWAT officers from Metropolitan Division were called to the scene, and a SWAT “Crisis Negotiation Team,” assisted by a psychologist from the Department’s Behavioral Science Services Unit, took over the telephone.
During the next hour, the deranged man fired three additional shots through a window, one of which he aimed at a nearby television news crew. For the next seven hours, the Crisis Negotiation team would talk with the suspect, who rambled on about surrendering, about committing suicide, and about killing his daughter. Several times – with his daughter held in front of him as a shield – he walked onto the 2nd floor balcony, and alternately pointed his weapon at the officers and the child. As he taunted police for a face-to-face confrontation, a SWAT Emergency Assault Team was moving into place. Ultimately, when negotiators felt the suspect was going to kill the little girl regardless, a SWAT marksman was detailed to end the confrontation. When an opportunity finally offered itself, the marksman fired. The bullet, which struck him in the side of the head, only caused the suspect to run back into the apartment.
The Emergency Assault Team then decided to move in, and, despite the increased danger to the officers, forego any shooting so as not to further endanger the little girl.
Officer Joe Cordova moved toward the closed apartment door, and was barely missed by a bullet fired at him through a window. When the door was forced open, he quickly moved into the apartment, closely followed by Officer Robert Bennyworth and Officer Ruben Ornelas.
Inside, the suspect – carrying the little girl – ran into a rear bathroom and slammed the door. When Officer Cordova moved to that door and forced it open, the three officers found themselves face-to-face with the armed suspect.
Alternately pointing his gun at his daughter and the officers, he kept shouting, “I kill baby; I kill baby.” The officers could not fire with the child so close to the suspect.
Surreptitiously, Officer Bennyworth signaled Officer Cordova to “neutralize” the suspect – if an opportunity that guaranteed the child’s safety presented itself. When it finally did, the suspect was struck in the head by a single shot that ended the situation. He dropped his daughter, who was caught by Officer Ornelas as she fell.
For their unselfish and unhesitating confrontation with an armed and deranged suspect, for their personal courage in the face of imminent death, and for their extreme efforts to end this harrowing standoff without harm to an innocent child victim, the Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor, is bestowed upon Officer Robert Bennyworth, Officer Joe Cordova, and Officer Ruben Ornelas.
It’s about a half-hour past midnight on August 24, 1992. Newton Patrol officers in the vicinity of the 4000 block of South Hooper Avenue hear the sound of breaking glass. Down the street they now see flames shooting out of the windows of a two-story business-residential building. The ground floor tavern is closed for the night; it’s urgent to rescue the residents in the apartments above. The officers call for the Fire Department and race to the scene.
In the west wall, a locked security door bars the way upstairs. On the north side, two women, seen through teeming smoke, dangle their small children outside the windows, and yell for someone to catch them. Other victims, gasping for air, hang out of windows. The officers shout to the women to not drop their children. The officers then call for police backup and begin to improvise emergency action. One officer instructs neighbors to wet blankets with garden hoses, while his partner smashes his way through two locked doors and fights his way upstairs through the smoke! He shines his flashlight down the blackened hallway and yells for residents to follow the light to safety.
When two backup officers arrive upstairs, they find the first officer choking and disoriented. They remove him to safety, then they accompany a fire-fighter into the building in order to protect him from becoming lost in the inferno! Within minutes, the three men have been forced outside by the heat and smoke. Meanwhile, outside, additional officers stand on the roofs of nearby automobiles, assisting adults and children from second-story windows.
That morning, Los Angeles Police officers would be responsible for saving the lives of 18 fire victims – and with no loss of life or serious injury to anyone!
It was during this incident that two unusual feats of bravery were noted. When a woman began to scream that her 8 year old son was sill inside an apartment, the boy’s uncle, fighting drunk, had to be restrained several times from returning to the burning apartment. However, at one point, when officers were busy effective other resources, the man suddenly climbed back into the flaming building. Officer Peter Casey saw the man disappear through a window and went after him. There was no longer any visibility inside; on hands and knees the officer felt through the blackness for the man – and, some ten feet from the window, found him, choking, but still combative. Officer Casey would have to continually fight the man, even as he retraced their path back to safety. Finally able to subdue the reluctant victim, the officer removed him from the inferno.
Meanwhile, other officers at a window were trying to see the boy through the dense smoke. When they spotted his feet across the room and shouted to him, the disoriented 8-year-old was unable to gather enough wits to move to the window. A fire-fighter tried to climb inside to rescue him, but was forced back by the inferno. The rescuers decided to wait for a fire-fighter equipped with a breathing apparatus. After a moment or so of waiting, Officer Ernest Jimenez felt that time had run out. He climbed inside and crawled on his hands and knees to the other side of the room, feeling for the boy’s feet. The ceiling was falling and the paint was burning on the walls when the officer found the boy. He wrapped his arms around the boy’s small waist, and carried him to safety.
For their extreme bravery in saving citizens from certain death at ultimate risk of their own lives, and for displaying extraordinary courage and compassion for their fellow human beings while effecting rescues for which they were totally unprepared or equipped, the Los Angeles Police Department’ highest honor, the Medal of Valor is awarded to Officer Peter Casey and Officer Ernest Jimenez.
It’s about 6 p.m., on April 30, 1993. West Traffic Division Officer Hilton Henry has been following a man with a gun, walking on Western Avenue near Elmwood. He doesn’t know that the gunman has just robbed a nearby restaurant. The suspect sees the patrol car, turns into a nearby yard and grabs a 12-year-old girl playing nearby. Placing his pistol at her head, he forces the girl toward the officer.
Officer Henry doesn’t have time to wait for backup, before engaging the gun-man who’s ordering him to drop his gun or he’ll kill the girl. The officer believes him – and also believes that talking to the suspect will be a waste of time. As the suspect and his hostage continue to advance on the officer, he can only move away, to use his car for cover.
When Motor Officer Stephen Kehoe arrives as backup, he moves to the patrol car. In response to the suspect’s movements, both officers must move around to the rear of the vehicle. Now at the driver’s door, the gunman forces the girl into the car and gets into the driver’s seat. Officer Henry tries to disable to vehicle by firing a round into the rear tire. In response, the suspect fires at the officers through the rear window. Not seeing the girl’s head, and believing that she must be lying on the seat, the officers return fire at the suspect’s head, only to miss because the bullets are deflected by the headrest. As Officer Henry reloads his weapon, Officer Kehoe leaves his cover and moves toward the front of the car, hoping to draw the suspect away from the hostage and get a better shot at him.
Suddenly, the man jumps from the driver’s seat and fires at Officer Kehoe. He’s hit in the right thigh. The officer fires back with his last two rounds. As he retreats to reload, the suspect follows him and fires again, hitting Officer Kehoe in the left shoulder. He fires again – but the hammer falls on an empty cylinder.
Officer Henry’s gun is now reloaded, and he fires as he runs toward the suspect – who jumps into the police car and drives away. Despite his wounds, Officer Kehoe jumps on his motorcycle and pursues the car. Officer Henry, on foot, chases the car, catching up with it as it crashes at Elmwood and St. Andrews Place. Officer Kehoe has dismounted at the rear of the crashed patrol car, radios for help, then covers the suspect who remains inside. Rescue teams from Hollywood, Metropolitan and West Traffic arrive to take over the apprehension of the suspect, and remove the wounded officer to safety. The hostage is released, otherwise unharmed.
Both Officers Henry and Kehoe were willing to give their lives for the young captive. They displayed conspicuous courage and bravery by continuously exposing themselves to gunfire to keep her from further harm. Their professionalism is beyond question. They gave of themselves, far above and beyond any call of duty. For those reasons, The Los Angeles Police Department’s highest award, the Medal of Valor is now presented to Officer Hilton Henry and Officer Stephen Kehoe.