2003 Medal of Valor Recipients

2003 Medal of Valor Recipients

Officer Mark Aguilar

Officer Mark Aguilar

Medal of Valor

On the evening of December 17, 2000, Officer Mark Aguilar and three other Metropolitan Division officers were flagged down by a citizen who informed them that an apartment building, located on Hollywood Boulevard, was on fire. The two-story building was occupied at the time, putting the residents inside in peril.

Arriving at the scene Officer Aguilar and the other Metropolitan Division officers cleared the front area of spectators and received information that other people were still inside the building. Officer Aguilar and another officer partnered-up, entered the burning building and immediately went up to the second floor. In the smoke filled hallway, Officer Aguilar and his partner systematically began knocking and kicking-in doors in order to determine which units were still occupied. In one apartment, Officer Aguilar and his partner assisted four people down a smoky stairway and out of the building to safety.

Both officers, light-headed from breathing the heavy fumes, cleared their lungs while outside and re-entered the building to continue their search of the second floor, clearing four additional apartments. Officer Aguilar and his partner then exited the building for air and re-entered to start clearing the first floor. Continuing toward the rear of the building, Officer Aguilar kicked-in the door of a unit to find a startled woman in her living room. Officer Aguilar and his partner quickly escorted the woman outside to safety. As the flames were engulfing the first-floor hallway, Officer Aguilar and his partner continued clearing apartments until a large rafter collapsed approximately ten feet from where his partner was standing. They exited the building and were met by the Los Angeles City Fire personnel who advised them not to re-enter the building.

Officer Aguilar and his partner proceeded to the rear of the building where they assisted the Fire Department in handling crowd control. The officers noticed a young boy hanging out of a second story window, and immediately notified Fire Department personnel and assisted them in the rescue of the boy. Suffering from the symptoms of smoke inhalation, Officer Aguilar and his partner were placed on oxygen by a responding paramedic unit and were transported to a local hospital.

Officer Mark Aguilar’s courage and tenacity during a significant life-threatening situation was instrumental in saving the lives and preventing further injuries of the residents of the apartment complex. For his outstanding courage and persistent efforts, Officer Aguilar is awarded the Medal of Valor.

Officer Thomas Baker

Officer Thomas Baker

On the morning of July 4, 2000, Officer Thomas Baker was on patrol with his partner in Northeast Area when a radio call was broadcast of a robbery involving three males who fled in a gray colored vehicle. While enroute to the call Officer Baker and his partner observed a gray vehicle, that matched the description of the robbery vehicle, drive past them in the opposite direction. Officer Baker made a U-turn and began to follow the suspect’s vehicle. The officers initiated a pursuit when the driver of the vehicle refused to stop and began to accelerate.

Officer Baker and his partner were aware that the suspects were approaching “Toonerville” gang territory, an area where there had been ambushes on Northeast Area patrol officers. While in pursuit, Officer Baker and his partner observed that the street was partially blocked by a washing machine. As Officer Baker negotiated a right-hand turn, an unknown suspect pushed a bicycle into the path of the police vehicle. As Officer Baker completed the turn, several unknown suspects fired upon the black and white police vehicle striking the driver’s door.

Undeterred by this pre-planned ambush, both officers continued the pursuit as they received gunfire from the rear. Additionally, the suspects in the gray vehicle began to fire at the officers. In an attempt to escape the unrelenting gunfire, Officer Baker rammed the back of the suspects’ vehicle, causing it to stop. The suspect in the front passenger seat exited the vehicle and pointed a semiautomatic pistol at both officers as he ran down the street. Officer Baker rammed the suspect’s vehicle again, pushing it into a fence. Officer Baker observed a suspect in the rear seat with an “Uzi” style assault weapon. Fearing that they both would again be assaulted by gunfire, Officer Baker and his partner fired at the suspect as they ran to a position of cover behind a nearby tree. With one suspect in the driver’s seat and a second armed suspect crouched in the rear seat, Officer Baker and his partner engaged the suspects once again with their service weapons.

Realizing the level of danger and threat to their lives, Officer Baker and his partner continued to communicate with each other and reloaded their duty weapons. Officer Baker calmly requested back up and additional units soon arrived and took all three suspects and their weapons into custody. Incredibly, Officer Baker and his partner were not injured during the ambush although their police vehicle was damaged by gunfire.

Officer Thomas Baker’s outstanding teamwork, communication skills and tactical expertise enabled him to prevail during a life threatening experience. For his selfless and valiant actions and commitment to the safety of the people of this City, Officer Baker is awarded with the Medal of Valor.

Officer Jude Bella

Officer Jude Bella

Medal of Valor

In the late morning hours of Friday, May 24, 2002, a massive explosion ripped through a multi-unit apartment complex in Encino. As Officer Jude Bella and four other officers arrived at the scene, they observed flames had engulfed the northern section of the three-story structure. Hundreds of local residents congregated in the area as tenants evacuated the building and milled about the area, shocked and with nowhere to go. So great was the devastation to the structure that the responding officers initially thought they were dealing with an act of terrorism.

Officer Bella and the other four officers took control of the situation by entering the still shaking structure to evacuate residents still inside. The officers gathered the victims by the armload and escorted them into the street and out of danger. Having cleared the building of its obvious occupants, Officer Bella and three other officers established themselves in the lobby area to organize the systematic search to locate trapped victims.

In a first-floor unit, Officer Bella and his partner discovered an elderly woman who was unable to exit her apartment. Noticing a wheelchair nearby, the officers placed the woman in the wheelchair and carried her out of the building. Without hesitation, Officer Bella and his partner re-entered the building to continue their search for additional victims.

Officer Bella and his partner continued searching the first floor, kicking open each door to check for victims. When the first fire and rescue personnel arrived, the officers were told that the ventilation system may be pushing hot smoke and fumes into undamaged apartment units and as a result those units could now have victims. Officer Bella and his partner checked and marked each unit, pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion. At times, the flames and smoke were so thick, the officers were unable to see or breathe as they searched for additional victims. Both officers would later be treated for smoke inhalation.

Officer Jude Bella’s courage, bravery and heroic actions, in rescuing victims of an apartment building fire, embodies the finest traditions of the Los Angeles Police Department. For his outstanding courage and persistent efforts, Officer Bella is awarded the Medal of Valor.

Officer Roy Ceja

Officer Roy Ceja

Medal of Valor

On the evening of Tuesday, October 24, 2000, Officer Roy Ceja and his partner, attempted a traffic stop at the intersection of 66th Street and Denker Avenue, in 77th Street Area. The driver initially stopped, but refused to cooperate with the officers’ instructions and suddenly drove off, ignoring the police vehicle’s emergency lights and sirens. The officers initiated a pursuit, drawing the response of additional police units as well as a police helicopter.

A sergeant and a captain, in two separate vehicles, joined Officer Ceja and his partner in the pursuit of the fleeing suspect. As the suspect attempted a right turn into an alley, he collided with a vehicle parked at the curb and his vehicle came to a stop. Officer Ceja and his partner stopped their vehicle to the rear of the suspect’s vehicle. The sergeant and the captain followed in their vehicles and believing that the pursuit had been terminated stopped their perspective vehicles in close proximity to the suspect’s vehicle.

The suspect, armed with a handgun, exited his vehicle and ran towards the sergeant’s vehicle, firing three rounds at the sergeant, who was still seated in his vehicle and unable to immediately defend himself. Officer Ceja drew his service weapon and pursued the suspect on foot. When Officer Ceja’s partner saw the suspect firing directly at the sergeant, he fired his service weapon, hoping to stop the suspect from killing the sergeant. Officer Ceja did not engage the suspect with gunfire, due to the potential cross fire situation with the sergeant who was in the background. The suspect ceased his attack on the sergeant and then ran towards the captain’s vehicle firing his weapon at the captain, who like the sergeant was still seated in his vehicle and unable to defend himself. Officer Ceja and his partner continued to advance on the suspect, forgoing cover in order to draw attention to themselves and away from the sergeant and captain.

The suspect abandoned his attack on the captain and ran down the street away from the officers. Officer Ceja pursued the suspect on foot. The suspect suddenly turned and started running toward Officer Ceja while firing his handgun. About 14 feet away, Officer Ceja fired two rounds at the suspect. As the suspect continued to approach, the officer fired three additional rounds. Unaffected, the suspect aimed his weapon just eight to ten inches from Officer Ceja’s torso. Officer Ceja knocked the suspect’s handgun away from his hand and sidestepped to the right. In doing so, Officer Ceja lost his footing and fell to the ground.

As Officer Ceja was falling to the ground, he heard the suspect fire an additional round that he assumed was intended for his partner. In fear of his partner’s life, Officer Ceja fired an additional three rounds at the suspect. Officer Ceja’s partner also fired at the suspect. The suspect fell to the ground, where he was handcuffed and taken into custody.

Officer Roy Ceja performed gallantly, risking his life to save the lives of others. His heroism and dedication to duty are in the highest traditions of the Los Angeles Police Department. For his outstanding efforts and bravery, Officer Ceja is awarded the Medal of Valor.

Officer Alan Cieto

Officer Alan Cieto

Medal of Valor

In the late morning hours of Friday, May 24, 2002, a massive explosion ripped through a multi-unit apartment complex in Encino. When Officer Alan Cieto and four other officers arrived at the scene, they observed flames engulfing the northern section of the three-story structure. Hundreds of local residents congregated in the area as tenants evacuated the building and milled about the area, shocked and with nowhere to go. So great was the devastation to the structure that the responding officers initially thought they were dealing with an act of terrorism.

Officer Cieto and four other officers took control of the situation by entering the still shaking structure to evacuate residents inside. The officers gathered the victims by the armload and escorted them into the street and out of danger. Having cleared the building of its obvious occupants, Officer Cieto and three other officers established themselves in the lobby area to organize the systematic search to locate trapped victims.

In a first-floor unit, Officer Cieto and his partner discovered an elderly woman who was unable to exit the apartment. Noticing a wheelchair nearby, the officers placed the woman in the wheelchair and carried her out of the building. Without hesitation, Officer Cieto and his partner re-entered the building to continue their search.

In a second-floor unit, Officer Cieto and his partner came upon an elderly couple. The woman was in her bed, warding off the effects of the smoke by remaining on her medical oxygen system, her husband was unable to move her. Officer Cieto’s partner prepared the woman for transport and Officer Cieto shut off her oxygen supply and quickly reconnected the feed to a portable oxygen bottle. Slinging the bottle over his shoulder, Officer Cieto assisted in leading the husband and wife down to the first floor and outside to safety.

Again, Officer Cieto and his partner re-entered the burning structure to continue the search for survivors. The officers kicked doors open and searched smoke filled rooms. At times the smoke and heat were so intense that Officer Cieto and his partner were forced to retreat from the fumes, fill their lungs and hold their breath as their continued their search for survivors.

Officer Alan Cieto’s courage, bravery and heroic actions, in rescuing victims of an apartment building fire, embody the finest traditions of the Los Angeles Police Department. For his bravery, outstanding and persistent efforts, Officer Cieto is awarded the Medal of Valor.

Officer Steven Conner

Officer Steven Conner

Medal of Valor

In the late morning hours of Friday, May 24, 2002, a massive explosion ripped through a multi-unit apartment complex in Encino. When Officer Steven Conner and four other officers arrived at the scene, they saw flames engulfing the northern section of the three-story structure. Hundreds of local residents congregated in the area as tenants evacuated the building and milled about the area, shocked and with nowhere to go. So great was the devastation to the structure that the responding officers initially thought they were dealing with an act of terrorism.

Officer Conner and the other four officers took control of the situation by entering the still shaking structure to evacuate residents inside. The officers gathered the victims by the armload and escorted them into the street and out of danger. Having cleared the building of its obvious occupants, Officer Conner and three other officers established themselves in the lobby area to organize the systematic search to locate trapped victims.

Officer Conner and his partner began searching the first floor, kicking open each door to check for victims. When the first fire and rescue personnel arrived, the officers were told that the ventilation system may be pushing hot smoke and fumes into undamaged apartment units with victims inside. Officer Conner and his partner checked and marked each unit, pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion. The officers remained inside the burning building clearing each unit. At times, the flames were so close to the officers that they were unable to see or breathe. Both officers would later be treated for smoke inhalation.

Officer Steven Conner’s courage, bravery and heroic actions, in rescuing victims of an apartment building fire, embody the finest traditions of the Los Angeles Police Department. For his outstanding bravery and persistent efforts, Officer Conner is awarded the Medal of Valor.