Awards To LAPD Are Well Overdue
By Harriet Steinberg
Mar 18, 2007 - 5:04:00 PM

LOS ANGELES—Even though the incident happened over ten years ago, 13 LAPD officers will soon be honored for saving 80 lives in a retirement home. On June 21, 1996, a fire broke out at a retirement home on Croft Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.

Sgt. Miguel Lopez, who now works at the Southwest Police Station, was the first to spot the fire. He was assigned to bike patrol in the Wilshire Division when he saw the fire. He was riding his bike two blocks away from the fire when he noticed the smoke rising in the air.

This was considered an act of bravery when 13 police officers were able to kick down locked doors and navigate through smoked filled hallways and rescue 80 senior citizens.

 Readers may want to know why it took a decade to let the public know that an award is being considered for these officers at this time. It is due to a mix-up in the report so the 1996 incident never received official recognition from the LAPD. The report regarding this incident was misplaced

Better late than never. Police Chief William J. Bratton has recommended that the 13 officers receive the Los Angeles Police Department's most prestigious award, the Medal of Valor, which is awarded for acts of "extreme courage while consciously facing imminent peril." The award, though late, means a lot to the officers who put their lives on the line that day.

The officers vividly remember that fiery day. They tried to enter the front door, but the thick smoke forced them back. Together, they devised a rescue plan. They formed a chain by holding hands. The purpose of the holding of the hands was so they wouldn't get lost in the heavy smoke. Other officers had to crawl on their hands and knees.

The officers had to enter the burning retirement home about ten times to rescue all of the 80 elderly residents.

Four of the officers suffered smoke inhalation and had to be hospitalized. Another officer was taken to the intensive care unit.

A lot has happened to the officers since the last ten years. One officer became a detective, another officer is with the Burbank Division and two others left the LAPD.

Those who left are still being recommended for the award.

Bratton is also recommending the Medal of Valor for Officer Rudy Barragan and Marco Briones who struggled to pull an unconscious motorist from the twisted metal from a wrecked car as fire spread through the vehicle.

Bratton said that the police commission is scheduled to vote on the recommendation for the medals very soon.

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