LOS ANGELES—LASD Deputy Jenna Underwood-Nunez ran 13 miles in full uniform at the second annual Run to Remember event in Los Angeles, on Sunday, February 12 to honor 2 fallen officers and one officer who is battling leukemia.
The officers Nunez paid tribute to were Sergeant Steve Owens, who was shot and killed in the line of duty, and Sergeant Al Lopez, who died of a heart attack while on duty. She also recognized Sergeant Jorge Chavez, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and is currently looking for a match for a bone marrow transplant.
“Having leukemia is probably one of the hardest things you could ever have, so this is temporary. What they’re going through is pretty permanent, so I’m proud of them for their struggles, this is nothing compared to that,” Nunez told ABC 7 News.
Jenna has also been recognized as a 2013 LASD Medal of Valor Award recipient by former Vice-President Joe Biden during a 2015 ceremony with Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, D.C. In 2013, she jumped into a lake and swam 100 yards to rescue a teenager from drowning while she was 5 months pregnant, according to the Los Angeles Country Sheriff Department.
According to a post from the LASD Facebook page, “It’s not easy or convenient to run 13 miles wearing a near-30 pounds of cumbersome tactical gear, but Jenna did it affectionately and willingly, out of a deeply-seated sense of respect for the sacrifices made by the men and women in law enforcement who gave up absolutely everything while wearing their uniforms.”
The inaugural Run To Remember Los Angeles race kicked off in 2016, initiated by fellow Angeleno law enforcement brothers from the Los Angeles Police Department, to honor other first responders killed in the line of duty. The half-marathon and 10K run is a sister race of Run to Remember Boston, which was founded in 2014 and occurs annually on Memorial Day weekend.
Sergeant Owen was a experienced supervisor and endeared team leader to many. He was assigned to Lancaster Sheriff’s Station and was killed by a suspect fleeing the scene of a burglary. The suspect, a parolee with an extensive criminal history, in possession of a stolen gun, unleashed a dynamic procession of barbaric acts against deputies and civilians on Wednesday, October 5, 2016. Sergeant Owen, who arrived first at the scene, was shot once by the suspect; the suspect later stood over the sergeant’s body and shot him several more times killing him.
Sergeant Al Lopez dedicated 15 years of his career as a skilled detective assigned to Special Victim’s Bureau. He was tasked with investigating some of the most difficult cases of physical and sexual abuse to children, and took pride in his ability to advocate for the justice of little ones too young to speak for themselves. Sergeant Lopez was assigned to Compton Sheriff’s Station. On Monday, October 24, 2016, Sergeant Lopez suffered a medical emergency while driving a patrol car, headed out to assist his charge of deputies at a service call.
Sergeant Chavez was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a form of blood cancer which usually begins in the bone marrow, and can quickly spread throughout the body, if untreated. Sergeant Chavez is receiving a second course of chemotherapy, and when the treatment is completed, he will be in need of a bone marrow to replace marrow destroyed during the process.
“When asked about her decision to run in uniform, Jenna said she did it to raise the curiosity of others at the event; in turn, it allowed her to share the names of Sergeant Owen, Sergeant Lopez and Sergeant Chavez. She hoped it would motivate people to consider bone marrow donation for the good of Sergeant Chavez and the benefit of many others,” stated the Facebook post.
Jenna is assigned to mentor inmates through the Education Based Incarceration program at Twin Towers Corrections Facility. She is a member of the LASD Women’s Running Team, charity volunteer, and a mom.
Written By Darylese Shook and Donald Roberts