For the officers involved, it's just another day on the job. But, for the victims, the often heroic efforts of police and fire personnel meant a life saved or a major crisis averted.
Twenty six South Bay police and fire officers will be honored for their bravery at the 45th annual Medal of Valor Ceremony hosted by South Bay Police and Fire Memorial Foundation.
Eighteen officers will receive the Life Saving Award and eight the Distinguished Service award at a luncheon on Thursday, May 23 at the Torrance Marriott.
Here are a few of their stories:
Motorcycle versus car
It was in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2018 when Officer Erik Frame of the Redondo Beach Police Department got a radio call regarding a traffic collision involving a vehicle and a motorcycle at Beryl and 190th Street.
“Any time there’s a motorcycle versus vehicle crash, your first thought is that it might be bad when you get there, especially if it’s a head-on collision as this was,” Frame recalled.
When he arrived on the scene, he saw the motorcyclist down near the sidewalk with a group of citizens gathered around, trying to help the man.
“They had wrapped a sweater around his leg, the lower half of which had sort of been folded back underneath him, so I couldn’t see how badly his leg was damaged until I got up close,” Frame explained.
When he removed the sweater, Frame said, he found the leg had been basically severed and was attached by only a few shreds of sinew and flesh.
“He was still conscious and talking but there was a lot of blood in the gutter beneath him so I knew there was a large bleed that needed to be stopped quickly,” Frame added.
He thought of recent refresher training on tourniquet application as Frame grabbed his trauma kit, unlooped the tourniquet and reached through the man’s legs to get it around his thigh, looping it back together.
“Once I got it in place, I told him that I had to tighten it down very tightly and that it was going to hurt. He said that was fine and to do it,” Frame said.
He cinched the tourniquet down, locked it in place and kept talking with the victim, getting his information to keep him conscious until the fire department showed up to get him ready for transport to an emergency medical center.
The motorcyclist arrived at Harbor General Hospital with a heavily damaged knee, blood vessel injuries and having lost one third of his body’s blood, according to the surgeon who treated him.
Although he survived his injuries, the doctor said Officer Frame’s timely response to the crash and perfect placement of the tourniquet had saved the man’s life.
“I was just happy that we were able to get there in time to get him some help and keep him stable until the fire department arrived to take care of him and get him to the hospital,” Frame said, noting it is important the community knows that local law enforcement has their back.
"We are always here to help," he added.
CPR re-certification pays off
It was around 1:15 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2018, when Officer Ken Cheng of the Manhattan Beach Police Department responded to a call of a 75-year-old man who was not breathing.
Cheng, first on the scene, arrived at the Hermosa Beach home to find the front door ajar and all the lights on. He entered the home and was directed to a back bedroom by a panicked older woman, who said her husband had been having trouble breathing.
There, he found the elderly gentleman lying lifeless in bed.
“His face had turned blue. I checked on the man, confirmed he was not breathing and barely had a pulse, but his skin was still warm to the touch,” Cheng remembered.
Cheng ran back to his patrol vehicle and retrieved a CPR mask he said had been there for years unused.
“It had been a long time since I performed CPR on a real person, but I had re-certified a few months prior with a plastic dummy. I was really nervous,” he admitted.
“I pushed the CPR mask against the man’s face, tilted his head back and delivered two strong breaths. I waited for a response. The air I just pushed into his lungs slowly exhaled out of his mouth and nothing else happened. My heart dropped. He was still not breathing on his own.”
Officers Joshua Nakamoto and Aurelio Lopez of the Hermosa Beach Police Department arrived next and all three of the officers performed full CPR.
Cheng said he could hear fluid in the man’s lungs. The officers decided to turn the victim on his side to see if the mucus in his airway would drain.
“It was not a sight for those with weak stomachs, but it worked!” Cheng added. “As we watched thick mucus continuously drain out the man’s mouth...I could hear and feel him start to breath.”
Los Angeles County Fire paramedics arrived and noted the man would have been without oxygen or a heartbeat for an extended period of time, unlikely to survive, without the quick work of the officers.
But the elderly man survived thanks to their life-saving actions.
“At the end of my shift, I said a little prayer for the man at that house. I never knew his name,” said Cheng, who notes he doesn’t consider himself a hero for the act. “I was just at the right place at the right time. It was a collaborative effort involving other officers that resulted in a positive end result.”
All three officers will be honored with a Life-Saving Award at the Medal of Valor ceremony May 23.
Cheng said any law enforcement officer would have done the same.
“It’s what we signed up for. This is what we do,” he said.
Quick thinking saves baby
On Aug. 7, 2018, Hermosa Beach Police Department Chief Sharon Papa and Captain Milton McKinnon were about to address the crowd of 200 guests at the National Night Out at Valley Park when they were approached by a frantic mother holding a lifeless baby.
The woman said the child—who was limp, unconscious and beginning to turn blue—was choking.
"It was apparent that we needed to act immediately," Captain McKinnon said.
The Chief and Captain quickly worked together to deliver back blows and the infant began breathing again, with many of the attendees none the wiser as to what had just happened.
The quick work of the law enforcement officials saved the baby’s life, who did not have to be taken to a hospital.
"Ultimately, the baby regained consciousness. Mother and baby were reunited," McKinnon said. "According to family sources, the baby is doing well. The relief in the mother's eyes was apparent."
The Chief and Captain will both receive Life-Saving Awards, an honor the Captain said he is grateful for but was all in a day's work.
"While incredibly important and impactful to that family, it was just one instance of many that officers across the land deal with on a daily basis," he added. "I think it's safe to say we feel like we only did “our job,” the same as any other officer would have done."
Other law enforcement officials to be honored include:
- Manhattan Beach Officers Justin Hidalgo and Ian Mikelson, Life-Saving Award for applying combat dressing to a self-inflicted gash on a woman's neck after finding her in lying in a pool of blood in a retail store's restroom on Jan. 19, 2018.
- Redondo Beach Officer Michael Dyberg, Life-Saving Award for performing the heimlich maneuver and dislodging food from the airway of a 65-year-old choking woman at Panera Bread on June 29, 2018.
- Redondo Beach Officer Patrick Knox, Life-Saving Award for performing CPR on a man overdosing on heroin on June 10, 2018. Knox recognized the issue and paramedics treated the victim with Naloxone.
- Redondo Beach Officer Joseph Rangel, Life-Saving Award for performing CPR on a two-day old baby who was not breathing on Oct. 30, 2018.
- Hermosa Beach Police Officer Kristoffer Eszlinger, Life-Saving Award for performing CPR on an elderly man who had fallen on Oct. 27, 2018. Eszlinger accompanied the man's wife to a local hospital where the victim eventually died. Because of the officer's actions, the victim was able to say his final goodbyes to family in the hospital.
- El Segundo Police Sgt. Tony De La Rambelje, Sgt. Luke Muir, Officer Armando Rodriguez and Officer Rey Lopez, Distinguished Service Awards for saving a suicidal man after an hour's long chase and standoff on June 22, 2018. The man, on probation with a felony warrant out, held a knife to his neck, slicing and eventually stabbing himself. It took all the officers and a SWAT team using flashbangs to distract the man, wrestling the knife out of his grasp.
- El Segundo Firefighter Matthew Goodenough, Life Saving Award for diving into freezing water while while on vacation in South Lake Tahoe to save a 22-year-old who capsized in a kayak on May 10, 2018.
- Inglewood Police Department, Officers Matthew Amendola, Sara Booth, Nicholas Bobbs and Stuart Sato, Distinguished Service Awards for pulling a 19 year old woman back through a second floor bedroom window after she attempted suicide on June 3, 2018.
- Gardena Officers Jose Avalos and Angel Hernandez, Life Saving Award for reviving an 18-month-old child who was not breathing on June 15, 2018.
- Hawthorne Officers Jonathan Skovold and Pedro Nambo, Life Saving Awards for performing CPR on a 61-year-old man who crashed his car after suffering a heart attack on July 11, 2018.
- Torrance Officer Blake Williams, Life Saving Award for placing a tourniquet on a victim's leg severed at the knee after he was struck by a vehicle on Feb. 16, 2018.