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1992 Medal of Valor Recipients

Officer Manuel Argomaniz
Officer Marie Craig
Officer Richard Householder
Officer John Hurd
Detective Patrick Metoyer
Officer David Porras
Officer Michel Skajem
Officer John Tarankow
Officer Earl Valladares
Officer James Wallace
Detective Loren Wells

Officer David Porras

Officer John Tarankow

At about 7:30 on the morning of January 1st of this year, two North Hollywood Police Officers, David Porras and John Tarankow, were on patrol near the intersection of Oxnard Street and Lankershim Boulevard. When they saw a column of smoke rising from the Peppertree Motel on Lankershim, they quickly parked their black-and-white and ran into the motel courtyard.

Smoke was pouring through the upper half of the partially opened door of Room 31 and they could see a man lying semi-conscious on the floor. The curtains in the room were burning, and the bed was totally engulfed in flames. The room was so hot that the victim’s melting shoes had actually been fused together. His clothing had begun to burn in several places. The officers rushed into the room, threw a blanket over the victim, and began to carry him through the door to safety. At that moment, the accumulated smoke and gases in the upper portion of the room suddenly exploded in a violent flashback. The large window next to the door shattered, throwing shards of glass over the victim and his rescuers. The fireball that blew through the door ignited a vehicle parked ten feet away in the courtyard. Miraculously, somehow the victim and the officers were unharmed by the blast.

After taking the victim to safety, the officers returned to the burning structure to search for other victims. Due to common attic, Rooms 29 and 30 were now on fire, and the only way to get to them was through boiling smoke and a dark, narrow hallway. Without hesitation, the officers plunged forward and awakened the sleeping couple in Room 30. They covered them in blankets and led them to safety through smoke and falling embers.

The officers returned to the hallway, and again plunged back through the flames. In Room 29, they awakened another sleeping couple. By now the heat was so intense that even though they were covered with blankets, the woman was burned in sever places while she and her husband were also led to safety by the officers. Just minutes later, the ears of a firefighter who entered the area were singed, and his helmet straps and flashlight lens were melted.

Officers Porras as Tarankow realized the personal and terrible danger they faced. Yet, without hesitation, they plunged three times through that holocaust. Each had felt that they alone were the only hope for the victims inside the fire area.

They risked their lives above and beyond the normal demands of police service and exhibited extreme courage and bravery in the face of extreme peril. For exemplifying the highest traditions of their Department, Officers David Porras and John Tarankow are now given the highest award that can be presented to a Los Angeles Police Officer: the Medal of Valor.

Officer Manuel Argomaniz

Officer Marie Craig

It was shortly before 9 a.m., on May 4th, 1991, when Training Officer Manuel Argomaniz and his partner, 7-month Probationary Officer Marie Craig, on patrol in the Southeast Area, observed a structure fire in the vicinity of the Nickerson Gardens Housing Development.

When they arrived at the apartment building, they could see smoke pouring from an upstairs window and through the room. A garden hose was also extending through the open front door. The officers followed the hose up the stairs to the second floor, where they found two citizens vainly trying to douse a growing fire that was spreading thick smoke and searing heat. Due to restricted visibility, Officer Craig returned to her patrol car to retrieve her flashlight. Returning to the stairway, she met the occupant of the burning apartment, who frantically screamed that her 5 year-old son was still in the upstairs apartment bedroom.

Again upstairs, Officer Craig took the hose from the civilians and quickly saturated herself and her partner. Then, on hands and knees, they searched the smoke filled bedroom for the small boy.

The smoke was so thick and choking that the officers had to leave the room four times in order to replenish oxygen in their systems.

After a window was broken to permit some of the smoke to escape from the room, Officer Craig’s flashlight beam fell on the child, lying unconscious on the floor next to his bed. In company with a State Police officer now upstairs, they picked up the little boy. Officer Argomaniz carried him downstairs and outside to a place of safety where he performed full CPR. This caused the child to regain his heartbeat and his breathing.

After paramedics took over the care of the small victim, Officers Argomaniz and Craig, breathing with difficulty and coughing profusely from the harsh smoke they endured, were transported to the hospital for treatment.

Without the efforts of these officers, the little boy would not have survived the flame and smoke filled apartment. For their bravery and quick action that saved the life of a 5 year-old child in a fire and smoke filled inferno, Officer Manuel Argomaniz and Officer Marie Craig are now presented the Los Angeles Police Department’s highest award, the Medal of Valor.

Michel Skajem

It was about 8:30 on the morning of Sunday, June 22, 1991, when a South Ardmore Avenue resident armed himself with a .357 magnum revolver, barricaded himself inside his home, and threatened to kill members of his family. Fortunately, they were able to escape from the residence and notify the Los Angeles Police Department.

When Wilshire Area officers arrived at the residence of the distraught man, he answered their request to surrender by firing several gunshots. Additional police unites were then requested in order to establish a safety perimeter, and to evacuation citizens from homes in the suspect’s line of fire.

Officer Michel Skajem was in one of the first units to arrive. He was given the responsibility of evacuating the house directly to the east of the barricaded home. The woman who lived there told him that her son, Bobby, was in the backyard. Officer Skajem ran to the rear yard, where he recognized two things about Bobby: he was directly in the line of fire because the suspect’s kitchen windows overlooked the yard and, though he was physically a 37 year-old adult, Bobby was mentally impaired.

The officer attempted to coax the victim away from the danger. Confused, Bobby refused to move and began to cry for his mother. Officer Skajem, realizing that he had to take action quickly, left his position of cover and moved to Bobby’s side. Now both the officer and the victim were in the open. As the officer grabbed Bobby – to lead him to a place of safety - the suspect caught sight of the pair and fired at them. His bullet struck the porch just three feet from the officer. However, within seconds, the pair was out of danger.

Officer Skajem then returned to the backyard to help contain the suspect, should he decide to leave his house from the rear. The gunman fired four more rounds into the backyard area, then ran to the front and fired four more rounds toward the street. SWAT personnel quickly ended the ordeal by firing tear gas into the house – after which the suspect was taken into custody without further incident.

Officer Skajem had placed himself in great peril with disregard for his personal safety when he rescued Bobby from the direct line of sight of the armored suspect. Due to Officer Michel Skajem’s braver, heroism, and unselfish devotion to duty exemplifies the highest traditions of the Los Angeles Police service, he is now awarded the Los Angeles Police Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.

James H. Wallace

After completing his tour of duty, West Traffic Motor Officer James Wallace was on his way home. It was about 11 p.m., November 3, 1991. As he turned from the westbound Santa Monica to the northbound San Diego Freeway, his attention was taken by a pall of smoke on his left.

He parked his motorcycle, took his flashlight, and ran to the top of the embankment – to find a Jeep station wagon burning below. He radioed for fire and rescue ambulance assistance, then ran down the steep hillside. Due to the wagon’s front windshield being blown out, Officer Wallace checked the ground for possible ejected passengers, although none were found. The Jeep’s roof and rear seats were burning, and the wagon was filled with smoke.

The motor officer reached for the driver’s door, but the intense heat on his face and arms singed his hair and drove him back. Summoning his courage and strength, he shielded his face and arms with his nylon service jacket and popped the door, only to find the driver lying unconscious on the seat. The officer yelled at the man, no response, and was, again, driven back by the increasing heat. He knew that he had only one more chance to reach the driver, so, braving the flames and smoke, he leaned his entire body into the station wagon, grabbed the man’s collar and gave a tremendous pull. The driver’s body came free, then suddenly stopped half-way out, because his feet had caught under the dashboard.

By now, the front seats, the headliner, and even the floor-board of the car were also aflame. With the full force of the heat and smoke assaulting him, the officer reached virtually into the flames to free the driver’s feet. Again he grabbed the unconscious driver, yet something exploded and the officer and the victim both flew backward to the ground outside. The motor officer carried and dragged the driver about 50 feet from the vehicle, then ran back to look for additional victims, though none were inside the Jeep.

By this time the surrounding brush was also aflame, and any escape for the two men – other than going up the embankment – was impossible. With no other alternative, the motor officer picked up the unconscious victim, put him over his shoulder, and climbed some 60 yards up the steep hillside.

Police and fire units arrived shortly thereafter. The driver was revived and treated for head, abdominal, and left arm injuries – and transported to UCLA Medical Center.

Officer Wallace was treated for pain, minor strains, and singed hair. His flashlight was less fortunate, because the lens and on-off switch had melted from the intense heat.

This officer is commended for his outstanding courage and bravery. There is no question that only because of his tenacity was the life of the motorist saved. His performance was far above that expected of any police officer. For service in the highest standards of the Los Angeles Police Department, Officer James H. Wallace is awarded his Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.

Detective Patrick Metoyer

Detective Loren Wells

On the morning of June 27, 1989, in a two-story Menlo Street apartment building, officers were conducting a follow-up investigation of an explosion from possibly illegal fireworks. The resident-suspect of a 1st-floor apartment had suffered serious injuries during that initial blast.

In the apartment, Officers Bob Gollhofer and Daniel Johnson, of the Explosives Unit, found a large cache of commercial-grade fireworks. As a result of the previous explosion, the officers considered these remaining fireworks unstable enough to go off at any time.

Suddenly, some of them did go off! The blast threw Detective Pat Metoyer of the Criminal Conspiracy section – standing at the door of the apartment – across the hall as the explosion slammed and jammed the door, trapping the two officers inside the blazing room. Detective Metoyer regained his balance and kicked the door open; then he dragged the injured and disoriented Officer Johnson outside to safety.

Detective Metoyer was now joined by Detective Loren Wells from the Explosives Unit. As the fire escalated, they were acutely aware that the remaining fireworks could explode at any minute; still, they disregarded their own safety to re-enter the building, to search for tenants who might still be inside.

Through the thick, choking black smoke, Detective Wells, now on the second floor, led an elderly man down to safety. Then he again returned to the burning structure and, along with Detective Metoyer, forced apartment doors open in their continuing search for additional victims. As the flames got too hot and the smoke too thick to continue the search, Detective Wells made his way outside. Unfortunately, Detective Metoyer had become disoriented in the inferno and had to be helped from the building by another officer. The detective re-entered the apartment to pull the dazed Officer Gollhofer to safety.

Now outside, all the officers moved to places of safety and then the expected “big bang” did occur. The exploding fireworks gave fuel to the fire and completely destroyed the building.

It should be noted that had all the fireworks been tightly bundled, they would have filled a space 3 feet by 5 feet. And, had there been one detonation rather than three smaller ones, the devastation could have been far more extensive and deadly.

Detectives Patrick Metoyer and Loren Wells were treated at a hospital for injuries and smoke inhalation.

In disregard for their own safety the officers displayed bravery, courage, initiative, and sound judgment which are in the highest tradition of the Los Angeles Police Department. For this, Detective Patrick Metoyer and Detective Loren Wells are presented with the Los Angeles Police Department Medals of Valor.

Officer John Hurd

Officer Richard Householder

When Officers John Hurd and Richard Householder stopped a vehicle near Vineland Avenue and Burbank Boulevard on the evening of February 3, 1991, they were vigilant. They had seen the Ford auto, with Ohio license plates, run a 3-way traffic signal. However, more important to the officers was the license number. A radio check had reported that a Dodge sedan with California plate but with the same license number as the Ford, had been used in an armed robbery in the nearby City of Burbank.

So the officers, made wary by the “coincidence” of the identical license numbers, remained by their patrol vehicle as they ordered the driver to leave his car and move to the sidewalk.

Officer Hurd approached the man in order to “pat him down” while partner Householder stood guard. However, the caution of the officers wasn’t enough. In an instant, the suspect whirled around, pulled a large .44-caliber handgun from his waistband, and fired directly into Officer Hurd’s chest. Fortunately the officer’s bulletproof vest deflected the bullet through his shoulder, where it exited under his arm.

The gunman then changed his aim. This time he fired at Officer Household, where the bullet hit him in the shoulder, but deflected into his neck where it remained imbedded. Still, that bullet had the power to spin the officer around, so that when the suspect fired again, his second bullet hit Officer Householder in the back, where, this time, it was stopped b the officer’s bulletproof vest. Both officers were seriously wounded, yet they drew their weapons and returned fire, driving the suspect to seek cover. They followed him, fearing that the gunman might reload and come back to continue the fight, or escape, which could put innocent citizens in danger of being held hostage or worse.

Officer Hurd radioed for help, as he and his partner continued to fire from cover behind parked cars. When his partner’s gun emptied, Officer Household stepped into the open to draw the gunman’s attention while Officer Hurd reloaded. Then, Officer Hurd, seeing his partner standing unprotected in the open, immediately moved to his side; and both officers fired at the suspect until he fell to the ground, mortally wounded.

Although severely wounded and facing imminent death, each officer had chosen to confront and expose himself to the gunman’s fire in order to protect his partner. Instead of withdrawing, each chose to continue to face mortal danger in order to save the life of his partner and the residents of his City.

Due to the fact that they clearly demonstrated the highest ideals of bravery, courage, and dedication to duty, while displaying the unparalleled “will to survive” that motivates all police officers, Officer John Hurd and Officer Richard Householder are now presented with their Department’s highest award: the Los Angeles Police Medal of Valor.

Officer Earl Valladares

It was about 12:30 a.m., on Monday, February 11, 1992, when Training Officer Earl Valladares and his partner, Probationary Officer Tina Kerbrat, were on patrol in North Hollywood. On Vineland Avenue near San Fernando Road, the officers pulled to the curb to conduct an investigation of two men who appeared to be drinking from open beer cans.

One of the two men stopped walking and waited on the curb as the patrol unit pulled up. As Officer Valladares got out of the driver’s side of the car, the other man moved rapidly toward the right front of the black-and-white, and without warning or provocation, pulled a handgun and fired at him. The officer instantly pulled his service weapon and returned fire, but not before the gunman fired several rounds into the passenger compartment at Officer Valladares’ partner.

Despite the furious gun battle now going on between them, Officer Valladares deliberately moved around his car toward the gunman, in order to distract him from Officer Kerbrat, who had been trying to get out of the unit.

As the suspect sought cover in front of the car, the officer advanced to confront him, and drive him away from his partner. Officer Valladares didn’t know that his partner had already been fatally wounded by the gunman. Officer Valladares continued firing, until the suspect fell to the ground in front of the patrol car, fatally wounded. The officer now turned his attention to the second man, who started to run from the scene, but Officer Valladares caught and handcuffed him.

When Officer Valladares returned to the car, he found that his partner had been mortally wounded. Five days later, he would be a pallbearer at the funeral of Officer Tina Kerbrat.

Officer Earl Valladares has been commended for his extreme bravery in the face of the peril which threatened to take his life. On two separate occasions he openly subjected himself to violent gunfire in order to protect his partner. His actions, genuinely heroic and reflecting to the highest degree the traditions of this Department, are truly worthy of the Los Angeles Police Medal of Valor.