Video by Walt Mancini
PASADENA >> Five “Courageous Citizens” who put themselves in danger to stop three different violent attacks in Montebello, Alhambra, and Burbank received awards Wednesday form the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
A man who intervened in the beating of an elderly man by an assailant half his age; two women who stopped a registered sex offender and lifelong felon from kidnapping a young woman; and two men who helped stop and capture a man who as he stabbed his ex-wife were the five “ordinary citizens” who District Attorney Jackie Lacey said showed uncommon courage in the face of violent crimes against strangers.
“We hope these stories will inspire others to do the right thing when the time calls,” Lacey told the Pasadena Rotary Club audience.
Telesforo Arellano Diaz, 58, of Montebello, received the Courageous Citizens Award for defending a 78-year-old man who was being severely beaten by an unprovoked attacker half his age, Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho said.
Richard Paul Garcia, then-39, attacked the victim as he collected recyclables from a Montebello dumpster near Washington Boulevard and Greenwood Avenue, Cho said. Garcia punched, kicked and struck the victim with a broomstick.
Diaz rushed to help, Cho said. Garcia attacked Diaz, biting him on the hand during the scuffle. But Diaz, with the help of two other good Samaritans, held Garcia until police arrived.
The victim suffered a broken hand, but no permanent injuries, Cho said. Without Diaz, “It could have been much worse.”
Diaz said he never thought twice about getting involved. “An old person like that, it could have been by father. It’s not right,” he said through a Spanish interpreter.
Jennifer Clark, 43, of Redondo Beach and Connie Tejada, 58, of Downey stopped by a Fremont Avenue Starbucks in Alhambra for coffee on Sept. 12, 2013, when they noticed a man yelling at a woman in her 20s as she sat in a car.
The man — later identified as Frank Hernandez, now-66, of Rosemead — had met the victim at his church and lured her to the coffee shop by telling her he had a gift for her, Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian said. He cut off his GPS tracking device before meeting the woman.
Hernandez brandished what appeared to be a revolver, forced his way into the woman’s car, threatened to kill her and pistol-whipped her, Ayvazian said.
As the terrified victim made eye contact with Clark, “She mouthed, ‘help me,’” Clark said. Clark then told the man, “She doesn’t want you here. You need to go away now.”
As the attacker fled, Tejada used her cell phone to take video footage of Hernandez and his license plate, which she promptly handed over to police, helping them promptly arrest Hernandez, officials said.
“We believe that she was going to be kidnapped, possibly worse, and these two women got involved and stopped that from happening,” Ayvazian said. If not for Clark and Tejada, “who knows what harm this innocent woman would have had to suffer? And another violent predator would be continuing to roam our streets.”
Francisco Godinez, 40, of South Gate and Zinobi Gerbs, 44, of Burbank were honored for intervening when they saw Trino Godinez, 47, attacking his ex-wife with a knife following a planned custody exchange at a Burbank gas station.
The woman ran from her car at a red light after the suspect hopped into the car, brandished a handgun and threatened the woman, Deputy District Attorney Melanie Buccat said. The attacker chased after her, stabbing her three times.
Frank Godinez leapt from his work truck to help and struck the knife-wielding attacker in the head with a wrench before he, Gerbs and an off-duty sheriff’s deputy subdued the man.