By C.J. Lin Staff Writer


Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck embraces Matthew Simmons after presenting him with a Medal of Valor in honor of his father, Randal, a SWAT officer killed in a standoff in 2008. (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times / May 19, 2010)


It was February 6, 2008, a fateful day for the Los Angeles Police Department. As a barrage of bullets were exchanged between Los Angeles police officers and a barricaded gunman who had killed several family members in Winnetka, Officer Randal David Simmons, a 27-year veteran, became the LAPD’s first SWAT officer to die in the line of duty. His fellow SWAT officer, James Veenstra, was shot in the face. He later recovered after undergoing extensive surgery.


Thursday, Simmons and Veenstra, along with more than a dozen officers, will each be honored with a Medal of Valor, which is awarded to officers who knowingly and willingly place themselves in harm’s way whether they are on duty or not.

“Randy Simmons is an example of an officer who died doing what he loved, died doing what he believed was important, but nonetheless was a casualty of our profession,” said Police Chief Charlie Beck in his monthly message. “Randy, along with 16 of his fellow officers, distinguished themselves with gallantry to save the lives of strangers at the risk of their own lives.”

Of that number, five are from the LAPD’s Valley Bureau, including Officer Mark Mireles, who will become the first officer to receive the medal a third time. In the Winnetka standoff, now known as the Welby Way incident, Mireles, who was then in the West Valley division but is now an officer at the Topanga division, pulled the gunman’s wounded father from the floor near the front door of the house while gunfire continued. His partner, Officer Bonnie Lehigh, who is now also with the Topanga division, had entered the house and opened fire to provide cover for fellow officers. Lehigh will also receive a medal.

Mireles previously received a medal for a 2000 incident in which he saved a woman from a burning car surrounded by downed power lines, and for another rescue in 2006 in which he grabbed a woman who had jumped from a balcony in a suicide attempt. Ofc. Eric Hammerschmitt of the Van Nuys division will receive a medal for his response to a four car accident on June 1, 2008 on the southbound I-405 Freeway at the Sherman Way exit.

As he and his partner neared the accident, an explosion engulfed one of the cars in a fireball. A man and his 15-year-old daughter were still in the car and Hammerschmitt tried to open the door with his bare hands, according to the LAPD. He was able to break a window and pull the man to safety, and returned to try to rescue the daughter, who was fully engulfed in flames. He had to be pulled away from the car to avoid injury, according to the LAPD. The girl died at the scene of the accident, and the father died the next day at a local hospital. Officer Steve Beumer of Hollywood division and Ofc. Alonso Menchaca of Mission division will receive the medal for their rescue efforts that ended less tragically.

Beumer was off duty and headed home to the Valley on the 118 Freeway when a speeding car crashed into a pick-up, causing the truck to hit a concrete overpass support, flip over and burst into flames. Menchaca was also on the freeway, and both officers pulled over to help the trapped driver, according to the LAPD. The driver was unconscious in the crushed car as the passenger compartment began to fill with smoke and fire began consuming the dashboard. Beumer grabbed a piece of metal debris and broke the window and crawled into the car even as his own clothes caught on fire. Menchaca and Beumer finally managed to pull out the driver, who was then semi-conscious and screaming in pain because his hair, back and legs were on fire, just before the car exploded, according to the LAPD.

“If there’s a fire, these are the folks that went into the building, or if there was a car fire, pulled to the side without anyone issuing a radio call,” said Ofc. Sara Faden of the LAPD Media Relations. “Some of them were often being injured themselves.” 818-713-3738


Los Angeles: On May 5, 2010, the Department held a ceremony in the courtyard  of the Police Administration Building to honor the 203 men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duty. Command Staff, Department employees, family and friends, joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigoza and Chief Charlie Beck in honoring the fallen officers. Chief Beck honored not only the profession but also the men and women in blue who over the years gave their lives while serving their community. Chief Beck stated that 52 out of the 203 officers have perished during his 33 years tenure with the LAPD .


During the ceremony Chief Beck somberly remembered Officer James Choquette the first officer to die during the Chief’s tenure. Officer Choquette and Chief Beck were both assigned to Southeast Division Gang Detail and were on duty, when Officer Croquette was killed during a traffic accident on Central Avenue and 102nd Street.


Officer Robert J. Cottle’s name was added to the others, making him the 203rd officer to die in the line of duty. This year also marked the 100th aniversary passing of Officer David Brooks. Officer Brooks was working a plain clothes detain when he came across an armed robbery. A gunfire errupted between the suspects and Officer Brooks, when was shot in the chest and died from his injuries.


Chief Beck commented that law enforcement, military and fireman personnel are pay special homage upon their deaths because “ They died while protecting others from injustice, terrorism,violence, and crime. They did not die by accident, but they intentionally chose this path and made the ultimate sacrifice.”


The formal Memorial Cermony included the “Walk of Heroes” procession, followed by a twenty-one riffle volley performed by the LAPD Honor Guard. Air Division executed a Fly Over in the missing Man Formation. The ceremony culminated with family members of the fallen officers placing a red rose on the nameplate of their loved ones on the memorial wall.


LAPD officers Lyle Michelson and Kim Snyder are organizing the 2nd Annual West Valley Memorial Ride Saturday September 12, 2009. The 56-mile motorcycle ride will help raise funds for fallen officers. They expect 400 riders for the event.(Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)


No one has called them Heaven’s Angels, but they could.

They are the hundreds of motorcycle riders who, recalling the motorcycle culture allure of James Dean and Marlon Brando, will ride Saturday from the West San Fernando Valley to Paramount Studios in Hollywood.


But unlike the legendary bad-boy Hell’s Angels, these bikers are good guys – part of the second annual West Valley Memorial Motorcycle Ride raising money for fallen Los Angeles police officers and their families.


“This is what bikers do — they have big hearts,” says Russ Brown, a Studio City attorney who has earned a national reputation as a motorcycle injury lawyer and a supporter of the event. “Bikers defy the stereotype.”


During last year’s inaugural event, 338 bikers raised more than $12,000 for a monument honoring fallen officers in front of the LAPD’s West Valley Station in Reseda.


This year, organizers expect some 400 motorcyclists and a total of 700 participants to make the 56-mile trek over the hills to Malibu, down Pacific Coast Highway and eastward on the 10 Freeway, eventually arriving at the Paramount Studios lot.


The ride will benefit the Randal D. Simmons Outreach Foundation and the Los Angeles Police Department Memorial Foundation.


A veteran officer of the Special Weapons and Tactics team and the father of two, Simmons was killed in Winnetka on Feb.7, 2008, by a mentally troubled man who had called 911 to report that he had killed three members of his family and challenged LAPD to “come and get me.”


Simmons was the first SWAT team member to die in action since the unit’s inception in 1971.


The LAPD Memorial Foundation provides grants for the widows and orphans of officers killed in the line of duty.


“It definitely takes a special breed to ride a motorcycle,” says Rickey Gelb, president of the West Valley Boosters, a support organization at the West Valley Station that will assist with Saturday’s event.


Officer Lyle Michelson, who with his partner Kimberly Snyder are chairs of this year’s ride, said the event grew out of an “idea to build a Memorial Monument to honor our officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.”


The Memorial Monument in front of the West Valley station was unveiled Feb. 6.


“Being involved in this memorial ride means a great deal to me – it means to me that I can actually give back to the community other than law enforcement,” said Michelson.


“Seeing 400 motorcyclists lining up in front of the police station and start their engine simultaneously is an awesome sight.”


Michelson said the public is invited to ceremonies at the West Valley station that begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and include a bagpipe presentation and several speakers, including Simmons’ widow, Lisa.


The motorcycle ride is scheduled to leave the station at 11a.m., escorted by the California Highway Patrol, Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD. It is scheduled to arrive at Paramount Studios about two hours later.


Michelson said the ride is the “largest law enforcement ride in Southern California that is fully escorted.”


The memorial ride will also be reminiscent of Simmons’ funeral procession last year when the dozens of motorcycle officers working the route marked their helmets with the radio designation of the slain hero’s SWAT unit: 41-D.


The only sounds then, as the hearse carrying Simmons’ casket made its way through massive crowds paying their respect, were the distant whir of police motorcycles.


Michelson said that when he founded the tribute a year ago, his idea was to come up with something as memorable.


“I wanted a memorial ride that everyone would remember,” Michelson said, “and from the overwhelming response, they did.”


If you go


  • The West Valley Memorial Motorcycle Ride starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the LAPD’s West Valley Station, 19020 Vanowen St., Reseda. Riders will head south on Tampa Avenue to the 101 Freeway and over Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road to Pacific Coast Highway. From the southbound PCH, they will ride on the 10, 405 and 101 freeways, exiting at Gower Street. The ride will end at the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood. For more information, see