Los Angeles District Attorney Comes to Pasadena to Award Courageous Citizen Honors to 3 Gutsy Heroes

Published : Thursday, May 2, 2019 | 5:27 AM

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey was at the Rotary Club of Pasadena meeting Wednesday, May 1, to honor three people from the county with the Courageous Citizens Awards which recognizes their courage in coming to the aid of others in need.

The District Attorney’s Office created the Courageous Citizens Award in 1985 to commend individuals who have acted with courage and at considerable personal risk to help a victim of a crime, assist in the capture of a suspect, or testify in the face of extraordinary pressures.

With an introduction by Pasadena Rotary Club member Tamia Hope, Lacey discussed the Courageous Citizens Awards program, and then called on the respective deputy district attorneys who handled the cases in court to introduce the honorees for 2019.

“It is always a pleasure to honor the brave residents of Los Angeles County who have stepped up in the face of danger to help those in need,” Lacey said. “I am proud and thankful for their dedication and courage to help my office prosecute violent offenders and contribute to the safety of our community.”

The honorees included a man who intervened to stop a kidnapping during what would become a deadly child custody exchange in Whittier; a Sun Valley woman who testified in a domestic violence case when the victim refused to cooperate with prosecutors; and an 80-year-old man who was assaulted for trying to protect employees at a Monterey Park restaurant from a verbally abusive man.

The awards were presented to:

Byran Deering, 61, of Whittier, who was introduced by Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon.

During a child custody exchange at the Whittier Police Department on June 11, 2018, a man kidnapped his children and their mother at knifepoint and forced her to drive them away. Along the way, she stopped the car and got out to seek help. The man drove away with her children. Byran Deering heard a commotion and came out of his house. He called 911 and put the woman in his house for safety. The man returned, held one of the children at knifepoint, while confronting Deering. Authorities arrived and the man was killed. Deering’s actions saved the woman and her children from greater harm.

Ana Celis, 42, of Sun Valley, introduced by Deputy District Attorney Julie Kramer.

On Sept. 9, 2016, Ana Celis was driving on Roscoe Boulevard in Sun Valley when she saw a man push a woman and force her into his car. Celis followed them and watched as the man punched the woman multiple times in the face. Celis got out of her car and yelled for him to stop, which he did. Celis called 911 and stayed with the woman until authorities arrived. When the victim refused to cooperate with law enforcement, Celis’ eyewitness testimony helped secure a conviction. The defendant pleaded no contest to one felony count of injuring a girlfriend in September 2017. He was sentenced to 364 days in county jail and five years of probation.

Robert Melendrez, 80, of Whittier, introduced by Deputy District Attorney Presciliano Duran.

Robert Melendrez was eating at a Monterey Park restaurant on March 14, 2017, when a man entered and began verbally insulting employees. Melendrez, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, intervened and demanded that the man leave the premises. As the man left, he threatened to wait outside for Melendrez. When Melendrez went out to leave, the man assaulted him, causing great bodily injury. Melendrez testified for the prosecution at trial. The defendant was convicted in September 2017 of elder abuse and assault with a special allegation of great bodily injury on an elder. He was sentenced to eight years in state prison.

The Pasadena Rotary Club meets every Wednesday at the University Club Pasadena, at 175 N. Oakland Avenue. The event is open to the public and no reservation is required.

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