LAPD “Top Cops” Nominees to Meet with President Obama

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Eric Rose (805) 624-0572 or
Paul Haney (626) 755-4759


LAPD “Top Cops” Nominees to Meet with President Obama


Los Angeles – May 11, 2009 – LAPD Officers nominated by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) for the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) Top Cops Awards will meet with President Obama tomorrow prior to the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. The meeting with the president is scheduled to take place at 2:00 p.m. EDT in the White House Rose Garden.

“The officers nominated this year by the LAPPL are heroes in every sense of the word,” said LAPPL President Paul M. Weber. “Their focus and courage under fire epitomizes what it means to be a police officer. Modern-day heroes are a rare commodity, and these officers live up to the highest standards of the LAPD. On behalf of the community, we thank them for their sacrifices – large and small – and we are grateful to their families for supporting their decision to serve all of the community.”

The Top Cops Awards pay tribute to law enforcement officers from across the country for outstanding service to their communities during the preceding year. Top Cops are nominated by fellow officers and selected from hundreds of nominations by an independent awards committee. Officers chosen as the 2008 NAPO Top Cops represent the top ten cases across the country.

Background Information on the Top Cops/SWAT Officer Randal D. Simmons Incident :

On February 7, 2008, an incident occurred in the West San Fernando Valley in a normally peaceful neighborhood that would claim the life of one dedicated LAPD SWAT officer and result in an outpouring of support for the LAPD by the community in its wake.

The tragic events unfolded when officers received an unknown trouble call at a residence in the San Fernando Valley. LAPD Officers Foxhaven and Avalos approached the door of the house and a man’s voice within stated that he had just killed three people and that the officers should come in and kill him. Unknown to officers at the time, a fourth victim, the suspect’s wife, had hidden in the bedroom closet. The officers notified communications and requested more units. More units arrived and set up a perimeter and evacuated neighbors. A series of phone calls were made with the suspect who again insisted that officers should shoot him. Other calls went unanswered, and in some calls movement could be heard in the background.

SWAT was notified. As the officers arrived, they were briefed on the situation. Because it was believed that victims inside the home could still be alive, it was determined that immediate entry was required. A public address (PA) system was used to try to talk the suspect out, but there was no response.

Based on information that the rear of the location had fortified doors, SWAT planned on a front forced entry, with Officer James Veestra as the team leader and Sergeant Chuck Buttitta as the supervisor. On cue, the SWAT stick went to the front door. Officers Mike Odle and George Ryan were assigned to the front window. Ryan performed a rake-and-break while Odle provided cover. Simultaneously, a breach shotgun was used by Officer Veenstra to force open the door. A flash-bang device was tossed in to distract the suspect. Officers Veenstra, David Keortge, Tom Chinappi, German Hurtado, Floyd Curry, Anthony Samuelson and Mike Barker entered the residence. A wall immediately inside the front door impeded vision of the interior and everything was extremely dark.

The suspect was partially hidden behind a doorway and opened fire on the officers with a semi-automatic handgun. Officers Veenstra and Simmons were immediately hit and went down; both officers had been hit in the face. Officer Ogle’s weapon was hit and he received minor wounds to the face and hand. Officers Curry, Chinappi and Barker returned fire and the suspect retreated to an interior bedroom. Officers immediately extracted Veenstra and Simmons while others set up outside the bedroom. Three dead bodies were discovered in the immediate area – the suspect had shot and killed his father and two of his brothers. Officer Steve Scallon and Sgt. Buttitta had by this time also entered the residence and assisted in clearing rooms.

Against their own regulations, rescue ambulances responded to the front of the residence and transported the fallen officers to the hospital. Officer Simmons was pronounced shortly thereafter. The suspect called out to the officers that he had a gun and they should come in and kill him.

Because it appeared that all of the victims in the house were deceased and the SWAT officers were exposed to the suspect’s gunfire inside the residence, it was decided that the situation had transitioned to a barricaded suspect scenario. Officers withdrew from the interior of the residence and set up a perimeter until SWAT equipment and more personnel arrived. Two armored vehicles arrived and the original entry team was relieved by the freshly arrived officers.

Repeated attempts were made to communicate with the suspect with no result. The suspect’s remaining brother was brought in and he pleaded over the PA for the suspect to surrender, again with no results.

Later that morning, the use of chemical agents was approved and SWAT initiated gas from four sides, including the introduction of concentrated gas by breaching a wall with one of the armored vehicles. To everyone’s surprise, the fourth victim (the suspect’s wife) chose this as an opportune time to leave her hiding place in the closet and exit the rear of the house. Officer Richard Alba, assigned as a sniper on an adjacent roof, observed her attempting to exit the residence and the suspect trying to stop her. In defense of her life, he fired one round at the suspect, who disappeared into the interior of the house. The victim ran to safety.

Approximately 30 minutes later, Officers Daniel Sanchez and Mark Nee observed movement in the bedroom window of the house. The suspect’s leg appeared in the window, in an apparent attempt to escape. The officers shouted orders to the suspect to surrender. In response, a gun appeared at the window pointed in the officer’s direction. Both officers fired and the suspect disappeared from the window. The officers believed the suspect had been hit.

Considerable efforts were made to obtain visual contact with the suspect. Finally, Remington “Eyeball” cameras were tossed into the bedroom. Officers could see the suspect moving around; then he appeared to be lying in wait. Flash bangs were tossed into the room and the suspect jumped up and ran out of the bedroom. Unfortunately, the flash bangs also started a fire. The residence, already filled with gas, was now filled with smoke as well. The suspect was seen through the windows approaching the rear door, but he did not exit. Instead he crouched and threatened officers in the rear yard with a weapon. Officers Alba and Officer Douglas Dingman fired and the suspect went down. An arrest team went in and pulled him out of the burning building, where he was pronounced at the scene.

For their bravery and courage under fire, in extremely perilous and emotionally trying conditions, the Los Angeles Police Protective League is proud to nominate 15 officers from this incident for the NAPO Top Cops Awards. They are:

James Veenstra
David Keortge
Floyd Curry
Tom Chinappi
Mike Barker
Mike Odle
Richard Alba
Mark Nee
Daniel Sanchez
Douglas Dingman
Charles Buttitta
German Hurtado
George Ryan
Anthony Samuelson
Steve Scallon

About the LAPPL
Formed in 1923, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) represents the more than 9,800 dedicated and professional sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPPL can be found on the Web at www.LAPD.com.