Inside LADA

October 13, 2016: Courageous Citizens Recognized for Helping Victims, Police, Prosecutors

Hollie Bowers could have kept driving. Mandeep Kumar and Robert Espina could have minded their own business.  Charlie Abbott didn’t have to help.

But Bowers decided to comfort a total stranger who was fatally injured in a traffic collision. Kumar and Espina helped police arrest a man who attacked a Los Angeles woman. Abbott spent hours upon hours of his own time helping prosecutors unravel the alibi of a killer.

For their efforts, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office awarded these four area residents the Courageous Citizen Award at an Oct. 7 ceremony in downtown Los Angeles.

“Each of these individuals stepped into extremely difficult situations and remained dedicated to the pursuit of justice,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “Their actions were driven by a belief in doing the right thing, even when there was great pressure to do otherwise.”

Bowers, a student at the University of Southern California, was driving on the 91 Freeway in Cerritos on Jan. 5, 2015, when she witnessed a drunken driver rear-end a 59-year-old motorcyclist. She called 911 and got out of her car to assist the injured motorcyclist.

She spoke with him and relayed his information to paramedics when they arrived. Bowers also called the victim’s wife to alert her about the crash. The victim later died from multiple injuries suffered in the collision.

“Arguably hundreds of vehicles passed by the scene of this accident,” said Deputy District Attorney Andrea Mader, who nominated Bowers. “There was only one person who exited their car and ran over to (the victim) as he laid on the freeway. 

“She held his hand, she talked to him, she comforted him, and reassured him that help was on the way.”

Bowers assisted prosecutors and even came to court to support the victim’s wife during the sentencing phase of the case.

On Feb. 9, 2016, the 33-year-old defendant pleaded no contest to a felony count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.

Kumar was walking in Los Angeles’ Westlake District on July 23, 2015, when he heard a woman scream. He ran toward the sound and saw a 21-year-old gang member standing over a woman as she cowered on the ground.

Kumar demanded that the man leave the woman alone. Angry at Kumar’s intervention, the man smashed a bottle and swung the broken glass at Kumar, slashing his arm, resulting in 37 stitches.

The assailant then threatened to kill Kumar.

Police arrived and Espina approached the officers to report what he witnessed. He told police that the assailant was beating up the woman just before Kumar appeared. At great risk to themselves, both Kumar and Espina cooperated with the prosecution of the gang member and testified at trial.

“Without courageous people in the community like Mr. Kumar and Mr. Espina, gangs thrive,” said Deputy District Attorney Joy Sumabat-Graff, who nominated the men. “They become emboldened to commit more and more offenses. And, as a result, community members are repeatedly victimized.”

On May 12, 2016, the assailant was convicted of several counts of assault and making criminal threats. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The final honoree at the Courageous Citizen Awards Ceremony was Abbott who spent hours and hours with prosecutors to help them disprove the alibi of a man accused of killing his girlfriend in 1979.

The defendant contended that he was alone sailing when she was killed. But to Deputy District Attorneys John Lewin and Ethan Milius that made little sense.

They met with Abbott and, in painstaking detail, the seasoned sailor explained to them why wind currents and tides prove that the defendant’s alibi made no sense.

Abbott didn’t know the defendant or the victim. Lewin asked Abbot why he took the time.

“I’m a citizen and … someone was killed, and I want to help,” Abbott said.

On Aug. 14, 2014, the jury convicted the defendant of first-degree murder. Four months later he was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison. Click here to watch a video on the case.