Inside LADA

May 7, 2015: Two Women, Three Men Receive Courageous Citizen Awards

District Attorney Jackie Lacey congratulates five Courageous Citizen Award honorees and the three deputy district attorneys who nominated them at the May 6 ceremony in Pasadena.

Two women making their morning stop at an Alhambra coffee shop witness an attempted kidnapping and decide to assist the victim. A Montebello man hears the cries of an elderly man being beaten and answers the calls for help. Two men driving by a Burbank gas station see an assailant stabbing a woman and choose to intervene.

These five courageous citizens were honored in Pasadena on May 6 by the District Attorney’s Office for their brave and selfless actions.

“They stepped up in very dangerous situations. In a split second, they decided they were going to make a difference,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “There is no doubt that our community is safer because of them.”

The honorees were:

Francisco Godínez, 40, of South Gate, and Zinobi Gerbs, 44, of Burbank. Presented by Deputy District Attorney Melanie Buccat from the Pasadena Branch Office.

On Nov. 21, 2012, a woman met her ex-husband at a Burbank gas station to facilitate visitation with their daughters. Out of fear for her safety, she always met him in public places.

When the woman arrived, her ex-husband forced his way into her vehicle, displayed a replica handgun and said, “You know what I’m capable of.” He drove off with the woman and their children in the car.

When they stopped at a red light, the woman got out of the car and ran toward the gas station, yelling for help. Zinobi Gerbs was in his car waiting at the light and saw the incident unfold. He drove into the gas station to help.

When the man caught his ex-wife, he pulled out a knife and stabbed her, even as an off-duty sheriff’s deputy tried to stop him. At that point, a third man, Francisco Godínez, grabbed a metal wrench and hit the attacker over the head and then, along with Gerbs, subdued him.

Francisco Godínez told a Telemundo reporter that he thought it was a purse-snatching at first. “When I saw the knife in his hand and I saw the two little girls it broke my heart because I’m a single father, so I grabbed a monkey-wrench from my truck and I went to stop him,” Godínez said.

Defendant Trino Godínez, 47 and unrelated to the courageous citizen, was found guilty on Aug. 14, 2014, of attempted murder, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats. He was sentenced to more than 14 years in state prison.

Telésforo Arellano Díaz, 58, of Montebello. Presented by Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho of the Elder Abuse Section.

A 40-year-old homeless man violently attacked a 78-year-old man collecting bottles and cans from a dumpster in Montebello on March 14, 2014. The man punched the elderly victim, knocking him to the ground, and then kicked and struck him with a broomstick.

Telesforo Arellano Díaz heard the victim’s cries for help and rushed to his aid just as the defendant was about to hit the victim with a glass bottle. Díaz yelled at the man to stop and then stood in front of the attacker when he attempted to flee.

The man threw the bottle at Díaz narrowly missing his head. Díaz then wrestled him to the ground and held him until police arrived.

Speaking to a Pasadena Star-News reporter, Díaz said he never thought twice about getting involved. “An old person like that, it could have been my father. It’s not right,” Díaz added.

He still sees the elderly victim in the area collecting recyclables from time to time. The man always stops Díaz to tell him how thankful he is for what he did.

Defendant Richard Paul García, 40, was sentenced on July 29, 2014, to eight years in state prison after a jury found him guilty of elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon.

Jennifer Clark, 43, of Redondo Beach and Connie Tejada, 58, of Downey. Presented by Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian, formerly with the Alhambra Branch Office, now at Hardcore Gang Division.

On the morning of Sept. 12, 2013, a 66-year-old parolee met a 24-year-old woman he knew from church at an Alhambra coffee shop. He claimed he wanted to give her a gift.

As the victim parked behind the store, the man, who had removed his GPS monitoring device earlier that day, forced his way into her car while brandishing what appeared to be a handgun. He took her cell phone, hit her in the head and threatened to kill her.

After seeing the struggle, Jennifer Clark made eye contact with the victim who mouthed the words “help me.” Clark began verbally confronting the man, who then jumped into his own car and drove away.

Connie Tejada also saw the attack and followed the man to his car. She got his license plate number and gave it to police.

At the event, Tejada said she sometimes thinks about what could have happened to the victim if they had not been there.

Defendant Frank Hernandez was found guilty on June 26, 2014, of making criminal threats and was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison.

The District Attorney’s Office presents the Courageous Citizen Award four times a year to recognize ordinary people who have performed extraordinary acts of valor and selflessness in assisting in the prosecution of criminals, saving victims, preventing crimes or even capturing suspects.