November 29, 2023
Media Relations Division
District Attorney George Gascón, LA5 Rotary Join Forces to Recognize Everyday Heroes
A firefighter, alone and without a breathing apparatus, who entered a home ablaze to save lives and a resident who immobilized a knife-wielding attacker were honored recently by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
“We honor those heroes among us, whose selfless acts in times of crisis embody the essence of bravery and humanity,” District Attorney Gascón said. “Their unwavering courage and willingness to put others before themselves serve as a profound inspiration to us all. Their actions remind us that within each of us lies the potential to make a difference and bring hope during dark moments.”
District Attorney Gascón recognized the honorees at the Courage Awards ceremony hosted by the LA5 Rotary Club of Los Angeles at the California Club downtown L.A.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office began presenting what they then called the “Courageous Citizen Awards” in 1986. The Courage Awards honor community members who have acted with bravery and at considerable personal risk to help a victim of crime, assist in the apprehension of a suspect or testify in the face of extraordinary pressures.
Awards were presented to:
Robert Medrano, 43, of Norwalk. (Case BA480740 presented by Deputy District Attorney Richard Gallegly of Target Crimes Division, Arson and Explosives.)
Los Angeles City Fire Department Firefighter Robert Medrano responded to a large residential fire on August 24, 2019. As an engineer, firefighter Medrano’s duty was to secure the water supply. After he had checked that the water supply was secured, he encountered residents who insisted that there were still two people inside despite an initial clearance by LAFD personnel.
Firefighter Medrano, alone and without a breathing apparatus, entered the home. He pushed through the heavy smoke and found a door that was slightly ajar, but it was blocked and he had to retreat from the residence to take a breath. Back inside, he could perceive a male torso but could not move it because the door was obstructed. Other firefighters came to his aid and broke down the door to extricate the victims. Unfortunately, the victims, brother and sister George Hills and Yolanda McGruder, passed away.
Firefighter Medrano’s actions were unknown to the victims’ family members until his testimony. Despite the victim’s deaths, the family members were grateful and touched that Firefighter Medrano valiantly risked his own life in a heroic effort to save their loved ones.
The defendant in the case was convicted of two counts of murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison on each count to be served consecutively.
Joseph Cohen, 36, of Upland, Calif. (Case KA127107 presented by Deputy District Attorney Cesar Rodriguez of the Pomona Branch Office.)
On March 25, 2021, Joseph Cohen stopped at Lone Hill Park in San Dimas to use the public restroom. Defendant Ricardo Saldivar, holding a knife, walked toward Mr. Cohen and said that he was going to kill him. Mr. Cohen ran to his vehicle with Mr. Saldivar chasing him. Mr. Saldivar then focused his attention on 66-year-old Jeanne Edgar, who was walking her dog, Sachi. After threatening Ms. Edgar, Mr. Saldivar snatched the dog’s leash and stabbed Sachi at least 24 times. Sachi became partially decapitated and died at the scene. Mr. Saldivar then stabbed Ms. Edgar nine times. During these attacks, Mr. Cohen had planned to hit Mr. Saldivar with his vehicle, but he was unable to do so because Mr. Saldivar was on top of Ms. Edgar. Instead, Mr. Cohen exited his vehicle, picked up a large rock and used it to hit Mr. Saldivar in the head. This rendered Mr. Saldivar unconscious until law enforcement personnel arrived.
Although Mr. Cohen’s heroic actions were too late to save Ms. Edgar and Sachi, he stopped Mr. Saldivar from possibly carrying out any more attacks that day.
The defendant in the case pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder and was sentenced to 32 years to life in state prison.