L.A. County D.A. Jackie Lacey honors crime stoppers at Rotary Club of Westchester event

By Gary Walker

Courageous Citizen awardees Mark Johnson, Juan Vanegas and Christian Vanegas pose with L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey (center), deputy district attorneys and Rotary Club of Westchester President Tori Hettinger (right)

A couple who intervened in a domestic dispute, a father and son who stopped a drunk driver from fleeing a lethal crash, and a man who stopped a sexual assault in a grocery store parking lot received Courageous Citizen Awards last week during a ceremony in Westchester.

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey presented the awards on Feb. 13 during a luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Westchester at the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel.

“Here you have people who in many cases risked their own lives to stop a crime or help apprehend the criminal or testify when there could be retaliation. So it restores my faith in human nature,” Lacey said.

In 2015, Andrew Norman and Lauren Taylor faced down a gang member arguing with an ex-girlfriend, and later the gang member returned to the apartment complex and fired a gun at them. Norman was struck in the foot but pursued the shooter, helping police capture him. Norman’s testimony during trial helped secure a 26-year prison sentence.

Last May, Juan Vanegas and his son Christian helped apprehend a drunk driver in South Los Angeles who was trying to flee after he struck and killed a three-year-old on the sidewalk. They punctured the car’s tire and restrained its driver until police arrived. The driver is serving a 12-year sentence for gross vehicular manslaughter.

In September 2017, Mark Johnson stopped a sexual assault in an L.A. grocery parking lot by distracting the assailant, who was armed with a gun, until the victim could escape her attacker’s vehicle. Johnson’s testimony helped secure a four-year prison sentence.

Rotary Club of Westchester President Tori Hettinger echoed Lacey’s remarks about the courage of the honorees.

“We love seeing and hearing about how ordinary citizens courageously put themselves in the path of danger to stop crimes,” Hettinger said.