Traveling along a stretch of Lincoln Boulevard, north of the Los Angeles International Airport airfield, motorists pass by the place where Airport Police Officer Tommy Scott gave his life in service of his job.
Scott was on patrol on the highway in April four years ago when he attempted to stop a pedestrian who allegedly stole his patrol car. The airport field training officer tried to regain control of the vehicle, clinging to the door, but was killed instantly when the suspect drove the car over a sidewalk curb and into a fire hydrant.
The 35-year-old Scott, who was a four-year veteran of the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, is the only Airport Police officer to die in the line of duty in the department’s 63-year history.
The man accused of killing Scott, William Sadowski, 50, of Venice, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges by reason of insanity.
The year after Scott’s death, airport police placed a memorial plaque in his honor at the site where he was killed. Continuing the recognition of Scott’s sacrifice, Los Angeles city, airport and law enforcement officials have dedicated a portion of Lincoln Boulevard, between La Tijera and Sepulveda Boulevards in Westchester, as “Officer Tommy Edward Scott Square.”
“I’m so happy for the family of Tommy Scott that his sacrifice and dedication to the community will be immortalized and it will forever stand as an example of service to the community for law enforcement officers everywhere,” said James Butts, airport deputy director of law enforcement and protection services.
Officials, including City Council members Bill Rosendahl and Janice Hahn, Airport Police Chief George Centeno and Airport Commissioner Walter Zifkin, as well as Scott’s father, Hubert, and step mother, JoAnn, marked the dedication of the street signs during a ceremony Saturday, May 2nd. Airport police who served with Scott remembered him as a well liked and well respected officer, and say that the street signs will stand as a symbol to those passing by of his service to the city.
“Officer Scott is a hero in our community and amongst the ranks of the Airport Police,” said Rosendahl, who took office as 11th District councilman only months after Scott’s death. “Each time we drive down this busy section of Lincoln Boulevard, we will all be reminded of the sacrifice he made to protect the public and keep the peace.”
Airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles, who knew the slain officer, agreed that the street dedication is a fitting tribute, saying, “Having the signs posted recognizes the sacrifices that Tommy made and makes them well known to any motorist driving by.”
“The dedication of the portion of the street where he was killed is a tremendous gesture and an honor to his memory,” she said.
The councilman pointed out that people who knew Scott are reminded of his “infectious smile that could brighten a room.”
“He was always out there with a positive attitude,” Rosendahl said. “He loved people and loved helping people.”
Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, which represented Scott, noted that the union has recognized the officer with an event every year since his death and he said the street dedication was a long time coming. Scott had the personality that could make people feel like they knew him for a long time, he said.
“He had the type of charm that felt like you knew him for years,” McClain said. “He was the type of guy who you couldn’t forget.”
The Airport Peace Officers Association had issued a complaint against department superiors Butts and Centeno over the memorial planning by filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last month. The lawsuit alleges that Butts asked Centeno to issue a memorandum ordering the union to stop communicating with city officials over the dedication planning.
While the date of the ceremony was rescheduled from April 29th, the anniversary of Scott’s death, to May 2nd, McClain said the lawsuit was filed because the memorandum indicated that the union can not communicate with elected officials on the issue.
“To tell (the association) to not talk to politicians is pretty ludicrous,” said McClain.
Butts, who said he planned to be out of town for the dedication far in advance, denied issuing such an order but he echoed McClain’s belief that the memorial event is about Scott and his family. Butts said he and Centeno “embrace” the efforts of the union and city officials to make the event happen for the Scott family.
Prior to joining the Airport Police in 2001, Scott worked as an aquatic supervisor for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for 15 years.
As a field training officer at LAX, Scott trained the department’s new hires from the police academy, and many of the rookies looked up to him, Castles said. Scott, who had a great sense of humor, was also assigned to giving airport police tours to members of the media and was well known at the airport, she said.
“As part of the Airport Police family, officer Scott was an inspiration to his fellow officers and the entire LAX community,” Centeno said.