A young boy who crawled out a window to help his family escape a machete-wielding attacker, a woman who chased down a drunken hit-and-run driver two sisters who intervened when an elderly man was being assaulted were honored by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey Friday for their acts of courage.
“The courage displayed by these brave people reminds me that we all have the potential to step up and do what’s right,” Lacey said. “I am proud of these heroes who helped my deputy district attorneys make our community safer by prosecuting violent crime against innocent victims.”
Joel Ortuno Jr., 12, of Anaheim, received the honor for his brave actions in February of 2018, prosecutors said.
He was home in West Covina with his 1-year-old sister, his mother and his mother’s fiance when an argument broke out between the adults, according to the DA’s office said. The fiance attacked Ortuno’s mother
“Joel, who was 11 at the time, stepped in and told him to stop,” DA’s office spokeswoman Venusse Navid said in a written statement. “The man struck the boy, knocking him unconscious. Joel was awakened by his mother who picked him up and locked herself and the children in the bathroom as the defendant paced the hallway holding a machete.”
“Joel crawled out of a window and ran to a neighbor’s house for help,” according to Navid. “Joel also testified in court against his attacker, who eventually pleaded no contest.”
The attacker was convicted of domestic violence and inflicting corporal injury to a child, officials said. He was sentenced to 4 years in state prison and ordered to stay away from the victims for 10 years.
Lacey commended Amy D’Ambra, 51, of Rolling Hills, for her help in apprehending a heavily intoxicated hit-and-run driver in June of 2018.
She was driving in her hometown when she saw another motorist strike a man who was walking to his mailbox, then drive away, Navid said. D’Ambra stopped to check on the victim, who asked her to go after the driver who struck him.
“Ms. D’Ambra made a U-turn and pursued the man, forcing him to pull over,” she said. “Soon after, police arrived and arrested the man. Ms. D’Ambra was ready and willing to testify for the prosecution, prompting the defendant to plead no contest.”
The driver, who admitted having a blood-alcohol level greater than twice the legal limit at more than .20%, was convicted of DUI and felony hit-and-run. He received a sentence of 180 days in jail and three years of probation, officials said. He was also ordered to pay restitution to his victim and attend an alcohol treatment program.
Sisters Esperanza Mendez, 41, and Virdiana Mendez, 34, both of Los Angeles, received the award for their intervention in violence against an elderly man in downtown Los Angeles in February of 2018.
They were cleaning a home when they noticed a commotion and saw a woman assaulting an elderly man who was trying to retrieve belongings from his home, Navid said. It was later determined the woman was the victim’s niece.
“The sisters ran to help the man,” Navid said. “They took him into the house they were cleaning and tended to his wounds. They called police and cooperated with the criminal investigation. They also testified in court and helped secure a guilty verdict.”
The woman was ultimately convicted of elder abuse, sentenced to probation and ordered to stay away from the victim for three years.
Friday’s ceremony was hosted by the Rotary Club of Downtown Los Angeles.