Citizens honored for bravery

LOS ANGELES - A Hawthorne teen who tackled and stopped a knife-wielding assailant from repeatedly stabbing a female classmate was honored by District Attorney Steve Cooley on Wednesday.Three others also were recognized at a Courageous Citizen Awards luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles International Airport Hotel. The event was hosted by the Rotary Club of Westchester. Louis Gaskin-Blackwell, 19, was recognized for his assistance in restraining the assailant during an April 20, 2011, attack in a classroom at West High School in Torrance. The assailant, a student, taunted his teacher, set a roll of paper towels on fire and threw it at her. The student then turned his attention to a girl in class. He pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the chest repeatedly, even after the knife's blade broke. Gaskin-Blackwell tackled the defendant and held him down until campus security arrived. The victim survived the attack. The defendant pleaded no contest to one count of assault with a deadly weapon and bringing a weapon on school grounds. He was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. Cooley also recognized Gerardo Astorga, 41, of Harbor City; Mitchell Emerson, 48, of Rancho Palos Verdes; and Jakov Sunara, 20, of San Pedro. Astorga aided an abused woman after he witnessed her companion strike her on the head with a heavy object on June 30, 2011, in Wilmington. Astorga called police and led them to the couple. The woman was bleeding from the head and had a broken arm. The woman later recanted her statements to police and did not appear at the preliminary hearing. Despite his own fears, Astorga testified at the hearing. The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of felony domestic violence and admitted he personally inflicted great bodily injury to the victim. He was sentenced to a year in county jail and five years of probation. Emerson pursued two residential burglars after attempting to thwart them from taking an elderly woman's belongings on Aug. 17, 2011, in Rancho Palos Verdes. Although he lost sight of one of the men, he tracked the other to a nearby shopping center. While the defendant attempted to jump over a fence, Emerson pulled him down but was stabbed in the stomach with a hand pick. Sunara, an employee at a nearby store, heard Emerson call for help and rushed to his aid as the defendant attempted to stab Emerson again. The two men held the defendant down until three nearby off-duty police officers assisted. The defendant pleaded no contest to first-degree residential burglary and was sentenced to six years in prison.

********** Published: June 07, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 08