Hollenbeck Honors Slain Officers With New Memorial
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
The names Jerry Maddox and Steven Gajda may not ring a bell for most people in Boyle Heights, but to officers at the LAPD’s Rudy de Leon Hollenbeck Community Police Station, the names are very significant. On July 14, a new memorial was unveiled in the station’s lobby to honor the two officers killed in the line of duty.
Newspaper clippings and other memorabilia chronicling the deaths and funerals of officers Maddox and Gajda hang framed on the office walls of the eastside station, out of the public eye. The new memorial—which prominently displays the words “To Protect and To Serve,” along with each of the officer’s photo, badge, and medals—ensures the story of their sacrifice remains in public view.
Both Maddox and Gajda were fatally shot by minors while responding to unruly parties. Maddox was shot in the back at the former Pico Aliso housing projects on Aug. 19, 1969; he died at the scene. Gajda died Jan. 1, 1998 after being shot in the head on New Year’s Eve—he had been assigned to stop people from shooting guns in the air.
According to retired Det. Joe Benavides, Maddox’s partner, their CRASH gang-suppression unit was sent to investigate a large New Year’s Eve party: “We got there, a group of kids started running so we had to chase after them,” he said. The two split up and after hearing shots, Benavides found Maddox on the ground; he’d been shot in the back.
LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck said he didn’t know Jerry or Steve, but noted that 52 men and women have given their lives to the city since he joined the police force. In all, 204 Los Angeles Police officers have been slain during the department’s history.
While the memorial honors the victims and their families, Beck said it also recognizes the “mortality of the profession” and the 10,000 LAPD officers who put their lives on the line everyday. “This can happen again, and when it happens, we come together as family and we take care of the survivors,” he said. “I hope we never put another name on this wall. But I’m not in the business of hope, I’m in the business of reality and it’s important that every police officer know that if one day they make that ultimate sacrifice, that they will be remembered and their families will be cared for and they will live on in the heart and minds of those who survive,” Beck said.
This year alone, seven officers have been awarded the Metal of Valor for putting their lives on the line, said Hollenbeck Capt. Anita Ortega. Fortunately, they were not killed.
Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar (CD-14) said Maddox and Gajda would be remembered for their strength, courage and valor.
The memorial is the result of a two-year effort by Hollenbeck officers to create a fitting tribute, Ortega told EGP.
LAPD Sgt. Rich Duran said the memorial was not in the original plans for the new station, which opened two years ago. A small placard placed outside “didn’t do justice to the sacrifice of these officers,” he said.
Scott Gajda remembered his brother as a great and caring person who had a good sense of humor. “He was a kind man, had a big heart and cared a lot about his family and his kids, Brandon and Brittany,” he told EGP.
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Brittany and Brandon, 7- and 9-year-olds respectively at the time of their father’s death, said the new memorial is one they intend to revisit.
“It’s great because sometimes you think people are forgetting,” Brittany said. The memorial with her father’s photo will help show that Officer Steven Gajda is “not just a name but a person,” she said. Brandon told EGP he appreciated that so many people recognize his father’s sacrifice.
The event included the attendance of numerous high-ranking LAPD officers, a bagpipe interpretation of Amazing Grace by Det. Scott Walton, a display of the American flag on two fire trucks and a helicopter flyover. Numerous law enforcement organizations and individuals made donations to fund the memorial.Print This Post
July 21, 2011 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.