Courageous Southern Californians Awarded for Helping Children

October 9, 2018 Updated: October 9, 2018

A woman distracted a gunman with a taco, saving her own life and that of her children. Three women stopped on a busy freeway on-ramp to save a 3-year-old boy. An employee found disturbing images on a co-workers phone and risked his life to take it to police.

Each of these residents from the Los Angeles area was recently presented with a Courageous Citizen Award from Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. The ceremony was hosted by the Rotary Club in downtown Los Angeles, on Oct. 5.

The Courageous Citizen Award has been presented several times a year since 1986 to congratulate those who have risked their own safety to help a victim of a crime, help capture a suspect, or testify amid overwhelming pressure. Lacey said it was the first time the ceremony had a theme: helping small children.

Jenny Unger gets Courageous Citizen Award
(L-R) Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Deputy District Attorney Irene Lee, and Jenny Unger at the Courageous Citizen Awards in Los Angeles, on Oct. 5, 2018. (Sarah Le/The Epoch Times)

Little Boy on the Freeway

“I was super honored,” said Jenny Unger to The Epoch Times at the ceremony. “I honestly wouldn’t expect an award for this, because I just felt like as a human being, it’s something that I feel anybody should do.”

Unger was the first of three women to immediately pull over on a freeway on-ramp in Echo Park on Oct. 5, 2017, when she saw a little boy, naked except for a dirty diaper, who was about to walk onto the freeway.

Alexandra Plasencia and Veronica Gonzalez also stopped and ran out of the car. The women safely moved the toddler out of harm’s way, wrapped him in a blanket, and gave him water and snacks until police arrived.

“Such a sweet little boy,” said Gonzalez. “He came to us really easily, very comfortable, and he didn’t speak … he was really thankful for it.”

Lacey praised the women, calling them “absolutely amazing.”

“Think about how many people probably drove by and didn’t notice this 3-year-old on the street,” said Lacey. “I can only imagine the horror.”

The mother of the child was later located and convicted of felony child abuse. She’s involved in a women’s re-entry program and drug treatment.

Distracted by a Taco

Sylvia Reyna was on her way home from the Raging Waters water park on June 10 with her children, when they pulled over to buy some tacos at a food truck.

As they were eating, a man on a bike approached them and showed them what he claimed was a police badge.

“He had a gun with him, and he kept trying to distract us, talking to us, but he kept showing us the gun,” Reyna said.

The man told the family that he was taking care of the streets, and not to be afraid. But then he said, “Eat, then I’ll take care of you guys after.”

“That was when I got scared,” Reyna said.

She offered the man a taco, and as he was eating, she made her way to the taco truck, where a group of people were waiting. She told them the man had a gun, and a bystander called the police.

Reyna said later that all she had been thinking about were her children, and she wasn’t sure how she had been so brave.

A Co-worker’s Phone

Joshua Anderson, 25, was at a co-worker’s house in Palmdale on Feb. 7, 2016. He asked to borrow the man’s phone and happened to see some videos with child pornography on it.

Anderson quickly left the house with the phone, but the man confronted him and threatened him with physical violence. However, Anderson refused and brought the phone to authorities.

Not long after, the man and a woman who provided him with the videos were both arrested and sentenced to prison, and an abused child was saved.

Anderson was unable to attend the award ceremony, so his grandfather came and accepted the Courageous Citizen Award on his behalf.

Organizers of the ceremony hope that this kind of public recognition will inspire others to do the right thing when the time comes.

“You have certainly restored our faith and inspired us today,” said Lacey.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @dadasarahle