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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Kudos Given to 6 Who Came to Aid of Officer

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Six people who rescued a California Highway Patrol officer from an attacker she had stopped for speeding on the Antelope Valley Freeway were hailed as heroes Monday.

CHP Commissioner Maurice Hannigan also applauded Officer Amy Bonilla for remembering her training and holding onto her gun even as she was overpowered and repeatedly struck by a man who was allegedly high on PCP.

Ronald A. Coleman, 33, of Palmdale has been charged with the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer as a result of the 8 a.m. Aug. 1 attack.

Authorities said they found a loaded revolver and an open bottle of wine in Coleman’s car. Coleman is a parolee with several convictions for drug, theft and weapons offenses, authorities said.

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Had her rescuers arrived a few seconds later, Bonilla might have been killed, witnesses said Monday.

During a press conference Monday at the CHP’s Newhall station, Bonilla told the four motorists and two Burbank police officers who came to her aid, “Thank you for saving my life.”

The officer suffered cuts to her face that required stitches and plastic surgery and has not reported back to duty since the attack. “I’m feeling much better,” she said.

During the ceremony, the CHP presented commendations to the six men who came to Bonilla’s aid.

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Coleman, who at 205 pounds outweighs Bonilla by nearly 75 pounds, allegedly attacked her after she pulled him over for speeding. The first to come to her aid was motorist James A. Clark, a 41-year-old former bouncer and security guard.

Clark, who was driving a limousine for a friend, stopped 80 feet from the scuffle and ran to help Bonilla. “He’s always doing this sort of thing,” said Clark’s wife, Elisa. She said she worries about his tendency to step into fights.

“My thought was just to get him off of her,” said Clark, who is 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. Clark, of Lancaster, broke his wrist after he pulled Coleman off Bonilla and slipped. Fortunately, other motorists had also come to help.

“I didn’t even look to see if there was any traffic coming,” said Mark Wright, 24, of Lancaster, who stopped on the other side of the highway, grabbed a flashlight and ran to the scene. Joining Wright were Dan and Tom White, two brothers from Agua Dulce on their way to work in Burbank.

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The two off-duty Burbank police officers were driving by in separate cars. Burbank Officer Brent Ambrose was southbound on the freeway when he saw Bonilla struggling with Coleman. He had to make a U-turn 100 yards away. “It seemed to take forever to get to her,” Ambrose said.

As the White brothers grabbed one of Coleman’s arms, Ambrose put handcuffs on the other wrist. By that time, nearly all traffic had stopped and more people ran over to help Bonilla.

“I was really surprised at the number of civilians who got involved,” said Ambrose.

“It was something to see, that so many people came to her aid,” said Jeffrey Campbell, the other Burbank police officer. He got to the scene just after Coleman was subdued.

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Dan White said Bonilla never let go of her gun as she endured blow after blow to her face. “She just concentrated on holding onto the gun.”

Had she let go of the gun, Dan White said he was sure Bonilla would have been shot.

“Thankfully, nobody got killed,” he said.


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