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Hero of N. Hollywood Shootout Found Dead

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles police officer who received the Medal of Valor for bravery during the 1997 North Hollywood bank shootout has died, authorities said Wednesday.

Sgt. Israel “Sonny” Medina, 39, was found dead Tuesday afternoon in his condominium, an apparent suicide victim, said Lt. Sharyn Buck, an LAPD spokeswoman. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Feb. 20, 2000 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 20, 2000 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Zones Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Obituary--The funeral service location for Los Angeles Police Sgt. Israel “Sonny” Medina, 39, of Oak Park was incorrect in Friday’s obituaries. Services are scheduled for noon Monday at Pierce Bros. Valley Oaks Mortuary in Westlake Village.

Medina, an 18-year veteran last assigned to the Metro Division, received police medals in 1994 for rescuing a motorist trapped in a burning car and in 1995 for chasing down a suspect who was firing at the officer near a school.

But it was his bravery during the bank shootout Feb. 28, 1997, that earned him and 16 other officers the Medal of Valor, the department’s highest honor. The honorees were selected from among more than 100 officers who participated in the 44-minute firefight.

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The event unfolded on national television as two gunmen, later identified as Emil Matasareanu and Larry Eugene Phillips Jr., stormed a North Hollywood Bank of America branch armed with automatic weapons and clad in full body armor.

Arriving just as the second gunman was leaving the scene, Medina exchanged gunfire with the suspect, providing crucial cover for SWAT officers.

Medina is survived by his wife and daughters, ages 7 and 2, LAPD officials said. Funeral arrangements are pending.


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