As the drunk driver's car careened wildly toward him, Los Angeles Police Officer Richard T. Yukihiro had but a moment to choose whether to jump out of the way and save himself--or to warn his partner and push to safety the motorist they had stopped for a traffic violation.
On Tuesday, 14 months after his legs were crushed when he was pinned between his cruiser and the drunk driver's car, Yukihiro, 38, was rewarded for a decision that cost him his career and nearly his life.
Nine Are Honored
Hobbling to a stage at the Biltmore Hotel, Yukihiro was one of nine officers awarded the Medal of Valor, the LAPD's highest decoration.
Since 1925, the medals have been awarded to officers who have distinguished themselves by "conspicuous bravery." Three hundred and fifty Los Angeles police officers have been so honored.
Two of the awards given Tuesday went to the families of policemen slain in the line of duty, Detective Thomas C. Williams and Officer James H. Pagliotti.
Williams, 42, died in October, 1985, when he was ambushed by a criminal that he had testified against the day before. Williams was picking up his 6-year-old son from school and managed to push him out of the line of fire before dying.
Pagliotti, 28, was fatally wounded in June when he confronted two suspects while tracking a burglar. Before he collapsed, Pagliotti shot his alleged assailant, a 17-year-old who was later captured.
Others receiving medals Tuesday were:
Officer Michel R. Moore. The officer, 27, was working off duty as a security guard at Topanga Plaza when a man armed with a rifle killed his wife in the parking lot. As screaming shoppers scrambled to find cover, the killer took aim at the officer. Moore confronted the rifleman and shot him dead.
Officers Michael K. Kearney, 28, William H. Smith, 25, and Robert W. Duncan, 25. They were off duty in a Gardena saloon when two robbers entered and ordered patrons, including the three officers, to lie on the floor. A gunfight erupted in which the two robbers were killed. Duncan and Smith were wounded.
Detective Horacio Marco, 41. He spent 20 months infiltrating a Colombian narcotics network. The multi-agency investigation in which he participated, the largest in U.S. history, netted 9,700 pounds of cocaine valued at $1.6 billion, $23 million in cash and the arrest of 241 suspected drug traffickers.
Officer Steven A. Graham, 35. He was fishing along the Kern River when he spotted two men struggling to stay afloat in the icy currents. Graham jumped into the river and rescued one of the men.