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City Officials to Honor 150 Officers at Barbecue : Law enforcement: Members of neighboring police agencies stepped in to help after the murder of two Palos Verdes Estates officers.

August 11, 1994|JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Palos Verdes Estates will honor more than 150 officers from surrounding cities who stepped in to protect the city after two of its officers were killed on Valentine's Day.

A barbecue, expected to cost several thousand dollars, will be held in September in Palos Verdes Estates.

"(The cost) is relatively minor compared to what they did for us," said Bill Yeomans, city finance director.

Officers from surrounding cities performed duties ranging from patrols to press conferences after the Feb. 14 shootings of Sgt. Vernon Thomas Vanderpool, 57, and Capt. Michael Tracy, 50, sent shock waves through the small Palos Verdes Estates Police Department.

Tracy and Vanderpool were killed when gunman David Fukuto burst into a Torrance Holiday Inn meeting room during a motivational seminar for Palos Verdes Estates city officials. After the two officers were shot, other officers wrestled Fukuto to the ground. Fukuto died of head injuries and asphyxia in the scuffle, said Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, who ruled that the use of force in subduing Fukuto was justifiable.

While the 23 Palos Verdes Estates officers were given time off to grieve, 77 Torrance police officers, 57 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, 33 Redondo Beach officers and 10 officers from other cities such as Hermosa Beach and Los Angeles helped out.

Palos Verdes Estates Police Chief Gary Johansen said a few local officers patrolled after the killings, but were accompanied by outside officers.

"We didn't want some guy going out there who was mad at the world . . . and having the guy overreact," Johansen said.

The mayors of each city also will be invited to the barbecue, along with elected officials, city employees and police officers from Palos Verdes Estates, said Hilary Bloom, an administrative assistant who is overseeing the barbecue.

Bloom is soliciting donations for the celebration from community groups.

Other cities did not bill Palos Verdes Estates for the use of their officers. Mutual aid agreements, allowing officers from different cities to assist each other during crises, are common, but having outside officers run another police department is unusual.

"Usually, one or two or three (officers) go on leave because the officers they were close to were killed," said Chief Dennis Martin, president of the Miami-based National Assn. of Chiefs of Police.

But the killings of Tracy and Vanderpool were the first in the history of the small, close-knit police department.

Redondo Beach Police Lt. Jeff Cameron, who was a spokesman for the Palos Verdes Estates department just after the shootings, said he was glad to help out.

"It was not like I was doing a job," Cameron added. "It was like doing something I was personally obliged to do."

On Tuesday, after a public hearing, the City Council unanimously approved a memorial to Tracy, Vanderpool and all Palos Verdes Estates veterans. The memorial, to be located across from City Hall in Memorial Gardens park, includes a sundial that every Feb. 14 will illuminate a plaque bearing the names of Tracy and Vanderpool.

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