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/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

LAPD Fulfills Wish for Ailing Scottish Boy

March 02, 2000|SYLVIA PAGAN WESTPHAL

LOS ANGELES — Stephen Coombe glowed with pride Wednesday as Police Chief Bernard C. Parks made the 8-year-old an honorary member of the department, granting the boy--who has been diagnosed as having a brain tumor--his biggest wish in life.

The ceremony marked the beginning of two long-awaited, adventure-packed days for the boy and his family, who came from Scotland to meet the police officers. During his stay in Los Angeles, Stephen is touring LAPD facilities, viewing demonstrations from the department's bomb squad and even flying in one of their helicopters.

For LAPD officers, Stephen's wish presented a fresh reminder of what their department, now plagued by the Ramparts scandal, represents in spite of current circumstances.

"I think the fact that he's here attests to the prestige of the LAPD," one official said.

Stephen, who lives with his parents, brother and sister in Glasgow, was diagnosed as having a pituitary tumor in 1998, after complaining of severe headaches. Stephen has had two brain surgeries, and even though the tumor is gone for now, the hormonal imbalance left from an impaired pituitary gland is an imminent threat, said his mother, Irene Coombe.

"He could die any day if the balance in [his hormones] goes wrong," she said.

The extroverted boy, who according to sister Kirsty "makes everyone happy around the house," became interested in the LAPD after watching a documentary about the department at home. His parents contacted the Make-A-Wish foundation in England last summer.

On Wednesday afternoon, Stephen got to join fellow policemen at work. He mastered the art of moving a police robot with a remote control, was presented with LAPD patches, caps and sweatshirts by several officers, and smiled through it all, posing like Superman--a smile that was contagious, judging by the look in every officer's face.

"He makes us appreciate what life is, that life itself is a gift," said Stephen Coombe, the boy's father. "He's made the family stronger."

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