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Plaque Dedicated to Slain Police Officer

October 22, 2000|ROBERTO J. MANZANO

Though he was only 6 at the time, Craig Kerbrat said he still remembers the early morning nine years ago when two Los Angeles police officers knocked on the door and told the family that his mother, Tina Zapata Kerbrat, had been shot to death.

Kerbrat had become the first female officer in Los Angeles history to die in the line of duty.

"I remember afterward, life was hard," said Craig, 15. "I was ordering pizzas at 6. Everyone was taking care of everyone."

To keep Kerbrat's memory alive, community activists and officials on Saturday dedicated a large bronze plaque in her honor at Sun Valley Park. Residents and more than 30 of Kerbrat's relatives, including her two children and siblings, gathered for the ceremony.

The plaque will sit in a new plaza, also unveiled on Saturday, at the park's northeast corner, which will be used for free concerts and pedestrian traffic.

The Sun Valley Neighborhood Improvement Organization coordinated the memorial project.

Although the plaque was unveiled Saturday, organizers said it will be replaced because the date of Kerbrat's death is wrong and the inscription should have been in both English and Spanish.

Kerbrat's widower, Tim, a Los Angeles Fire Department captain, said he appreciated community efforts to establish the memorial. The plaza and memorial cost about $165,000 and was funded by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, a federally funded program to improve rundown neighborhoods throughout the city.

"When the community says, 'We didn't forget' nine years later--that's what makes it worth it," said Kerbrat, 45, who lives in Laguna Niguel.

Kerbrat was a 34-year-old rookie with the Los Angeles Police Department's North Hollywood Division in 1991 when she was killed near the spot that now houses her memorial.

It was about 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 11 when Kerbrat and her partner, Officer Earl Valladares, pulled up beside two men drinking beer near Sunland Boulevard and Cantara Street.

One man opened fire with a .357 magnum revolver, shooting Kerbrat in the face before either officer could get out of the squad car, according to police accounts. Valladares returned fire, killing the gunman, and took the other man into custody.

Robert Porter, who works in Sun Valley, remembered talking to Kerbrat when she patrolled the area.

"What she did in the little time she was there was beautiful," he said, "and it helped the community."

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