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Attorney, Wife Chase Down Suspect in Attack on Woman

September 14, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An attorney and his wife were credited for their courage and quick thinking Friday when they saw a woman being assaulted in North Hollywood, then chased down the suspected attacker and held him until help arrived, Los Angeles police said.

Enrique Zuniga, a 47-year-old immigration attorney, was driving with his wife and two children on Tujunga Avenue about 10:15 p.m. Thursday when they saw a man hitting a 19-year-old woman and trying to remove her pants.

"I was driving down the street and my wife said, 'Rick! Rick, stop the car! Stop the car!' " Zuniga said. "I saw the woman trying to escape."

Police do not recommend what Zuniga did next. He jumped from his car and chased the man for half a mile with his wife Milly, 35, in close pursuit in the couple's Chevrolet Suburban. She called police from her cell phone while Zuniga, who was not hurt, held the man.

"His actions were very dangerous because you don't know when a suspect is armed or not and most citizens are not equipped or trained to handle these situations," said Officer Jason Lee, a spokesman for the LAPD. "At the same time, the gentleman should be praised for his bravery."

Kelvin Yaredy Lopez, 20, of Sun Valley was booked on suspicion of assault and is being held at the LAPD's Van Nuys Division jail, police said. His arraignment is scheduled for Monday.

So what possessed Zuniga to take action? He said he has a black belt in karate and was enraged by what he saw.

"With all the child abductions and the rapes ... I was angry that someone could victimize and try to rape an innocent girl," Zuniga said.

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