The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office honored three people Thursday for their courage in stepping up in the face of danger and helping to keep the community safe from violent crime. Standing from left are Deputy District Attorney David Nary; Deputy District Attorney Tal Kahana; James Garrison, director, Bureau of Central Operations; and Deputy District Attorney Diane Hong. Seated from left are Courageous Citizen Award recipients Bianca Guerra, Brian Zeringue of Valencia and Latasha Gillespie. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

Valencia man one of 3 honored for bravery by the DA

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office honored three “heroes” for their courage in stepping up in the face of danger to do the right thing and one of them lives in Valencia.

On Thursday, D.A. officials issued a news release acknowledging three brave people whom they say helped keep our community safe from violent crime.

Among those honored for their bravery was  Brian Zeringue, 45, of Valencia, who came to the aid of a woman who was beaten by her boyfriend and forced to panhandle for money while her children were being held hostage at gunpoint.

On May 1, 2018, the children’s father beat and threatened to kill their mother, then drove them to Castaic and hours later to a Lancaster Starbucks, D.A. spokeswoman Venusse D. Navid wrote in the release.

The man held the children hostage at gunpoint while he forced the woman to panhandle for gas money, she said. 

Zeringue heard the woman’s quiet pleas for help and called 911, launching a 10-hour pursuit and standoff with authorities. His actions led to the safe release of the children and the man’s felony conviction, Navid said.

On Aug. 19, a jury found Stephen Merle Houk, 48, guilty of 12 felony counts, including kidnapping, injuring a spouse, cohabitant, fiancé, boyfriend, girlfriend or child’s parent, and assault with a firearm, and one misdemeanor count of failure to register as a transient with a prior sex offense. 

Houk was sentenced Sept. 4 to 88 years and four months in state prison. 

Other heroes honored were Bianca Guerra, 31, of San Diego, whose testimony inside a Van Nuys courtroom strengthened the criminal case against a serial rapist and helped other victims secure justice and Latasha Gillespie, 41, of Palmdale, a bus driver who helped stop the abduction of a girl from her mother and sister at a Lancaster bus station.

“The bravery demonstrated by these heroes reminds me that we all have the potential to step up and do what’s right,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey was quoted as saying in the news release.

 “I am proud of these remarkable individuals who helped my deputy district attorneys make our community safer by prosecuting violent crime against innocent victims.”

The honorees were recognized formally Thursday at a Courageous Citizen Awards ceremony hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Northridge.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office presents these awards several times a year to people who have performed extraordinary acts of valor and selflessness in assisting in criminal prosecutions, aiding victims, preventing crimes or even capturing suspects.
[email protected] 661-287-5527  On Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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