On Nov. 14, 2019, four law enforcement officers made their way on to the Saugus High School campus before anyone else. Most of them were off duty.
Seeing dozens upon dozens of kids running away and off the campus, they made the decision to run in.
Four years later, their decision to put their own lives on the line was honored at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s 2023 Valor Awards Ceremony on Thursday.
“An Act of Valor is above and beyond the call of duty and exhibiting exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind along with unusual swiftness of action, regardless of their personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life,” said Chaplain Rick Gillett.
Sheriff Robert Luna presented almost 20 individuals with awards for their acts of bravery. Among them were officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Whittier Police Department, Inglewood Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department.
“You made a contract that said basically you are willing to put your life ahead of others,” said Luna. “Man, if that is not one of the most noble things that any human being can do, is to be willing to sacrifice their life so that others could live.”
Marc Brown from ABC7 served as the master of ceremony for the event and read aloud the stories of why each officer there was being honored.
On the morning of the Saugus High School shooting, Detective Daniel G. Finn was on the phone with a student resource officer for an unrelated incident as he dropped off his girlfriend’s son to the school.
He saw the kids running out and asked his fellow officer if any radio traffic about Saugus had come through.
“No,” was the response.
In that moment, his training as an active-shooter instructor for the LASD took over.
In blue jeans and T-shirt, with no bulletproof vest or backup, Finn made the only decision he could: He went in.
Off-duty Officer Sean C. Yanez, of the Inglewood Police Department, made the same decision that day as Finn, and went in.
The two met up and began assessing the scene together, giving aid to the students who had been shot and helping protect whoever was left on campus.
The first on-duty officer to arrive that day was LASD Sgt. James M. Callahan.
“He had been on route to the high school as the assigned resource deputy when he was notified of the incident,” said Brown. “Upon arriving, he located detective Finn and provided cover for the officers and staff. Over the next several minutes, Sgt. Callahan’s knowledge of the school’s layout was instrumental in deploying the responding personnel.”
Finn was presented with the Medal of Valor, Callahan with the meritorious conduct medal in gold and Yanez and off-duty L.A. Police Department Detective Gus Ramirez were presented with the humanitarian award — all for their actions at Saugus High School on Nov. 14, 2019.
“I always tell my colleagues at ABC 7 and other reporters that it is one thing to cover an event from the comfort and safety of the anchor chair with a view from a helicopter that’s 800 feet in the air,” said Brown. “It is a lot different to do that than it is to actually be in the situation, at the time, undergoing what all of you so selflessly have undergone.”