Move over Cleveland hero Charles Ramsey.
The Filipino-American community has their own hero in Nida Arjona Tapel, who helped thwart a kidnapping attempt on December 19, 2011.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey presented the “Courageous Citizen Award” to Tapel and three other heroes during a luncheon held at the City Club on April 12.
“These otherwise ordinary people have taken extraordinary steps to assist others when they were most vulnerable,” District Attorney Lacey said in a press release.
“They stopped a crime. They made sure that a criminal was prosecuted. They helped a crime victim during a terrifying moment of need. They are vital to the pursuit of justice, and our community is a safer place because of them.”
According to a press release from the LA District Attorney’s office, the 52-year-old teacher and part-time caregiver from Los Angeles endured a painful pepper spray attack in an effort to prevent the kidnapping of her 95-year-old client, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
The suspect (whose name was not disclosed) was the daughter of Tapel’s client. She was barred by the court from having contact with her mother.
“ With her eyes and face burning after being pepper sprayed by her client’s daughter, Tapel ran outside, yelled for help and got a passerby to call 911. Tapel then jumped into the suspect’s SUV to protect her client,” DA officials said.
“Tapel remained in the vehicle as the suspect took off and led police on a wild chase for several miles before being captured,” DA officials added.
The defendant pleaded no contest to charges of attempted kidnap, battery and evading an officer.
The suspect is set to be sentenced on June 6, according to the DA office.
An Asian Journal request for an interview with Tapel is pending at the DA’s office.
A Facebook message to Tapel has not been responded to, as of press time.
The District Attorney’s Office created the Courageous Citizen Award in 1985 to commend those individuals who have acted at considerable personal risk to help a victim of crime, assist in the capture of a suspect, or testify in the face of extraordinary pressure.
Other heroes celebrated were Lancaster residents Samuel Nunez, 24, and Kem Gaskin, 44.
These men aided a 77-year-old woman, who was beaten and robbed by a gang member.
The DA also lauded Whittier resident Henry Hernandez, 44, who pulled a woman out of a burning car.
Tapel is originally from Bato, Catanduanes, Philippines. She is a graduate of Catanduanes State Colleges (now Catanduanes State University) according to Inquirer.net.
Tapel told the Inquirer she’s glad her client is safe.
“I felt happy because, as a Catandunganon, I was able to show to America that even if we come from a small province, we do have big hearts to help others,” said Tapel in an interview with Inquirer.net.
She believes God placed her in the right situation at the right time.
“As an OFW, my only weapon is prayer,” she told the Inquirer. “God has made me strong, because it is really very hard to be in a foreign land. There are plenty of challenges along the way, so embrace God tightly.”
(LA Weekend May 18-21, 2013 Sec. A pg.10)