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LAPD SWAT Sgt. Gomez retires after 33 yrs

September 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A veteran LAPD SWAT officer, who was awarded a Medal of Valor for his actions during the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, retired from the force on Friday. Sgt. Steve Gomez was hailed as a hero for his role in one of the most violent episodes in LAPD history.Gomez had hoped to turn in his gear, say bye to a few people and quietly slip out the back door, but the LAPD wasn't about to let his retirement go unnoticed after 33 years on the force.

"Even heroes have heroes and Steve is one of those. Steve is somebody that we all hold in awe and respect," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said at a special ceremony outside the downtown Police Administration Building on Friday.

Gomez was one of the SWAT officers involved in the North Hollywood shootout at a Bank of America in 1997. Two heavily armed bank robbers wearing body armor fired more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition at police. A total of 19 civilians and police officers were injured. Gomez earned a Medal of Valor for his role in the 45 minute gun battle.

"I was one of the guys that engaged the last suspect, Emil Matasareanu, down the street on Archwood. I guess to put it, a close battle gun fight: me, Rick and Donny with him. We were just able to overpower him with superior fire power and tactics. We took him into custody and none of us got hurt," said Gomez.

Gomez said what he learned the day of the shooting was the importance of the SWAT training. He said without it, he doesn't think he would have survived.

"You need to train like you're really going to do it in a real situation because someday, you never know when that day is going to be," said Gomez.

At Friday's ceremony, he said goodbye to the officers who knew him well, passed his sergeant's badge onto his successor and placed a wreath on the memorial for fallen SWAT officers Robert Cottle and Randy Simmons.

Gomez spent most of his career based out of the Metro division. He said he plans to spend his retirement traveling with his wife and fulfilling his duties as a new grandfather.


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