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LAPD honors fallen officers with purple hearts

September 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A somber, first-of-its-kind ceremony honoring law enforcement officers killed or injured in the line of duty was held Thursday. Dozens of officers were recognized for bravery at the inaugural event in downtown Los Angeles.

More than a thousand people showed up Thursday to pay their respects to the fallen at the Los Angeles Police Department. Some were hurt in the line of duty, others made the ultimate sacrifice, all to protect the citizens they served.

They served with honor and died with valor. And now recognition for their sacrifice at the first-ever Los Angeles Police Department Purple Heart Awards.

"Every time one of you is injured, God forbid somebody loses their life, a little piece of me goes away," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

Eighty-two awards were presented to the families of officers who lost their lives in the line of duty and those who survived grave injuries, dating back to 1921.

Survivors young and old accepted a legacy of courage and prestige.

"He left me something to look after and see him and still continue to see him every day through my kids, and I'm blessed to have these two beautiful boys," said Marisabel Gonzales, widow of slain officer Landon Dorris.

Landon Dorris was struck and killed by a car while investigating a traffic accident in 2006.

"It's a great reward, but also I feel like it's an awful reward because their dad died, so it's mixed emotions, but it's an honor," said Gonzales.

For Sue Champe, whose husband died in the line of duty in a helicopter crash in 1991, the ceremony was not only a chance to recognize the sacrifice and achievement of the men and women in blue, but also to appreciate the danger they face going to work every day.

"Every time a citizen says 'thank you' to a police officer or to a firefighter, that's like an angel growing new wings," said Champe. "They are the heart and the pulse of this city, and they need to be appreciated for what they do."

This was the first Purple Heart event for the LAPD. But it's the start of what they hope will be an annual tradition, as each of those recipients forever changed the history of the department.

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