Deputy Hagop “Jake” Kuredjian, a 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was killed as he responded to a shootout in Stevenson Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley on Friday, Aug. 31, after a man opened fire on federal and local officials trying to serve a search warrant.
Charged in the incident was a former Arcadia police officer, James Allen Beck, with weapons violations and impersonating a U.S. marshal. Beck, a twice-convicted felon, allegedly shot Kuredjian from the second floor of his home as the deputy ducked for cover behind a nearby car when violence erupted.
Kuredjian, 40, was hit in the head by a single bullet, officials reported. Several minutes passed before other law enforcement personnel could pull him to safety because Beck continued to fire at them.
Beck died after tear gas canisters ignited the home causing it to become a fiery tomb. During earlier telephone negotiations following the initial barrage of gunfire, he apologized for shooting the deputy.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich told the estimated 4,000-person crowd at Kuredjian’s funeral in Glendale that “he lived and died a true hero.” Officers stood shoulder to shoulder on the street and sidewalk, when St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church was filled, united in their grief for a fallen comrade.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca spoke of Kuredjian, saying that Santa Clarita loved the motorcycle officer. “Death is not the final word in the life of Hagop ‘Jake’ Kuredjian. We’re going to cry a little more,” Baca continued, his voice breaking. “It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s what every family does when it has lost one it loves.”
Gov. Gray Davis told mourners, “For him being a deputy sheriff was not just a job, it was a calling.” Later as he presented Anahid Kuredjian with the state flag that had been lowered to half-staff over the capitol the day of her son’s death, he told her, “Jake was a soldier of decency, every morning putting a badge on his uniform and his life on the line. There is no greater calling than to be of service to another human being.
“There is no greater love than to lay your life down for a friend. Our debt will be never-ending. There are not words to summon up our feeling of gratitude.”
Antonovich told the audience, “For 17 years, he devoted his life to law enforcement and the well-being of the citizens of Los Angeles County.”
Kuredjian’s commander at the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s station, Capt. Don Rodriguez, remembered him as a man with a smile for everyone. “You’ll always be in our hearts and minds – our brother, our friend.”
Calling Kuredjian a servant who gave his life to keep others safe, Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian, from the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Church of America, said “He always chose to be part of the solution . . . to make our world a better place.”
As Raffi Kuredjian eulogized his brother he said, “I wish I could stand before you here today and tell you that I’m here to celebrate my brother’s life. I’ll do that for the rest of my life. Today I am here because I am mourning his untimely murder.”
He asked the mourners not to idealize or enlarge his brother in death. “He should simply be remembered as a good man who saw wrong and tried to right it. He saw suffering and tried to heal it. He saw injustice and tried to stop it.”
Capt. Rodriguez’s concluded the ceremony, his voice shaking with emotion, as he recalled his fallen officer, “Godspeed 60 Mary 2” referring to the deputy’s radio name. “Godspeed, our brother, our friend.”
The service ended with the solemn notes of bagpipes and taps, the touching picture of a grieving mother kissing a dove before releasing it to the skies and a riderless police motorcycle, flowers on its footrests.
Kuredjian, a native of Aleppo, Syria, became a U.S. citizen in 1982 after he immigrated to Michigan with his mother and two brothers. His father died in 1975 during violence in Lebanon. The deputy often worked as an Armenian interpreter for the Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI.
The Gold Meritorious Conduct Medal was presented to Kuredjian in 1989 for rescuing a woman from a cliff in Malibu.
Kuredjian is survived by his fiancée, Mary Theresa Richardson; mother, Anahid Kuredjian of Novi, Michigan; and brothers, Garo and Raffi. Garo Kuredjian is a deputy with the Ventura Co. Sheriff’s Dept.
The Sheriff’s Relief Foundation has established a fund in Deputy Kuredjian’s name. Checks may be sent to: Sheriff’s Relief Foundation, Fund #273, 11515 Colima Road, Bldg. B, Whittier, CA 90604.