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Officer Tina Frances Zapata Kerbrat
(Feb. 9, 1957 Feb. 11, 1991)


LAPD Officer Tina Kerbrat wasn't planning to make history. She just wanted to make a positive difference in her community, but she didn't get the chance. Instead, she made history in the most tragic way. After less than a year on the force and two days after her 34th birthday, Kerbrat became the first female officer in the history of the LAPD to be killed in the line of duty.

Tina Frances Zapata was born in Monrovia, Calif., on Feb. 9, 1957, the oldest of six children. On March 12, 1983, she married Timothy N. Kerbrat, a firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department. The Kerbrats met at the Saugus Speedway, where her father, brothers and future husband raced. But the Kerbrats soon gave up the expensive hobby so they could save money to buy a home and raise a family.

Kerbrat always wanted to be a police officer, but she waited until she felt that her two young children were old enough for their mother to be away. She entered the Police Academy on April 23, 1990, graduated on Oct. 5, 1990, and became one of about 1,100 women on the department's force of 8,400 officers.

At about 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 11, 1991, Kerbrat, who was still a probationary officer assigned to the North Hollywood Division, was on patrol in Sun Valley with her training officer, Earl Valladares, 45, a 20-year veteran of the department. They noticed two men drinking beer on the corner of Vineland Avenue and Cantara Street. Although drinking in public isn't usually considered to be a major offense, it is a violation of the Municipal Code.

Valladares, who was driving, asked Kerbrat if she had ever written a ticket for an open-container violation. When she told him that she hadn't, he decided to stop and give her some additional experience.

The officers' car turned right from Vineland onto Cantara and stopped near the corner, in front of the two men. As Kerbrat started to get out of the passenger side of the car, one of the men lunged toward her, pulled out a .357-magnum revolver, and fired four shots from a distance of about six feet. One of the shots hit Kerbrat in the face, and she fell back into the car.

When the gunman turned and fired at Valladares, who was walking around behind the car, the officer took cover behind the vehicle and fired 10 shots, hitting the gunman seven times. The gunman, a 32-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, died at the scene.

Valladares initially didn't realize that Kerbrat had been hit. He thought she dove back into the car, and was talking on the police radio. Kerbrat was taken to Pacifica Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Kerbrat left behind her husband and two young children -- 6-year-old Craig and 3-year-old Nicole -- as well as her mother, Beverly Zapata, two sisters and three brothers.

When LAPD Chief Daryl Gates called Kerbrat's killer "an El Salvadoran drunk -- a drunk who doesn't belong here," and criticized the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, he drew criticism from the immigrant and Salvadoran communities, and calls for him to apologize, which the chief declined to do. Gates had good reason to be upset -- Kerbret was one of five LAPD officers who were shot within a span of eight days, although she was the only one to receive fatal injuries.

More than 4,000 mourners, including hundreds of city police officers and firefighters, attended Kerbrat's funeral service at St. John Baptist de la Salle Catholic Church in Granada Hills, which was officiated by Archbishop Roger Mahony. After the service, more than 200 motorcycles and nearly 1,000 police and civilian cars escorted Kerbrat's hearse to San Fernando Mission Cemetery, where she was buried. At the cemetery, three mounted police officers and a riderless horse -- symbolizing a fallen officer -- led the procession to the grave site.

In Kerbrat's memory, the Tina Kerbrat Award is presented to an LAPD recruit deemed "most inspirational" upon graduation from the Police Academy.

Kerbrat's sign is located on the northeast corner of Vineland Avenue and Cantara Street, about a block west of San Fernando Road, and a few blocks south of the Golden State Freeway.



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