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Officer Walter Henry Kesterson
(May 13, 1894 – Feb. 4, 1946)

LAPD Officer Walter Kesterson has an award named after him, which is presented annually by the department's Metropolitan Division to honor courage, bravery and valor. Kesterson was the first Metro officer to be killed in the line of duty, and his picture is displayed prominently in the division headquarters.

But it was more than 60 years after his death before Kesterson finally received the department's highest honor, the Medal of Valor.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4, 1946, three armed men entered the Allena Theatre at 126 E. Santa Barbara Ave. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), took about $90 from the teenage cashier, and ran from the theater.

At the same time, Kesterson and his partner, Officer Edgar W. Patrick, were on plain-clothes patrol near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a few blocks west of the theater, and heard the police radio broadcast describing the theater robbery, and the description of the robbers. They headed toward the theater and, a short time later, Kesterson and Patrick saw two men who matched the description of the robbers walking along Avalon Boulevard near 43rd Place, and decided to stop and question them.

As Patrick pulled the unmarked car to the curb, Kesterson, 51 and an 18-year veteran of the LAPD, jumped out of the passenger seat and headed toward the suspects. As soon as Kesterson announced that he was a police officer, one of the men pulled a .38-caliber handgun from his jacket pocket and fired, hitting Kesterson in the chest. Though mortally wounded, Kesterson drew his gun and returned fire, first hitting the shooter, then the second man as he was pulling a gun from his pocket. Both suspects, ages 22 and 20, died at the scene.

The gun battle was over quickly, before Patrick had a chance to park and exit the patrol car. Kesterson was able to stagger back to the patrol car, open the door, and collapse across the front seat. He was taken to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

After the shooting, the theater cashier identified the two dead suspects as the men who had robbed the theater. The third man involved in the robbery was arrested later that evening. Ballistics tests revealed that the .38-caliber handgun carried by the 20-year-old man had been used to kill Vernon Police Officer Richard Pennington, 30, on Jan. 24, 1946, during a traffic stop. The two men had also committed a series of more than two dozen hold-ups, a car theft and a kidnapping in the time between the deaths of the two officers. The 22-year-old man who shot Kesterson was wearing a watch stolen in one of the robberies when he was killed.

Kesterson was born on May 13, 1894, in Turin, Iowa, the fourth of seven children of William Nathan and Rosa Eva Wood Kesterson. Kesterson's father was a farm worker, and the family moved to Colorado in about 1900. After his father died in 1917, 23-year-old Kesterson helped to support the family by working as a road laborer. In the mid-1920s, Kesterson moved to Los Angeles and joined the LAPD in about 1928.

Kesterson left a widow, Louise Emily Kesterson. They had no children. Louise Kesterson died in 1986 in Yucaipa, Calif., at the age of 94.

Kesterson was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery.

Every year, the LAPD's Metro Division presents the "Kesterson-Pagliotti Award," to recognize a particular officer's courage, bravery and valor. The award is named for Kesterson and Officer James H. Pagliotti, 28, a Metro officer who was shot to death by a 17-year-old drug suspect on June 22, 1987.

Although Pagliotti was posthumously honored with the Medal of Valor, Kesterson did not receive the LAPD's highest honor for his actions on Avalon Boulevard. For unknown reasons, the department did not award any Medals of Valor from 1936 to 1952. Kesterson was finally honored on May 10, 2007, more than 60 years after his death. According to the award citation, "Officer Kesterson is commended for his attention to duty, bravery, courage under fire, and after sustaining a fatal wound, continuing to fight two armed suspects until they were no longer a threat to the public, or to his fellow law enforcement officers."

Kesterson's nephew, 87-year-old Norman Tomlinson, accepted the award on his uncle’s behalf.

Kesterson's sign is located at the northwest corner of Avalon Boulevard and 43rd Street

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