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Officer Ronald Lawrence Ball
(Dec. 12, 1942 Feb. 8, 1986)

Det. Arleigh Eugene McCree
(Dec. 24, 1939 Feb. 8, 1986)

The LAPD scheduled an awards ceremony for Thursday, Feb. 13, 1986, at the Police Academy to honor about 100 officers. Among the honorees, Det. Arleigh McCree, a 21-year veteran of the department, was to receive the Meritorious Service Award for his work since 1979 as head of the LAPD Bomb Squad, and for his international reputation as an expert and instructor in explosives and bomb disposal.

But McCree didn't attend the ceremony. Instead, his widow, Edith, accepted the award on his behalf.

Less than a week earlier, McCree and Officer Ronald Ball were killed while attempting to defuse a pipe bomb in a garage in North Hollywood. They were the first members of the department's Bomb Squad to be killed in the line of duty.

On the morning of Saturday, Feb. 8, 1986, police went to the home of a movie and TV make-up artist on North Vanscoy Avenue in North Hollywood to question him about the shooting of a union official the previous week. The make-up artist had a history of disagreements with the union official, and was considered a possible suspect in the shooting.

Officers went to the one-story, yellow house on a quiet, residential street to search for the gun that had been used in the shooting. While searching the garage, they discovered two pipe bombs in a storage cabinet, and called the Bomb Squad. McCree and Ball arrived and, after inspecting the devices, McCree reported that the bombs had been booby-trapped, and ordered everyone else out of the area.

McCree and Ball successfully dismantled one of the pipe bombs, but the second one exploded at about 11:30 a.m., blowing a hole through the roof of the garage and knocking the heavy garage door off its hinges. McCree was killed instantly, and Ball was taken to North Hollywood Medical Center, where he died about an hour later. Neither officer was wearing any protective clothing, and both suffered massive shrapnel wounds.

Arleigh Eugene McCree was born Dec. 24, 1939, in Bush, Ill., a tiny village in the southern part of the state. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1957 to 1964, and joined the LAPD shortly after he was discharged. McCree was twice awarded the department's Medal of Valor, the department's highest honor, which is given to officers who distinguish themselves with bravery and heroism above and beyond the call of duty. McCree was first honored in 1966 for helping to rescue a woman and her child from a burning house. He received his second Medal of Valor in 1971.

Ronald Lawrence Ball was born Dec. 12, 1942, in Riverside, Calif., and was a 17-year veteran of the LAPD. Ball was also a recipient of the LAPD's Medal of Valor, which was awarded to him in 1981 after he and his partner defused a bomb which had been left on the porch of a city commissioner's home in San Pedro, apparently by a terrorist organization. The bomb, made of six sticks of dynamite, was attached to a timing device, and was disarmed with only 60 seconds to spare.

More than 3,000 people, including fellow officers and police bomb squad members from across the country, attended a combined memorial service held for McCree and Ball at the Scottish Rite Temple in downtown Los Angeles. McCree had taught courses on explosives to police officers across the country and around the world, and helped some departments set up their bomb-disposal departments. He was also in charge of the multi-agency bomb squad organized for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Ball was also considered to be an expert on explosives and terrorism, and had presented lectures across the country on the subjects.

McCree was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Ball was survived by his wife, Anne, a son and two daughters.

The make-up artist who owned the home where McCree and Ball were killed was arrested, tried and convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of possessing explosives. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 1992, however, six years after the officers' deaths, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, citing improper jury instructions, reduced the conviction from first-degree to second-degree murder, making the make-up artist eligible for parole in 1994. (Under California state law, defendants convicted of second-degree murder are eligible for parole after serving half of the 15-year minimum sentence.) He was eventually released from prison and moved to Florida, where he died in 2009.

The memorial signs for Det. McCree and Officer Ball are located on the southeast corner of Hartland Street and Vanscoy Avenue

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