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Officer Thomas Scebbi
(Nov. 2, 1933 June 20, 1958)

The tall, lanky, 26-year-old man was walking alone along quiet, residential South Kingsley Drive in Los Angeles, between 3rd and 4th streets, a few blocks north of Wilshire Boulevard. It was about 2:30 a.m., on Friday, June 20, 1958, and the man had spent most of the previous evening drifting from bar to bar, and was finally heading home to his apartment on South Western Avenue, a few blocks away. It had been a typical June day in Los Angeles -- sunny skies, no rain, temperatures reaching the upper 70s. Even at this hour, temperatures were in the low 60s.

After dropping out of high school in his hometown of Chicago, the man moved to Washington, D.C., where he was arrested for the first time for stealing a car at the age of 17. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he supported himself as a short-order cook, and with a series of burglaries and robberies, which netted him several arrests and several jail sentences.

On this early morning walk home, he planned one more stop. He was going to burglarize one of the houses on his way home, then steal a car and drive out of town. Just in case there was any trouble, he had a .22-caliber pistol that he had stolen the night before under his shirt, and he pulled on a pair of white gloves, so he wouldn't leave any fingerprints.

As the man strolled along South Kingsley, looking for a potential target, LAPD Officers Thomas Scebbi and Ramon Espinoza, both 24, were on patrol in a radio car from the Wilshire Division when they received a call to be on the lookout for a man who had just robbed a liquor store in the area. When they headed down South Kingsley Drive, and saw a man walking alone at 2:30 a.m. -- and wearing white gloves -- they decided to stop and question him.

The man with the criminal record and the stolen gun didn't know why he was being stopped, but he didn't want to be arrested again, and he absolutely didn't want to go back to jail.

"I thought I could bluff them out of searching me," he said later. "I gave one cop my ID. The other guy looked like he was going to frisk me. Something inside me snapped. All I know is if they found that stolen gun, I'd be back in stir. I didn't want to go back."

So the man pulled out the gun and opened fire, first hitting Stebbi in the chest at point-blank range. His second shot was aimed at Espinoza, but missed. His third shot hit Espinoza in the jaw. Two more shots hit Espinoza in the chest and abdomen. Both Stebbi and Espinoza were able to return fire, emptying their guns at the shooter, who turned and fled behind the houses. One of their shots hit the man in the left leg, and he crawled to a nearby house. Stebbi was able to crawl back to the patrol car and radio for help.

"This is 7-A-26," Stebbi said. "Both officers shot."

When Stebbi collapsed in the front seat of the car, his partner took the microphone: "This is Espinoza. Badge 7600 ... shot in stomach ... partner shot, too ... suspect is also shot ... dressed in grey clothing, and he's going north from this location ... send an ambulance right away. Please hurry."

One of the 18 shots fired shattered an upstairs window of a home on South Kingsley. Responding officers found Stebbi dead in the front seat of the patrol car, and Espinoza lying wounded in the street. With the help of area residents who heard and saw the gun battle and pointed out his location, police quickly found and arrested the shooter, still holding his now-empty pistol, hiding behind trash cans.

Espinoza was taken in critical condition to Central Receiving Hospital, where prosecutors took a "death bed" deposition, when it seemed possible that he wouldn't survive to testify at the shooter's trial. Scebbi's killer was taken to the General Hospital's Prison Ward.

Espinoza eventually recovered enough to testify, and the Scebbi's killer was found guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison on May 13, 1960, less than two years after the shooting.

Three months after the execution, in August 1960, LAPD Chief William Parker presented the department's Medal of Valor -- the LAPD's highest honor -- to 12 officers for "heroic action beyond the call of duty," including Scebbi and Espinoza. Scebbi's mother accepted her son's medal.

Scebbi was born Nov. 2, 1933, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Shaw High School in East Cleveland and, after graduating in 1952, he enlisted in the Marines. He served at Camp Pendleton, south of Los Angeles, and at Lake Mead Base near Las Vegas. After his military discharge, he remained in Southern California, and joined the LAPD in 1956.

Scebbi lived with another LAPD officer at an apartment building on North Alexandria Avenue, between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards, where several officers lived.

Scebbi was survived by his mother, Julia Montineri; his stepfather, Emanuel Montineri; and two sisters, Patricia and Jeanette.

After his death, Scebbi's mother said she feared for her son's life every day he was on the police force. "How should I cry now," she asked from her home in Alhambra, Calif., "when I have no tears to shed? How should I grieve for my son when my tears are spent? This paper, it says he became a policeman in 1956," she said, holding the certificate of her son's appointment to the LAPD. "It should say he started to die in 1956.

"I didn't worry when he was in the Marine Corps, or even when he did a lot of boxing and football playing. But when I saw this paper, I knew. Two years now, I have known. I mourned him at night and I mourned him in the day, but I never told him. I knew I couldn't change anything. And now, it is done."

After the shooting, Espinoza -- with two bullets in his body that surgeons were afraid to remove -- retired from the police department. His son, Ramon Jr., who was only 8 months old when his father was shot, later joined the LAPD, and carried his father's badge until he retired.

Scebbi was buried at Calvery Cemetery, inside the main mausoleum, in a corridor named for St. Thomas. His mother died in 2001, at the age of 83. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Cypress.

Officer Scebbi's sign is located on the northwest corner of West 4th Street and South Kingsley Drive.

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