Los Angeles honors four who are heroes


LOS ANGELES -- Four people who dodged bricks and bottles, faced a vicious mob and put their lives at risk have been honored by the City Council for helping save the lives of two motorists attacked at the outset of last week's riots.

Titus Murphy, Terri Barnett and Lei Yuille, who came to the aid of a white gravel truck driver, and Gregory Alan Williams, who helped rescue a Japanese-American motorist, got plaques and three standing ovations yesterday for their selfless responses.

"At the very darkest moment in the city's history, they appeared as sunbursts to give us hope and to fill us with inspiration," Los Angeles Councilman Joel Wachs told the packed chambers. "They enabled us to see the very best in humanity, along with the very worst at the same moment."

From their homes near the intersection of Normandie and Florence avenues -- the flash point of the riot -- Mr. Murphy, Mr. Barnett and Ms. Yuille rushed to help Reginald Denny, 36, after seeing televised reports of the white motorist being dragged from his 18-wheeler and savagely beaten by an angry gang following the acquittals in the Rodney King beating case.

"If more people had heart like we did when we went out there, this world would be a lot better," Mr. Barnett, a laid-off data control clerk, said in accepting the award. "Reggie -- if you're listening -- hang in there. You're in our prayers.

After hearing radio accounts of the mayhem while driving home from a local gym, Mr. Williams detoured to Florence and Normandie and saw Takao Hirata inside his Ford Bronco being pummeled with bricks.

Williams muscled his way into the truck, dragged Mr. Hirata out and dragged him to safety.

"I walked up to the vehicle and pulled him out. I thought perhaps the mob thought that I was coming in for the kill."

Instead, Mr. Williams dragged him to the sidewalk. At that point, the bleeding man regained consciousness but said he couldn't walk.

"I told him that he going to have to walk or he was going to die," said Mr. Williams, a 35-year-old actor and writer.

He slung Mr. Hirata's arm over his shoulder and walked a block east on Florence.

Moments later, a man in a brown Chevrolet van pulled up and offered to take Mr. Hirata -- who was bleeding from the ears -- to the hospital. He since has been released, officials said.

In accepting the award, Mr. Williams deplored the violence that has killed at least 58 people in the last seven days.

"I pray that my fellow Angelenos will consider closely the lists of the dead and injured, the images of the homeless and the helpless," Mr. Williams said. "For in the bruised and battered face of a Japanese-American called Takao Hirata. I have seen the awful meaning of this madness.

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