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    ‘He was fearless’: El Monte officer remembered 50 years after tragic death
    • July 6, 2024

    Former Irwindale Police Officer Arne Ogaard says on Monday, July 1, 2024 he will never forget El Monte Police Officer Manuel Arceo who was killed in a Baldwin Park shootout 50 years ago. Ogaard was injured during the shooting. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Former Irwindale Police Officer Arne Ogaard says on Monday, July 1, 2024 he will never forget El Monte Police Officer Manuel Arceo who was killed in a Baldwin Park shootout 50 years ago. Ogaard was injured during the shooting. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Former El Monte Police Chief Ken Weldon looks at a plaque in his home honoring law enforcement killed in the line of duty. (David Wilson/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

    A rendering of the El Monte Police Department Memorial Monument. (Courtesy of City of El Monte)

    A rendering of the plaque honoring Manuel “Tony” Arceo that will be placed in the El Monte Police Department Memorial Monument outside the police station. Construction is expected to begin later this year. (Courtesy of the City of El Monte)

    Former El Monte Police Chief Ken Weldon looks at a photo of Manuel “Tony” Arceo, an El Monte Police Officer who died in the line of duty 50 years ago. (David Wilson/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

    El Monte Police Department Officer Manuel “Tony” Arceo. (Courtesy of retired Detective Paul E. Paulson)

    El Monte Police Department Officer Manuel “Tony” Arceo. (Courtesy of retired Detective Paul E. Paulson)

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    Manuel “Tony” Arceo wasn’t scheduled to be working patrol when the call came over the radio on Tuesday, July 9, 1974. A robbery at a Baldwin Park pawn shop had turned into a hostage situation with an armed individual.

    The 31-year-old El Monte police officer was scheduled to be in court that day and that night was to be honored by the City Council for saving a blind couple from a burning mobile home.

    Instead, Arceo and other El Monte officers responded to provide back up to Baldwin Park. In those days the department shared a radio and resources with neighboring Baldwin Park and Irwindale.

    Fellow El Monte patrol officer Ken Jeske responded along with Arceo to the pawn shop but was soon called away to respond to a murder back in El Monte. He said while it was uncommon for a supporting officer to be on the frontline on another city’s call, it wasn’t for Arceo.

    “Tony was always there, he was right up front,” Jeske said. “He was fearless.”

    Former El Monte Police Chief Ken Weldon was a patrol officer in 1974. He was about to respond to the pawn shop with a handful of flak jackets when Arceo approached. Weldon told him he was going to take the vests to the scene.

    “He says, ‘no, I’m going to do it,’” Weldon said.

    The gunman, who had been firing at responding officers, ran out of the store firing and was greeted by law enforcement gunfire. In the chaos, Arceo was struck by a ricocheting bullet from another officer.

    Dennis Timmins remembers pulling his fellow El Monte officer to a next door building before Arceo was loaded into a police car and rushed to the hospital.

    His El Monte colleagues each noted that Arceo took great pride in not just his job but how he presented himself on duty. They described Arceo as in top physical condition dressed in a pressed uniform, polished shoes, shiny badge with neatly trimmed hair and mustache.

    “He was the kind of person that probably didn’t put up with people who weren’t hard workers. He was an outspoken kind of guy,” Weldon said. “Very serious, very much a go-getter. Very dedicated to what he did.”

    Jeske spent time with Arceo outside of work, getting beers and hanging out. When they worked graveyard shifts together, Arceo, Jeske and any other officers who wanted to come along drove to Arceo’s mother’s Redondo Beach home where a huge breakfast waited for them.

    According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Arceo and his fiancé Cheryl Keyte got engaged the week of Arceo’s death. Keyte went on to graduate from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department academy in 1975.

    Arne Ogaard, then an Irwindale Police officer, also responded to the scene and was struck in the left foot by the gunman. He was taken to the hospital prior to Arceo’s death. Ogaard wasn’t close with Arceo but knew him from their two departments supporting each other.

    Despite it being half a century ago, Ogaard said Arceo’s sacrifice remains just as poignant.

    “He went there with the idea of grabbing whatever he could to go ahead and help other police officers,” Ogaard said.

    This week, Ogaard, now 80, wore a thin blue line cap as he turned through the pages of his photo albums filled with photos and newspaper clippings of his time in law enforcement. One clipping included a photo of a hospitalized Ogaard recovering from his gunshot wound. The bullet shattered his left foot.

    Every year since, Ogaard said he thinks about Arceo this time of year. Ogaard referred to Arceo as his partner despite them working for different departments.

    In the aftermath of Arceo’s death, Timmins said officers and employees didn’t receive the professional emotional or mental support officers would now when an officer is killed.

    “We just kind of talked to one another and kept it inside a little bit,” Timmins said.

    Weldon said he remembers exactly where he was when the call went over the radio that Arceo had died. He was on the corner of Mountain View Road and Klingerman Street and described an empty feeling come over him.

    “I remember just driving around aimlessly and not a whole lot going through my head except Tony was gone,” Weldon said.

    El Monte Police Department Chief Jake Fisher said while the department continues to improve training and equipment, taking care of the people themselves is just as vital.

    The department plans to hire a full-time wellness coach to help officers with all aspects of their health beyond just the physical. Fisher’s father worked for the police department when Arceo died and the current chief said each instance of an officer dying in the line of duty brings police closer as a profession.

    “It has a tendency to do that to bring us together as a family to better look out for one another,” Fisher said.

    Later this year, construction will begin on a memorial outside the police station to honor the five El Monte police officers killed in the line of duty.

    Arceo’s bronze plaque will be joined by Terry Long, Don Johnston, Michael Paredes and Joseph Santana.

    In 1970, Arceo dragged a wounded Long out of the line of fire to receive medical attention. Long was paralyzed from the waist down. He recovered and had a successful legal career before his death in 2004.

    The memorial will provide a more permanent space to honor fallen officers. It will include benches and a water feature. Fisher said the goal is to create a sanctuary for people to visit.

    “A place to honor them in quiet in front of our police station whether it’s our employees that just want to go out there for a few minutes periodically and have a moment of silence or members of the community,” Fisher said.

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    ​ Orange County Register 

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