Cop who 'acted quickly and decisively' honored for intervening in stabbing of store clerk
"Her actions underscore the unpredictability and potential danger every officer might encounter each day on the job," Chief Ron Lawrence said
By Eric Licas
COSTA MESA, Calif. — A man who nodded off while making a purchase at the 7-Eleven at 2244 Fairview Road in Costa Mesa reacted violently when a clerk woke him and asked him to leave on March 11, 2021. The customer produced a knife, and the store employee retreated behind the counter.
When Officer Eloisa Peralta arrived, the customer was behind the register, standing over the clerk and stabbing him. With her gun drawn, and without backup, she ordered him to drop the knife.
He ignored her commands and continued attacking the convenience store employee. So, Peralta opened fire, striking the assailant twice in the lower torso.
"It's never an easy decision to use that kind of force," Costa Mesa Police Chief Ron Lawrence said during a brief interview Tuesday. "But had she not acted quickly and decisively that day, this would have ended in a death; I have no doubt in my mind."
The victim was hospitalized with stab wounds to his face, leg and hands, but recovered from his injuries, Costa Mesa Police Lt. Ed Everett said. The man who attacked him, identified as 26-year-old Gabriel Tamayo Paniagua in court records, also survived. He was found guilty of attempted manslaughter in April, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 30.
Lawrence called Peralta's actions "heroic," and chose to award her with the Medal of Merit, the department's second-highest honor. It is given to officers who rise up in the face of imminent danger, and hasn't been handed out in over a decade, Everett said.
The medal was presented to Peralta during a ceremony on Sept. 6. Lawrence said it was his honor to place it around her neck, and said she was "beaming with pride, as she should be that evening considering what she has done."
Peralta had been with the department for about two and a half years, and was working the graveyard shift on the night of the attack, Everett said. She had previously met the victim while out on patrol, and that may have helped her rapidly assess the dramatic scene she walked into that evening.
"Her actions, played out over a matter of moments, underscore the unpredictability and potential danger every officer might encounter each day on the job," Lawrence said.
Tamayo Paniagua tested positive for a controlled substance on the night of the stabbing, Everett said. Investigators later learned he had been in a car accident earlier that night.
(c)2022 the Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.