June 2, 2010
Four recognized for courage
WESTCHESTER – An Inglewood man brutally beaten with a metal pipe after coming to the aid of younger relatives being bullied by gang members was recognized at a luncheon ceremony today, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced.
Tevita Veikoso, 18, and three others were honored at a Courageous Citizen Awards ceremony, hosted by the Rotary Club of Westchester, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. The District Attorney's Office presents Courageous Citizen Awards to individuals who have acted at considerable personal risk to help a victim, capture a suspect or who have testified in court.
Veikoso and his uncle were attacked by a group of nine members of the Lennox 13 criminal street gang in August 2008 on the church grounds where Veikoso's father was a minister. The assailants first attempted to start a fight with Veikoso's two middle school-aged cousins.
Veikoso – a bright student and talented athlete being scouted to play college football– was hit in the left temple with an 18-inch metal pipe when he told the gang members to leave. The severity of his injury, ultimately, caused the young man to lose his eye.
Despite fears of gang retaliation, Veikoso courageously testified against his attacker in court at a preliminary hearing. On the eve of the trial, the defendant pleaded guilty to mayhem and admitted the allegation that the act was committed for the benefit of his gang. The defendant was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.
Now a student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, Veikoso is studying political science and hopes to one day become a deputy district attorney.
Other Courageous Citizen award recipients included Jose Villalobos, 40, of Los Angeles who helped authorities track down an armed assailant following an attempted robbery; Mohsen "Mike" Haffar, 63, who came to the aid of two youths at the Redondo Beach Pier when an intoxicated off-duty police officer – armed with a gun and knife – attacked them; and a 13-year-old boy who helped prosecutors convict a gang member.
Haffar, formerly of Redondo Beach, now resides in Utah. He is not expected to attend the ceremony.
Media Relations Division
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office