The call went out via police dispatch a little after 6 p.m. on September 29. A four-door sedan had collided with a power pole on Aviation Boulevard, just north of El Segundo Boulevard.
ESPD Officer Armando Rodriguez was the first on the scene. As he pulled up in his patrol car, he saw the sedan engulfed in flames. Smoke poured from the vehicle.
As a “dash cam” video automatically taken from his patrol car later revealed, Rodriguez did not hesitate a single second. He ran, full speed, through the smoke, towards the car. The flames were growing. The smoke was so thick that as Rodriguez opened the car door, all he could see was a foot.
Audio recordings picked up the pained screams of the woman inside the car.
“I got you,” Rodriguez can be heard saying, coughing, as he put his arms around the woman trapped inside the car. “I got you.”
Rodriguez carried the 22-year-old woman away from the car, to safety. “Is there anyone else in there?” he asked, urgently, while calling for paramedics.
Both Rodriguez and the crash victim – who was alone in the car – were taken to the hospital. Each suffered smoke inhalation, and the woman also suffered major trauma. Both survived what could easily have been a fatal tragedy.
On Tuesday night, Rodriguez was commended by the City Council for saving the woman’s life. Councilwoman Marie Fellhauer, herself a Los Angeles Police Department officer, prefaced the formal commendation with some very personal remarks.
“I just want to look at Officer Rodriguez and say thank you for what you did,” Fellhauer said. “It’s truly a heroic act….It’s truly amazing.”
Rodriguez told the council he appreciated all the praise that had come his way since the incident. But he said his act was nothing extraordinary.
“I am honored by the attention, but the department I work for – every other officer would have done the same thing I’ve done,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been overwhelming and great, but I was just doing my job that day. And I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Mayor Bill Fisher nearly choked up as he responded to Rodriguez, a 17-year police veteran who has spent ten years serving as an ESPD officer.
“Officer Rodriguez, you wear that badge…,” Fisher said, his voice trailing off. “You are El Segundo’s finest, sir.”
ESPD Chief Mitch Tavera echoed Rodriguez’s words, noting that every officer on the force is trained to respond precisely as he had. But Tavera also singled out Rodriguez for praise.
“We all like to think we’d do it, but the bottom line is when the moment came, he did it,” Tavera said. “He stood tall that night. City Council, staff, all the employees of the City of El Segundo – all of us stood a little taller after Armando’s actions that day.”