On December 20, 2006 at 6:18 in the evening, Oceanside Police Department Officer Karina Pina conducted a traffic stop at an intersection in an area well known for its history of gang violence and hostility toward police. At the time Pina made the stop, it was getting dark.
Any cop worth her salt would know that a traffic stop in this neighborhood would require some form of cover. Neighborhood Policing Officer Danny Bessant, heard the stop go out and immediately rolled to provide Officer Pina’s cover. He arrived approximately four minutes later, got out of his car and stood on the “Thin Blue Line” with Office Pina as she approached the car and made contact with the driver. There were a total of 6 people in the car.
This was Danny’s home turf. He had been working intently to improve the quality life for residents who lived in the neighborhood. Officer Bessant had experienced some success, but he knew that danger and hazards still lurked around every corner for the cops who worked this tough area of the city.
Unfortunately Officers Pina and Bessant would not be alone for long. A gang member holding a rifle had already placed them both in his sights. He, along with two other gang members armed with handguns, were watching the officers from a distance.
They had murder on their minds.
Fifteen minutes after stopping the car, Officers Bessant and Pina were ambushed when the gang members started firing bullets at them. Within seconds the sounds of multiple bullet impacts struck against the cinder block wall that acted as a backdrop for the suspects as they watched the officers standing out in the open, silhouetted by the flashing emergency lights.
Muzzle flashes coming from a position behind the officers alerted Karina and Danny that they were under attack.
As Karina requested additional units, she was unaware that Officer Danny Bessant had been shot. Mortally wounded, Danny crawled to a position of cover near the right front wheel of one of the police cars. Officer Pina told dispatch that an officer had been shot. Returning fire, she risked her life to run to the aid of her partner all the while being shot at as she moved through the darkness.
While she waited for cover to arrive, Karina Pina continued to provide protection for Danny, the 6 people in the car, and the woman who was with her on a citizen ride-along.
When other officers arrived, Karina gave them a description of the suspects and pointed out the direction where they had fled. A perimeter was quickly established.
A massive door-to-door manhunt and extensive investigation followed. The suspects were later captured, tried, and convicted.
Sadly, Danny succumbed to his injuries. He died just hours after being shot.
More lives would have been lost if were it not for Karina placing herself in harm’s way and bravely returning fire.
She brought the fight back to the enemy and forced them to retreat. She addressed the threat of multiple gunmen while being fired upon, assisted a mortally wounded partner, and protected innocent civilians who were also in the line of fire.
Matt Lyons has been in law enforcement since 1980. He retired as a USMC C.I.D. Special Agent from the U.S. Marine Corps after 22 years of honorable service and is currently a sworn Police Officer in Southern California. His duties have included patrol, field training, crisis negotiation, criminal investigations, K-9 handler, and executive protection. He attended and graduated from Park University and has been teaching for Central Texas College (Continental Campus) since 1998 as a member of the Criminal Justice Faculty.