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LAPD Captain Ponce hailed as hero for arresting suspect who assaulted senior

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Captain Aaron Ponce of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Olympic Community Police Station, which is responsible for the security of LA Koreatown, has made headlines for arresting a suspect who assaulted a Korean senior in the town. The mainstream media has called him a hero for his actions.

“I did what I had to do,” Captain Ponce told the Korea Daily. “Any officer would have done what I did.”

Ponce described that the incident occurred at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. It happened around 10:40 a.m. on April 10. He was on patrol in the area following an event at the Indonesian Consulate General. While waiting at a traffic light to make a left turn onto Vermont Avenue from Wilshire Boulevard, he witnessed the incident.

“I was looking toward the northwest corner of the intersection because there were street vendors and a lot of people,” he said, “and that’s when the incident happened.”

Olympic Police Department officers are handing over a suspect arrested by Olympic Police Captain Aaron Ponce. [Screen captured from Fox11 News]
“The Black woman suddenly came up to a Korean senior woman and swung her fist really hard, like a boxer,” he said, “and the senior woman who was attacked collapsed on the spot.”

The investigation identified the victim as an 80-year-old Korean senior. The details of the victim’s condition are unknown due to the restricted release of medical records. However, Captain Ponce said, “It appears that the victim fell face first to the ground and was seriously injured,” and that she was bleeding from the head.

Captain Ponce immediately called an ambulance for the victim, and also shared the situation with the Olympic Police Station and requested additional backup officers.

After the assault, the suspect crossed Vermont Avenue and entered a Starbucks on Wilshire Boulevard, southeast of the intersection. Captain Ponce reversed his car and parked in front of the Starbucks to pursue the suspect. “I was concerned that something else was going to happen inside the café,” Ponce said, “Fortunately, I was able to arrest the suspect inside the Starbucks without much resistance and take the suspect outside.”

The suspect was later turned over to officers from the Olympic Police Station who responded to the scene. Police later identified the suspect as Denitra Sims, 55. The exact nature of the attack has not yet been released.

Sims was initially arrested on suspicion of felony assault, but the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office charged her with more serious charges, including elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury. “Although no weapon was used, it was an equally violent attack,” said Captain Ponce, who conveyed the severity of the assault by stating, “If the victim had fallen on the wrong side of the street and died, it could have been a homicide.”

Ponce also spoke about a tailgating robbery that occurred on April 7 at a condominium at 6th and Berendo Streets in Koreatown. “We are focusing on identifying one of the three suspects who was not wearing a mask,” he said. Ponce also said that investigators are actively working on the case based on evidence at the scene and are looking for tips from Koreans who may have witnessed the incident.

Ponce believes the incident is related to the proliferation of apartments and other multifamily housing in Koreatown in recent years. “As more apartments are built in the town, more people and vehicles will come in, and policing will become more and more challenging,” he said. “We are meeting with apartment management companies and security companies in the town to come up with measures to strengthen security.”

BY KYEONGJUN KIM, JUNHAN PARK    [kim.kyeongjun1@koreadaily.com]