Staff and Wire Reports
HOLLYWOOD — A gravesite ceremony was held May 19 at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery to honor the memory of Los Angeles police Officer Oscar Joel Bryant, who died in the line of duty a half century ago and became the first black officer to receive the department’s Medal of Valor.
Members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Command staff and Bryant’s family were among those marking the 50th anniversary of Bryant’s death.
Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League and a member of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation for more than 20 years, said about 100 people attended the memorial for Bryant, including officers from the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.
Sandoz, an LAPD sergeant, said Bryant served in the U.S. Marines before joining the LAPD and a representative of the Marine Corps also was in attendance.
Bryant was fatally wounded on May 13, 1968. The Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation was founded later that year.
According to the foundation, Bryant, working a one-person unit, responded to a radio call of a robbery in progress at a dress shop on Western Avenue.
“The first officer to respond to the scene, Officer Bryant requested back-up and single-handedly confronted three suspects. Without warning, one of the suspects drew a concealed weapon and fired upon Officer Bryant,” according to the foundation.
“Although mortally wounded, Officer Bryant continued to exchange gunfire and prevented the escape of the three suspects who were later apprehended by responding officers.”
Bryant was the first black officer to receive the department’s Medal of Valor, according to the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
Sandoz said a LAPD officer named John Miller used to hold his own memorial for Bryant every year.
Bryant was the first officer killed in the line of duty after Miller joined the department, Sanchez said. He was deeply touched by Bryant’s grieving mother at his funeral service.
“He said it had such an impact on his life and career that he didn’t want [Bryant’s] memory to die,” Sandoz said about Miller.
“The foundation tries to empower officers to promote, to improve their work standards and efforts in the police department and to increase education opportunities,” Sandoz said. It’s main purpose, though, is to make sure that Oscar Joel Bryant doesn’t get forgotten and that black officers in the department have a place where their interests are promoted.”
Jody Stiger, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, said Bryant was killed in 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement.
“There was a lot of disparity in the rights of minorities at that time,” Stiger said. “The organization was formed by African Americans in the police department to try to bridge that gap with their communities and ensure fair treatment for everyone, especially African Americans in the LAPD.”
These days the foundation assists organizations like Mothers in Action, which does a Thanksgiving dinner for senior citizens in the community. The foundation also helps donate school supplies to children, helps in a car seat drive, and helps give out coats and jackets during the winter to kids who can’t afford them.
it had such an impact on his life and career that he didn’t want his memory to die,” Sandoz said about Miller.
Dorany Pineda contributed to this story.