Bus driver honored

Antelope Valley Transit Authority bus operator LaTasha Gillespie (center) was honored Thursday by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey for her efforts to thwart a kidnapping at a bus stop in 2017. With her in this 2017 photo are the people she helped, Tamarah and Tia Williams and their mother Tamela William.

A bus driver who thwarted a kidnapping in 2017 at a Lancaster bus station was honored Thursday for her efforts by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

LaTasha Gillespie, 41, an Antelope Valley Transit Authority contracted driver from Palmdale, came to the aid of a mother and her two young girls when a man attempted to kidnap the children at the bus transfer center at Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park two years ago this week.

Tamela Williams was at the stop with her daughters Tamarah and Tia, then six and 10 years old, when a man walked up, spoke to Williams and threatened to take the girls, getting hold of Tamarah as she tried to run away.

At the same time, Gillespie pulled up to the stop in her bus, got out and asked what happened when she saw the man had Tamarah.

Gillespie helped to thwart the attempt and subdue the man with the aid of bus passengers.

Gillespie later testified in court, which led the man, Shane Lowery, to plead no contest to two felony counts each of false imprisonment and assault, District Attorney officials said.

He was sentenced a year ago to 21 years and four months in state prison.

Gillespie was one of three citizens honored Thursday at a Courageous Citizen Awards ceremony. It was hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Northridge.

“The bravery demonstrated by these heroes reminds me that we all have the potential to step up and do what’s right,” Lacey said.

“I am proud of these remarkable individuals who helped my deputy district attorneys make our community safer by prosecuting violent crime against innocent victims.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office presents these awards several times a year to people who have performed extraordinary acts of valor and selflessness in assisting in criminal prosecutions, aiding victims, preventing crimes or even capturing suspects.

Also honored were Valencia resident Brian Zeringue, 45, who in May 2018 aided a woman and her children who were taken by their father and held the children hostage at gunpoint while forcing her to panhandle for gas money.

Zeringue heard her quietly call for help and called 911, setting off a 10-hour pursuit and standoff with authorities that eventually ended in Bakersfield.

Stephen Merle Houk was convicted Aug. 19 of charges including kidnapping, child abuse, injuring a spouse and fleeing an officer.

San Diego resident Bianca Guerra, 31, was honored for testifying in the latest trial of Enefiok Joseph Edem Jr., who had been convicted of raping her more than a decade earlier, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Jurors found the Van Nuys man guilty of rape, attempted rape, kidnapping and other charges involving attacks on two women in June 2015 and April 2017, and he was sentenced in June to 81 years-to-life in state prison.

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