If Star & Shield magazine arrives in your mailbox each month, there is a good chance you are uniquely familiar with stories about brave cops running toward danger at moments when most people instinctively run away. Inevitably, those heroic cops will eventually retire and leave the danger behind for the young guns to handle. That’s how life is supposed to work: A perilous career gives way to a life of leisure. But tricky little things like principle, integrity and honor can alter your day (or your life) when you least expect it.
Retired Deputy Robert Melendrez was enjoying a quiet lunch at a Monterey Park restaurant in March 2017 when a man entered the establishment, began insulting employees and became verbally abusive. The situation was increasingly volatile as the man’s anger escalated rapidly. That’s when the 80-year-old former East L.A. Station Narco detective decided to take action to defend the employees and commanded the man to leave the premises. The young assailant threatened Robert before exiting and waiting in the parking lot. When Robert walked outside after lunch, the coward assaulted the retiree twice his age, causing great bodily injury, including a broken hip and broken shoulder. Robert required two emergency blood transfusions and spent 35 days in a nursing home to begin rebuilding his strength, both physically and mentally.
Despite the consequences of that assault, Robert made it a point to testify for the prosecution at the trial. Clearly, he has developed a personal value system over his 80 years that simply will not allow him to back down when there is work to be done.
The man who assaulted Robert was convicted of elder abuse and assault with a special allegation of great bodily injury on an elder. He was sentenced to eight years in state prison.
I am very grateful to the Melendrez family for the invitation to join them at the Courageous Citizens Awards ceremony hosted by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office. The fact that Robert was able to accompany family members to the ceremony to receive acknowledgement in person and join District Attorney Jackie Lacey on stage was not lost on anyone. His fortitude and resilience over the last two years clearly mean the world to his two daughters, Maria and Monica. We are also very thankful to the DA’s Office, particularly Deputy DA Presciliano Duran, for working diligently on this case to ensure that justice would be served.
Make no mistake, this incident was life-altering for Robert and his family, as he is still challenged by the effects of that fateful day. But it also serves as proof that, even 27 years into his retirement, he remains duty-bound to defend others and lead a life of integrity.
Robert Melendrez is a 35-year LASD veteran and a PPOA member since 1961. If you’d like to send him a note of support, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll gladly forward all messages to his family.