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D.A. Office recognizes citizens who assisted in time of need

Including Palmdale bus driver

OW Staff Writer | 11/15/2019, midnight
A Valencia man was one of three people honored..

A Valencia man was one of three people honored recently as a courageous citizen by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for calling 911 about a paroled sex offender who kidnapped children and fled police.

By alerting authorities, Brian Zeringue, 45, came to the aid of Stephen Merle Houk’s common-law wife, who had been forced to panhandle for money while Houk held the couple’s two young children at gunpoint May 1, 2018, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Houk later led authorities on an hours-long pursuit in a motorhome from Los Angeles to Bakersfield with their 10-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son in tow. Zeringue’s actions led to the safe release of the children, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Houk was arrested two days later when he was found hiding in an empty train car in a Barstow rail yard. He was convicted Aug. 19 of charges including kidnapping, child abuse, injuring a spouse and fleeing an officer. He was sentenced Sept. 4 to 88 years and four months in state prison.

Also honored were:

—Bianca Guerra, 31, of San Diego, who was lauded 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.

—Latasha Gillespie, a 41-year-old bus driver from Palmdale, who helped rescue a girl and shield her and her sister while on her break at a bus station in Lancaster on Nov. 5, 2017. Gillespie intervened after hearing a woman scream as she struggled with Shane Lowery, who subsequently pleaded no contest to two felony counts each of false imprisonment and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. Lowery was sentenced to 21 years and four months in state prison.

“The bravery demonstrated by these heroes reminds me that we all have the potential to step up and do what’s right,’’ District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “I am proud of these remarkable individuals who helped my deputy district attorneys make our community safer by prosecuting violent crime against innocent victims.’’