STANDING 5’3″ AND WEIGHING JUST 103 lbs., the LAPD’s Det. Tracey Angeles has sometimes feared that her size would let her down. “I’ve been told by officers that because I was so tiny, they were concerned I would be hurt,” says Angeles, 29. “There would be no way I’d be a match for a man in a fistfight.”
On Feb. 28, when two bandits sprayed hundreds of rounds from AK-47 assault rifles at police in North Hollywood, Angeles proved that size isn’t the measure of a cop. As bullets rained down, Angeles stayed in the line of fire to help save a stranded comrade during the dramatic televised shoot-out between the robbers and dozens of police outside a Bank of America branch. “She did a great job,” says officer Anthony Cabunoc, 34, who helped in the rescue. “She kept us all calm.”
When the gunfight began, around 9:30 a.m, Angeles, her partner William Krulac, 49, and officers Stuart Guy, 31, and James Zboravan, 26, took cover behind a shack in a nearby parking lot. “All I heard was bullets,” recalls Angeles, “and all I could feel was pieces of the shack flying around me.” While she ran for refuge behind the hood of a car, the three men took cover behind a mini-van, which was soon riddled with bullets—one striking Guy in the leg.
The two others ran for safety, and Angeles, who had lost her radio, stayed crouched 15 feet from Guy, encouraging him to hold on. “Even though I couldn’t go to his side, there was no way I was going to leave him,” says the six-year LAPD veteran. With blood from his wound soaking the asphalt, Guy managed to use his gun belt as a tourniquet and radio for help before another bullet struck him in the arm. Minutes later, Cabunoc and his partner Todd Schmitz, 25, arrived and, with Angeles, dragged Guy into a patrol car and reversed out of the parking lot at full speed.
Recovering in an L.A. hospital, Guy is “doing fine,” reports Angeles, who was grazed near the hip by a bullet or shrapnel during the 45-minute battle that left 11 police injured and the robbers dead. But as she tries to return to a normal life at home in L.A. with husband Angelito, 33, a police defense instructor, and 5-month-old son Ryan, Angeles is as eager to deflect attention as bullets. “Every police officer out there,” she says, “was a true hero.”