Costa Mesa police officer who responded to stabbing of store worker awarded Special Medal of Merit

A man who fell asleep while shopping at 7-Eleven at 2244 Fairview Road in Costa Mesa reacted violently when an employee woke him up and asked him to leave on March 11, 2021. The customer pulled out a knife and the store clerk withdrew. behind the desk.

When Officer Eloisa Peralta arrived, the customer was behind the cash register, standing over the clerk and stabbing him. With her weapon drawn and without backup, she ordered him to drop the knife.

He ignored her orders and continued to attack the convenience store employee. Thus, Peralta opened fire, hitting the attacker twice in the lower torso.

“It’s never an easy decision to use that kind of force,” Costa Mesa Police Chief Ron Lawrence said in a brief interview Tuesday. “But if she hadn’t acted quickly and decisively that day, it would have ended in her death; I have no doubt in my mind.

The victim was hospitalized with stab wounds to the face, leg and hands, but recovered from his injuries, Costa Mesa Police Lt. Ed Everett said. The man who attacked him, identified as 26-year-old Gabriel Tamayo Paniagua in court records, also survived. He was convicted of attempted manslaughter in April and is expected to be sentenced on September 30.

Lawrence called Peralta’s actions “heroic” and chose to award him the Medal of Merit, the department’s second-highest honor. It is given to officers who stand up in the face of imminent danger and has not been distributed for more than a decade, Everett said.

The medal was presented to Peralta in a ceremony on September 6. Lawrence said it was her honor to have it around her neck and said she was “beaming with pride, as she should be that night considering what she has done”.

Peralta had worked for the department for about 2½ years and was working on the cemetery crew the night of the attack, Everett said. She had previously encountered the victim while on patrol, which may have helped her quickly assess the dramatic scene she entered that evening.

“His actions, which unfolded within moments, underscore the unpredictability and potential danger that every officer could encounter on the job every day,” Lawrence said.

Tamayo Paniagua tested positive for a controlled substance the night of the stabbing, Everett said. Investigators later learned that he had been in a car accident earlier that night.

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