SAN DIEGO - Six crime victims, including a couple attacked as they collected cardboard in an alley, were honored for their bravery Wednesday during the 25th Annual Citizens of Courage Awards in San Diego.
"These individuals displayed extraordinary bravery in the face of serious crime," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. "By honoring them today, we're also shining a light on the thousands of crime victims our office reaches out to every year in San Diego County and the importance of supporting victims' rights."
The victims were honored in front of more than 300 invited dignitaries, elected officials, community leaders and guests.
This year's Citizens of Courage recipients include:
-- Azalyea Duran, an 8-year-old girl stabbed 26 times when she walked in on a man murdering her mother in San Marcos. The girl survived and helped convict her mother's killer. She told 10News, "I'm a little nervous but I'm a brave little girl so I'm going to get through it." She later said, "I still have part of my mom’s heart inside me."
-- John and Mary Cates, a couple with health issues who were attacked as they collected cardboard in an alley. John Cates, 71, was faced with the decision of leaving his 64-year-old wife in the attacker's clutches in order to save her life.
-- Sean Simpson, a carjacking victim shot and left to die in a parking lot by gang members. After recovering from his life-changing injuries, Simpson testified against the gang member who tried to kill him. He told 10News, "Initially it was (scary) but it started to dawn on me, 'Why would I have to worry about that when I’m not living that life? That’s not me. I'm here to take care of my family.'"
-- Daniel Wagner, a young man who witnessed a car crash on a dark stretch of Interstate 805 and courageously came to the aid of multiple victims in the middle of the night. After he rescued a family from an overturned van, Wagner and the 13-year-old boy he had just pulled to safety witnessed a second crash that killed the parents. He told 10News, "I just knew I had to get out and help."
-- Maria, a human trafficking victim who at age 13 was smuggled into the United States from Mexico, sexually assaulted and forced by her own relatives into prostitution and slave labor.