Engine trouble: Long Beach police sergeant spends 2 hours in the heat to save kitten

Police officers, firefighters and other first-responders are entrusted to save lives, no matter which of them is in danger. Stories of heroism can be uplifting or heart wrenching, but when one of them involves saving a helpless critter, there’s something extra that’s beyond warm and fuzzy.

On Thursday, July 12, Sgt. Ernie Kohagura of the Long Beach Police Department was motoring down Shoreline Drive near Linden Avenue when he noticed a vehicle with its hood up and a maintenance truck from the city’s Marine Bureau. He pulled over to see if he could help.

The car’s owner, a woman identified only as Candace, told Sgt. Kohagura that she’d heard cat cries while driving, so she pulled over immediately. She discovered a little tabby kitten cowering in the engine compartment. She tried coaxing the kitten out, but the little creature was too frightened.

A peek under the hood—Sgt. Ernie Kohagura determines the location of the stowaway kitten as the car’s owner looks on nervously. Photo courtesy the Long Beach Police Department.

“Marine maintenance was there to help get the kitten out, which was now stuck by the firewall [the space separating the engine and passenger compartments] of the car,” Kohagura said. “My first thought was, how did the kitten get in there, and the second thought was, how do we get it out?”

Kohagura and the maintenance employee tried coaxing her out with a broom handle, but the kitten was having none of it. When it became apparent that she was wedged in the firewall, Kohagura suggested removing some of the engine components so they could nab her.

“Marine maintenance had to leave, so I contacted our dispatch to see if Long Beach PD tow could come by with some tools and a car jack to get under the car,” Kohagura said. “Once there, we were able to start to remove the engine parts to get to the kitten, which was exhausted when we finally got it out.”

Hot, tired but safe—both Sgt. Kohagura and the rescued kitten could use some air conditioning. Photo courtesy the Long Beach Police Department.

Kohagura named the kitten Trouble and took her to Long Beach Animal Care Services. Trouble cooled off in a kennel for a little while and then was transported to Adopt and Shop in Culver City.

Trouble, renamed Olympia despite the suitability of the original name, has been determined to be about one and a half months old, according to Adopt and Shop Manager Lindsey Testerman. Testerman said that the kitten is now safe and sound with a foster home and will be available for adoption at the end of July (unless the foster falls in love).

Trouble, awaiting transport from ACS to Adopt and Shop, will likely not want to go for a ride in the near future, but few cats do anyway. Photo courtesy Long Beach Animal Care Services.

If you’re interested in adopting Olympia, the kitten formerly known as Trouble, access Adopt and Shop’s adoptable cats page (you might find one you like at least as much, perhaps not with celebrity status but certainly as deserving of a home).

As for Sgt. Kohagura, he deserves stripes—tabby ones, of course—for spending two hours in the heat crawling under an equally hot car and taking apart an engine (and likely reassembling it) to save a kitten. His only comment about his searing ordeal?

“I’m glad that she ended up in a great place!”

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.

~ Robert A. Heinlein, author

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”
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