The Beverly Hills Police Department is mourning the passing of one of its Explorer lieutenants, a teen whose tragic death in April has left the community in shock.
Jonah Harris Anschell, 18, was remembered as a dedicated, budding student of the law enforcement profession whose life of service ended far too soon.
During Jonah’s funeral, held on April 21 at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook spoke of Jonah’s impeccable service. Jonah’s fellow men and women in uniform were wearing their mourning badges.
“They are our badges in honor of Jonah,” Stainbrook said.
Jonah’s family will continue to support the Explorer program and hopes others can contribute to the program so that Jonah’s legacy of service lives on. A GiveSmart memorial fund has been set up through the Beverly Hills Police Officers Benevolent Fund.
Jonah, a senior at Harvard-Westlake School, was always interested in policing and police officers. He applied for an Explorer position in 2019 and graduated from the Explorer Academy. He soon rose the ranks to lieutenant, and while doing so won awards at conferences.
Even as a youngster, the police world saw great potential in him, honoring him and recognizing his skills in topics such as hostage negotiation, DUI investigations and felony car stops.
For the Beverly Hills Police Department, Jonah served during National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop and the Los Angeles Marathon. He went on ride-alongs and assisted the dispatch team.
“He was everywhere in the department,” Stainbrook said.
Itay Zander served alongside Jonah in the Explorer program for five years. When Jonah was a recruit, Itay was his sergeant.
Itay described his friend of five years as extremely intelligent, knowledgeable and funny.
“Jonah was very funny in his own way,” he said. “They weren’t necessarily funny jokes, but they were funny because he said them.”
Jonah’s resourceful nature came in handy, too, like the time they needed some safety vests and the Police Department couldn’t provide them. So Jonah went out and bought some.
“He was my right-hand man for everything I needed,” Itay said. “Nothing went backwards. Nothing went sideways. If it was supposed to happen, it would happen … if you said ‘no’ to him, he’d find a way to go around it. He knew everything. Everything.”
Following his service for the Los Angeles Marathon, Jonah published a piece in March 2020 about his Explorer experience for Behind the Badge, a story that expressed his personal feelings when a woman called him “sir” as a 15-year-old.
Jonah wrote, “‘Sir, is it alright if I cross here?’ asked a woman in a navy jogging suit. I didn’t think she was speaking to me at first; not many 15-year-olds get called ‘Sir.’ But I quickly realized that she had to mean me since there was no one else nearby. The ‘Sir’ probably was a reaction to the uniform, a grey shirt and black pants, a patch and a badge that reads ‘EXPLORER.'”
Stainbrook, who quoted from Jonah’s article at his funeral, said it was no surprise that a 15-year-old could command such respect. Jonah gave respect and he received it in return.
“She respected you, your job, and the way you were doing it,” Stainbrook said. “You earned that ‘Sir.'”
Stainbrook said Jonah, who loved helping injured runners and directing people when their paths were safe during his marathon job, understood the police officer creed to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Even as a 15-year-old, he knew it well.
And in doing so, Stainbrook concluded, Jonah exemplified a fundamental principle of the Torah.
“Jonah, you embodied this core value of the Torah when you helped others simply because you love your fellow man, and for no other reward,” Stainbrook said, adding, “Jonah, at heart and in spirit, you already were a police officer. Now we honor you in your short but impactful service to the Beverly Hills Police Department, in the city of Beverly Hills. May you protect and serve in Heaven.”
The Beverly Hills Chief of Police presented Jonah’s family with a flag that was flown over the department in the man’s honor.
On Instagram, Jonah’s friend and a fellow Explorer, Thomas Madison, wrote that Jonah had accomplished so much, like more than 800 hours of service to the Police Department.
“There’s few moments in life that show the pure mettle of someone else, and I’ve seen many from Jonah,” Thomas wrote.
He recalled the time he and Jonah spotted a car on fire off the freeway. They rushed to its aid. Jonah smashed the window and shouted at Thomas to help rescue the driver.
“Despite the eyebrow-singeing heat, Jonah showed no fear. If it wasn’t for Jonah’s actions that night, [the driver]would not have survived,” Thomas wrote, noting that the best part about Jonah was that he was “an amazing friend.”
“I’m glad to have spent almost every day with him over the past several years,” Thomas added. “There’s few people on this planet who could make me smile or laugh as hard as he could.”
Jonah’s family is continuing to support the Explorer program and hopes others can contribute to the program so that Jonah’s legacy of service lives on.
The Beverly Hills Police Officers Benevolent Fund’s GiveSmart memorial fund is accepting one-time and monthly donations. To donate, visit https://e.givesmart.com/events/tT8/