One played a key role in solving a double murder and a series of burglaries. Three others revived an infant who stopped breathing.
And on his final day on the job, Capt. Joe Vargas was honored for 30 years of police innovation.
For two hours Wednesday night at The Grove of Anaheim, more than 500 people applauded dozens of police employees for saving lives, solving crimes and serving the community with honor. In turn, the department thanked several community partners and volunteers for playing a critical role in Anaheim’s outstanding safety record.
“It was another year of great police work,” Police Chief John Welter said. “You should be very proud of the work you do.”
Michael Villani, “The Voice of APD,” served as emcee – and was honored for his 25 years of volunteerism.
Officer Erik Degn earned the evening’s top award, a Medal of Valor, for ending a pursuit of “one of the most wanted” men in Orange County at the time, Villani said.
The suspect – a parolee facing a $1-million sexual assault warrant – was on the run, armed and dangerous, according to officials. Following a pursuit, the suspect fired a handgun at officers. Worried about innocent bystanders, Degn left his cover to confront the man, “ultimately ending this extremely dangerous situation,” Villani said.
Other awards included:
Sgt. Mike Helmick, Det. Mike McAlpine and Inv. Ted Lopez: They apprehended and confronted a dangerous double homicide suspect, who then aimed a firearm at Helmick. Even after the officers shot the suspect, the suspect raised his firearm at them, forcing another response.
“No officers or innocent bystanders were injured due to their decisive actions,” Villani said.
Officer Monty Hernandez: Facing a suicidal man armed with a knife inside a storage shed, Hernandez persuaded the man to drop the knife and surrender. His efforts led to “an extremely tense and dangerous situation” ending without incident, Villani said.
Officers Matthew Budds, Jonathan Nooitgedagt and Ernesto Sena: The trio responded to a 911call in March of last year that no parent ever wants to make: a seven-month-old baby not breathing and turning blue. Sena translated the parents’ panicked Spanish for his partners, who performed CPR and rescue breathing. “Emergency room doctors later said that the baby most likely would have died,” Villani said.
Officer Thomas Salcido: A woman called for help after discovering her husband attempting to hang himself in their garage. She got him down but couldn’t loosen the noose. He was choking to death when Salcido arrived. Salcido quickly cut the noose and provided medical attention that stabilized him until paramedics arrived.
Officer Brandon Young: Responding to an unintelligible 911 call, Young found a choking elderly woman. He performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.
Officer John Kirstenpfad: In another chocking incident, Kirstenpfad saved the life of a fellow officer who had food lodged in his throat.
Joseph T. Molloy Career Achievement Award
Capt. Joe Vargas: He retired Wednesday. Vargas served as the department’s first public information officer, community policing sergeant and founded the Anaheim Police Activities League (now known as Cops 4 Kids).
Randal W. Gaston Community Service Awards
West District Community Policing Sgt. Sharon Pietrok: A noted innovator in the area of crime prevention, she was the The Masons Anaheim Lodge’s “Officer of the Year.”
Officer Randy Sany: The Veterans of Foreign Wars “Officer of the Year,” Sany was honored for his role in helping solve a double homicide and a rash of dental burglars.
Officer Brian Bonczkiewicz: He’s the American Legion’s “Officer of the Year.” He and his partner, German Shepherd Cisko, seized more than $500,000 in narcotics and made several high profile arrests, including a suspect accused of burglarizing six U.S. Post offices.
Unit of the Year – Homicide
Sgt. Jim Reed, Dets. Kerry Condon, John Duran, Elizabeth Faria, Rich LaRochelle, Chris Maselon, Jeff Mundy, James Rodriguez, Karen Schropfer and Matt Sutter: They solved all nine killings in 2009 – and even four older cases.
Reserve Officer Terry Bowers, Senior Police Services Representative Lana King, Det. Mike McKernon, Officer Mike Nichols, Officer Dave Piper, Officer Guy Reneau and Grant Coordinator Cindy Nickel.
Det. Kathy Reiss for her work solving a bank robbery-kidnapping; Officer Bill Cowhey for 25 years serving the Air Support unit; Charmaine Darmour for streamlining missing person reporting and Chaplain Bryan Crow for 20 years of serving the department and community.
Division Employees of the Year:
Office of the Chief: Sgt. Kelly Jung, Terri O’Sullivan and Marcy Cowan; Special Operations: Inv. Ken Weber and Maria Morales; Operations: Officer Ken Johnson and Karyn Flutts; Investigations: Inv. Nathan Stauber and Linda Lock; Operations Support: Sgt. Mike Foster and Steven Querry; Reserve Officer of the Year is Terry Bowers.
Community Member Recognition
Terry Leist for his contributions in creating equipment for the Special Tactics Unit; Ken and Susan Chinn for making a difference in crime prevention in the Rose/Bush/Vine neighborhood; Bob Gardner, principal at Paul Revere Elementary School, for hosting neighborhood watch and council meetings and making a difference; Sally Feldhaus for creating deep business partnerships through the Chamber of Commerce.
Explorer of the Year
Post Capt. Yvonne Knight dedicated more than 530 hours last year alone – and has served Anaheim PD for four years.
Also honored were the department’s growing list of volunteers. The list includes Loretta Ogden (4,422 hours), Dee Moriarty (3,951 hours), Don Mendenhall (3,268 hours) and Claire Neises (3,138 hours). Dolores and Lennie Crupnick, Earle Moriarty and Don Schilling have donated more than 2,000 hours; Gene Benedict, Bev Guida, Lorna Moore, Don Baldwin, Muriel Lowenberg and Elaine Proko have worked more than 1,000. Other volunteers who were honored: Joey Santomassino, Vinny Nardo-lillo, Teri MacMaster, Jim Leonard, John Henage, Alice Grant, Gary Aagesen, June Aagesen, Ron Wilkinson, Gina Wilkinson, Ron Walter, Wanda Smith-Brace, Saint Amant, Helen Scott, Tommy Ruiz, Janice Richardson, Mendora Pico Predendez, Barbara Patko, Brenda Nardolillo, Frank Lansner, Paul James, Pamela Holsinger, William Gresher, William Farrid, Art Eng, Robert Droulliard and Jerry Bordelon.