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Life-savers, great detective work and extraordinary careers celebrated

By Kevin Rice

Officers Jared DeWald and Yesenia Escobar patrolled, Guinida Ln., one of Anaheim’s most violent gang neighborhoods last May when three gang members raced toward them from the wrong side of the road.

The gang members screeched to a stop in front of the two uniformed officers in a plain car. One gang member jumped out of the car and began shooting.

DeWald threw the vehicle into reverse, and spun it around to escape while Escobar called dispatchers to send help. The gang members gave chase. Dispatcher Amanda Media quickly dispatched Officers Ryan Wardle and Jason Smith, who caught up with the gang members. The gang members jumped out the car and ran. Wardle and Smith chased them down, and all three suspects were arrested and now face charges of attempted murder of a police officer.

DeWald, Escobar, Wardle, Smith and Medina were honored last week with a distinguished service award at the police department’s annual awards ceremony for their actions during the incident.


They were among the Anaheim Police officers and employees celebrated for their efforts in saving lives, solving crimes and spending entire careers serving the community. The department also honored volunteers and community members who’ve contributed to improving public safety.

The other distinguished award-winner:

  • Officer Ryan Nichols, who chased two males who attempted an armed robbery of a Radio Shack on Euclid Street. Nichols pursued the criminals by car, then by foot, finally catching and taking one suspect into custody who had ditched his gun, while the other was apprehended shortly thereafter. Although the weapon was determined to be a BB gun, Nichols showed tremendous courage while confronting the two suspects.

The lifesaving award winners:

  • Officers Brian Snowden and Sal Piscopo revived a month-old baby who had stopped breathing.
  • Officers Mike Brannigan and Minh Nguyen who preformed CPR on a 53 year old man who suffered a fatal heart attack, saving his life.
  • Investigator Paul Delgado and Officer Stephen Craig whose quick thinking to apply a tourniquet to a victim with large arterial cut was credited to slowing blood flow and saving a 21-year-old man’s life.
  • Officers Nick Benallack and Brett Heitmann who managed to control the bleeding and save the life of a 20-year-old man attempting to take his own life.
  • Sgt. Tom Mathisen and Officer Pat Hornak, who saved the life of a 14-year-old boy who had fallen in the family pool. The boy was released from the hospital four days later, just in time for Christmas. It was Mathisen’s third life-saving medal. He retired in December and the event capped a 40-year-career.

Retirees honored for their service were: Police Chief John Welter, Deputy Chief Craig Hunter, Capt. Belinda Brewer, Det. Dan Ballew, Traffic Matron Judy Harper, Sgt. Chuck Knight, Officer Jim Saenz and Officer Chris Schneider.

Police Explorer Robert Santaella was awarded the Chief Harold A. Bastrup Explorer of the Year award for donating more than 600 hours to the community.

Earning a Meritorious Service Award was Forensic Specialist Pat Nolte, whose forward thinking brought some of the most advanced technology to the Department in the area of fingerprint identification. Guenther, the department’s first police dog to earn an award, was honored for leading police to confiscate more than 850 pounds of illegal narcotics with more than $1.2 million, and catching 22 suspects including a man accused of killing two people.

The units of the year were the gang detail and communications bureau.


Winner of the Joseph T. Molloy career achievement award was Jim Conley.

Volunteers were also honored. Those who gave up to 500 hours of volunteer service throughout their career in Anaheim: Joe Ayala, Marie Bailey, Kathleen Barr, Carolyn Bessire, Danielle Chenault-Tevera, William Farid, Brenda Nardolillo, Gene Nelson and Tina Sorenson.

Up to 1000 hours: Perfecto Alferos, Gerry Bordelon, Georgian Browne, Sandy DiSario, Marge Herman, Pam Holsinger, Joey Santomassino, Wanda Smith-Brace, Doreen Van Lith and Don Williams.

Between 1000-1500 hours: Sylvia Abbott, Pat Bartolone, Mary Collier, Bert Crawford, Bev Guida, Frank Lasner, Ken Levin, Vinny Nardolillo, Tommy Ruiz, Sr. and Jerry Silverman.

Bewteen 1500-2000: Steve Bartolone, Gene Benedict and John Henage. Between 200-2500: Dr. Alice Grant. Between 2500-3000: Charlie Jeung, Earle Moriarty, Elaine Proko and Helen Scott. Between 3000-3500 hours: Don Baldwin, Judy Benvenuto and Melva Snyder.

Also honored for volunteerism: Don Schilling, 4,801 hours; Dee Moriarity, 5,879 hours; Loretta Ogden, 5,894 hours; Dave Ostby, 7,411 hours and Claire Neisses, 8,787 hours.

Community partners honored included: Leticia Chacon, principal at Paul Revere Elementary School who opens her school for community and neighborhood watch meetings and works to teach English to adult residents; Kandis Richardson, a west Anaheim resident involved with the “Renew West Anaheim” group; Jimmy Romero, a central Anaheim resident who works to stop graffiti in his neighborhood; Leslie Swan, who started a Facebook page for East Anaheim residents to share information and has become a voice for bringing crime prevention information to the community.


Division employees of the year: The community service award winners were: Officer Ernesto Sena, Veterans of Foreign Wars. The American Legion honored Capt. Julian Harvey, Sgt. Rich LaRochelle, Sgt. Daron Wyatt, Det. Mark Lillemoen, Ofc. Garrett Melberg, Crime Analyst Alejandra Monzon, Traffic Control Assistant Rene Taylor and cadet Christina Vanlakerveld for their work to track the serial killer of homeless men. Also honored were Gina Meza, Cops4Kids, Pat Willis, Property and Evidence Unit, and Ryan Dedmon, Communications Officer Erin Moore was recognized by the Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) and received the Randall Gaston Community Service award. The California Public Safety Radio Association recognized the outstanding performance of Dispatcher Leora Navarro during a 9-1-1 call in June last year. The California Public Safety Radio Association also recognized the entire Communications Bureau for their professional performance during the civil unrest in July of last year.

  • Officer Chris Petropulos – Operations Division Officer of the Year
  • Crime Prevention Specialists Arleen Harris – Operations Employee of the Year
  • Sgt. Glenn Larson – Special Operations Division Investigator of the Year
  • Traffic Control Assistant Rick Jones – Special Operations Division Employee of the Year
  • Detective Julissa Trapp – Detective of the Year
  • Property and Evidence Detail Supervisor Pat Willis – Investigations Employee of the Year
  • Sgt. James Kazakos – Operations Support Officer of the Year
  • Police Records Specialist Linda Davis – Operation Support Employee of the Year
  • Sgt. Bob Dunn – Chief’s Division Officer of the Year
  • Ms. Evelyn Lee – Chief’s Division Officer of the Year – Budget and Finance Bureau
  • Officer Jerrard Bastiaanse – Reserve Officer of the Year
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