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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Anaheim Adds 10 Names to Military Banners

Anaheim Police Chief John Welter joined Mayor Curt Pringle and members of the City Council this afternoon as the city honored nine Anaheim residents currently serving in the military and one fallen soldier in the during its second “Military Banner” ceremony. 

Chief Welter

“Over the past two and a half centuries, the American service man and woman has stood fast in the face of many foes under extreme circumstances,” said Welter, at the George Washington Park ceremony.  “Some have served on the battlefield; many have been severely injured or even lost their lives.  All who serve earn the respect and gratitude for their continued dedication to our freedom.”

The 10 military members honored today will join the 21 others previously honored, and the banners will be displayed on street light poles throughout Anaheim.  The city created the Military Banner program in the fall of 2009 as a way to recognize Anaheim residents currently serving in the military.

“Our military personnel, including their families, are sacrificing much in order to make a more peaceful world for all,” continued Welter.  “Family members are sharing every minute of service while their loved one is away.  They too are serving and sacrificing every day, so we want to thank them for their service.”

Two Anaheim PD All-Stars Retire; First Female Captain Appointed

Two days after the city of Anaheim hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star game, the Anaheim Police Department bid farewell to two all-stars of its own.

Capt. Chuck O'Connor and Lt. Chris Sayers

Thursday afternoon was filled with laughter and a few watery eyes as the department honored the service of retiring Capt. Chuck O’Connor and Lt. Chris Sayers. More than 150 people jammed the training auditorium and dozens more watched the retirement and promotion ceremony from closed-circuit television outside.

They cheered as captain bars were pinned on a woman for the first time in department history.

And Police Chief John Welter presented new badges to seven other promoted employees, including APD’s third- and fourth-ever female lieutenants. He also acknowledged Officer Eric Grosotti for earning his commercial helicopter pilot’s license.

Capt. Belinda Brewer's niece pins her captain's bars

O’Connor, a homeland security expert who spent years on the SWAT team, is the third captain to retire in the past seven months.

Lt. Brian McElhaney described him as a mentor to many and “the heart of the police department.” Later, Welter and his command staff presented him with his service revolver, which now includes an inscription.

“My career was a lot of fun,” O’Connor said. “I really appreciate the way everybody treated me for 30 years. It’s been great. I’m going to miss you.”

Sayers plans to work for Disney in retirement; he even wore a pin – a violation of dress code, Welter said – on his uniform. “It’s been an absolute pleasure,” he said. “And for all of you asking for a job or for me to get you in free, don’t count on it.”

Officer and helicopter pilot Eric Grisotti's wife pins on his wings

Welter said the department is blessed “to have a great pool of people to promote from.” He turned to the newly minted lieutenants and captain. “Great things are expected of you,” he said.

Replacing O’Connor as operations division captain is Belinda Brewer. Nobody mentioned her distinction as the first female captain.

When asked why afterward, Welter said it’s “an indication of how far the law enforcement community has come. Her promotion was no different than any other promotion. It was based on individual merit. She does great work.”

In her remarks, Brewer discussed how the police department’s collaborative approach to public safety serves as an outstanding model for other agencies. It was on display during last week’s all-star festivities, she said.

“I will strive to continue to build a collaborative environment in our community,” she said. “I look forward to an exciting and challenging future.”

Promoted to lieutenant are Tim Schmidt, Kelly Jung and Sharon Pietrok. Promoted to sergeant are James Rodriguez and Mike Alpine, whose father is a retired APD sergeant.

Also promoted were new communications supervisor Steven Goodwyn and senior police dispatcher Michelle Siemer.

The newly appointed captain and promoted lieutenants enjoy a video featuring new Lt. Kelly Jung superimposed on a breakdancer's body

Anaheim PD Honors Lifesavers, Crime Solvers, Community Partners and More

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.

Capt. Joe Vargas

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.

Police Chief John Welter, Medal of Valor winner Erik Degn and Deputy Police Chief Craig Hunter

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:

Distinguished Service

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.

Lifesaving Awards

Officers Ernesto Sena, Jonathan Nooitgedagt and Matthew Budds revived a 7-month old who stopped breathing

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.”

City Councilwoman Lucille Kring congratulates Cisko (and Officer Brian Bonczkiewicz)

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.

Retirees

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.

Meritorious Service: 

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.

Capt. Chuck O'Connor congratulates Explorer of the Year, post Capt. Yvonne Knight

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.

APD's homicide unit solved every 2009 killing - and four older cases

Battling Cancer, Anaheim Girl, 11, Honored for Effort to Fight Crime

by Cristian Soler

Dispatcher Ryan Dedmond joins honoree Jessica Solis, her mother, Emma Cruz, Francisco Hernandez and best friend, Jackie

Battling Leukemia for most of her life didn’t stop 11-year-old Jessica Solis from fighting crime when she dialed 911 to report a group of 40-50 juveniles brawling outside of her parents’ apartment.  

For her effort, the Anaheim Police Department honored her last week with a certificate and 10 tickets to a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game. They also invited her to eavesdrop while dispatchers worked emergency calls.

It was a Wednesday afternoon; Jessica and her friends were playing outside when she noticed a group of boys yelling at each other for unknown reasons. It eventually escalated into a big fistfight.  

One of the neighborhood mothers was having difficulty using a cellular phone to get help.  Immediately, Jessica stepped forward to grab the phone, dial 911, and provide information to dispatcher Ryan Dedmon.

Jessica Solis listened as dispatcher Stacy Latshaw fielded 911 calls

“Calm and Composed,” said Dedmon, describing Jessica’s tone.  “It was impressive,” referring to Jessica’s ability to articulate the situation. 

Jessica was able to verify her address, phone number, location of the event and confirm that no weapons were being used, Dedmon said.  

“I taught myself how to dial 911,” Jessica said. 

Two officers arrived on scene to see a large group of juveniles, but no fighting was taking place.  A few minutes later, the crowd started to disperse and no arrests were made.  

Because Jessica was able to give specific information, dispatcher Dedmon only sent out two officers to the scene.  

Deciding how many officers are sent on a call depends on the extent of injuries, if weapons are being used and the seriousness of the incident, Dedmon said.  Sometimes dispatchers will also keep callers on the phone to reevaluate the status of the situation. 

Jessica’s mother, Emma Cruz, describes her daughter as a very loving person.  She is also very smart.  Jessica can read, write, and speak in English and Spanish.  She also loves to play Tetherball, Handball, and Mario Kart on her new Nintendo Wii she received as a gift.

Jessica said she plans to invite her best friend, Jackie, from Juliette Lo Elementary School, to the Angels game after she recovers from a surgery on May 10.

“Si Dios me quiere llevar, me lleve,” Jessica once said about her ailment.  Translation:  “If God wants to take me, God will take me.” 

Top Dog Cisko Takes a Bite Out of Crime

Last year was a big year for Anaheim Police Department veteran canine officer Cisko and his partner, Brian Bonczkiewicz.

The duo busted dozens of bad guys and seized more than $550,000 in drugs and drug money.

For their accomplishments, the American Legion recently honored Cisko, a German Shepherd, with the “Meritorious Canine” award and Bonczkiewicz with a similar award of merit.

“We are fortunate to have one of the finest canine teams anywhere,” said Sgt. Rick Martinez.

Cisko’s award leads the most recent Anaheim Bulletin “Behind the Badge” column.

Read the rest of it here.

Officer Randy Sany Named VFW’s Officer of the Year

Officer Sany is congratulated by Capt. Mike Aquino and Deputy Chief Craig Hunter

He played a key role in solving a double murder and a burglary spree. Now, Officer Randy Sany can add another accomplishment to his resume – the Anaheim Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Police Officer of the Year.

Sany and Anaheim Firefighter Dave Barry were honored along with awards for the city’s top Eagle Scout and Girl Scout.

To read more about his accomplishments, click here.