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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.


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

APD Detectives Solve All 2009 Killings – And Then Some

It wasn’t your typical murder investigation.

The alleged killer was already in custody by the time police discovered the body of the bludgeoned 84-year-old woman.

Ask Anaheim Homicide Sgt. Jim Reed, and he’ll tell you solving murders is tricky business.

Every clue requires immediate and thoughtful attention. Even when detectives move quickly, some killers still elude arrest for years. Some are never caught.

“Sometimes witnesses grow a conscience, a new technological advance provides damning evidence or laws change to favor investigators,” Reed says.

“And,” he adds, “every once in a while we get lucky.”

So far this year – and all of last year – APD’s detectives solved all 10 killings – and even four older ones.

“Anaheim’s homicide unit takes a multi-dimensional approach which fully exploits a blending of modern technology with good old-fashioned gum-shoe detective work,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy, who files Anaheim homicide cases. “To describe them in a word – tireless.”

To read a Q&A with Sgt. Reed, click here.

MEMBERS OF THE HOMICIDE DETAIL: Det. James Rodriguez, Det. Jeff Mundy, Det. Kerry Condon, Det. Elizabeth Faria, Det. John Duran, Lt. Dave Vangsness, Det. Richard LaRochelle, Sgt. James Reed, Det. Karen Schroepfer and Cynthia Espinoza.