IRWINDALE >> The Irwindale police recognized officers and other personnel for acts ranging from charging toward an active shooter to resuscitating a lifeless baby during the department’s first-ever Employee Awards Banquet Wednesday.
Awards presented included the department’s Medal of Valor, awarded for “an act displaying extreme courage while consciously facing imminent peril”; the Life Saving Award, “when a life is saved or prolonged due to actions taken by an officer”; the Distinguished Service Award, “for performing exceptional service in a duty of great responsibility or of critical importance to law enforcement”; and the Meritorious Service Award, for “meritorious service similar to, but to a lesser degree than required for the Distinguished Service Medal,” Irwindale police officials said in a written statement.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of this department,” Chief Anthony Miranda said. “The men and women of this department are really doing, right now, the right thing for the right reason. That’s all any chief can ask for.”
Since the event was the department’s first awards ceremony, some of the recognitions were long overdue, official said.
Five sworn officers received the Medal of Valor, and a police dispatcher received a Distinguished Service Award for their efforts to stop a Dec. 16, 2011 mass shooting at an Irwindale Southern California Edison Office in which two people were killed and three others injured by a disgruntled coworker.
With the aid of Dispatcher Mariela Avila, Sgt. Greg Gomez, Cpl. Armando Lopez, Detective Jose Vargas, Sgt. Rudy Gatto, Officer Mario Camacho and Officer Jesse Bravo arrived within three minutes, police said.
“Without hesitation, these officers organized a six-person ‘active shooter’ entry team and entered the building,” according to the statement. Upon arrival, they immediately smelled burnt gunpowder and encountered panicked employees trying to flee.
“It is at this moment that each of these officers placed themselves in great danger and faced imminent peril as they closed in on the active shooter,” the statement said. “Dispatcher Mariela Avila was the voice and ears for these officers during this event and was the help the employees calling 9-1-1 needed to hear as she reassured them help was on the way.”
The gunman fatally shot himself as the officers closed in on him, officials said.
More than four years later, the involved officers were yet to be formally recognize for their heroism, Miranda said.
“For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. That didn’t sit right with me. It needed to be done. It really needed to be done,” the chief said.
Wednesday’s ceremony was held at a different SCE facility in Irwindale. SCE Vice President of Business Customer Division Lisa Cagnolatti was on-hand to express the utility’s gratitude to the first responders.
Sgt. John Fraijo and Officer Rudy Campos received Life Saving Awards for helping resuscitate and rescue a lifeless, choking toddler on Jan. 31, 2014. Sgt. Rene Sapien, Officer Joe Hardy and Dispatcher Sherry Peterson received Distinguished Service Awards for their roles in the same rescue.
Officer Rudy Campos received a second Life Saving Award for talking a suicidal man down from a 605 Freeway overpass on Aug. 20, 2014.
Officer Jesus Bravo received a Life Saving Award for performing CPR on a 60-year-old man for more than 10 minutes before paramedics arrived.
Sgt. George Zendejas, Sgt. Rudy Gatto and Officer Diego Cornejo received Meritorious Service Awards for their work to increase the department public outreach through social media and the Internet.
Also recognized were 2015 Officer of the Year Officer Rudy Campos; 2014 Officer of the Year Diego Cornejo; 2015 Civilian Employee of the Year Records Clerk Norma Ortiz and 2015 Civilian Employee of the Year Volunteer Dianna Hurst.
PHOTO courtesy of Glenn Purbaugh/Irwindale Police Department. — Chief Anthony Miranda, center, stands with award winners following the first-ever Irwindale Police Department Employee Awards Banquet on Wednesday, Jan, 27, 2016.