Courage, diligence and public service were celebrated Thursday, May 9 during the La Habra Police Department’s 2019 Awards and Commendations Ceremony.
The annual event, held at the La Habra Community Center, was attended by scores of police officers, local dignitaries and community members to honor exceptional police work by more than 15 La Habra Police Department members during the 2018 calendar year.
Nominations for the awards and commendations were submitted by fellow employees and the honorees were then selected by a committee of La Habra Police Department sworn and civilian personnel.
During Thursday’s ceremony, Police Chief Jerry Price expressed his appreciation for the members of the department along with their spouses, partners, and the sons and daughters of its employees in blue.
“This awards banquet is by far, my favorite event of the year,” Price said. “We get the opportunity to recognize the great work that men and women of this police department do every day.”
Price said the success of the department was due to three reasons, beginning with the quality of its employees, commitment to working with the La Habra community and outstanding service.
The first award of the evening was presented to Officer Jason Drake who received the Osornio Award for making 103 DUI arrests in 2018. The award is named for Officer Michael Anthony Osornio, who was on patrol October 31, 1994, and was killed when a drunk driver broadsided his police vehicle. His sister, Maggie Osornio, joined Captain Dean Capelletti on the stage for the presentation.
“To honor the memory of Officer Osornio, the La Habra Police Department established the Osornio Award to recognize the officer, who during each calendar year, has successfully detected and arrested the highest number of drunk drivers,” Capelletti said.
The next group of awards highlighted the Chief’s Citation, an award bestowed to an employee who distinguishes him or herself while in the line of duty and whose actions merit department-wide recognition.
Communications Operator Romelia Montgomery was commended for her actions when a clerk at a gas station advised that an adult male entered the store armed with a knife in an apparent robbery attempt. The clerk fled the store and locked the suspect inside. Montgomery spoke with the suspect and talked with him to exit the backroom and follow instructions.
“Romi took the time to create a rapport with the male suspect and ultimately, he exited the backroom where officers on scene gave him commands and he was safely taken into custody,” Capelletti said.
Police Officers Eliseo Funes and Cameron Luitwieler, and Sergeant Jennifer Southern were commended for their de-escalation tactics and successfully defusing a dangerous situation.
The officers were dispatched to a report of a suicidal female who had called saying she had locked herself in a bedroom with her roommate, was armed with a knife, wanted to kill herself and had already cut her roommate.
As officers entered the hallway, announcing for occupants to exit the bedroom, the female stepped out of the bedroom with a knife in her hand. After several commands, the female dropped the knife and the officers handcuffed the female without further incident and contacted the Los Angeles Fire Department to treat the male’s injuries.
Officer Kevin Love was recognized for his investigative work and taking a dangerous person with a loaded firearm off the streets.
La Habra officers were dispatched to a robbery at a gas station and determined that the female suspect had used a black firearm with the loss of over $300 in cash.
Officer Love patrolled the surrounding area and observed a suspicious vehicle matching the given description. He conducted an investigative stop and contacted the driver, who appeared to be the sole occupant. The driver claimed no knowledge of the robbery. Officer Love searched the interior of the vehicle, finding no evidence of the crime but continued his search, eventually checking the trunk.
Once opened, Officer Love located the suspect, the loaded firearm and over $500 in cash.
Officer Phil Principe and Communications Operator Holly Tran were recognized for helping a female and newborn. Tran received a call that a female had given birth in the flood control area. The caller, who was later determined as the female who had just given birth, gave limited information on the exact location.
Tran coordinated responding units to the area and Officer Principe searched the location, which was covered in thick brush and vegetation. As he continued to search with the help of Tran giving cellular phone ping locations from the female’s cell phone, Principe located a homeless encampment and found the caller and baby. He ensured her that she was not in trouble and recommended she receive medical attention and had her transported to St. Jude Hospital for care.
Officers Nate Garcia and Eliseo Funes were honored for showing exemplary officer safety skills while approaching a possible crossfire hazard. They were dispatched to a theft by a male suspect seen exiting the store with a knife in hand.
After commanding him to stop walking toward them, Officer Garcia deployed his taser with Officer Funes continuing to give verbal commands, but also deploying his taser fearing the suspect might reach Garcia. Officer Funes was able to control the suspect from behind and both officers used their body weight to subdue him.
The male suspect was later identified as being on active parole for a prior armed robbery.
The final presentation was the Lifesaving Medal, an honor awarded to officers who distinguish themselves by performing an exceptional act in the line of duty, which through prompt and alert actions, resulted in the saving of a human life.
Officers Josiah Telles and Jason Drake found an unresponsive 62-year-old male at a restaurant and assisted with lifesaving measures. After 10 minutes of lifesaving medical treatment, a pulse was located and the male was transported to the hospital for additional treatment.
Telles and Officers Yvonne Viramontes, Paul Martinez and Sergeant Dave Morrison arrived on scene to a structure fire at an apartment complex. The fire appeared to build strength with black smoke engulfing the other units.
The officers entered the three units, evacuated approximately 20 residents and Officer Martinez sprayed water onto the residences while waiting for L.A. County Fire to arrive and extinguish the fire. Due to the officers’ exposure to the fire, they suffered smoke inhalation and were medically treated.
Lieutenant Dan Barnes and Communications Operator Brian McClure were additionally recognized for honorably completing 25 years of service with the department.